The amazing and overdue (IMO, since I’ve been wanting this since I was in high school) concept of symphonies and orchestras performing musical arrangements composed for video games has come to fruition via the amazing traveling concert series known as Video Games Live!
Started by Tommy Tallarico (who also plays electric guitar for the concerts) in 2005, Video Games Live! describes itself (on the VGL! website) as “an immersive event created by the game industry featuring the best game music performed by top orchestras and choirs combined with synchronized lighting, video, live action and audience interactivity”. Boom. And on February 20th, they saw their 350th show, right here in Richmond at the Altria Theater!
It. Was. Amazing. Even though I had been and was still sick, never regretted going for a second.
Not even a badass sinus infection could keep me from this...
They opened with Castlevania – strong start. And got to all the big names, like Sonic, Zelda, Mario, Street Fighter and even Halo.
Apparently they decide the line-up for each show based on what the fans request (i.e. the fans choose the line up!), so it was a good mix of favorites, and then maybe lesser known games that were still amazing and deserve recognition (like Shadow of the Colossus for example, which I had never heard of prior to the show).
For most of the games, the symphony simply played a montage of all the popular songs from the franchise, while a screen above the stage played a montage of scenes from all the installments of the game in the order that they were released. That was SO cool – I just remember thinking, “Sonic’s been up to a LOT since I last saw him.” Honestly, I would’ve been happy with just that.
But no! For some games, they did special things. For Kingdom Hearts (which, if you don’t know, is basically Disney and Final Fantasy combined), while the symphony played music from the game, the screen showed popular Disney characters in their debut feature films. This was so nostalgic for me, as I’m sure it was for many others in the audience. This show is very good about satisfying the wants of the youngin’s AND the seasoned vets in their 40’s and 50’s (and beyond would be cool! I’m sure there’s someone), as well as bridging the gap/age divide between the two. And this is the best example of that in my mind. While Kingdom Hearts isn’t the most popular game, it’s still relevant with the third installment slated to come out at the end of this year or early 2017, and kids may not even know the relevance/significance of the characters they’re looking at. By showing these old Disney cartoon movies, it allowed parents to take a walk down memory lane (and oh, what a “tug at the heart strings” walk it was) while telling their kids about these characters they grew up with. Then the kids get to see just how long some of these characters have been around (50+ years in some cases- still blows my mind).
For Legend of Zelda, while the symphony played, the screen showed only artwork submitted by fans. Do I even need to go into why this is cool? Otherwise, why would Deviant Art even exist? They had some really extraordinary pieces in that “slideshow”.
Between some of the performances and during intermission, they showed little movies and shorts (that possibly started as internet videos that went viral). They showed Ms. Pacman being chased by ghosts in the streets (did I mention it was live-action and it was just people wearing giant suits? I want to do this so badly….).
Or they showed a few ‘this video game versus this video game’ shorts. For example, Donkey Kong versus Mortal Kombat (SPOILER: Scorpion killed Donkey Kong AND Pauline in less than 5 seconds). They also showed lists, like worst video game names and top 10 worst voice acting performances.
As the night went on, I started to get more and more anxious. I realized not long after taking my seat that I was there for mainly one reason, and it was a big assumption on my part (not really, but could’ve been had they not played it). I wanted to see Final Fantasy songs. One of my ex’s introduced me to Nobuo Uematsu’s songs outside of the games. And by that I mean he had downloaded just the songs and put them onto CD mixes and eventually our iPods (ya know, when technology caught up), and we listened to them aaaaaaaaaaall the time. They’re just wonderful. Uematsu is just great at what he does, and just because he happened to start out in commercials and then video games, it doesn’t change anything about his talent or ability to compose beautiful melodies that can provoke any emotional response he wants.
But as the night went on and they had gotten through Halo and other big names the audience had clearly been waiting for, I was starting to get worked up. Then they tried to say goodnight like the show was over (like they do in concerts when they’re looking for the audience to cheer them back on stage for an encore) but the symphony stayed seated soooooo it was like “C’mon guys, cut the shit, get back out here.” It was kinda cool though because the screen put up a “Continue?” screen with a countdown J
Of course Final Fantasy was the very last song of the night. And not only was it Final Fantasy, it was Final Fantasy 7 (in honor the upcoming remake). And not only was it FF7, it was ONLY…..”One Winged Angel”. If you know what that means, I like you a little more than other people.
Basically this song is the theme song for a villain name Sephiroth, and I had three versions of this song on my iPod and it was what we listened to most (out of any other FF song).
I died. You guys….I died. It was gorgeous. It was perfect.
So if you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of this concert and think you should definitely check it out lol. If you’re in Richmond, you’ll have to wait awhile for them to come back. But anyone else, check out their website here to see if they’re coming to a city near you soon.