By now you might have heard the name Taylor Davis, if you happened to catch my review of “Gaming Fantasy,” so you might have an idea of who Taylor Davis is and what she does. For her second release of 2012, she teamed up with frequent collaborator, pianist Lara de Wit, to make another collection of video game tunes arranged to make use of both of their talents in “Game On: 2 Player Mode.”
Starting off with the theme from Assassin’s Creed III – a game I honestly can say I know very little about considering its from a very popular series that I have followed – the album begins in a lively, upbeat manner that translates very well into piano/violin music. I’ve always found that Davis and de Wit have managed to work incredibly well together and this is a great example of that. Also, a warm welcome back to the snares!
I mentioned in my review of “Gaming Fantasy” that my songs of choice from the Kingdom Hearts series would’ve been “Hikari” and “Passion,” the games’ respective themes, the former of which Davis covered on that album. I’m sure you can imagine my delight when “Passion” then showed up on this album, as my favorite of the two. There’s something just wonderful and deep about this song. However, I usually don’t complain about the lack of further arrangement in Davis‘ music, but this is one of the few songs that might’ve benefited from some additional dynamics that could have been provided by other instruments. This is a decent adaptation, but considering the very (almost unreasonably) high standing this song has in my head, it’s not quite as good as I was hoping it would’ve been.
I have no idea what Fairy Tale is about. In fact, it’s theme is one of the few songs Davis has covered where I had never heard any of the source material before. However, in spite of this, I would rank the “Fairy Tale Theme” as one of the best anime theme songs that I know of and I discovered it via Taylor Davis‘ music. I’m not sure if this song is part of the related video games – I would assume they are, but if not, this song is a bit of an odd selection to include on this album. Nevertheless, this song is energetic and fun, and a welcome addition to the album.
While I have admitted my shame in not being a Final Fantasy VII fangirl, I do think that the iconic moment from this game (if you’ve played it, you know what it is) is one of the best moments in FF’s history, and as such, “Aeris’ Theme” is beautiful and heartfelt and worthy of this cover, and its melody works very nicely between the violin and piano. I particularly enjoy the trade-offs they have between the main lines and harmonies.
I’ve only heard about “Guile’s Theme” from Street Fighter thanks to the jokes online about how “Guile’s Theme” supposedly goes with everything – unfortunately, I was largely underwhelmed by the videos that made use of that joke; this version of the song is perhaps my favorite thing anyone has done with this song as such and de Wit gets to really show her stuff here, taking most of the spotlight in this song (though Davis is certainly no slouch).
We get a second taste of the Metal Gear series here with “Sons of Liberty” from MGS2. Again, I haven’t played these games, but I’ve had a secret fondness for their music as a result of hearing versions of their music online, including this one. I get a strong sense of honor somehow from this cover, which is probably exactly what they were going for. I appreciate how de Wit manages to get almost a marching beat going on the piano towards the end. The dynamics are very nice.
The slower Kingdom Hearts themes are rarely counted among my favorites, so even as a big KH fan, I actually didn’t recognize “Roxas” by its music. It’s a shame to admit that in spite of it coming from one of my all-time favorite games, this song is actually one of my least favorites from this album. This is, of course, through no fault of Davis or de Wit – I simply don’t enjoy this song as much as many of the others. Their take preserves the youthful, innocent, and perhaps slightly confused nature of the character it represents though, so it’s very nicely done.
Chocobo! This mount has existed across the Final Fantasy universe for a very long time and this chipper and upbeat medley of some of their themes is really fun – I particularly like the lower-tune breakdown that starts just before the 00:45 mark in the song. This is exactly the pick-me-up the album needed after the slow and soulful “Roxas.” In particular, I like the arrangement of this medley conceptually more than simply choosing one of the many chocobo themes from across the series.
I’ve never been a big fan of the Halo series, but I can’t deny that their music and themes have been pretty great, at least in recent years. In particularly, the heroic “To Galaxy” is one of my favorites and yet again, Davis and de Wit picked the song I like to cover. I love how ominous this song is in the beginning – it works very well with the violin.
Fantasy has always had a special place in my heart, holding a realm over sci-fi, but the Mass Effect series is one of the few I’ve considered playing in spite of being more of a fantasy-lover than sci-fi fan (though I’m not sure I should, if the endings are as disappointing as I’ve heard). “An End, Once and for All” is lovely – the violin plucking and ambient noises that I can only assume are done on the violin (very clever!) are a perfect addition to the melancholy of this ME3 song. I also really love the piano build up around 02:20.
The “Pokémon Theme” is perhaps the most well-known song on this album, thanks to its status as a ’90s classic! You pretty much can’t go wrong with this song – even though that show did not hold up to how great I thought it was as a kid when I tried to re-watch it a few years ago, this song totally does. I really enjoy how de Wit does the background music, while Davis does the vocal line on the violin – that’s how I used to do covers as a kid with my violin. It works really well and there’s a big dose of nostalgia in here. You could argue over whether or not this song counts as a gaming track again – the original games didn’t include this song, after all – but I’ll allow it because this song is totally awesome and deserving of a cover.
While I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII when I played it (I still think Ultimecia was the hardest FF boss of all the games I played), it wasn’t quite as memorable as some of the other games in the FF series. It did have a couple of memorable songs though, like “Waltz for the Moon,” “Liberi Fatali,” and of course, “Eyes on Me” – the one song that had proper lyrics (not including the Latin in “Liberi Fatali”). Surprisingly, I actually think “Eyes on Me” is a better song than its equivalent on the FFIX soundtrack, “Melodies of Life,” though they are fairly similar on the whole. Again, the violin takes over the part of the vocalist while de Wit carries the tune on the piano. This arrangement is quite lovely and does very good justice to the original. In fact, since I don’t really enjoy the vocals in many of Nobuo Uematsu‘s songs, I’ll actually go so far as to say that this is better than the original.
These two picked a winner to close the album – “Song of Storms” came originally, I believe, from Ocarina of Time (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) and has reappeared in many scenarios since, likely due to its popularity. The moment in OoT when it first appears is rather eerie – there appears to be a crazy man in a windmill, playing this song while raving about a child who caused a storm. This adaptation is incredibly dynamic and I really enjoy the liberties Davis takes in adding onto the main line while it continues on the piano, creating an ultimately beautiful and satisfying song as a whole, and a great ending to the album.
So, yet again, I am very happy with the adaptations and selection of songs. While a few of them fall slightly short of the potential they held, overall the album again proves to be a great listening experience and a wonderful choice of something to put on when in the mood for something instrumental.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Assassin’s Creed III Theme
- Fairy Tale Theme
- Aeris’ Theme
- Guile’s Theme
- Sons of Liberty
- Chocobo Medley
- To Galaxy
- An End, Once and for All
- Pokémon Theme
- Eyes on Me
- Song of Storms
Taylor Davis – violin
Lara de Wit – piano
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”