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The role music plays in making good games magical

Magical games (my description): games that I consider to have an ability to take you outside of yourself, outside of your life and problems, but somehow deep into your emotions and imagination, and to shine a wonderful light over your life. They affect you on a level akin to a great film, sometimes infused with the depth a book offers, though differently, as you interacted with them on a much more personal level. And the games themselves, from the core design to the aesthetic approach, are magnificently cohesive in a way that could almost be described as magical, as all the parts are synergistic like an organism. Examples from the world of films like this would be Lord of the Rings, or the original Star Wars trilogy. It is like the creators made something bigger and more resonant with people then they had originally imagined, and the factors that play into this are mysterious, hence 'magical'.

This is my first blog, so, it may meander a bit. This is a subject i've considered a lot over the years, so I figured it`d be a good subject to deploy my first d-toid blog based musings on games. Right....

Music adds emotion to a game. A lot.

When I first saw screenshots of Secret of Mana way back in the early 90s, I remembered being overwhelmed by its leafy green, earthy, ethereal gorgeousness. However, at the time, screenshots of most JRPGs made me salivate, and it was always the green pastures, little cosy towns and the promise of fantastical adventures in strange, wonderfully cute 2D landscapes that ignited my desire. I thought I wanted every RPG ever. But when I eventually played Secret of Mana, it was the music that entranced me. And, later on, when I did get to finally play other RPGs (Breath of Fire, Illusion of Gaia, Romancing SaGa etc.) they never drew me in as much, and it seemed frustrating, with no realisation why this was the case, as the games themselves ticked off all the RPG convention boxes, and had nice designs etc. However, it was only after a while that I realised why this was. For a while I just thought SOM was the greatest thing ever, without any dissection of why. But, on consideration whilst playing the game, I realised that half the reason I was so willing to sit there and play it for hours and hours, and wholeheartedly wish I was living in 'mana land' (I was 12), was the music. That gorgeous, gorgeous soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta. It had become more than just a game.

And I think what makes the great RPGs (of that time) so great was (is) their music. To a large extent, anyway. This is why Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6 (or 3) are the best RPGs of their time, if not the best RPGs ever. They had an uncanny ability to transport you away, to engage you on a deeper level then most games, to make you believe that this world exists on some level, and, most importantly, to evoke emotion in the player. And their music played a massive, perhaps somewhat covert, part in this, i believe.

I hope my point isn't too vague. Maybe I will return to this topic, as it goes deep. Maybe this is all obvious to you guys. Maybe this is all just a lament for a time when more feeling and emotion was injected into games, and you felt like you really were enjoying and interacting with something of a unique, shining gem of creativity, from the graphics right through to the soundtrack. Or maybe it just bugs me that developers overlook or take little time with the music side of things these days. Because, like I said, it is this special, essential ingrediant that takes a game from being good to being magical. It is the factor that raises a game from being fun, to something that your 'soul' benefits from playing, and will remain, cherished, in your memory for ever.

There are plenty of good games around, but few that could be classed as 'magical' or unique. So, to any developers reading, pay more attention to your creations soundtrack!!! After you've refined the gameplay, of course.......

That was quite a serious rant.....I shall do something more lighthearted next time, like an article on the merits of marios testicles' width and height ratios compared to Luigis, or something :)
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About lovemana23one of us since 3:05 PM on 12.01.2008

Currently playing: (30-01-2010)

* Trials HD (PS2)
* Ikaruga (GC)
* Final Fantasy 12 (PS2)
* Burnout Paradise (360)

Whaddup. Came to Dtoid via RFGO. Love the shit out of it. I own a Snes (my all time fave...i`m with Chad and RFGO team in terms of games era enjoyment), N64, Gamecube, Gameboy Advance, DS, PS1, PS2, PC and an Xbox360. Would love a PS3, PSP etc. but my funds dont agree. I've also previously owned a Nes, Gameboy, Mega Drive, Amiga 500 and a (I hate to admit) 3DO too (it was my brothers actually). The Nes really got me into it all, and Super Mario Bros, though my earliest gaming memories are of Outrun in arcades when I was on holiday as a kid. I actually love games as an escape. Existential angst medicine of the highest order methinks, and food for the imagination. And thats perhaps why I lean more towards fantastical, metaphorical, arty games. Especially of the 2D variety. I`m far less inspired or engaged by realistic games. Specifically FPSs! It`s getting more and more questionable, as realism ramps up, why people even want to kill and maim other people in a simulated war. I liked Goldeneye on the N64, and played lots of Doom and Quake back in the day, but thats as far as it goes. I`m also really into anime, and have been subconciously into it since Ulysses 31 and the mysterious cities of gold, in the mid 80s, and then Akira in 92 got me conciously into it, and I realised I had loved this art style my whole life. I was part of the 'second generation' in the UK, and watched anime and mangas popularity sky rocket over the years, to my delight. Other small facts you may find interesting/annoying/cool are: never finished FF7; hated most N64 games (except Lylat Wars and maybe Banjo Kazooie....oh, alright, and Zelda OoT - but the latter not too much i`m afraid); didn`t play games at all between 99 and 01; I dj and make electronic music - minimal techno and house mainly (though if recent podtoid descriptions of techno music are anything to go by, a lot of you have NO clue what actual techno is and are basically lumping all dance styles together under the techno banner. Techno is like the SHMUP genre of the dance music world, whereas the remixes recently aired on podtoid equate to the FPS genre equivalent of the dance music world)

