Sound Byte: The Best of 2011

Feast your aural receptors on some of the best pieces of video game soundtracks last year.

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While 2011 was a great year for gamers to get their hands busy with a mess of new IPs, sequels, and mobile fares, it was also a good time for many composers to strut their stuff on an aural perspective. The best kind of music in a title not only delivers a hearty experience both in and out of context to your ears, but it also helps drive the gameplay and plot so that the sense of immersion stays constant.

There is no way you can imagine yourself role playing as a white-clad assassin in 1511 AD Constantinople without Jesper Kyd's melting pot of acoustic and electronic music accompanying the game in the background. It's also hard to picture a kid build up a giant fort in the wake of a cataclysmic effect in a fantasy world without an "acoustic frontier trip-hop" composed by one Darren Korb backing up said kid's exploits. Be it long overtures or short accompaniments, music is key in driving home the player's experience.

But enough with mere words; here is our video depicting the aural highlights of 2011.

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Last year wasn't just about original compositions in a title; most game companies and musicians of old love to compile their past hits into one large package, as well as remix old songs using new music styles and instruments. Other compilations also consist of new music from renowned video game music composers--all done for a good cause. Here are a few examples of said albums from last year:

We are ROCK-MEN!: This is an arrangement of Mega Man tunes helmed by Capcom sound team members Yasumasa Kitagawa and Masahiro Aoki. While there are a few electronic remixes here and there, the album is solely leaning on the "rock" part of its title, case in point the guitar-laden and percussion-thumping renditions of Mega Man X and Mega Man X2's opening stage themes.

Immortal 4: Old-school composers from Tim Wright to Chris Hulsbeck arranged a huge assortment of tunes from classic Amiga and PC titles in the '80s and '90s. Highlights include Leisure Suit Larry's theme featuring creator Al Lowe's saxophone blowing, and a jazzy rendition of the Wing Commander theme.

SQ Chips: Square Enix decided to give an 8-bit spin (alongside modern instruments) to classic tunes from its long line of role-playing game franchises. While the usual suspects like Final Fantasy XIII's battle theme and Chrono Trigger's theme are there, it's nice that the album also consists of remixed tunes from smaller titles like Brave Fencer Musashi and Einhander.

Senjou no Valkyria Piano Pieces: Australian-based pianist Casey Ormond took the best pieces of the Valkyria Chronicles series and arranged them in one album. If you crave more beautiful sounds emanating from ivory keys, check out the composer's YouTube page for more arrangements from other titles.

Lastly, we present to you an honorable mentions list of games with sweet soundtracks. They may not have made it into the video due to time constraints and other issues, but their music still demands your eardrum's attention:

Mighty Switch Force, Valkyria Chronicles 3: Unrecorded Chronicles, The Binding of Isaac, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Child of Eden, Cladun x2, SpaceChem, de Blob 2, Radiant Historia, Portal 2, Shogun 2: Total War, Catherine, Batman: Arkham City, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Gemini Rue, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Hard Corps: Uprising, The King of Fighters XIII, The Witcher 2.

Stay tuned for more upcoming Sound Byte features in 2012. As usual, hit up our Twitter page for our Awesome VG Music of the Day picks.

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