OK, yeah, how could I not do this? I know that we at Massively have gone a little ga-ga over ArenaNet's stellar April Fools' Day prank-slash-massive update, but when I saw that the team released a half-hour of original score in addition to all of the pixelated monkey mayhem, I knew I had to review it.
Your enjoyment of Guild Wars 2's Super Adventure Box and its score will largely depend on your memories or feelings about old-school video games. For a kid who grew up on 8-bit and 16-bit games, the sound of SAB is pure nostalgia (even if it is original composition). I think it's also as catchy as cooties.
Composers Maclaine Diemer and Leif Chappelle put in a lot of effort to not just make a classic-sounding soundtrack here but specifically reference and pay homage to plenty of old-school hits. Hang with me as I highlight the best of Super Adventure Box, and I promise that next week we'll get back to serious business.
1. Super Adventure Box Theme
One of the reasons that I love (and collect) older video game music is that the limits of the music channels forced composers to be creative and focus on melodies that would stick in our heads long after the game was shut off. So what do you get when you boil the Guild Wars 2 theme down into early era video game music? This. And guess what? It's still pretty awesome.
I like the fuzzy sound that's used a few times because boy do I remember that from plenty of NES titles. I don't know if that sound really has a contemporary match -- a cymbal, maybe? It always makes me think of a wave crashing and then receding.
2. Sunny Glade
By far, this is my favorite piece from Super Adventure Box. It's peppy and bouncy, and you could put it as the score for any video game activity and it would make you happy. Even if you were playing Silent Hill or The Secret World or something. It's also an insidious earworm that will get in your head and won't leave, so be careful about hitting play up there.
"You know the story: start out, World 1-1, everything is happy and peppy and exciting," Chapelle wrote. "That was exactly the kind of mood I went for with this piece. I started with the melody and thematic elements from one of the tracks from the Krytan region, as it had always managed to get itself stuck in my head. From there, the exuberance took over and led to its own additions to the theme."
3. Town Shop
This is the theme heard, well, while you're shopping. It's really simple, with three layers: a background track dancing up and down, the slow main melody, and the occasional deep bass note. Together it forms Voltron and saves the universe. Or makes you want to hang out and buy a few more heart containers.
Chapelle says that he drew from The Legend of Zelda, Peaceful Days, and Chrono Trigger for this tune. It's certainly iconic of the small village and shop themes you'd hear in those games.
4. King Toad Boss
What I like about this piece is that it's simultaneously threatening (it is a boss fight, after all) and somewhat playful. I like to imagine that these two sides to the track are fighting against each other in the same way that your character is facing off against the boss.
Diemer said that he drew inspiration from the NES game Battletoads for this track. "This ended up even wackier than I originally intended," he said. "The melody jumps around all over the place, and when the counter melody comes in, the two leap around all over each other. You know, like frogs."
You just don't get victory music in MMOs, do you? There might even be some of the newer generation that's unfamiliar with how JRPGs used to end every fight with a weird little dance and happy tune: "Yay! We murdered you! And robbed your corpse! Let's jump up in the air and twirl our swords!"
So this is that music, just for Guild Wars 2. It's a bit of Final Fantasy mixed with elements from the GW2 theme song. It kind of reminds me of the mission complete theme for Spiral Knights that I reviewed a little while ago.
6. Dark Woods 2
While it's not the catchiest track here, it's definitely memorable. It conveys the titular darkness by toning down the giddy music by a fraction, although it's still upbeat enough to be prelude music to a weirdly specific wedding.
It kind of makes me think of the Castlevanias and Ghouls 'n Ghosts titles with the pseudo-harpsichord music that you'd expect to hear in a haunted venue. I really like how it peters out to a close with stilted notes that grow quieter and quieter.
Chances are that some of you listened to this soundtrack. What were your favorites? Is there any love out there for old-school video game beats?
MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Every Tuesday, Jukebox Heroes will check out a game's soundtrack and feature the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!