Hey there! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!
As you know, I love video game music of all kinds, but did you know that a whole world of video game music remixes exists? I feel that not a lot of people are aware of this, so today, I’m going to talk about my definitive source for video game music remixes.
I stumbled upon this site by complete accident actually. It was in the tail end of high school and I started to get bored of listening to the same game tunes over and over again. I yearned for something fresh and new and, a few Google searches later, I found what I was looking for: OverClocked ReMix.
OverClocked ReMix (abbreviated to OCR), is a video game music community established in 1999 by David Lloyd, A.K.A. djpretzel, with the goal of creating a community that advocates and celebrates video game music as an art form. The OCR website hosts thousands of fan-created music content, spanning from the early years of gaming to the modern age and is a valuable resource for those looking to get into remixing themselves. Industry giants, such as legendary VGM composer Tommy Tallarico, have praised OCR in their efforts to legitimize video game music into the mainstream.
When I first arrived to the site all those years ago, OCR was undergoing tremendous change. A judge’s panel was introduced, in which new submissions were evaluated based on the site’s standards of creating high quality video game musical arrangements by a team of nine to twelve members of the community and moved towards database organization of remixes, making it easier for people to search for arrangements based on the game, its composer or its system. Since then, they’ve updated the site’s layout to reflect a more professional tone, but I’ll spare you those details and go on to the best part: the music!
Since its inception, OCR has posted over 3,361 remixes and 111 albums from over a thousand different games ranging from Arcade/Coin-Ops to the latest PC, handheld and console releases. Each of these remixes vary in style and composition, ranging from mainstream sounds (rock, pop, EDM, etc.), to traditional (jazz, classical, big band, etc.) to… the bizzare and experimental (Some of Sir Jordanius’ work, which I highly recommend due to the sheer zaniness of his tracks). Whatever your taste in music, OCR can and will deliver.
OCR was a game-changer for me as a teenager. It felt nice to know that there was a community online that appreciated video game music; it made me feel less of a weirdo in that sense, especially when peer acceptance was the biggest concern at that age. As I grew older, I noticed the arrangements did the same – brimming with emotion and gravitas, the music sounded more mature, more polished and professional. The music from OCR has been with me for some of the biggest milestones in my life, like job interviews, getting married and even gaining my licence to practice engineering in Ontario.
I remember one time when I was on the job, delivering some court documents for small claims court (small engineering firms get litigated very frequently) and I had to go through security. I had my 5th Generation iPod Nano on hand and I accidentally pressed play as I placed it in the bin with my belongings. Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem, but the 5th Gen Nano had a camera and a little speaker equipped. So, when I was going through the metal detector, this song was playing (Cooking with Fire – arranged by Navi, just plain wicked track to listen to) and the security guard, an old dude, was bopping his head to the beat as it was going through the X-ray machine, lyrics spitting and all. For some reason, I thought that was really cool and made me think, “Damn, if an old dude was jamming to this track, then maybe this could probably do well on mainstream radio or something?”
So, it’s with all of the above in mind that I want to personally thank David and the team at OverClocked ReMix for all that they do for the video game music community. I credit them with keeping me motivated and energized throughout my adult life by pumping out dope music!
Anyways, moving on, here’s a list of five of some of the most popular songs remixed on OCR and my recommendations on what to listen to:
- Terra’s Theme, the soulful, haunting theme music of the half-Esper, Terra, one of the twelve main characters from Final Fantasy VI. Some of the best remixes (and personal recommendations) of this gorgeous theme include A Legacy Forgotten by the team of Jesús Chic Acevedo, Pearl Pixel and ZackParrish; a beautiful and stirring Celtic rendition of the theme (My God, that pan flute at 2:40!) and Squaresoft Variation, arranged by Jeremy Soule, who worked on soundtracks from various games such as Guild Wars, Neverwinter Nights and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim! It’s a tribute to both djpretzel and long time Final Fantasy composer (and a goddamn LEGEND) Nobuo Uematsu. Find more remixes here.
