Friday, May 31, 2013

Game Music Online: Game Music Mash-ups: The Mako Album and Black Materia: Final Fantasy 7

A little over a month ago, I was blogging about how I'd discovered a couple of game music mash-ups online.  Well, actually, I need to be honest...  I didn't just discover game music mash-ups, as a person who doesn't really listen to popular music or follow pop culture, I was just discovering what mash-ups were period.  Anyhow, at that time, regular reader/commenter Kevin suggested that I check out a couple of game music mash-ups that he really liked: The Mako Album and Black Materia: Final Fantasy 7.  I gave both of these albums a listen today while I was organizing/sorting/putting away some art song and arias I've played in the last few months.

It's an interesting experience for me to hear these albums as I don't really listen to rap.  Now, I don't dislike rap-- when I was young Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, and Sir Mixalot were popular-- so I grew up with the best of them!  (Actually, I can't think of any style of music I dislike.)  I just don't really listen to much popular music, rap included.  The emphasis that rap puts on the lyrics is really awesome and that's a large reason why I liked Random and Lost Perception's Black Materia so much.  This album really isn't a true mash-up-- I'm not sure what to call it exactly!  In a mash-up, music and rap that were made independently are put together, but in this case, the lyrics were written and wrapped to the already existing game music.

For me, this creates a much better effect in so many ways.  First of all, the music isn't as distorted as it can be (speed, pitch, editing) with a true mash-up.  Now, I'm not opposed to changing music to fit in a mash-up, but the music lover and purist in me wants the music to be as true to the original as possible.  If the pitch is changed greatly, it doesn't sound right to me-- the original sonority is too engrained in my mind.  If it's too sped up (or slowed, though I've yet to hear a track that's slowed significantly), again, it doesn't have the right feel.  If the track is heavily edited with extra pauses or beats, it just doesn't sound right-- too schizophrenic .  Think about it: these game tracks that are popular enough to get mash-ups were composed by top notch musicians and if the music gets altered very much at all, some of the craft and genius of its original form is lost.  Secondly, I love that the lyrics are specific to the tracks and the game.  They remind me of Pac-Man Fever, where the lyrics are akin to an insider code that a gamer understands at a different level than a casual listener will.

The other album I gave a listen to, The Mako Album, sort of fits all the things that I don't love as much about mash-ups.  I'm sorry to say that and intend no offense to The Specialist, but that's why there are lots of styles and opinions in life.  I like pure, less manipulated audio.  The rap and music needs to fit together more naturally than it does here for my taste.  Still, I like the creativity and that people are taking this music and putting their own stamp on it.  In every interview I've read or heard, all the game composers love that their music has inspired so many people to listen, play, and remix their audio.

Thanks Kevin for these suggestions!  You were right on about which one I'd like more.  Now that you all know even more specifically about my tastes (as I myself am learning as I encounter the genre), what other tracks/albums can you suggest for me to hear?  Much appreciated!


  1. I enjoyed Black Materia more as well, but there are some good ones on the Mako Album.

    I know you mentioned you heard Team Teamwork's Ocarina of Rhyme. They also made a FF7 mash-up album "Vinyl Fantasy 7." It's ok. Like you, I think mash-ups can be hit or missed based on hearing the original version of both songs (the rap song and the original score from the game) and being predisposed to those. I like a couple of them, but if I am in the mood for a FF7 'mash-up,' I go with Black Materia.

    Team Teamwork also made a mash-up from various titles in the Sega Genesis & SNES eras. You might've already found these if you found the Ocarina of Rhyme, but here's a link:

    One more note on the Ocarina of Rhyme: there's been a dispute over the original creation of the name that mixtape. I found another Ocarina of Rhyme by an artist named Sleaze (link: His mixtape is more like Random's Black Materia in that it's all original lyrics surrounding actual gameplay. However, I was overall disappointed in that mixtape, and deleted it save for one song (Garo, in case you're wondering).

    One final thought on this: I think there's a reason that people have made original songs based on Ocarina of Time and FF7. I can't really imagine too many other games where this can be done successfully. The reason is that those games were so iconic, while at the same time having a complex enough soundtrack for more than 10 original songs. I think you could do this for any Final Fantasy game, but 7 is the most popular and provides some 'darker' beats that seem to fit hip-hop's style. And although Super Mario is arguably the top game series of all time, up until recently I'm not sure there's enough complexity to make 12 different songs without them starting to blend together. Or maybe that's just me and MY nostalgic predispositions!

  2. Awesome, Kevin. Thanks for your response and continued reading. I appreciate you!

    I think two things as I read your note: first, you're absolutely right... game music is changing. As games become more interactive, some of the melodic aspects are being lost and instead, there are long games with awesome audio, but you don't come away from the gaming experience singing or humming it. Think Zelda/Final Fantasy vs Red Dead Redemption. Granted, those are also different genres and those have huge differences, but the more I read about game audio, the more I keep coming across the idea that people don't want it to be noticeable, just effective. I think great game music can be both memorable (ie, have melodic/rhythmic/harmonic hooks) and effective. For instance, I came away singing Skyward Sword and loving the music, but not feeling frustrated and burned out by it (well, except for the fact that they went too Final Fantasy with the harp. How could they ditch the ocarina?!). In classical music, composers like Mozart, Puccini, and Rachmaninov, who excel at composing melodies are the rarity. I think that might also be the case in game audio where Kondo and Uematsu and whoever else one might like are few and far between. I'm looking forward to getting to some more Mario games in My Gaming Audio History to see how that music progresses. I've played many of them.

    The second thing I'm thinking is that when I listen to these mash ups that I wished I knew the original raps. That would definitely inform my understanding of them more. Perhaps the raps are changed around as well as the music, although my reaction is to the music being changed because I know the game music and not the rap. I hadn't even considered the raps being changed for the sake of the mash up. The thought kind of made my world Dali-esque for a moment....