When I was growing up in the 80’s there was a game that would haunt my every waking moment. Gradius.
This simple Konami shoot-em-up is now something of a cornerstone for the entire SHMUP genre and I was there to see it rise, thanks to my extremely unfashionable MSX computer.
At the time I had no idea the impact this game would have on my entire life. Now, almost 30 years later, I’m still in love with Gradius and its many sequels, and regularly return to “shoot the core”.
But it isn’t only the gameplay that I return to. The soundtrack, for me at least, is the best suite of music I’ve ever heard in a game. My trusty MSX could certainly play a tune but it did no justice to the music composed by Miki Higashino and for years I was unaware of just how beautiful Gradius could sound. Until that is, I heard Gradius Fantasia.
This 30-track 1988 CD, performed by the Gradius Symphonic Orchestra, changed my whole perception of what video game music could be. The first 8 tracks of the CD are a powerhouse in musical arrangement, taking the simple melodies of the game and transforming them into symphonic scores that would sound perfect in any modern era sci-fi blockbuster. The remaining tracks supply the history of those tunes, first heard in the arcades in 1985, complete with the sound effects of your trusty ship, the Vic Viper.
Included below are the first three tracks via Youtube. The arrangement above is track 7, entitled Fantasia, and is 10 minutes of brilliance. Even if you don’t know the original source material, I encourage you to listen, especially to the Fantasia track as it gets better and better with every passing minute and every repeat listen.
(Gradius Fantasia: Overture)
(Gradius Fantasia: Navigation)
(Gradius Fantasia: The Ancient Planet)
If this soundtrack appeals to you, then I suggest you search next for the almost-as-good “Gradius in Classic” soundtracks which owe much to John Williams’ Star Wars soundtracks.
Tracklist and more info [@] GAME-OST
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