Xaimi's Nerdy Blurbs: Soundtrack Nostalgia

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NGB's Sound Riff

Friday, July 4, 2014

Soundtrack Nostalgia

Soundtrack Nostalgia
         


No matter which gaming genre you are into, I am sure you have felt this way. Gaming soundtracks have become as essential and important as the games that we play.

For those of you O.G.s (Original Gamers...gosh what were you thinking?), can you imagine what the Famicom’s Mario Bros. would have been like without the music? The original Mario Bros. game only had approximately five songs: above world, underworld, victory, underwater, and Bowser’s Castle. These songs are what clued us in as gamers to the environment our little sprite was about to jump into! As a three-year-old kid, trying to make my way through Bowser’s castles was already intimidating. Add in the creepy I’m-going-to-get-you-MWAHAHA music and now we have been warned that whatever we encounter in these silver castles will be dangerous. Those five simple songs are still iconic today!

The game franchise Bust a Groove, known as Bust a Move in Japan, had equally delicious tunes- most rhythm and dancing games have to since that is what reels their audience in. As my friend Chip pointed out above though: ‘They just suck you in and there’s no getting out once they got a hold of you.”

Yup.

The soundtracks from Bust a Groove and Bust a Groove 2 have followed me for fifteen years now. Every. Single. Song. I have played my fair share of Dance Dance Revolution, In the Groove (Rest in Peace my arrow-y friend), and recently Pump it Up, but unlike the BaG series, only a few of the other games’ songs stay in my head.

Then we have the Final Fantasy franchise. Bloody hell! The compositions that pull at your heart strings, the battle themes, jumping Tonberries!!!
... *takes a break to collect herself*

What made the first 20 years of Final Fantasy great was not just the storylines or impressive graphics; it was the MUSIC, or more specifically, Uematsu Nobuo! Uematsu-san composed the soundtracks for every Final Fantasy game until Final Fantasy X-2. The luscious melodies and energetic boss themes resonated with many gamers. Even players who were not fans of the series have a profound respect and appreciation for Uematsu-san’s musical contribution. So much so, that when he left Square Enix in 2004, many fans of the juggernaut franchise were concerned about how Final Fantasy soundtracks would fare from that point on. I have not personally played any Final Fantasy game after X-2 and Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core, but I can tell you that I noticed a significant change in feeling from Final Fantasy X to its direct sequel. Many of the orchestra sounds in FFX that gamers knew were replaced with synthesizer pop, ballads, and a little EDM. Now do not get me wrong, I will always be a fan of YRP, but FFX’s soundtrack will forever resonate with me more than FFX-2’s because I feel more emotion from it. The “Normal Battle” theme from FFX always gets my blood pumping! “To Zanarkand” is one composition that further influenced my goal to play the piano. That song summed up the sadness of knowing that Tidus lost his home and had essentially been used by the Fayth throughout the ENTIRE game just as a means to an end. I could have devoted this article to just Final Fantasy music by itself, but instead I will move along and point out this:

There is a good reason for the insane hype many FFX and FFX-2 fans had when they found out the soundtracks were also going to be in the re-mastered HD release. Just saying.

If that testament alone does not exemplify music in gaming, think about this: Remember the Last of Us? You know that game that won awards for “Best Game of 2013” and “Best Narrative” at the Game Developers Choice Awards? It has little to no music in it. The title screen music is present, but you play most of the game with no soundtrack. The only sounds to comfort you in your moments of conflict, despair, fright, and joy are: ambience, gunfire, bottles clanking, and the unsettling noise of clickers nearby. Why is that? One arc of symbolism is that music represents life and that we are not alone. In a world with music, someone wrote the notes you and I hear and someone is listening to them. It is a sign that we are still amongst the living and with our peers. The Last of Us takes place in a desolate, virus-infected populace where the few humans you encounter most likely want your supplies and everything else is trying to kill you. You are utterly alone. Can you imagine how much our the Last of Us experience would have changed if there was travel music or a battle theme? The scenarios probably would have felt ridiculous. The gaming industry has learned from its movie industry big brother that the presence- or lack there of- of music affects our involvement, enjoyment, and overall remembrance of the game.

Some people remember “Titanic” because of Celine Dion belting out “Heart Will Go On.” I remember Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog 1 because of “Marble Zone Theme”. We take the music we enjoy from the games that we love with us wherever we go.



Sources/Credits:
-Uematsu Nobuo’s Legacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuo_Uematsu

-Final Fantasy X/ Final Fantasy X-2 Re-Mastered Soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpwr_mRSGFM&feature=youtu.be


Bust a Groove and Bust a Groove 2 are owned by 989 Studios and Enix (now Square Enix) and the musical scores were developed by Avex Trax.

Thanks to my friend Chip Vaughn for allowing me to use the above screencap from his page of our conversation!

Also big thanks to the guys and gals at A State of Gaming for allowing me to post up this piece there as well. If you are looking for gaming industry news and in-depth reviews of games, definitely check out their Facebook page at the link above. You can also follow them on Twitter: @AStateofGaming

Until Next Time Guys,

^_^