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Az Samad’s Top 10 Things He Loved About His Favourite Game OST Of 2022
This here’s a guest post from our game industry pals from Southeast Asia & the world. Head here to see more of Az Samad’s work.
I have a fond place in my heart for both 8-bit and 16-bit era 2-D scrolling games. Castlevania, Megaman, and Metroid were all staples of my early years playing video games. The games were great and the music was embedded into my mind.
With Shovel Knight Dig, I was transported back to the fun of that era & also to the joy of the music that accompanies the adventure.
Here are 10 things that I like about the soundtrack by Jake Kaufman:
Overground (Main) introduces the main theme that we hear in different versions throughout the game. Melodically and harmonically this is well written and gives us the vibe of the game.
The Overground (Campfire) version is exciting and grand.
The Overground (Hoofman’s Shop) version is fun with the reggae vibe and the syncopated bass line.
So much of the fun from classic 2-D scrolling games to me are the boss battles. From my earliest memories playing Mega Man (or Rockman depending when I played it), I remember the stress and thought that came with defeating bosses. The boss battle music in Shovel Knight Dig has some of classic hallmarks of boss fighting including odd meters, rhythmic hits and percussive sections.
Boss – The Claim Jumper is one that has some nice dramatic melodies. I like!
Hegemony (Crystal Core) has these intertwining melodies which really is such great ear candy. Throughout the game, you can hear the harmonies being implied by the single note melodic lines in the background. Although this was probably due to the polyphonic limitations of the technology of the era, this has become a part of the aethetic.
This is really obvious in the boss fights but most of the music in the game has nice little rhythmic build ups as well. It’s one thing to write good melodic themes, but it’s another thing to pay attention to the transitions and build ups.
Fully Furnaced (Smeltworks) opens with this great metal riff. Man, I can really picture this sounding amazing if someone like Video Game Orchestra decides to do an arrangement of this piece.
Boss – The Awakening also has some of that metal vibe too.
In Thermal Vent (Secret Fountain), I get a little bit of that kind of Casiopea or Spyro Gyra vibe. It hints at smooth jazz, it borders on 70s funk but all in all it’s just really good music.
Pest Friends (The Grub Pit) really captures the atmosphere of the level with the organic bug-filled world. This is probably one of my favorite tracks in the entire soundtrack.
So much of the mix shines when you listen to it on earphones or headphones. Beware the Depths and Hegemony (Crystal Core) are some examples of tracks where you can enjoy this (although it’s literally everywhere in the tracks). You gotta love all the ear candy, the choice of sounds that tickle your ears.
And talking about ear candy, so much of the music with this aesthetic becomes special with the close attention to detail in the background. For me, sometimes it’s the little repeating notes and figures in the background that makes the obvious melodies in the foreground even more beautiful.
Check out examples of this in One Person’s Trash (Magic Landfill), although this again is everywhere in the game.
Growing up listening to music from the classic NES, Super Nintendo and Genesis games, I didn’t really know much about harmonies back then. Now, as a musician I really enjoy hearing the harmonic choices another composer makes in his music. Jake Kaufman does a fine job with the chords & chord progressions he uses in the soundtrack. There’s a lot of good stuff here.
The soundtrack to Shovel Knight Dig is a modern interpretation of the classic chiptune music from the 80s and 90s. Bundled with fun gameplay, procedural level generation and 16-bit graphic aesthetics instead of the 8-bit graphics of previous Shovel Knight games, the music certainly fits the game well.
About Az Samad
Az was the featured classical guitar soloist with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) for the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy Kuala Lumpur premiere conducted by Arnie Roth (USA) at their three sold-out shows.
Az also performed for the South East Asian premiere of A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur conducted by Arnie Roth (USA) and featuring pianist Benyamin Nuss (Germany).
Prior to moving back to Malaysia, Az played in a video game music band in San Francisco. He has also been interviewed on GameSpot and featured in the GameSpot Asia Beat Podcast. After receiving 4 degrees in music and previously making music in Berkeley, California; Az now is based in Kuala Lumpur.
He was the guest composer for the game, No Straight Roads by Metronomik. The DK West Encounter 1, 2 & 3 combined rap with Malaysian traditional music elements including Dikir Barat.
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