Sunday, November 13, 2016

VGM Podcasts Review

Video game music has always had a big part in my life, at least since I started gaming. More recently it's pretty much overshadowed every other kind of music and become near the only kind of music I listen to. To be fair, in recent years gaming music has become so diverse that you can get your fill no matter what kind of genre you prefer, but mine happens to still mainly be chiptune-style. As mentioned a couple of posts ago, this also eventually led me into looking for podcasts centred around VGM to keep me company during my bike rides to and from work. And I've actually managed to find quite a few, of varying quality that I thought I would write a little more about. Firstly, it's important to note that what I am after when listening to a VGM podcast is mainly the music. Some podcasts delve a bit deeper into the technical aspects of the making and creating of VGM and while I do find those parts interesting as well, I prefer the ones that just play as many tracks as possible, with a bit of commenting. My evaluation of the podcasts I listen to will of course be biased by my preferences in this regard.

But where is the harp?

Battle Bards by Syp, Steph and Syl
This is probably my favorite or at least one of my favorite VGM podcasts. Eventhough they have niched into MMO-music specifically, which initially had me thinking that I'd get bored with the podcast eventually, they manage to make so much from their topics. The dynamic between the three hosts is by far the best out of the podcasts I listen to - they have completely different tastes and are not afraid to tell eachother. This leads to interesting discussions about the quality of the different tunes and I especially enjoy hearing the different perspectives they often have on the very same tune. This podcast is also unique among the ones I listen to in that it intersperses the music with the talking, rather than listening to a tune (or two) and then talking about it which is the standard procedure, and it really works! Sound levels can be off sometimes, where the music is too loud to hear what they are saying, but that is only occasionally and definitely not enough to remove any of the fun from listening to this gang talking and bickering about MMO VGM. Highly recommended!

Forever Sound Version by Michael
This podcast has only just gotten started and it's off to a very good start. Forever Sound Version is a bit unusual as he does most of the episodes on his own (although he is not the only one as we will see). He does a great job at it however - the focus is on music and the talking only adds to the tunes by keeping it relevant and interesting. Because he (mostly) does the episodes alone, he stays on point which can be very nice when you've listened to a couple of podcasts in a row where the hosts stray off the topics. For the first couple of episodes I've listened to he has managed to strike a nice balance between technical, informative and personal when talking about the tunes and my only gripe is that I feel he sometimes brushes through some topics a bit quick, I wouldn't mind longer episodes!

That's better.

Rhythm N Pixels by Rob and Pernell
Another great podcast with a duo of guys who just want to share some good tunes, making the podcast very laid-back and unpretentious. They choose an often whacky topic that they base their tunes around, which allows for a nice mixture of music. This podcast is more personal and goofy and less technical and I especially enjoy it for the often great variety in music within each episode. It's fun to hear the hosts thoughts around the different topics which can be as diverse as "Fire Levels", "Map Themes" and "All the Fours" and they always find a good balance between the personal anecdotes and music, giving each tune a personal touch without becoming repetative. They also do focus episodes where they listen to music from a specific composer or game series. Again, this podcast is very snack-sized which does go well with it's overall style, but I wouldn't mind them being longer! On the other hand it comes out more often than most other VGM podcasts.

Pixeltunes Radio by Mike and Ed
If you want a VGM podcast with a lot of chatting and topic wandering, this is the podcast for you! I'm not saying that sarcastically, it really comes down to matter of taste. This podcast definitely has a lot of charm, and one of the best thing about it is that there will be a lot of tunes per episode. They also do their own video game inspired skits which I find is a great idea and I am amazed at all the ideas they come up with for these skits. Unfortunately the podcast suffers from a bit of what I'd like to call "bromancing", meaning most of the discussions around the tunes can be wrapped up into "it's a great tune, dude". It's understandable to choose only music you like for your VGM podcast, but if you're a duo of hosts and both like exactly the same kind of music, it doesn't allow for much fun conversation about it and sort of removes the need for being two hosts in the first place. This is also one of the goofier podcasts on my list, and they wander off a bit too much for my taste sometimes. This podcast is also more of a video game podcast that is heavy on the music, because they often get very in-depth describing the game they're covering. They can go into full detail about everything from the first screen, through stage by stage until the end scene. This means it can get a bit far inbetween the songs with information I don't feel I need, but if you like a podcast where you get to know every detail about a game, this is great for you!

Even better!

Pixelated Audio by Bryan and James
This podcast is extremely similar to Pixeltunes Radio and therefor has roughly the same strengths and weaknesses. It does get a bit more technical and it can be quite fun to hear different channels from a certain tune and the hosts explaining what they do and how they affect the song. They also manage to get some really good guests on this show, everything from Chris Huelsbeck to Peter McConnell (the guy who did the OST for Grim Fandango). They often choose rather obscure games to cover, which can be nice if you want to find some new music to listen to and not just something that covers the same old classics (this is also true for Pixeltunes Radio). A bit too much focus on stuff that isn't VGM and with the same issues of bromance, it's an overall good podcast with just a bit much talking. Just as with Pixeltunes Radio this is a "pick the raisins" kind of show for me.

Sound of Play by the Cane & Rinse hosts
Sound of Play is a spin-off of sorts from the Cane & Rinse podcast. Sound of Play has full focus on VGM and although there occassionally are more than one host for the show they often limit their talking to personal experiences with the games and some thoughts about the tunes. Very straightforward and mellow, it is great if you just want to listen to a lot of music with as little talking as possible. I don't know if it is intentional, but Sound of Play definitely play a lot more instrumental and modern VGM tunes than chiptunes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you're after 8-bit tunes you're probably better off listening to one of the other podcasts on the list.

Retro Reprise by Syp
Also a spin-off of sorts, but from Battle Bards, one of the hosts has taken it upon himself to branch out from the MMO-niche and listen to some retro tunes in this podcast. The formula is otherwise similar to Battle Bards in that the music is interspersed with the talking and Syp also does a good job at keeping the talking interesting and relevant to the music, as with the Forever Sound Version podcast. So far Retro Reprise has covered some real classics, and I think it is great. Classics are classics for a reason and great tunes can be heard over and over. There are so many things called Retro Reprise on the internet, so this can best be found under the Battle Bards homepage.