- Corridors of Time, from the game Chrono Trigger, a classic JRPG for the Super Nintendo and a huge favourite of mine. The theme appears late in the game, when Chrono and gang travel to 12,000 BC, where their world is in the midst of an Ice Age. It’s there that they encounter the city of Zeal, a hyper-advanced utopia floating in the sky, ruled by the Enlightened Ones; those blessed with magic. The theme is beautiful, mellow and almost Zen-like. I remember getting to this point, setting down my controller and listening to this track for hours, getting lost in how chilled out it sounded. My personal recommendations include Electric Clouds by posu yan, an upbeat and chill track with an amazing, Eastern-inspired violin solo coming in at 1:26; Zeal Feels Good by Gario, a sexy, lofi chiptune arrangement and stratification by melody, a stellar rock/jazz fusion of the source material. The electric guitar is so damn good and the choir that pops in at 1:24 just makes my spine tingle. Find more remixes here.
- Brinstar – Red Soil Wetland Area from Super Metroid, another SNES classic. This dark and atmospheric tune, I feel, perfectly encompasses Samus’ lonely and isolating journey through Zebes. I recommend listening to Brinstar (Dreams in Red) by Beatdrop, Children of the Monkey Machine and K. Praslowicz; it takes the original and cranks the odiousness and bleakness of this particular area of Brinstar up to Spinal Tap proportions. This arrangement’s gritty, dark and oh-so-delicious (like coffee!). For something a little more bright, I recommend listening to Energy Tank by Matt Drouin. This is feel-good electronica at its finest – great bass, high energy and just plain fun to listen too! Find more remixes here.
- Ice Cap Zone: Act 1 from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is lauded as being incredibly over-remixed, but (I think) for a couple of good reasons: 1. The melody is super-infectious and fits the overall atmosphere of the level (I mean, come on, it leads off with Sonic SNOWBOARDING down a mountain for God sake! You KNOW this level is going to be awesome when you start like that!) And 2. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, kinda, sorta, maybe had a hand in creating this ubiquitous track, which definitely adds to the awesomeness factor. Speaking of tracks, if you like trap music, go on and give Icebreaker, by Jewbei and one of my favourite remixers/artists, Dr. halc, a listen to. It’s short, but it sounds so good and the lyrics are hilarious! I also recommend listening to Popsicle by James Wong, a funky dubstep/jazz fusion that brings new meaning to the phrase, “Way Past Cool.” (HA!). Find more remixes here.
- J-E-N-O-V-A from Final Fantasy VII, the high-energy boss battle music that plays whenever you fight any one of Sephiroth’s “mother’s” incarnations (BIRTH, LIFE and DEATH) and Hojo at the end of Disc 2. I’ll be frank; typing out the track title gave me the willies. JENOVA had always intimidated me as a kid and even now as an adult, I hesitate going into dark rooms because I picture its headless, alien body hovering about, waiting to either freak me out or turn me into a Sephiroth clone… Regardless, having the heebie-jeebies doesn’t stop me from appreciating an awesome song and its arrangements are no different. I recommend listening to JENOVA Celestial by another favourite artist of mine, bLiNd. It’s a slickly produced electronica track that, I believe, improves on the original source material. If you’re looking for something with a more epic, orchestrated cinema-like feel to it, check out Jenova Returns by Steffan Andrews. For some reason, listening to this reminds me of something out of a Tim Burton movie, but the composition, especially the transition to Jenova Complete using a little piece of Let The Battles Begin at 2:00, is just spot on and seamless. Find more remixes here.
Well, that’s enough to start with. So, what are you waiting for? Dive in! If you do frequent OCR on the reg, let me know what remixes tickle your fancy? I’ll follow up this post with a top-ten of my absolute favourite, go-to remixes, so stay tuned for that.
And for the next edition, I’m going to be doing something I’ve never done before: sharing my first impressions of a game I’ve never played before! I’m really excited about this next post, so keep you eyes peeled when it comes out!
This is Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy listening!