Seeing as this is my first blog post ever, I figure I'll write about what's in my head right now. The song "Come, Join Us (Together We Ride)" from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. It's been stuck in my head for hours, and I haven't played the game since this morning. Not only is it a catchy tune, it also does it's job in the game very well.
The role of music in games should be to manifest the events on screen and enhance the emotions felt by the player. "Together We Ride" plays whenever you recruit a new soldier to your small, yet powerful army. The song gets the player excited to work with the new unit under their command, as well as to go out and lay waste to your enemies on the field of battle. Overall, it's a good song, and if it plays in your head a few times, that's just a bonus.
A better example of the power of music in gaming would be one of the huge blockbuster titles. My favorite subjects in this case would be any of the Uncharted games or the Mass Effect trilogy. "Nate's Theme" (and its various iterations through the series) is a prime example of the ability of music to enhance a game's sense of character.
Nathan Drake is a cross between Indiana Jones and John McClain (to an extent).
He's a tough, yet smart guy with a knack for getting himself mixed up in some of the most legendary treasure hunts known to man, not unlike the whip-snapping Indy. This persona is brought to life in auditory form through "Nate's Theme." The tribal drums give the player a sense of exotic adventure and the horns lend a noble, heroic sound to the theme song of Uncharted's protagonist. The song is used in multiple ways throughout each game, but it never fails to capture Drake's or Uncharted's distinct brand of adventure.
In Mass Effect 2, your mission is one that Commander Shepard is not expected to come back from. Two of its best tracks, "Suicide Mission" and "The End Run" perfectly provide the player with the sense of urgency accompanying Commander Shepard's mission: travel to a place no one's returned from and destroy a group of aliens that, until recently, were thought to exist only in myth.The pure intensity of "Suicide Mission" and "The End Run," with their booming drums, blaring horns and fierce violin, gets the player's adrenaline pumping to save humanity.
On the other hand, Mass Effect 3's best song does just the opposite. Despite the controversy generated by the ending of the game, the music that plays in the trilogy's final moments is nothing short of amazing. "An End Once and For All," is a lilting piano piece accompanying a montage of Commander Shepard's allies and friends, whom most players, including myself, had become emotionally invested in. Knowing the game, and thus the characters, was being resolved, creates a bittersweet moment unattainable in most games. The dynamic use of the piano enhances these emotions further.
That is the purpose of music in games. Make the player feel something. Music is meant to bring out emotions. When combined with the unique interactivity of the video game medium, the possibilities are limitless.
I find myself often looking these tracks up on youtube or downloading them for my iPod, even weeks after I've put down the controller. Music has a significant role in games. Whether it's the old 8-bit tunes that get stuck in your head (I'm talking about you "Kid Icarus"), or the orchestral masterpieces of this console generation (and even the last one, a la "Shadow of the Colossus"), video game music has evolved and become such an important part of gaming, that I couldn't imagine Fire Emblem without "Together We Ride."
Here are the URLs for some of the songs mentioned above: