Tom Winter’s acoustic guitar arrangements of classic game music is like a breath of fresh air. The two EP’s that he has released this year so far take a fair smattering of moods, styles, genres and feelings and twists them around into works of art.
Collection 1 kicks off with “Zelda – Gerudo Valley” which has a full on Spanish flavour. Whilst not quite pushing into flamenco territory, the guitar’s case makes for a perfect percussive edge alongside the intricate solos and chord progressions. It has a lovely airy feel alongside its stride and captures its spirit beautifully. “Chrono Trigger – Secret of the Forest” takes a more mysterious ballad approach. It’s laid back arpeggios has a hint of delay to really let it sink in and the distant percussion slaps and echoes like a folk dream. The bass is neat too. “F-Zero – Mute City” is anything but mute. As a racing game, it has a tauter and sharper feel to it although it’s shorter riffs make for a simpler arrangement. “Donkey Kong Country – DK Island Swing” however branches out into some piano and electric bass as the rhythm and blues come together to make a swinging number. It’s the switching up of moods throughout this arrangement that impresses me and the seamless transitions between them.
Collection 2 see’s a return to the softer side with “Super Mario 64 – Dire Dire Docks”. The arrangement reminds me some of the Final Fantasy X soundtrack, which is funny considering track 3 on this collection. It’s the collision of warm and inviting guitar strings and the sad chords. The second half see’s things pick up with a guitar tap beat and things feel freer and more breezy. “The Legend of Zelda – Great Fairy Mountain” is a short 95 second track but it is a multi layered collage of chords and arpeggios that’s syrup to the ears. The production makes each finger pick feel like home and the song itself lends itself to dreams. “Final Fantasy X – Mt. Gagazet” was my introduction to Tom Winter and is still my favourite. He nails the arrangement perfectly with the balance between mystery, heavy hearts and a smile behind the stern face. The collection closes with the jig of “Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask – Clock Tower”. It’s bouncy and light arrangement reminds me of the Dark Cloud soundtrack with its lack of low-end and happy gleeful guitars. I love Tom Winter’s use of guitar harmonics to resemble a piano and it works well here.
Both collections are great for game music fans. They bring a new life to older tracks whilst not deviating too far from the source material. I’d like to see Tom branch out into other retro games for a full arrangement album and have a go at some less literal translations. Until then, these are little gems.