MAGFest, short for the Music and Gaming Festival had its eleventh anniversary this year at the beautiful, but cold, National Harbor, Maryland (just south of D.C.). I could not ask for a better start to the new year as MAGFest has been the most enjoyable convention I’ve attended so far. If you’re someone who appreciates video games and/or video game music, then this is definitely something you should consider attending. Listed below are just some of the highlights from my adventure to the Potomac.
ZREO is a group of Zelda fans online who have dedicated themselves to converting the infamous midi tunes of the Zelda franchise into full orchestral arrangements. For the past 5 years, the ZREO team has been working on a truly monumental and ambitious project known as Twilight Symphony. The result was 3 hours and 25 minutes of high quality orchestral arrangements from the popular the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess soundtrack.
At MAGFest, ZREO had two panels, one dedicated to Twilight Symphony and another called “ZREO After Hours” which ran from midnight to four in the morning. The first panel acted as a Q&A, while the second allowed its attendees to listen to the whole Twilight Symphony album. Having the opportunity to attend both of these panels and meeting the team responsible for such a great and monumental project was truly a blast. Even a wild Skotein from Pokémon Reorchestrated made an appearance! He created one of the tracks, Hyrulean Odd Jobs, on Twilight Symphony. I cannot express how amazing it was to be surrounded by such talented and friendly people.
I can confidently say that Twilight Symphony is the best fan-arranged Zelda album currently in existence. Those who pre-ordered the special collector’s edition or backed the kickstarter will not be disappointed (Have you checked your email yet?). For those who missed out, be sure to stay up with the latest news about the digital release coming out for Twilight Symphony at the website or Facebook page.
I was really excited to see the VGO after looking up some YouTube videos of their performances. A particular favorite of mine is their rendition of “Time’s Scar” from Chrono Chross. VGO does something unique by combining orchestral elements with rock, creating a “rockestral”. This unique sound really sets them apart from other video game music acts. However, due to the difficulty of transferring certain instruments, like the cello, VGO was limited to mostly rock performances at MAGFest. This didn’t stop them from being great though. I was fortunate enough to record 6 of their pieces from MAGFest, which you can view on my YouTube channel. Of course, for your convenience, you can access the whole playlist here! My favorite was Chrono Trigger.
The Triforce Quartet is definitely one of the pinnacles of my experience at MAGFest. Honestly, it was a great relief to hear a string quartet in a convention largely dominated by rock music. Don’t get me wrong, much of the rock music is great…there’s just a lot of it. As a result, the Triforce Quartet really stood out, and they were great to boot. My favorites were their Zelda medley and Mario medley. They also played pieces from Halo, “Still Alive” from Portal, and the Game of Thrones theme. MAGFest definitely should have more classical performers like these as guests. If given the chance, definitely take the time to hear these musicians live.
There is much more to MAGFest than this, but these 3 things certainly made it special. Although the musical performances were great and there was a vendor’s hall and arcade that could fulfill the dreams of many gamers, the true enjoyment of MAGFest came from all of the friends I got to meet. It is thanks to all of them that I had such a fantastic time. Thank you.