Vats of Goo, Metallic Monks, and more!

With each passing generation of consoles something that has been progressing is that of music in video games. We have gone from “bleeps and bloops” all the way to movie quality scores for video games. So, from the 80s to present day the LHG Staff will be going over their favorite original soundtracks from games. Unfortunately this means Buck Bumble despite having an extremely catchy jingle will not be included.

Allan Muir – Managing Editor and Xbox Stalwart

Fallout (1997)

The Fallout franchise has perhaps one of the darkest tones with the first installment nearly twenty-five years ago. In a previous Roundtable I had mentioned my fondness for the Halo: ODST soundtrack but I’m sorry, it is not even close to getting anywhere near Fallout… Well, maybe Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. All the way from the first track on the Fallout 1 soundtrack titled “Metallic Monks” you weren’t necessarily listening to a Nintendo, or Sony “mascot” soundtrack like Super Mario or Crash Bandicoot but getting immersed in a gritty, post-apocalyptic world of decay.

There’s another, more famous track from the soundtrack and that’s the aptly titled “Vats of Goo” which is most recognized as the intro music to Fallout 1’s narration performed by Ron Perlman. It sets the stage for what you will be experiencing in this game world and at certain times can be downright chilling. While the following has become a mainstay of Fallout 3 and onward, songs that were notable in the time period of the 40’s to some extent the 60s would be played for the opening movie. For example, Interplay wanted to get a well known song by The Ink Spots for Fallout 1 but the price was too much so Interplay went with another song by the Ink Spots titled “Maybe”. For the third game in the series Bethesda would get some sense of an homage to the first two CRPG Fallout games by getting “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” by The Ink Spots. Something Interplay was unable to afford. I am assuming they threw around some of that Elder Scrolls IV money that they were just printing in 06.

As with most games from the 90s on the PC things are complicated currently when it comes to actually attempting to replay Fallout 1 or Fallout 2. So most people who aren’t technologically proficient are more than likely to watch gameplay on social media platforms. When Fallout: New Vegas released back in 2010 I noticed a familiar tune when in the Mojave Wasteland and it was indeed a track from the original Fallout games as most if not all were added as ambient music to play in the background. This was a major kick of nostalgia as it paid homage to Obsidian’s origins working on Fallout 1 and 2 as Black Isle Studios. It wasn’t just an homage to the past as the added music made things a bit eerie. Here’s the famous “Vats of Goo” track from Fallout 1.

Josh Miller -The Backbone

Mother 2 / Earthbound

There is not enough pleasant things I can say about the Mother series, but specifically Mother 2, or as it’s known outside of Japan: Earthbound. I’ve never been one to find myself attracted to video game music, but Earthbound has always had a soft spot in my heart. The amount of range provided in the soundtrack musically is superb and given the limitations based on the Super Nintendo architecture made it that much more impressive.

Upon entering each town, Ness and the gang are greeted with distinct melodies that suit each individual location. Whether it the odd tune that sets the mood with the quirkiness of Saturn Valley or the bells that give Winters a more holiday feel as you trek through the snow. Even the early towns of Onett and Twoson both have a friendly small town element to the music bringing a sense of calm and chill to the game. Even specific buildings have their own individual music that is both captivating and fun. The drug store theme has a down home bluegrass feel while Chaos Theater sounds like you could be reading beatnik poetry.

Earthbound does more than just use the music as a setpiece for atmosphere. It brilliantly finds a way for the music to define things within the game itself. Listening to “Home Sweet Home” not only works with the innocence of Ness being at home, but also the safety involved with being there. The fight with Pokey at the end brings a sense of urgency and danger not shown anywhere else in the game indicating that you are in the final stages.

I love the music of Earthbound. The variety in genres it presents sets it apart in a way that most games can only dream of especially during the time it released. It uses music not only as a method of storytelling (finding the Eight Melodies) but to bring a mood to the world of Eagleland and assist in making characters more alive. You should give it a listen as well if you haven’t already. It’s a great soundtrack to get lost in.

Emmett Watkins Jr. – The PlayStation Stan

LittleBigPlanet (2008)

With graphical powerhouses like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and new entries in my favorite franchises like Ratchet and Clank, it might be a surprise that I finally asked for a PS3 when I saw gameplay of LittleBigPlanet. It’s silly yet endearing tone, and its cute yet textured artstyle made it instantly catch my eye. But the fact that it’s creative suite for level creation seemed to have limitless possibilities is what made it a must play for me. So, come Christmas of 2008, I was in heaven when I finally got the chance to try out Media Molecule’s innovative masterpiece. But despite everything else, the thing I keep finding myself returning to long after the games themselves is the soundtrack.

Initially, the music in the game didn’t really stand out much to me, which is somewhat by design. Most game soundtracks are listened to while the listener is focused on something else, like defeating an enemy or, in this case, landing a jump, so they’re supposed to fade into the background. But after playing through the first two mainline games, and the Vita spin-off, I began to get an itch to re-listen to some songs. Part of this, admittedly, was due to a need of lyricless music to accompany my study sessions, but it was a welcome problem to solve.

What makes the music in LittleBigPlanet, and many of Media Molecule’s other games, so great is that it takes a fairly simple musical base and then throws a bunch of random elements over it to the point where the original sound is no longer recognizable. Take the track, “Horny Old Man”, below. It begins simple enough with a cheery Ukulele. But without warning, they add some drums and cymbals, 808 claps, some undertones of heavy bass, and record scratching sounds. Each of these elements bring along a different cultural connotation, with a Ukulele invoking folk music or quirky girlfriends of hospital janitors and a record scratch invoking the iconic sound found in old school hip hop, or the sound that begins any comedy in which the protagonist finds themselves over-their-head. But somehow, all of these sounds make something that sounds pleasant, without the enherent baggage of these individual sounds being lost.

And what makes this even more remarkable is that it so authentically meshes with the spirit of LittleBigPlanet, and all of Media Molecule’s catalogue so far. The clash of sounds that, in any other context, would be polar opposites is an auditory reflection of the improvisational and collaborative spirit that creativity is driven by. Plus, at least one the instruments that they do choose to throw into the fray carry the carefree tone of the game forward through the soundtrack. It’s absolutely wonderful.

In the years since I went looking for music to study to, I’ve found a lot to love. Red Dead Redemption and it’s sequel have great music. I absolutely adore the soundtrack from Max Payne 3. And the DOOM soundtrack even hits the spot every now and then. But the playlist I come back to most often is my Media Molecule one, with all of Tearaway’s soundtrack, and all of LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2’s original and licenced tracks. But, while it is one of the only reasons I enjoy sitting down to focus on work, these songs have inched closer to my heart with time, and due to this, have been in my ears even after my work is done.

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