Saturday Symphony is one of our Periodicals, in which we discuss the pieces of video game music we love.
It may be a single piece, it may be a group of pieces, or we might talk about a general theme in video game music or a particular games soundtrack. In any case, the goal here is to showcase that video games have had some truly fantastic pieces of music, regardless of era.
As you might imagine with our Asian-centered website, we’ll try to focus on the video games of Japan, but sometimes video game music from elsewhere may prove just too tantalizing to pass up. Either way, we want you to enjoy the music of video games along with us, so sit back, relax, and bring along some nice headphones.
While discussing music pieces generally won’t require divulging spoilers, sometimes it may happen – when discussing a final battle piece for example, or if the music is that intrinsically tied to the story the game is telling. It does happen sometimes.
This week’s Saturday Symphony: Of Michiko and Morricone
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Original Title: Il buono, il brutto e il cattivo
Main Cast:Clint Eastwood
Lee Van Cleef
- Naruke Michiko has composed over 400 tracks for the Wild Arms series.
- Morricone’s 50-plus year career has seen him compose over 500 films, though he is most known for his collaborations with director Sergio Leone, such as For a Few Dollars More, A Fistful of Dollars, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
- Naruke fell ill during the production of Wild Arms 4, making it the first time she did not fully compose a soundtrack for the series. The soundtrack was jointly finished by composers Agematsu Noriyasu, Kouda Masato, Shimizu Noboyuki, and Suzuki Ryuta. Agematsu and Kouda would co-compose the score for Wild Arms 5, completing a marked transition in the series’ musical sound.
When it was released in 1996, Wild Arms became known for its use of an Old West theme with its characters, settings, and oh yeah, music. Granted, by the time each game ends it’s more of a churned up mix of western, sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy, and crack dream, but I digress. We’re focusing on the music here.
Let’s take a listen to the world map theme of the first Wild Arms, which also doubles as protagonist Rudy Roughnight’s theme:
“Lone Bird in the Shire”
If you’re at all a fan of Westerns, you probably can tell me what piece of music composer Naruke Michiko is referencing here.
In case you haven’t seen The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, then you may or may not know the most celebrated piece of music from the film, “The Ecstasy of Gold”.
“Ecstasy of Gold”
Notice the similarity? Morricone’s iconic work has been an inspiration for more than just Naruke here, but the link is undeniable.
To give a second example of it, here is “Gun Blaze”, the battle theme from Wild Arms 4.
To note, Naruke fell ill during the production of Wild Arms 4, with a team of four other composers finishing up the project. Needless to say, the series took a BIT of a different sound. The composers of Wild Arms 5 (Naruke took no part) played up the sci-fi aspects of the series a bit more, but when a giant battle mech is central to the plot, one can’t really blame them. So “Gun Blaze” is one of Naruke’s last contributions to the series before her illness.
And guess what?
“Fuga a Cavallo”
While these are the more direct references to Morricone’s work, the Wild Arms series has that distinct feel of a Wild West score that helped it stand out in mood, tone, and feeling, at a time when fantasy RPG soundtracks were a-plenty.
You’ll note, of course, the use of trumpets; a commonplace instrument in Morricone’s work. However, it wasn’t until later that the series would include one of Morricone’s most iconic elements: a male chorus.
Let’s close out this time on a note from the remake of Wild Arms, Alter Code F. This is the same world map theme you heard earlier, but redone for the re-release.
And there’s the male chorus.
If you consider Wild Arms and its music iconic, the work of Ennio Morricone and other Western composers is surely worth your time. Naruke Michiko thought so.