STUDIO: Shout Factory
RUNNING TIME: 280 minutes
• Behind the Scenes
• Commentary Track
• Composer/Celebrity interviews
• Making of Dragon’s Lair
• Private Party in Japan w/ video game composers
• Tetris 25th anniversary documentary
The closest you’ll ever get to watching an opera starring Mega Man. Hopefully.
She breathes in through her mouth to avoid sampling the cloud of B.O. wafting in from the audience.
Cast: Tommy Tallarico, Jack Wall
Game composers Jack Wall (The Myst series, Mass Effect) and Tommy Tallarico (Advent Rising) head to New Orleans to ringlead their second vidja game pops performance. The Louisiana Symphony Orchestra performs selections from Halo, StarCraft II, Chrono Cross, God of War, Castlevania, Mass Effect, Civilization IV, Mega Man, Zelda, and many others. You will witness Tommy Tallarico strutting around playing a (loaded?) Sniper-scoped Guntar while men in black robes sing strains from Halo. If you buy this, HIDE IT FROM EVERYONE YOU KNOW.
Tommy Tallarico and the guntar.
For some, listening to video game music outside of a video game would be considered a thinly masked cry for help. For a select nerdy few, though, it’s another way to appreciate the craft and artistry that’s a part of so many development projects. Video Games Live – Level Two begins with a orchestral rendition of Pong’s primitive bleeps and bloops, which highlights how far game music has come in the last few decades. From there, it heads into more modern territory, illustrating how scores from talented composers like Jack Wall, Jeremy Soule, and Inon Zur can shape a game’s overall tone like no other tool.
Featuring a full orchestra, choir, special guest musicians, and a host with enthusiasm to spare, Live intersperses a 2010 performance with game footage and brief interviews with game creators and composers. Alongside the obvious staples like Mario and Zelda, this second show – a followup to Tallarico’s 2005 performance – drops a few surprises, like tracks from Chrono Cross, Starcraft II, and even Civilization IV. If you’ve ever caught yourself humming that damned BABA YETU intro song, prepare to have this earworm re-inserted into your auditory cortex.
Any time Live works with a composer-created arrangement, like with Halo, Mass Effect, or Baba Yetu (which is, God help me for saying this, the show’s high point), it’s fun to watch and hear. The LSO cranks out everything from the loud, angry, clangy God of War vengeance hymns to the hushed, unintentionally silly Halo theme just the way you remember them. Watching Mass Effect composer Jack Wall conduct his own music is a bit of a treat for ME fans. When Live shifts its focus to arrangements of “classic” games like Mario, Zelda, or Mega Man, though, everything gets so much more dopey. These pops arrangements aren’t very creative, and sound a lot like something you’d hear at Epcot Center circa 1988. The too-lengthy Sonic the Hedgehog medley probably gave some sick freak in the audience a massive boner, but on the whole, the 8-bit stuff is rote fan service. Luckily, they only account for about a quarter of the show’s running time.
As a host, Tommy Tallarico spends a good deal of time wailing on his Guntar, a specially modified guitar with a sniper scope and rifle barrel. This makes most arguments both for and against Video Games Live invalid. What he lacks in gravitas he makes up for in enthusiasm, and the kids in the audience eat it up wholesale.
Along with the pop and the more theatrical orchestral scores, Live also plays around with rock, pulling a kid out of the audience to play Guitar Hero Aerosmith with Tallarico. It ends with an impressive piano performance from this guy.
Listen: There’s a mountain of fertile ground for nerd jokes here, but I’ll take a pass on most of them. At its core, is Video Games Live an incredibly goofy experience? Absolutely. There’s also a good deal of musical talent on display here, from the composers’ occasionally stirring works to the musicality of the performers. You won’t be able to take Tallarico’s wild mugging seriously, but you’re never meant to. This is clearly targeted toward kids and power dorks, and if it opens the door for a single one of them to pick up a (real) instrument, Live is a huge success.
The robust package features over THREE HOURS of extra content, from interviews, commentary (no, really!), and behind the scenes footage. Video Games Live – Level Two features more extra content than the 70th anniversary Snow White Blu-Ray. If you like game music, then you will be entertained.
The transfer’s fine, but the important thing here is the audio quality, which is a very suitable DD 3/2.1. Baba Yetu never sounded so lovely.
7 out of 10