Album review by Steve Cullum
Album – Portals
Artist – Videri String Quartet
Obtained – Review Copy from Scarlet Moon Promotions
Until my first trip to a Video Games Live concert, I did not realize the importance of video game music. Lucky for me, others knew of its importance far earlier, and they have brought it to new life with concerts and albums. The debut album from the Videri String Quartet is one of those. They have recently released “Portals,” where they play, what they refer to as “game music greatest hits.” After listening to the album a few times, I thought I would share some thoughts.
First of all, please note that this is not a Nintendo-only album. There are nine tracks on the project, and only two of them are from Nintendo first-party games. However, you will also see Sonic, Monkey Island, and Kingdom Hearts on the list, which all exist on one or more Nintendo platforms. The tracklist is as follows:
01. “Super Mario Bros.”
02. “FFX: At Zanarkand”
03. “Journey Medley”
04. “Sonic the Hedgehog: Green Hill Zone”
05. “Zelda: Ballad of the Goddess”
06. “Kingdom Hearts II: Working Together”
07. “Final Fantasy VII Suite”
08. “The Mightiest of Pirates: Theme from Monkey Island”
09. “Halo Medley”
Due the nature of this blog being Nintendo focused, I will mostly comment on the songs closer to Nintendo. With that said, this is a great collection of what many people would consider nine of the top video games of the past several years. Mario and Zelda are obviously two of Nintendo’s top franchises, but others like Sonic, Halo, and Final Fantasy are also held close to many gamers’ hearts. It is also great to see a variety with games like Monkey Island and Journey making the list.
The only thing I will say as a negative is that they might have done a better choice of picking the songs from each franchise. The selection from Mario, Sonic, and Monkey Island, for example, are all the most popular songs. When it gets to Zelda, though, they chose something that was not as well known. This, by itself, is not a bad thing. The Zelda selection is a great tune, but it might leave the listener a bit perplexed, because they might have expected, as the project suggests, the “greatest hits.” I would argue that Zelda’s main theme song is a greater “hit” than the Ballad of the Goddess.
Simply put, the quartet is fantastic. They hit every note, and they play it beautifully. I would often just close my eyes and relax, picturing the game as they played. Not only did they play it well, but they put their own mix on many songs, which allowed me to not feel as if this was just another rehash of the same song I have heard many times before. While I said it was an odd selection, I really like what they did with the Zelda piece. Similarly, the 14-minute suite from Final Fantasy IV was exquisite and incredibly moving.
The recording itself left a little to be desired, though. There were many times when I was left wondering if I had forgotten to turn up the volume. I would have preferred more punch from each instrument. The mix, however, was really great. I could hear each instrument clearly, but they also blended very well. I just think it could have benefitted from a bit more power behind the final product. (Aside: For those wondering, yes, I did try it out on several different speaker systems and headphones.)
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10
If you are a fan of video games, this is a great addition to your music library. They cover the top hits from the past 20+ years, and they do it in a fresh way. The talent of this quartet really shines, and listeners will appreciate the homage they pay to their favorite games. The album leaves you wanting more, so I am excited to see what they do in future projects.
Portals is now available for $12 from the following digital retailers:
About the Videri String Quartet
The Videri String Quartet is a group of classically trained musicians with a deep appreciation for game music. After their formation in 2012, they’ve been a fan favorite at events including the Rooster Teeth game and Internet convention in Austin, TX and the Festival of Independent Games in Boston, MA. They will also perform at IndieCade in October 2013.
The Videri String Quartet are:
Pamela Cumming, violin I
Eli Bishop & Aubrey Holmes, violin II
Roselie Samter, viola
Brent Austin, cello
Learn more about the Videri String Quartet on their official website: http://www.viderisq.com/
About Joypad Records
Joypad Records is an independent label based in San Francisco that specializes in digitally-releasing original video game soundtracks, cover songs, licensed remix projects, and chiptune albums. Despite it’s recent formation in 2012, Joypad Records has already become the go-to destination for artists wanting to officially license their arrangements and distribute them to fans. Joypad Records’s goal is to raise awareness of game music culture, and to support the unique needs of its composers and remixers alike.
Learn more about Joypad Records and explore their extensive catalog of music on their official website: http://www.joypadrecords.com/