By Jeff Neuenschwander / January 23rd, 2014
So, this is the third new category we are presenting for you this year. However, unlike the other categories today, Best DLC/Expansion deals with content that was added into a game. We should also note that this will include content that can also function as a standalone title.
Anyways, without further ado, here are the nominees…
Smash Bretheren Pack (Fire Emblem: Awakening)
One of our favorite map packs from the latest Fire Emblem game, Smash Bretheren pits the armies of Tellius – led by Ike and Micaiah – against the armies of Elibe – led by Roy. But let’s be honest: it’s not the fight between the two armies that we come to see. It’s the fight between Smash Bros. veterans that gets us in the gate. Unfortunately, this is probably the closest we’ll get to seeing Ike fight Roy in Smash Bros.
The only standalone title in the finals, New Super Luigi U expanded upon last year’s Mario launch title creating an experience that freshened up the stale New Super Mario series. With Mario out of the equation, Luigi – with a pair of Toads, the bandit Nabbit, and his unique attributes – sets off to save the Mushroom Kingdom himself from Bowser in less than 100 seconds per level.
Jetstream Campaign (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance)
One of three additional campaigns, the Jetstream Campaign has you playing as Samuel “Jetstream Sam” Rodrigues, Raiden’s rival in the game. In this campaign, you see how Sam gets recruited by Senator Armstrong and Monsoon into joining Desperado Enforcement. A good start for those looking for backstory to the enemy group.
AND THE WINNER IS…
New Super Luigi U
While some people are getting Mario-fatigue, Nintendo did well in shaking things up this year. Giving Luigi his own platformer with revamped levels was merely one way they did that. While I can’t speak for the other way, I can say that this was a welcome addition to a series that could use some change (the New Super Mario series, not necessarily the Mario series in general). For that, New Super Luigi U gets our inaugural Best DLC/Expansion Award.
There’s something about the way that a good soundtrack can hook you into a game, even if the game is below average. Luckily for you guys, the soundtracks we’ve selected today are for games that are highly thought of — which should make it easier for you to go out and purchase the game to go along with the music. To present our award for Best Music, here is Lead Reporter Steve Baltimore.
|2012 Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles|
STEVE: The nominees for Best Music are…
Fire Emblem: Awakening
This Soundtrack had a team of composers Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hiroki Morishita and Rei Kondoh. This is one of the best SRPG soundtracks I have heard in a long while. These medieval themes will get your blood pumping for some shield shattering combat for sure.
This soundtrack contains works from Ruka Kawada, Kai Gojou, Mineaki Kawahara, Takashi Saeki and Yuki Nara. With a nice mix of Asian-style tunes and some Rock thrown in there for good measure, this soundtrack fits this title to a tee. Most of these battles tunes are very catchy and you will catch yourself humming them hours after you’re done playing.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
Ryo Nagamatsu was in charge of taking one of the most revered Zelda sountracks in history and revamping it for this out of the blue sequel. The result was one of the best soundtracks of this year.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Long time Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi was in charge of making the soundtrack. The result is one of the best orchestral game soundtracks in a long time. The music has all the emotion you would expect to find in a Studio Ghibli animated feature, and anyone who has ever watched an Anime he has composed knows this is a great thing.
Japan’s number one virtual idol has made her Western Debut. Being a long time fan of the Project Diva games, I have many favorite tracks that span the entire series. This release has some of the best tracks in the series such as Tell Your World, Tokyo Teddy Bear, and many others. There are many different genres represented here, so there is something for just about anyone that loves music to enjoy.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F
There are so many great things I could say about the variety and greatness of the music in this title that we would be here all day. For anyone that loves music, this one is a must have. These tunes are so catchy, you will attempt to sing them in Japanese. Let’s hope you do a much better job than I do.
JEFF: And what good is a soundtrack without a few good songs that will go through your head?
…I don’t know. But we’ve got Best Song coming up. Here to present the award is Editor Raymond Dwyer.
|2012 Winner: Main Theme – Xenoblade Chronicles|
RAYMOND: A soundtrack, like any song, has its own hooks and twists with unexpected turns and flawless sequences. But if you narrow down a soundtrack to its smallest parts, the short sequence of notes in a song can come to define a game as much as gameplay, graphics, and story. 2013 was a great year for games, and with great games come great music that, years from now, will still remind us of the memorable moments we’ve experienced. Which songs of 2013 will stand the test of time?
