I have a tendency to fall in love with game soundtracks never having played the game. At times this can be a double edged sword – I’m able to develop feelings for the music based solely on what I think of it, but often without the memories of the gameplay to go with it, some soundtracks completely slip by without notice.
The most obvious case of this, for me, is Nier. A JRPG developed by Cavia Studios and published by Square Enix, it was released to middling reviews, mainly due to its less than impressive visuals, but the one aspect that almost every reviewer agreed on was that the soundtrack was stellar. And here I present my picks for the best of the best.
Nier’s soundtrack is very vocal heavy for a game. There are actually very few instrumental pieces in the game. Composer Keiichi Okabe and main vocalist Emi Evans wrote many of the songs in reworked versions of French, Italian, Gaelic, English and even a completely fictional language in one case. While this makes it very hard to sing along to, it gives Nier a sound like no other game out there.
PS – Not having played the game I’m not sure, but some song titles may be considered spoiler territory. Just a friendly warning
Snow in Summer
The opening song of the CD version of the soundtrack, Snow In Summer really sets the tone of what’s to come. A purely vocal opening, followed by some strong percussion work a couple of minutes in, this piece really starts to create the emotion and atmosphere that the rest of the soundtrack will follow through on.
In a dark and emotional soundtrack, Grandma takes the crown for being one of, if not the most emotional piece in the game.
The Lost Forest
One of the few pieces with no vocal accompaniment, The Lost Forest still creates a great atmosphere. You can almost picture yourself running through the trees, something closing in behind you.
Song of the Ancients – Fate
Of the four versions of Song of the Ancients, Fate is the strongest. The same lyrics are used in all four, but the accompanying instrumentals give Fate a power all its own.
Emil – Sacrifice
Another of Nier’s really powerful pieces. The sheer amount of emotion that Emi Evans is able to produce is staggering.
Shadowlord’s Castle – Roar
I’m guessing this is one of the boss battle themes, and its damn effective. Fast, powerful, driving, its everything JRPG battle themes tend to be known for. And the vocal chanting only serves to enhance this.
Temple of Drifting Sands
This is my favourite song in the entire game. One of the few upbeat songs, it still doesn’t lack for emotion. The backing vocals give it a pulse, always pushing on, always surging forward.