This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite games that has one of the most ingenious soundtracks. It is ‘The End of The Battle’ from Shadow of The Colossus, composed by Kow Otani.
In the game, you play as a boy/teen/young man called Wander (I believe that is the correct spelling) who travels to The Forbidden Land with his horse Agro to dick about with the god Dormin’s ancient magic so he can bring a girl back to life. It is never explained whether this girl is his girlfriend, girl-friend or sister, but it is rather obvious that it is someone he cares for deeply. In order to resurrect the girl, Wander must kill the 16 Colossi, thus beginning the adventure.
Many open-world games like this would populate their world with life and music galore that would make The Forbidden Land a truly scary and terrifying place. Not here though. The only life you will see is the odd lizard and eagle. After the game’s introduction, you won’t hear any music until you fight the first Colossus, which creates an incredibly desolate feeling, making you feel that you really are in a sparse Forbidden Land.
When you encounter the massive colossi, the music here is what you would expect, involving grandeur brass, blasting out at you, hyping you up for the fight, as you finally realise that you have to scale the bastard to kill it. The levels are the bosses.
If like me, you are a heartless bastard, you will have no real problem killing the colossi because you are on a quest to save a girl! Previous video games have taught you to treat all enemies like this. It is a back bad creature after all, why should I care whether it should die? This is a common video game law; if it moves, it must die!
Once you deliver the final stab, the cue will stop, and you expect a grand fanfare, applauding your victory! You may even want the infamous Koji Kondo Chord progression (Chords I-bVI-bVIII) that is famous in pretty much all of the Final Fantasy victory fanfares. But with Shadow of The Colossus, you get this cue, which is essentially a requiem, which is a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead. The music is melancholy in tone and yet is somehow bittersweet. It is clear to me that it was designed to make you pause and think. Most of the colossi, most notably the first one (my personal favourite) do not attack you unless provoked. In fact, most of them don’t attack you at all. The music tells here tells you that you are a bit of prick and it is Game Over for the colossi.
This cue becomes more powerful in its meaning as the game progresses. The rest of the soundtrack music becomes more discordant, meaning that it uses more unpleasant harmonies and it becomes more difficult to listen to. Wander’s appearance changes and you slowly begin to realise that you are no hero in this game, you are a cold-blooded killer. But that's ok, you tell yourself because you are trying to bring some girl back from the dead and the life of one already dead girl is more valuable than the life of 16 large, peaceful creatures.
There is very little dialogue in Shadow of The Colossus and most of its story is told through your actions and the developing music. Not only is it an incredibly beautiful soundtrack in its own right, but Shadow of The Colossus is also what is called a ‘symphonic poem’, music that tells a story or sets a scene. This is why I love the music from Shadow of The Colossus.