As a musician with a previous wish to be a game journalist, I look forward to airing some of my long held views, and some recent views, on this wonderful industry we all find ourselves engaged with, via the medium that is the high-awesomeness saturated blogosphere of Destructoid.

Games I love (in some sort of order, but barely):

Secret of Mana (along with FF6, the BEST game i`ve ever played, most engrossing, emotive (actually ff6 beats it on this count), varied adventure i have ever experienced.....and the music, oh my word!!!!!)
Chrono Trigger
FF4 (2 to you Americanos)
F-Zero X (F-Zero GX can fuck right off....its not pure blood!)
Super Aleste
Duck Tales
Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers,
Snake, Rattle and Roll,
The Legend Of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
New Super Mario Bros
Super Mario Bros
Super Mario Bros 3
Super Mario World
Super Mario World 2 - Yoshis Island (This game was the last game I played on the SNES at the end of its lifespan, and what a send off. Possibly the best designed platform gaming ever)
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario 64 (my least liked of this bunch of mario games)
Super Mario Kart
Streets of Rage 2 (frickin love this game)
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic Advance
Lost Odyssey
Final Fantasy 12
Dragon Quest 4
Super Monkey Ball
Sim City (Snes, and 2000 on PC)
Warcraft 2 (have yet to play the more recent incarnations.....lame i know!)
Super Probotector (Contra 3)
Turrican 2
Shadow of the Beast 3
Zelda:Ocarina Of Time
Gradius Advance
Project X (Amiga)
Banjo & Kazooie
Burnout 2
Burnout Paradise
Castlevania:Aria Of Sorrow (feckin awesome)
Castlevania:Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin
Castlevania: Order Of Ecclesia (currently enjoying this tough, musically superb platforming delight)
Streetfigher 2 (various versions....i will kick your arse with Guile, believe)
Samurai Showdown
Capcom vs. Snk EO
Marvel vs. Capcom
Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader (I pity any star wars fans who`ve never played this!)

You get my vibe...i`m a 2D freak - especially platformers.......well, just all 2D actually. Lately the castlevania games on the GBA, played with my DS and on the GB player on GC, have been my 2D lifeline, after NSMB and before POR and Order of Ecclesia. If you have a GC get yourself a gameboy player, and play through Aria Of Sorrow for the GBA. A masterclass! I`m also a big game music geek.....especially the usual suspects: Michiru Yamane, Noboeu Uematsu, Hiroki Kikuta, Yuzo Koshiro etc. Also, European game music producers Tim Follin and the legendary Chris Huelsbeck (turrican series).

Outside of games, i`m an underground (as in niche, not living underground or anything) deep house and minimal techno producer who enjoys dancing, film, a bit (sometimes a lot) of philosophy, art, life, nature and existence. I reside in the shires of southern England (Hampshire to be exact), near the port city of, er, Portsmouth, and......erm.....its great!Except that its not that great. The English are VERY repressed you see. Most English people are more uptight then they ought to be!

And i`d only go to my myspace if you like electronic music, and underground dance music, because thats all i use myspace for, my music grind. Its not trash like you might think if your not into that: its not dumbass hardcore or weak-ass trance. Or the 'techno' that a lot of ignorant people think is techno (including the podtoid crew). You just will think 'what the fuck?'. Minimal techno is avant garde, quirky and a very, very acquired taste, and is meant for large, loud but refined soundsystems in big dark rooms for people enjoying 'altered' states of mind. So, dancefloors worldwide are, and will continue, to receive music influenced by Uematsu, Koshiro, Yamane etc, because these composers have affected me A LOT ;)

Xbox LIVE:Amano909


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