In my many years of casually running a blog, I’ve ended up collecting a fair share of video game-related junk. Demo discs. Hot wheels cars. Even collecting bottles of Mountain Dew Game Fuel. But one I’ve gotten the most often is random video game-related music.
I have the traditional soundtrack fare of music straight from the game, but there isn’t a whole lot I could write about those. Except maybe that copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that Nintendo Power was giving away to people who re-subscribed to the magazine. But I do have a fair share of stuff that’s tangentially related to video games that I think are interesting.
So here are five random video game-related CDs I own, in no particular order.
Music from the Motion Picture: Tomb Raider
This was around the time where the franchise was in a slight slump thanks to Eidos following Activision’s philosophy of pumping out a new game every year, but before the trainwreck that was Angel of Darkness. I never saw the movies based on Tomb Raider, but I heard they’re fun, popular little action flicks. Maybe that was because a certain Angelina Jolie was the titular star… (The film also features a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig!)
I honestly didn’t think the film would be filled to the brim with licensed music, but there’s a lot here, and it’s a mix of industrial (Nine Inch Nails) and electronic artists (Chemical Brothers, Moby, Fatboy Slim). A lot of it is a good example of that late ‘90s-early 2000s style of pop/industrial and hip-hop/rock sound. A lot of these are artists I’ve heard of, but the only song on here I was familiar with prior to listening was Basement Jaxx’s “Where’s Your Head At.” Which is so early 2000s it hurts.
The only thing I’m saddened by is no portions of the film’s score by Graeme Revell. That was released on a separate CD – It was common to release a soundtrack of the licensed music and a separate CD for the film’s score – but even having one or two tracks on here would’ve been a nice surprise.
Wipeout 2097/Wipeout XL
This was an interesting release. You’d think it’d feature the music from the hit racing game Wipeout 2097 (Wipeout XL for us bloody yanks), right? Well, it does and yet, it doesn’t.
It does feature tracks from The Future Sound of London, Fluke, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy, but also features songs from artists like Leftfield, Orbital and a pre-fame Daft Punk, all of which did not contribute music to the game. It also omits the in-house music from CoLD StoRAGE.
It’s weird because 2097 was one of several games from the era that used Redbook CD audio, so you could put the CD in a CD player and start from track 2 to get the game’s music, making this album pretty redundant. Oh well, still a good album regardless.
The copy I own is fairly in poor condition (with lots of scratches). It doesn’t help that I accidentally dropped the case once, breaking the cover and chipping off half of the teeth in the case that keeps the disc intact. I’ve considered in the past finding an empty or unused clear plastic CD jewel case and replacing it, but I don’t listen to this album enough to really justify it.
SiN: The Movie CD Soundtrack
SiN was a game that was pretty cool for its time, a spiritual successor to the Duke Nukem formula with some other cool features. Unfortunately it came out the same time as Half-Life, and like other games that came out around that period (such as Blood II: The Chosen), got its lunch ate by Valve’s debut. It didn’t help that Activision pushed the game out before it was ready, resulting in a whopping 130MB patch being released not long after release. (Remember: This is during the days when dial-up internet was king. Either you waited several hours for the download, or just bought a PC Gamer CD with the patch already on it. The patch probably didn’t help matters.)
Yet, it also got an anime film. Back in that weird period when the closest the US had heard of “anime” was Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z but before the anime explosion on Toonami a few years later, Sin: The Movie came out… and was pretty much forgotten, except for a VHS/DVD release by ADV Films which released a lot of stuff like this, like the Sonic the Hedgehog anime.
I was honestly expecting an electronic soundtrack much akin to the games, or even similar to the two CDs I just mentioned above. But no, it’s an actual film score. Probably the closest you’ll see in this collection. Composed by Masamichi Amano, it’s actually a very heartwarming and dramatic score. I never thought an anime based on a freakin’ late ‘90s video game would have such a cool score, but this is from the guy that also made music for Melty Lancer, and amusingly, Urotsukidoji. (I do not recommend Google searching that last one while at work.)
Compilation Gamestop Vol. 1
Okay, this is a weird one. This is another compilation, oddly sold by GameStop. It features an EA Sports logo in the back, so I assume this was made as a pre-order incentive for some EA Sports game, possibly a FIFA title. There’s not much online about this, it doesn’t even have a Discogs entry.
It gets weirder: They’re all bands from EMI Records, but this CD comes from Italy. I’ve found foreign CDs constantly at thrift stores, even finding Japanese copies of Hot Shots Golf 2 and Puyo Puyo Sun, but how the heck did a compilation CD based in Italy make it here?!
The music hits a lot of that 2000s era pop-punk/rock sound that you expect, but then there’s a few weird choices like KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”, Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”, even a live version of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” There’s also a lot of Italy-specific artists like Caparezza, Dari, and Subsonica on here, that are probably familiar to Italian audiences, but not an American like me. I apologize for my musical ignorance on these artists.
Still a cool find, regardless. I honestly wish I knew what this was made for, because it just feels like a strange soundtrack that GameStop was merely selling to promote… some game. It sure beats getting a hat, t-shirt, or download code, at least.
Carmen Sandiego: Out of this World
I’ve saved the best for last. This is an album made for the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego game show, and one of the last ones released.
I bet you’re expecting to hear nothing but a bunch of awesome a capella by Rockapella, right? Wrong. Greg Lee, the show’s host, dominates the album. But don’t fret, there *is* a Rockapella song, and a few guest acts from XTC, They Might Be Giants, even a song by The Chief herself, the late great Lynne Thigpen.
I snagged this album as well as an Intel radiation suit guy plush advertising the Pentium II about a few years back, and I was absolutely surprised when I found it.
Honestly, I might write more about this album, because it’s just a bizarre curiosity. People remember the game show, and Rockapella’s amazing a capella, but don’t tell me you were ever expecting a soundtrack album featuring the host, were you?
Honorable Mention: NHL Rivals 2004: Music from the Xbox game, Vol. 1
I’ve written about this before, but it’s still one of those strange finds I’ve always been amazed by. It’s a soundtrack that feels like all the common easy stuff they could get, but even the weird re-record of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 65” are the highlights of this otherwise unremarkable album.
The sports game world was a very competitive market in the 2000s. EA, Sega, Midway, even Sony had their own sports games, so I don’t know what Microsoft was expecting in a crowded market. It didn’t help it was released during that time when Microsoft was second-banana to Sony’s dominating PS2. I should find the titles in the short-lived XSN series and see how they were compared to their competition, it would be interesting to see why these failed and why Microsoft never tried these again during the Xbox 360 era.
I have a few other CDs I didn’t mention here, so maybe I’ll write a volume two sometime. Video game soundtracks are just one of those unusual curiosities that’s begging me to get super nerdy on.
(Covers courtesy of Discogs, except for Compilation GameStop, which are my own pictures.)