Hey there! My name is Darren, and I’m the guy that organises the many fan-arrangement albums you have listened to and enjoyed since 2011. In the ten years I have worked on these projects, there are so many stories I could share around how these projects came together and why they mean so much to me, and I may return in the future to update this with more memories. But for now, I hope I can summarise them below to give you an insight into why I dedicated a large section of my life to managing video game fan-arrangement albums.
As the twenty-fifth anniversary of Metroid approached, I felt like I needed to do something to commemorate the occasion. Video game music has always resonated with me, and it is something I consider to be an important part of what makes a game memorable. This is very true of Metroid, and so the idea of creating a tribute to mark the historic milestone was born.
Despite having no previous experience in managing a musical project, I went ahead and organised an album that would bring together musicians from across the world, paying tribute to a much-loved franchise. The aim was to create a wide variety of different styles which would appeal to all sorts of musical tastes. While the quality of the music was important, allowing musicians to take part and celebrate the occasion was even more so.
I began by approaching friends and musicians I had heard of previously to get involved, then extended my search towards musicians across the internet, from a variety of video game remixing communities and portfolios. I was surprised to see how much interest there was in celebrating Metroid’s twenty-fifth year, and that filled me with the determination to make it the best album it could possibly be, for all kinds of Metroid fans to enjoy. With the help and support of Lee “The Orichalcon” Barber, our Assistant Director, and Nate Horsfall providing incredible artwork, Harmony of a Hunter was released to the world on the 7th of August 2011.
Looking back almost ten years later at the time of writing, I am incredibly proud of what we achieved. I can’t believe we were able to bring together twenty-four musicians and create thirty-six arrangements of Metroid music in just seven months. As far as first projects go, I consider it to be a huge success. More notably, Metroid fans had something special to mark the anniversary, created by fans, for fans.
Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run was the natural follow-up to the first album, due to its popularity and the huge support it received when it was released. While there wasn’t a plan to create another album originally, there were a few compositions from the Metroid series that didn’t make the first album, such as SkyTown and Maridia, that made me want to put together a second. The 101% name originates from an item percentage glitch in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, showing that it was possible to collect more than the intended amount of items in the game, and given we were trying to add even more tracks for fans to enjoy, I wanted to push beyond 100% too.
101% Run featured many returning musicians from the original album, plus some fresh faces. It aimed to provide as diverse a range of talent and musical genres as the original, including Metal, Orchestral and Techno.
Overall I felt the quality of this release was even greater than the original, although perhaps not as diverse as the original album, leaning a lot more to the orchestral side. 101% Run features over three hours of music with thirty different musicians and groups. It also had a range of impressive artwork from several talented artists.
Over the years I’ve heard stories of how this album helped people in a significant way, with two notable examples coming to mind immediately. The first was from a person who was contemplating suicide, and 101% Run helped them get through those dark times. The second was how it encouraged a person to pick up a guitar for the first time and start playing. These kinds of stories are overwhelming to hear, but justify that music is a powerful tool that we are all lucky to have in our lives.
I was also proud to see that the album had been recognised with a nomination for best fan arrange / doujin album of 2011 by OSV in February 2012. But the biggest compliments come from the many messages of support that we continue to receive to this day, and I am really glad that I was able to convince musicians to contribute to another release.
After we released our second album, Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run, it was clear that our albums were hugely appreciated and welcomed by many Metroid fans. But given we had covered the vast majority of Metroid compositions across two huge albums, it was difficult to justify a third. Instead, we decided to deviate to something far more ambitious, the Super Smash Bros. series. This gave us the opportunity to not only express our continued support for Metroid, but also create music based on many notable and historic franchises.
Some of the questions I had to answer when we came up with the idea of Smash Bros. as a project was, how do we approach re-arranging music that was already arranged from its original source in Smash Bros. games? I also felt some pressure on making sure we could deliver arrangements across so many franchises, and to a high level that I felt we had done for the Metroid series. Ultimately, we decided to just encourage people to arrange music the way they felt was best.
Harmony of Heroes is still our largest project to date, with 101 arrangements, a nod to our previous album 101% Run. It featured almost seven and a half hours of music across sixteen different video game franchises, including Super Smash Bros.-specific arrangements, and other miscellaneous themes. It also has a huge number of art pieces. At the time, this was the largest fan-arrangement album to gain significant traction, and was immensely popular with fans of Smash Bros. and video game enthusiasts alike, downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.