The nominees are…
Don’t Speak Her Name – Fire Emblem: Awakening
This piece of music occurs during gameplay after a very powerful part of the story, but in the world of Fire Emblem, there’s little time to reflect on emotions before being thrust into battle. “Don’t Speak Her Name,” composed by Rei Kondoh, effectively connects the mood of story events with the battles being engaged during Chapter 10: Renewal, a part of the game I’m sure every fan of Fire Emblem: Awakening will remember. The composition uses a melancholic combination of piano and strings to set the mood, and escalates in rhythm and intensity until we are led to the somber and soaring melody that reveals itself only after a good two minutes of dramatic music.
Main Theme – Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
First impressions are everything, and that’s especially true with video games and the high standards we hold them to. Fortunately, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the Witch King starts on a very high note, making a big statement with the wonderful main theme that opens the game and recurs throughout the soundtrack. Making a Studio Ghibli game is no small feat, and they hold nothing back in the audio production for the beautiful performance by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and music composed by Joe Hisaishi, composer of every film by “retired” Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki since Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The legendary director’s confidence in Hisaishi is well-placed, and that’s evident during the opening moments of Ni no Kuni as we begin our adventure with the ensembles of brass, strings, and flute soaring through the highs and lows of this memorable and lasting theme.
Lorule Theme – The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
To say The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is an understatement. There are cues and details around every corner of the new 3DS Zelda game that pay homage to the SNES classic, but possibly none more so than the theme of Lorule. The Dark World theme from A Link to the Past is arguably the most defining theme in its soundtrack and one that, until now, was not shared with any other game in the series. Koji Kondo continues to pass on his role as composer in Nintendo’s most treasured series to a new generation by having Ryo Nagamatsu take the reigns of this game. However, they do so while taking note of Nintendo’s storied history in this rearrangement of the original Dark World theme. What used to be a more orchestral composition dominated by loud string, reed, and brass ensembles is cut back to its fundamentals with solo string instruments providing melody while percussion and an acoustic guitar back up the rhythm.
Pokémon games are about two fundamental goals: catching ’em all, and becoming champion. Developer Game Freak paces their games well and have become experts in hyping the final destination of prospective Pokémon trainers. When you hear the music of “Pokémon League” play, it is in that moment that the build-up begins to pay off. In this music, there are subtle undertones of intensity and tension that, while not as explosive as battle themes, make it clear that you are in the final stretch. The wait for that moment is a long one for Pokémon fans, waiting through the hype during development to the release of the game before they even have the chance of collecting and building their team worthy of championship. This music acts as the final send off from that wait to the final confrontation. After that, there’s really nothing left for you to do before the next Pokémon game comes out… other than catch hundreds of Pokémon.
I~Because – Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a big game, and an ambitious one at that. It’s fitting then that the game concludes with “I~Because,” composed by Rei Kondoh. As our nomination above from Pokémon X & Y shows, some of the best music seems to always emerge in the final moments of a game. Interestingly, this composition is neither ominous nor exceedingly intense, as you might expect from a final battle theme. Instead, the song is much more subtle, tying in strong melodic themes in a variety of recurring tones from throughout the game, including string ensemble, reed and accordion instruments, with a very strong helping of choir. A catharsis effect, usually reserved for the end credits of video games, appears to come early in the upbeat melodies during these final moments of Fire Emblem: Awakening.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Main Theme – Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
If a song in a video game is judged by how well it defines the game, than this is where the main theme from Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch excels even among the strong competition of 2013. But what really sets apart this composition by Joe Hisaishi is the absolutely stunning performance by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Soundtracks that feature studio recordings have been commonplace for a while now in the video game industry, but a performance like this from a philharmonic is rare. There’s an energy and imperfection to the recording that truly makes it feel “live,” while accentuating the rise and fall of intensity throughout the piece. And that’s only the beginning of what is a very impressive soundtrack, but it sets the stage for more to come in the adventure that unfolds in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
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