This post is about video games and music... It wasn't supposed to be. I originally was working on a new blog this week about the Vita and how I think the Sony meeting was a pivotal moment in the handheld’s future. I was planning on summoning my inner analyst and then posting it today, but two things happened in the last week that threw a wrench in these plans. Last Thursday I had a chance to finally see Book of Mormon and Monday night I finally finished Gravity Rush and neither of their soundtracks are withdrawing from my head. I have mixed opinions on Gravity Rush as a game, but they nailed the music. Between the two I have been on a music overload/sugar rush/high/eargasm and I have to get it out of my system. This is that post.
This song powered a lot of this blog post.
I don’t feel the need to say that I like music. If you ask someone to tell you a little about themselves and they respond that they like music I usually feel like asking if they like to breathe too. Although if I changed the question to ask about video game music I could expect a different response. Game soundtracks can be so varied that I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly anyone could find something that they liked, but on the flip side there are some people who see it as a stigma. I have friends who have made off putting comments about a coworker who enjoyed listening to video game music in his car as opposed to whatever is on the radio. Regardless I don’t think I need to explain to you that there is a rich music experience in games if you take the time to find it.
When I look at games I never think that the music could make or break the experience, but I always find it can be the nudge that pushes a good game to great (or in Gravity Rush’s case okay to almost good). One of my darlings from last gen, Beyond Good and Evil, had a soundtrack that I always felt perfectly blended the gameplay and emotion. It was also that soundtrack that helped push that game into one of my all time favorite games. As games continue to grow bigger in size and scope more developers seem to be keyed in on how much of a difference it can make. Generally last to the party Nintendo even seems to be in on the trend by adding fantastic orchestrated music in Mario Galaxy and Skyward Sword and sharing the love with their recent touring of orchestrated music from Legend of Zelda for the 25th anniversary of the series. Love or hate Smash Bros. Brawl you can’t disagree that Sakurai went above and beyond with soundtrack selection and his outreach to the game music professionals.
Even further I don’t even know where to begin on games that use music as part of the gameplay. Simply saying that I love them is probably the easiest way to put it, but even a vast understatement. I think this could be a shock to some of you especially considering the fantastic list of game releases last year, but Rhythm Heaven Fever was easily my Game of the Year. That isn’t me saying that I didn’t play a lot of games last year or have any other great gaming experiences, but I kept coming back to that game. Between it’s catchy music and infectious gameplay I would constantly find myself putting it back into my system when I need a quick time filler. Years after its release its DS predecessor still fills the same roll for me on the go (Even after all this time I still need two perfects on that one... Damn Moai!). To this day whenever I hear someone say, “I suppose,” I have to resist clapping it out afterwards like the monkeys do in Fan Club.
Of note Rhythm Heaven Fever actually led to a surprising recent event in my life. I have a younger sister and she isn’t much of a gamer. She will play some casual games from time to time with me, but it is few and far between. A few months ago we were up late waiting for some of her friends to arrive in from a long trip from out of town and she asked me to entertain her to pass the time. I agreed to play some games and we tried a bunch of different titles: Rayman Origins, Mario Party, Wii Sports, etc., but nothing really caught her attention for more than a single round. Then I scanned my bookshelf for any other two player games that I owned and Rhythm Heaven caught my eye. As I opened the case and slipped the disk in she asked what it was. As soon as I finished describing it and telling her it was one of my favorite games she bluntly responded that it sounded stupid and she had no rhythm. We started with Ringside and after she struggled through the tutorial and got into the song she fell in love with the game. We played the game for HOURS until her friends arrived. Then, for the first time in my entire life, she took a game from me. She played it for the rest of the weekend with her friends. Every time I walked by I would hear the TV saying, “Wubbadubbadubba Is That True?” She even followed through on this a few weeks later by letting me know that her friend loved the game so much she went home and bought it. The game is great, amazing even, but not one single other game in nearly twenty years has come close to that reaction in her.
Pose for the FANS!
As I’m writing this there have been so many games that have come to mind that I wish I could write in length about in this post. I loved the music battle gameplay of Mother 3, playing “Your The Inspiration” in Elite Beat Agents, hours and hours of Rock Band and Donkey Konga, importing Jam with the Band, Rhythm Thief and it’s mix of Layton and music gameplay, trancing to Rez and Electroplankton, believing in PaRappa, hours of music creation in Mario Paint as a kid... Honestly, I could probably type this list for hours and I am physically restraining myself from adding on any more omissions. Video game music has become such a part of my life its hard to type this and take a step back and realize truly how long and deep it has run.
Before I send this one off I have one last story to share. My aunt was married a little over ten years ago. At the end of the night the DJ pulled the remaining guests together for one final song. He never mentioned it by name, but being the only gamer left that night I recognized what is probably still to this day one of the best video game end credit songs around. It was an instrumental recording of Super Mario World’s end song. It was game music and everyone from myself to my 70 year old grandmother were kicking our feet in the air like we were in a broadway show. That is a moment that we will never forget, but one that my family would never know was influenced by gaming.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear about some of your favorite video game music moments in the comments! If there is any game or music that I touched on that you think you would like to see me do a blog post about in the future I’d love to hear it.