Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top 10 Vocal Tracks in the Metal Gear Series (#5-1)

The Metal Gear franchise has long stood among the greatest of video games, due in no small part to its deep and involved narrative that carries on in increasingly complex ways from one entry to the next. With each new game comes an equally impressive soundtrack, which fittingly also tend to rank among the best this entertainment medium has to offer. Below are my personal picks for the five best vocal tracks in the entire Metal Gear franchise. With the release of The Phantom Pain, I have also created a follow-up to this list, detailing the vocal tracks I feel are deserving of spots numbers six through ten, which you can read here.

#5 – A Stranger I Remain (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance): One of the few Revengeance tracks to steer clear of screamo lyrics and thrash riffs, A Stranger I Remain is not only a solid metal track with a beautiful blend of haunting vocals and a heavy, fast-paced guitar part, it’s also a song very befitting the character it represents. Mistral’s theme provides a great accompaniment to someone as imperfect as Raiden. It’s rather curious that MGR gets so much right in their presentation of the Mistral boss fight, as it is so early in the game – much in the way of the gameplay, visuals, and music that make up the later boss encounters fail to reach the fantastic culmination witnessed in the Mistral encounter.

#4 – Calling to the Night (Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops): One of the few Metal Gear Solid titles I have not played, this tune seems to have transcended its platform to become recognized as one of the more memorable tunes in the series. Of the two major MGS releases on the PSP, Portable Ops was largely overshadowed by Peace Walker, yet this tune continues to appear on fan compilations of favorite tracklistings from the franchise. And rightfully so – it’s a melancholy tune that is very fitting for Naked Snake post-Snake Eater. He has to effectively rediscover who he is and make a name for himself, so that by the time that the events of Peace Walker roll around, he and his private army are fully prepared for the greater challenges that lie ahead.

#3 – Red Sun (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance): Sundowner ended up being one of my least favorite characters in Metal Gear Rising, both with regards to his hillbilly personality and a boss fight that felt significantly less inspired than the company of Monsoon, Mistral, and Blade Wolf. However, his theme song utilized deep vocals and a slightly grungier rock sound, all while maintaining the hardcore metal appeal of Revengeance’s soundtrack. Red Sun’s lyrics offer metaphors that are perhaps a bit more thinly veiled than the game’s other vocal tracks, but it’s certainly a catchy number, one that I have found myself listening to many times since completing Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

#2 – The Best is Yet to Come (Metal Gear Solid): I often favor many of the softer, slower vocal tracks from the Metal Gear series because they tend to convey the emotional burdens carried by Solid Snake and Naked Snake better than the fast-paced and loud tracks. Those are great for stealth and action sequences, sure, but at the end of the day, when it’s time to gaze back upon everything Snake has accomplished, every hurdle he’s had to overcome, every friend and foe that has fallen along the way, there’s really no other track that better embodies the gravity of all that than The Best is Yet to Come. It's a reminder of the trial he has surpassed, and those that lie still lie ahead.

#1 – Snake Eater (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater): Snake Eater is one of those tracks that is equal parts silly and epic. It’s a deliberate throwback to James Bond theme songs (some of which boast more cheesy lyrics than others), as can only work in a Cold War setting featuring a one-man army. Snake Eater has long been my favorite entry in the Metal Gear franchise, as its perfect combination of stealth and action elements, deeply human story, and unique sense of style result in a product that transcends what most video games, films, and novels can deliver. There’s really no other medium in which Snake Eater would work to such an effective degree, and there’s no other song that could make the introduction so memorable. Snake Eater presently stands as one of my all-time favorite video game theme songs, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so for many years to come.

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