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Published April 19, 2014

3 Awful Video Games With Amazing Soundtracks

Every video game has a lot of artistic bars to pass. The graphics have to be up to the latest standards–or heavily stylized. The game’s engine must be fluid and polished.

The voice acting, which has only recently become mandatory, is held to the “if it’s not Mark Hamill good, it’s not good at all” expectation. And often, composers produce music so immersive the player forgets the world on screen is merely pixels and code. Games stand to make millions of dollars if all the elements come together to form a fully realized gaming masterpiece.

And then you have the games that groove to their own beat, and that beat is so orchestral-level spectacular that designers forgot to make the rest of the elements not suck These soundtracks deserve better than to lie in the $2 bin purgatory, trapped in the terrible games they were supposed to empower. Fortunately, we now live in a world with i-Tunes and YouTube, which have freed the music from their plastic coffins. So read about these awful games with amazing soundtracks, then go download to your heart’s content!

I would warn about spoilers, but chances are no one will want to touch these games with a hazmat suit and lame-resistant gloves, so we’re all good.

 

#3 Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

“A story that needs a whole universe to tell.” That is a direct quote from the box, embellishing the size of the game by approximately infinity percent. In actuality the game is quite long, but to get that length the developers decided to make it an extended series of fetch quests supplemented with a crafting feature that usually netted you such gems as spicy cakes and portraits of the characters.

Oh, those poor, terrible characters. They live in a universe that turns out to be (shock!) a video game. While they run around trying to convince the bad guys that they’re actually alive and have thoughts, feelings, and can make their own decisions, they manage to convince the player of the complete opposite. There are so many wooden personalities in this game, Greenpeace wouldn’t care if you tore them up and used them as kindling to light cigars made of ground-up eagle bones. I finished two playthroughs and put it back on my shelf to remain until the end of time (see what I did there?).

Why two? Because of this piece of awesome.

3 Awful Video Games With Amazing Soundtracks - 1
There are so many wooden personalities in this game, Greenpeace wouldn’t care if you tore them up and used them as kindling to light cigars made of ground-up eagle bones.

There’s only one or two fights during the entire game you hear that badass electric guitar, and I don’t know why. If I were directing, this would have been the music for every important fight in the game. Never mind why the hell it’s called “The Divine Spirit of Language.” I don’t care. This music makes me believe I could slay three-story dragons with nothing but a broken pipe and fifty metric tons of moxie. Too bad it’s holed up in gigantic pile of lame.

 

#2 Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits

Do me a favor. Listen to this song and try to imagine proper context. I’ll wait.

It’s got a tribal, almost Celtic vibe to it. There’s a bit of mystery mixed in with the strings. It sounds like it could have come straight out of Braveheart. And then the electric guitar hits and it’s like “Oh hell yeah! I’m all set to fight for my freedom. Let me smash that army of Brits in lots of historically inaccurate ways!”

Well, I have some bad news. That song, and other melodies just as beautiful, came from probably one of the most racist games I have ever played. Twilight of the Spirits splits the story between two parties of characters, the Humans and the Deimos. The Deimos are basically anthropomorphic monsters, and include a dragon dude and a withered plant lady. It starts off as a pretty awesome idea, but then you learn just how much both sides despise each other.

RELATED: Final Fantasy Lightning Returns: It’s the End of the World on PS3 and Xbox 360.

The pure, unbridled hatred they have for one another is unreal, and the game goes to great lengths to make sure you know. In one scene, the main Human protagonist learns he’s half-Deimos when he suddenly grows bat-like wings. His response?

Cut those suckers off with a knife and curse about Deimos ruining his life, because of course permanently scarring yourself is a healthy response to interracial genetics. Just imagine blaming Mongolians or Puerto Ricans for that weird growth on your neck and you get the gist of how terribly this game handled issues of race relations. It doesn’t help that when the two parties finally end up fighting, the player has to pick a side.

Either way, the losing party basically whimpers about the beating they just got and joins the winning one as passive-aggressively as possible. Did you catch that? That’s domination and subjugation through use of force. And at the end of the game, everyone celebrates the defeat of the common enemy by agreeing to stay on their side of the fence and not talk to each other any more. Hooray for segregation!

 

#1 Chrono Cross

The soundtrack to Chrono Cross is some of gaming’s best contributions to the world of music. If my word isn’t convincing, here’s Scars of Time. Feel the tears welling up, and that tingling down the spine? That’s what happens when the human mind comes into contact with something so beautiful it reduces itself to a pile of warm, fuzzy, defenseless goo.

The Chrono Cross soundtrack is breathtaking, and even more amazing is the fact that it hit shelves back when Y2K was still a thing.

It rivals and surpasses a lot of the best stuff game composers have developed during the last fifteen years.

That’s just the beginning. Here’s two more versions of that same song, one by a three-piece amateur orchestra, and dozens more by actual, real orchestras. This orchestra combines the best of the entire soundtrack into one melody. What I’m saying is, Chrono Cross music is on par with John freaking Williams in terms of classic orchestral soundtracks.

RELATED: Gaming Nomad vs. South Park: The Stick of Truth.

The actual game does not deliver what the music promises us. Supposedly a sequel to the classic SNES title Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross disregards everything that made its predecessor popular and inserts 40 characters with weird, jarring, or nonsensical accents in place of actual character development. The plot is a Lost-style mashup of random revelations that are secondary to collecting characters and Elements- the lifeblood of the badly designed, under-powered, unnecessarily complicated magic system. You’re better off just smashing things with physical attacks, but the game can’t even get that right.

Chrono Cross was based on a fan-made game called Radical Dreamers, which is like if the new Star Trek movie was based entirely on that one piece of horrific fanfiction that forced Kirk and Scotty to explore repressed urges in badger costumes. It wasn’t the best idea to start with, keep with, or end with. The final product is so lame, the developers threw in a fast-forward feature for all subsequent playthroughs so you could suffer through all that garbage twice as fast.

But the music, man. That music is incredible.

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  • Greg Trombley

    Greg

  • I'm an RDU-based novelist and passionate champion of scientific progression. Nature and science live side-by-side in my heart. I clean dinosaur bones in my spare time, and love reading about local history. All my articles.

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