Sure, I think that most people will agree that a lot of the
images and designs that go into a modern video game could be considered
but what about the music? Is the
haunting theme from Halo to be taken as seriously as a piece of
from a contemporary composer? To composers
Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall the answer was a resounding "Yes!" If video game compositions are 'real' music,
wouldn't people enjoy hearing them in a live concert setting? From that idea emerged Video Games Live (VGL),
a touring orchestral performance of video game music with visual
effects and a
few surprises. VGL
released their first CD in 2008, and this
year their second disc, cleverly entitled Level 2, hit stores along
with a DVD
and Blu-ray release. For fans of video
games, like my two sons, this is a fun disc that really entertains.
This performance was recorded in New Orleans and features the
Philharmonic Orchestra as well as a 34-person chorus, and it's quite an
impressive set line-up. While I don't
pretend to know anything about classical music (I generally listen to
that has been proven to cause sterility in lab rats at 50 yards) I was
by the performances of both the soloists and the general orchestra.
They start out with a medley of tunes from classic arcade
games that really got the audience excited and in the right mood for
the show. These old 8-bit games had some
playing (over and over and over...) in the background and applause would
from the audience when they'd segue into a popular theme.
They followed that up with music from Halo. If
anyone doubts that teens and tweens could
get excited about attending the orchestra, these two pieces alone will
Video Games Live is more than just the music though; it also
incorporates video from the games being shown on large screens over the
stage. I was impressed that it was
so well. At the precise moment a ship
crashes into a planet on the screen the cymbals clash and the drums
pound. It's a nice touch that works quite
Not all of the 'immersive' sections of the concert worked so
well however. I'll give the creators
credit for trying some new ideas, but having a guy in a Spartan uniform
across the stage waving a big flag at the end of the Halo section was a
hokey, and the smoke blasts the infrequently erupted from the stage
The show also featured an appearance by Ralph Baer arguably
the father of video games, who played his early version of Pong
with a member of the audience.
That was nice, but it did ruin the rhythm of the concert by
things to a screeching halt for a bit.
The other major mistake was including a song from Guitar
Hero. It seemed to be
counter to what they were trying to do, create an appreciation of
music to a new generation, and it also begs the question 'does the
need another cover version of Sweet
The way the concert is presented on the disc wasn't the way
I'd do it either. In between most
selections they cut to a short interview with a video game composer or
the performers in the show who would talk about either their
composition or how
wonderful video game music actually is.
These segments broke up the flow of the concert and were a bit
not to mention a bit over the top. There
were a few cringe worthy moments, especially when someone would try to
poetically about the joys of the show. They
just came across as a used car salesman trying to talk someone into the
These were minor faults though. Taken as a
whole the concert was a lot of fun
and well worth watching, and that goes double for video game fans.
The songs performed in this concert are as follows:
Classic Arcade Medley
Civilization IV: Baba Yetu (Duet Version)
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Theme
Sonic the Hedgehog: Staff Credits
Advent Rising Overture
Interactive Guitar Hero: Aerosmith - "Sweet Emotion"
Chrono Cross: Scars of Time
Mass Effect Suite
The Legend of Zelda Suite
Super Mario Bros. Medley
God of War: Revenge and Redemption
Martin Leung - Mario Solo Piano Medley
Martin Leung - Tetris Solo Piano Medley
World of Warcraft: Lament of the Highborne
Castlevania Rock Overture
This Blu-ray disc comes with the DVD version in a two-disc
combo pack. Both are housed in a single
width Blu-ray case.
The 1.78:1 1080p image looks very good, especially for a
live concert, something that necessitates recording under less than
conditions. The level of detail was very
good, allowing the viewers to see the fine grain in the wood that makes
cellos and texture of the violin strings.
The vintage video game footage didn't look so hot, especially
was magnified to a size it was never intended for on my screen, but
be expected. NES graphics weren't meant
for large HD monitors. I would have used
the game footage more sparingly than the director of this disc did, but
not a grievous error.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio sounded very good, with one
exception (that I'll get to later.) The
was excellent and the audio was very clear. I also liked the way they
disc, with a few percussion effects and audience sounds coming from the
and the front soundstage being reserved for the orchestra.
I would have liked a little more bass in the
mix, but this was a minor qualm.
The one area that the disc could have been improved was with
the levels between the concert and the interviews that played between
songs. The interviews were mixed rather
and when the music was set at a nice level they'd come across as
The set has a good number of extras, but I wasn't really
thrilled by any of them. First off is a
commentary track by the creators, which I thought was a bit unusual but
bad. Then there's extended interviews
with Tommy Tallarico, Ralph Baer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Russell Brower,
Marino, Christopher Tin, Martin Leung, and Jayson Hayes.
Some of these were interesting but most of
them were a bit over the top. Jamie Lee
Curtis' for example. In addition there
are four behind the scenes bits (Tommy's
Guitars, Joystick Podium, Behind the Scenes Tour, Composers Party in Japan)
a series of trailers to various video games.
I think I enjoyed this last bit the most. The
trailers include: Video Games Live 2010 Trailer, Tetris -
25th Anniversary, The Making of
Dragon's Lair, Halo Reach, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Sonic the
Hedgehog 4, Civilization
V, God of War III, and a Yuri the
Only One For Me music video.
While there were a few things I didn't like about the way
the show was presented (the interview clips between songs being the
main one) I
actually enjoyed this show a lot. I'm
not a big gamer, but hearing the Mario Theme
or the music from Sonic the Hedgehog did
bring a smile to my face. It's a great
and an outstanding way to get someone interested in music.