//// This will be full of Tearaway spoilers, including the entire ending. I wish for the ending to experienced by everyone on their own, so if you plan on playing this, please don't read the ending. I also apologize in advance for how much I ramble. I just really needed to write this down and it needed the background story.
In my younger sister's XBL gamertag motto, she typed "My life is my message." I don't think she actually knows that it is a Ghandi quotation. She loves the j-pop band Arashi, and a song by her favorite members quotes Ghandi.
Why is this important at all?
When I tried to thing of a title for this post, I needed it to have meaning. I thought of my little atoi and the message she delivered to me at the end of Tearaway. Her life was her message. I have been so touched by the message of Tearaway. I beat it four days ago and have been thinking about it non-stop since then.
Was there actually much story development? No. Much character development? Not really at all. Yet, I was in tears at the game end. Now, days later, I tried verbally explaining why it was so powerful to me and I started crying again. All this over this tiny little game?
As I was enjoying my first playthrough, the thing that struck me first was the music in the second level. I had not actually watched any of the previews for Tearaway. Had I watched its first trailer, I would have known the style of music coming in. The music in the Orchards was instead a wonderful surprise. It instantly reminded me of the music of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Nostaglia. It took me back.
In a similar way as Tearway, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was a special and beautiful game to me. I was touched by its music. From its start, its uplifting and jubilant opening song sets the stage for a personal journey of friends. In 2004, I don't think anyone I spoke to knew of Donna Burke. (Let's be honest, barely anyone I knew besides my boyfriend at the time had played Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles at all.) By now, thanks to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, many others appreciate the talent of Donna Burke. If you loved her performance on Heavens Divide, go listen the English version of Kaze no Ne. She also sings the ending song, which so strikingly happens to have a very similar opening as the end song of Tearway.
Although Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was, by most other measures, a mediocre yet fun game, the touch of personal involvement pulled me in. I spent an entire summer gathering every artifact with my boyfriend at the time and both of my sisters. Hours and hours and hours of gathering the water of life and protecting the village year after year (in game standards, that is). In the ending sequence where you are losing your memories, the importance of preserving your memories was approached in a very literal sense. The celebration music around the fire each year was such a delightful tune. That fall, when I was studying abroad in Japan and happened upon the original soundtrack and the singles in a CD store, you can bet I scooped it up and listened to it constantly.
More background. Earlier that year I had purchased the Final Fantasy IV Celtic Moon soundtrack, so I was already digging that style. The music of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was a little more folk-like. It spanned from cutesy to haunting to joyful. On top of that, I loved the variation of instruments in songs and the how cohesive the album was as a whole. I loved that you could listen to the album and instantly be brought back to where it was in the game and think of the memories you had playing it. Even now, it is one of my favorite soundtracks that is rarely rivaled.
Until last week.
I recognize that not everyone is going to have powerful emotions the way that I do about games they have played. Like I said, I tried to explain today why Tearway was so moving and I couldn't get out the words without choking up.
Tearway begins by saying it wants to tell a story that has never been told before. Something new. And there you are, right from the start, involved in this new little world created by Media Molecule (except you feel like it really just belongs to you). You are the You of your game. You are big and powerful and the game has a message for You. Literally. You play as a little envelopment with a message. I chose atoi. My sweet little atoi!
The music right away pulled me in. I cannot be more grateful that the soundtrack was included with my pre-order. I'd probably be going crazy right now otherwise. The first song I really loved was "Follow the Sun." At the time, I didn't notice the style's similarities, but I found it so gentle and pretty. Like I said, when I reached The Orchards, it instantly was reaching into my memories of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles with the first drum beats.
As I beat the level, my heart was singing when the Renaissance Hop started playing. A funky little song of celebration? For atoi? For me? For us? I loved the later remix included on the soundtrack even more.
Then I helped out my adorable pig. Yes, my adorable pig. No longer "the pig in Tearway" but my pig. Although it is not my very favorite song in the game, Pig Riding was stuck in my head for hours after I had put the game down that very first day. Paired with the memory of racing down the field with my pig, the song sounds liberating and carefree.
So it goes on and on. I could narrate you my entire Tearway experience going through the soundtrack one song at a time. I didn't even notice it was happening at the time. How attached I was becoming to atoi and to the world within the game that I was influencing.
When I had beaten the last scraps and the remix of that earlier song came on, I was starting to feel it. It was everyone's excitement playing along in that song. You thought that maybe the game was over and then it wasn't. There was more: just between atoi and me.
Both tracks for Between the Pages are excellent. There is an urgency in both. My messenger! Her message! Get that message to me!
The Desert comes with a sobering, serious track.
And then the saddest little track is The Traveller. Now I was getting emotional. I saw the other messenger who never delivered their message. The little voice sorrowfully "Ah-ing" its lament. Would my atoi be that sad? No, no, she would make it to me. She'd make it to the sun. The track changes, picking up the beat but keeping the same haunting tune. Then that same teeny voice singing to me again. Chills. I appreciated the lovely melody of the song, but that voice singing is what stuck in my mind. I sang and sang and sang it afterward.
Another level, and then the end. My atoi was asked, where did the You go? Did the You get lost? I wanted to yell at the character talking to her, "NO, I WOULD NOT ABANDON MY ATOI."
I see of atoi's friends along the journey again.
Finally, the track "Is This Goodbye?" plays.
Atoi was coming to me! She makes it to me. There I am in the sun, holding the Vita. I poke my finger to make a hole in the world. She's falling into my world... but then... she comes apart. She doesn't make it as my atoi. She makes it as.... the message.
Her life was her message.
Even right now, as I listen to the track "The Message," I'm crying. No joke.
She reminds me of everything she went through to get to me. How many times she lost her stamp: how many times I let her die. That hurt. My first time through, I was a blubbery little mess by the time she told me "I walked 104,632 foot steps to you." To me. To her You. Of course atoi doesn't exist. She only walked those steps because I made her walk. Of course I know that. But the concept of this little person, this little message, whose face and outfit I made my own, was so sweet. She did all that to get to me. Yes, we rescued the other world from Scraps along the way, but Tearaway makes very clear that this is not what the game was about. It was about us. Atoi and her You, me.
The final words of her message are so simple. After all that, there's just one thing she wants.
She goes through all of that to get close to me. As I fumbled around and rolled her off the edges of the world, letting her die again and again, she endured. In the game, atoi loved me that much. She loved me that much that she'd do anything to make it to me, just to have the opportunity to ask to in my world. It's the innocence of it all that get me. Is life really that simple?
I guess... yes. Life is really only about the people you share it with. She said, "We shared this one together. Our story." And it was our story. We did it together. That's life: sharing it together with the ones that you love. Your life is not isolated from all others. What you do can profoundly change the course of another's life.
Tearway filled my heart with love and with appreciation of the world. Of my world. Of our world. All of us. The people around me who I share every day with. The people who I may never meet but somehow, in some indirect way, may have touched.
Tearway and its rich soundtrack touched me in a way that no other game ever has. My emotional reactions to other games were just that: reactions to a game. Tearaway made me react not just to the game, but to our world.
I love you, Media Molecule. Thank you.