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Since the video game revolution really started plowing forward back in the mid 80s, one of the most underrated aspects of the aspects has been the music. The 8 and 16-bit processors that the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis systems could produce were not much more than melodic beeps and pings made to sound like a catchy tune.
Of course, times have changed. Now, many of the best and brightest games have scores composed by full orchestras or big time, main-stream bands, but those original compositions still bring back childhood memories of simpler times to go along with our simpler games. The themes from Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Castlevania, are still lovingly talked about alongside the newcomers from Metal Gear Solid, Halo, and Kingdom Hearts.
The music from these games and the feelings of nostalgia they conjure up are only now starting to get the respect they deserve on a scale worthy of the sales of these monolithic franchises. In that vein, I present to you Video Games Live.
Video Games Live was founded back in 2002 by celebrated game composers Jack Wall and Tommy Tallarico and has been a tour de force ever since. With a full orchestra and choir in tow, Wall and Tallarico have put together a show that needs to be seen to be believed. Fortunately, I saw it about two weeks ago. With musical selections from over 20 video games played, and 40 more waiting in the wings ensuring that an audience will never see the same show twice, Wall and Tallarico mix in geek-based humor with a light show, scenes from the greatest games ever created, and musical acumen that rivals the best and brightest out there.
The show I went to at the Beacon Theatre in November was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. You had a costume contest for people dressed as video game characters, a Guitar Hero competition, and a random drawing for a Nintendo DSi. You had special messages from Hideo Kojima, the creator of the Metal Gear series, as he gave a special recorded greeting before the playing of the Metal Gear music, and Koji Kondo, the composer of the Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda themes, give a special message as well.
There was a live Q & A with Ralph Baer, the man credited with inventing video games (he is also credited with inventing the light gun, the first video game system peripheral, and the popular kids’ game Simon in the 70s), over Skype and it was impressive to see this legendary inventor at the ripe age of 87 still smiling at how his invention has changed and influenced the lives of so many people across the world.
You had YouTube sensations, pianist Martin Leung and Laura “Flute Link” Intravia, come on and do what made them famous on the stage. Martin is best known for playing the Mario theme on piano blindfolded and Laura plays a stunning rendition of the Ocarina of Time music on flute, in full green tunic like the Hero of Time. Both would accompany the orchestra on several songs over the course of the night, usually to standing ovations (I nearly leapt out of my seat when Martin started playing the Super Mario World theme).
There was a request portion (where I nearly lost my voice screaming for the Mega Man theme and starting a Mega Man chant in my section of the Beacon Theatre; I was pleasantly surprised to find it was incorporated later into the show) where everything many fans called for was played and many were pleasantly surprised when Martin broke into the original Tetris theme, just because.
There were classics played from Mega Man and Chrono Trigger to more recent games like Halo and Shadow of the Colossus, but no matter if you were young or old, newbie or wily old veteran, there was something to make every geek and video game fan smile and laugh.
Video Games Live is now on their fourth world tour, and much like the game music they play, are just beginning to receive the respect and recognition they deserve. Playing to sold-out shows all over the world and constantly adding new and beloved video game music all the time (including the one I went to at the Beacon Theatre), Video Games Live is an ever-evolving entity much like the games off of which they are based. It is with the utmost praise that I recommend that every video game fan should see this show when they come to your town.