Sounds from a More Civilized Age
Today I decided to redirect my attentions to a little recognized part of the Expanded Universe, the soundtracks.
It should be no secret to anyone that I have a history of playing the video games within the Star Wars Expanded Universe’s storied past. In fact, in previous articles I have told everyone a bit of how I came to loving the Expanded Universe in the first place, and video games were a huge part of that!
I have often told my friends and family that when it comes to video games in general, two things have to be good for me to truly enjoy them.
First, the story. That is obvious. Without a good story, particularly in regards to a Star Wars game, my interest levels in continuing drops quickly. I believe games like the Knights of the Old Republic duo are so insanely popular precisely because of the story being so engaging.
But today’s article will not be about story. Instead, it will be about the second thing I believe every great video game needs in order to keep me entertained. The soundtrack!
For me, the soundtrack works hand in hand with the story to provide an emotional and engaging experience.
So what I wanted to do today was to share a few of the gems I have had the pleasure of listening to in my years of gaming in the Expanded Universe.
First up, one of my favorites from the N64 era game, Rogue Squadron. The soundtrack I chose here is Shadows Over Jade Moon.
In this mission, you are flying cover for a raiding rebel convoy on an Imperial facility on a planetoid known as “The Jade Moon.” I do not know about everyone else, but escort missions always put me on edge. Providing air cover for that convoy for the first time when I was a kid kept me on my toes as AT-PTs, Tie Fighters and Tie Bombers threatened to give me that dreaded Mission Failure screen! The cries of “Rogue Squadron, where’s our cover?!” over the radio as I chased off wave after wave of enemies, the run through the trenches to get the secret bonus item of the level, being careful not to fly too high lest I face the wrath of the dreaded missile launchers.
This soundtrack, when I hear it, brings all of those thoughts and more back to me and is inseparable in my mind from my love of the game itself.
Lets take a look at another example of music from the Expanded Universe. This time, I shift my attention to a fan favorite, Star Wars: Republic Commando and more specifically, the track titled “Dha Werda Verda.”
This track is one of a few in the game that is sung in actual Mando’a, the language of the Mandalorians. Now, I’m probably about to say something somewhat controversial in these times, but I have always found it hard to understand the love so many fans have for the Mandalorians. That said, I know a good game and a good soundtrack when I experience it. Star Wars Republic Commando was one of those instances where it just clicked for me.
After all, this is a rare instance where you get the experience of hearing Mando’a instead of just reading about it, making it feel just a little more real. Even the title of the track is in Mando’a translating to Dark Shadow Warrior.
The fast pace and chanting fit perfectly with the intense combat as you and your clone brothers fight off enemy after enemy together. For the Republic!
Let us shift things up a bit again and look at another game and soundtrack example.
Enter 1998’s X-Wing Alliance, another favorite game of mine. Despite it’s less than appealing performance in the recent Expanded Universe Tournament this year, the game remains excellent in my mind. One aspect of Star Wars that is not explored very much in today’s era is that of family. X-Wing Alliance did explore this theme by introducing us to the Azzameen family. The player takes on the role of Ace Azzameen, the youngest child of several. The family runs a transport service that has tried to survive in the tumoltious times of the rebellion against the Empire. The Original Trilogy serves as the backdrop for this game and its soundtrack largely reflects that by giving us remixes of John Williams’s work. That said, the game was not without its own unique additions to the sounds of the Expanded Universe. Give this one a listen!
This track plays in the early parts of the game in between missions where the player is left to their own devices in the room of Ace Azzameen. Reading through emails, getting mission briefings from your droid, examining trophies from completed missions and more were done there. But all the while, this is playing in the background. The commenters on this particular video are correct to point out the obvious parallels between World War II dogfighting, something that inspired the space battles of the Original Trilogy greatly, and this music which sounds as though it came from the 1940’s itself. They are also right to point out the nostalgia it can easily bring about in those who played this game!
For my final soundtrack of the day, I wanted to look at a fan favorite game, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
There are many great soundtracks that can be found in this sequel to Knights of the Old Republic. As this is the last I am covering today, I decided to go with something from the end of the game, The Final Battle.
I remember the first time I played through this game quite well. Despite its rushed development, lengthy list of bugs and missing content, the experience remains an overwhelmingly positive one. That is in large part due to the game’s excellent soundtrack. The darker tones throughout the game were reflected well. I will not spoil the contents of the game much here but suffice it to say this soundtrack is very fitting for the final battle. The panic I felt when I saw, for the very first time, telekinetically controlled lightsabers (multiple!) coming at my character as my adversary watched safely from a distance. It was like fighting multiple people at once, and yet this adversary was the only one there facing me. What terrible power they had! But the player, as the Jedi Exile, would not fall. The fate of the galaxy hung in the balance, and this is the soundtrack that played as the will of the Force was made known to both player and character alike!
As an aside, did you know that Knights of the Old Republic II’s soundtrack just had an official release for the first time a few months ago? Well it did! When the game made its debut on the Nintendo Switch, the soundtrack was quietly released on digital services including Amazon, Spotify and iTunes! When I heard this, I was quick to purchase it as I had long dreamed about getting an official release of music from these games! Hopefully more come in the future!
That is all I had for you today, but I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the soundtracks from these games and the many others we have experienced from The Expanded Universe. Do you have any favorites? What memories are tied to the music from these masterpieces? Let us know in the comments below!