I was incredibly thankful to video game music legends David Wise and Grant Kirkhope for their support on Harmony of Heroes. David offered some helpful feedback on Jungle Swing (Stephan Wells) and Grant offered a small cameo to our DK Rap cover, Kong Kollektive (Sebastian Mårtensson). Having them involved was a huge honour, and I know it brought a big smile to a lot of faces of those involved.
Harmony of Heroes is by far the most ambitious project I have ever been involved in, and is my proudest achievement to date. In my mind, Harmony of Heroes shouldn’t have existed, simply due to the immense quality of the music, orchestra, two choirs, a gigantic number of tracks, and support from video game veterans.
Once Harmony of Heroes was released, the original plan was to move straight onto Harmony of a Champion, our story-driven Pokémon album. However, long time supporter and contributor to our projects, Sebastian Mårtensson, felt very strongly that we should create a small follow-up album to Harmony of Heroes to include music from the series we didn’t cover in the original.
Harmony of Heroes: Final Smash was a twenty-seven track album that featured arrangements from the Super Smash Bros. series, based on the franchises of Sonic the Hedgehog, Metal Gear, Mega Man and several others, including arrangements featured in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
Looking back, I consider Final Smash to be an incredible achievement, as it only took six weeks from its concept to release. It launched on December 25th, 2014, and while it was a great opportunity to create some amazing music, I often reflect on it as an example of how not to put together an album. If I could do the album again, I would have ensured that the project had more time so that its quality was not impacted, and less stress had been put on the team as a whole. I also wouldn’t release an album during the holiday period!
Nevertheless, twenty-seven tracks in six weeks was a tremendous effort, and I hope that it made Harmony of Heroes feel more complete as a result.
Harmony of a Champion was an opportunity to direct a project based on a series I loved from childhood, and tell a story through its music. The idea to put together a Pokémon album was a big departure from Metroid, so understandably I knew the target audience may not necessarily back it. However, I felt with four previous albums under our belt, that there was enough interest to do something different, and people would give it a chance.
Telling a story through music, especially that of Pokémon Red & Green (Red and Blue for Western audiences) was something I found incredibly rewarding. The project was blessed by working with sound designers from the video game industry, and a great chiptune artist that recreated hints of the classic themes heard throughout the game, which helped connect people back to the past, and those iconic moments many fans remember.
While I have some great memories of working on this project, and am proud of what the team created, the project was incredibly stressful, and events in my personal life caused me to rethink its release, which meant we had to delay the project into 2017. However, we were proud to license the album in an effort to raise money for Child’s Play Charity, an organisation that donates toys and games to children’s hospitals worldwide.
Pokémon Blue was my first Pokémon game, and its music by Junichi Masuda will always bring back memories to a time when things were simpler and more care-free. I hope that Harmony of a Champion brought those same memories back to those who played it for the first time, or even encouraged new fans to experience Kanto!
To celebrate ten years of Harmony of a Hunter, and to mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the franchise, we decided to create a new Metroid album, bringing together as many musicians as possible from the original albums, and inviting some fresh faces to be involved. The project was put together due to a number of reasons, both celebratory and personal.
The project began in August 2020 at a time when the world was attempting to fight back against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Many people were struggling in different ways, and I wanted to float the idea of a fun project to take people’s minds off the concerns in life, and create something positive that might help fans through too.
The subtitle “Returns” came to mind pretty quickly towards the start of the project, and I feel it encapsulates what this project is in many ways. We were returning to Metroid after covering Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon, many musicians were returning from previous projects, and we were acknowledging the latest Metroid release at the time, Samus Returns.
In addition to this, I had a personal reason for wanting to produce and direct another Metroid fan-arrangement album. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Jesse Snow, passed away. We had been out of touch for a while, and I only learned of his passing earlier in the year. Jesse was the person who introduced me to Metroid in the first place, encouraging me to play the games by shipping his own copy of Metroid Prime (his personal favourite). Because of his intervention, he is partly to thank why we have these albums in the first place, so I am dedicating Returns to his memory, with the blessing of his family.
A decade of music, coming full circle and celebrating the life of a fellow Metroid fan is what Returns is about. I hope when people listen to this album, they will help to keep Jesse’s memory alive.