A game’s soundtrack is one of the most underrated ways a game can sell its mood. From pulse pounding guitar riffs to the soothing strings of a violin, the soundtrack carries the weight of each moment of the gameplay. At its best, the soundtrack enhances each button press and propels the players along. At its worst, it can produce dissonance between the action on screen and the emotions being evoked. Soundtracks can transport players to different eras, different worlds, and stir feelings of sweet nostalgia. The soundtrack’s this year all carried a familiar theme. They returned us to the days of our childhoods. They served as echoes of distant times, luring us back to simpler days. With that said, here are the winners for Golden Lance Award for Best Score.
Winner: TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge
What would a beat-em-up be without a great soundtrack and impactful sound design to back it up? Luckily, Shredder’s Revenge ticks both of those boxes spectacularly. The soundtrack leaves no stone unturned. It establishes the rhythm a good brawler should have and gives life to each stage. Not to mention, there’s a track featuring members of the Wu-Tang Clan, and it’s amazing!
Additionally, every punch and kick hits with a weighty impact and that relies heavily on the sound design. I cannot praise the soundtrack and audio design in Shredder’s Revenge enough. You really should hear it for yourself. Even outside the confines of the game, this score stands out as something special. It is well deserving of Golden Lance Award for Best Score of the Year.
Runner Up: Pokemon Scarlett and Violet
A controversial game due to the performance issues it struggled with during its launch, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet hides a great story and game under that choppy exterior. Many people haven’t been happy with the modern era of the Pokémon series, but when it comes to the soundtrack, GameFreak never sleeps on it. Toby Fox lends his hands to these games to produce some fast-paced tracks that really impress, and it’s clear which tracks are made by him. Area Zero also features a surprisingly melancholy track that sounds straight out of the NieR series, and Team Star’s Admin theme rocks out hard with an impressive guitar solo. Pokémon always has good music, but Scarlet and Violet are particularly impressive because of the different types of music it manages to pull off well, which is out of the norm for the general single style they use in each generation. People recognize Generation 3’s french horns, Generation 6’s EDM-themed tracks, or even Generation 4’s style from listening alone. Generation 9, however, touches a wide range of genres and does a great job with all of them. Top that off with the Champion’s theme, the last piece Junichi Masuda composed for the series – a track that features motifs from various themes from previous generations in the past, and you get an underrated but excellent soundtrack.
Runner Up: Infernax
The sound design and music behind Infernax makes the experience whole. Infernax is a 2D pixel art Castlevania-like game with a ton of great humor. The transitions, the sound effects, the epic boss battles slam with some of the best chip tunes from the past 10 years. The audio design team at Triptyque Audio has a ton of experience with AAA and AA games. They have taken a step back here to wind up and punch you over and over again. It is a soundtrack that gels the whole experience together. It rightly deserves its place as one of the best score of the year.