I’m probably going to pay for this Cover Band in my spam inbox, but these messages are pure comedy. Am I really supposed to think these messages are real comments having to do with video games or fantasy stories?
Playing The Sea Will Claim Everything and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy back to back has got music on my mind. I’ve been wondering for years why video game music suddenly stopped being something that I carried with me when the game was done. Was it because I just don’t play games as obsessively now as I did then? Was it nothing more than a simple case of me playing fewer games than when I was a kid? After finishing The Sea Will Claim Everything, I discovered that I’d been over-thinking the issue. Like the gameplay of most modern games, the music just isn’t very good.
It seems to come from a similar line of thinking to the idea that making something look more realistic will make it more fun to play. A lot of music in today’s games has been made with real instruments, but written by people who think that just the virtue of having ‘real’ music is good enough. I used to thrill to the idea that a live orchestra was going to be involved in a game’s soundtrack, but after years of samey-sounding orchestral tracks, it doesn’t impress me any more. As it turns out, you can still produce boring, dull music with real instruments.
Game music often lacks personality, like your average game’s art direction. It’s designed to be appropriate to what you’re doing, but there’s no one on the project who is all that passionate about it. The music is made by people who are just trying to get a job done, or who are under the heel of someone who doesn’t consider it as anything more than set dressing for their game. Both of those are the death knell for hearing anything decent.
Bad music also kills a lot of the immersion in these games, although I doubt many triple A developers know this. If Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy has shown me anything, it’s that a lot of my favorite scenes are tied together with amazing music. Just listening to the Four Fiends’ battle music from Final Fantasy IV took me right back to the hours I spent being broken at the hands of Rubicant and his pals. The opera from Final Fantasy VI reminded me what it was like to find out that Celes had a softer side to her, and how much I warmed up to her character because of it. Even though I don’t remember much from my single playthrough of Final Fantasy V, the “Battle on the Big Bridge” music still took me back to the one huge battle I remembered from the game.
I knew that I loved the music from the Final Fantasy series, but I’m still stunned by evocative these songs are. Every time I hear a lot of them, it’s like listening to them for the first time. Their effects don’t dull over time, as it’s just really good music. Even though I just played it, I feel the same way about the music from The Sea Will Claim Everything. On repeated listening, the music is just as powerful each time, and calls me back to the context in which I heard it. Game and music get tied together in one package, each enhancing the other and creating a permanent place in my memory.
It’s not that old music is easier to remember, or that I heard it more. It’s the simple fact that good music combined with a good game will create an incredible experience. The game could be about clicking around an environment for items, or working your way through what amounts to a numbers spreadsheet with little warriors acting out the addition and subtraction, but good music will turn it into something great. It makes the whole package pop out in ways that the gameplay might not have been able to do alone.
Let’s see some more memorable tunes come out for games over the next few years, and preferably from someone other than the indies. They’re already getting everything right, so let’s see the big boys catch up on reality for a change.