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  1. I was overwhelmed by family affairs last week, so I was unable to do #TuneTuesday last week. So, I thought I would make up for it by talking about a cue that has many different versions found within the game its prequel. The cue is ‘The Song of The Ancients’ from NieR & NieR: Automata, composed by Keiichi Okabe and vocals by Emi Evans. It is difficult to talk about either game with revealing massive spoilers to either game, so I will avoid the plot, making this little blog post smaller. What I will mention is that both NieR games have a huge array of interesting eclectic characters, two of which being the android twins Devola & Popola, two of the most important characters in the series, who serve slightly different purposes in both games. Canonically, it is Devola that is singing the song, which is why when you search for the song on YouTube, you will find lots of artwork with the two characters. The version that I included above comes from NieR: Automata, and is not heard all the frequently in-game, neither does the two characters it is associated with, which makes sense to me for narrative versions. I love all the arrangements of the cue, but this one (and ‘Fate’ from NieR) is my favourite, for I believe the arrangement is the most interesting. What is often overlooked with the soundtrack is how small the ensemble is. Most orchestral soundtracks have large strings, brass and wind sections, with about 40 players, 21 one of those players being string players (violins, violas, cellos/celli and basses). NieR: Automata has 13. This isn’t a financial decision, but an artistic one, for SQUARE ENIX (the publishers), has a shite tonne of money to go around, with a huge chunk of their games having a full-on orchestra. A point that I’ve mentioned before is that you can have more punch our of a smaller ensemble, which works wonders here, as most of the cues in both NieR games that use strings are short, detached (or Stacatto, to use the correct terminology) ideas that add excitement and tense to what’s going on screen. The battle cues are often percussion-driven anyway, so a larger ensemble could potentially muddy/dampen the feel. As for the language the song is performed in, I believe it is a made-up language, smashing together German, French and Japanese to form the in game’s Chaos Language, which is only ever heard in the game’s songs. It is an interesting choice for sure, one that I’d love to see in future games in the series. It is this approach to songwriting that has made vocalist Emi Evans particularly well known within the gaming community.
  2. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite RPGs, that I definitely need to replay sometime. And no being stuck at home with little work for 12 weeks, there is no better time to replay Final Fantasy XIII! The cue is ‘Blinded by Light’, composed by Masashi Hamauzu, who is one of my favourite living composers. I can usually waffle on for many paragraphs about the synopsis of every game I discuss in these musical blogs, but it has been over 10 years since I first played the game, and my memory of it is incredibly hazy. Three things standout in my mind though whenever I think of the game. How Lightning (one of the main protagonists) is so precious and how I must protect my waifu. How incredibly long it was. I want to say that it well over 70hrs in length before you reach the midway point and are able to explore the open world in its fullest, but again, my memory fails me there. How fantastic the score is. Being a Final Fantasy game, the game’s combat is similar to that of FFVII, where it is not quite live but not quite turn-taking either. Blinded by Light is what you will hear through most of your playthrough when you are battling monsters and PSICOM troops, who are the main antagonists. The combat always feels fun and engaging, mostly because of this powerful and exhilarating cue. What a lot of fans of Masashi Hamauzu’s work may overlook is the amount of fusion prevalent in his pieces, with Blinded by Light being an excellent example. The strings perform what I call ‘The JRPG Rhythm’, with those sharp, stabbing syncopated parts, flirting with the keys Em, Bm & F#m, with the horns singing a very sad melody, but in the context of everything else, almost sounds like a mournful battle-cry. So far, this is fairly traditional stuff, but then a drum kit and distorted electric guitars enter, adding support to the strings. A bit out there still, but thing become more harmonically interesting when we reach the ‘chorus’, where the infamous solo violin is practically screaming this fantastic melody over the top everything else, giving the listener goosebumps as a result. Beneath all of this, the drummer begins to lose his marbles at this point urging the player to push on, you’ve got this, you’ve almost got the fight. The chorus reaches its end, fading into a link section (so that the cue can loop around again) with some rather crazy mini-modulations, littered with add9 and Major 7th chords, traditional staples of Masashi Hamauzu’s writing style. So in this 1:17sec cue, you have a piece that rises and falls in tension and excitement very quickly, with a unique bland combination of orchestration, smashing jazz, orchestral writing tropes and rock together to create something incredibly unique. My love for JRPG soundtracks has exceeded many western approaches for the longest time, for the urge to just create great music often exceeds the need for making scores interactive for the player. Whilst I do enjoy a good interactive score, such as Journey and NieR: Automata, the emotions trying to be delivered has to come first. So if you have a score that is relatively simple to implement in the game score but moves the listener/player to tears whenever they are beating the living daylights out of enemies, not because of a guilty conscience, but through the music, them I say that is a remarkable talent of any composer. That is what composers for games should strive for, not what kickass things can I do in Fmod/Wwise to enhance the player experience.
  3. You probably haven’t been counting, but this week marks the 100th edition of my weekly #TuneTuesday, so I wanted to do something a little bit different and talk about one of my own compositions, something I try to avoid doing so it doesn’t look like I’m arrogant. In any case, this weeks #TuneTuesday is one of my more personal compositions. It is ‘Cigarette Smoke (Reprise)’ from Lore By Night, a Vampire: The Masquerade Podcast. In case the above title didn’t give it away, Lore By Night is a podcast about the tabletop RPG game, Vampire: The Masquerade, where players assume the role of vampires in a modern night setting. They must fight their foes, the ongoing vampire politics, and the constant fight with their own humanity and The Beast, this ravenous nature within them that just wants to sleep, feed and kill everything around them. It is harrowing stuff, and there is no real game quite like it. Each cue found in the soundtrack was my attempt at presenting the sound of the World of Darkness (the universe in which VtM exists) in a different light, whilst making sure the music wasn’t too involved to distract from the narration of the VtM metaplot and lore in the podcast. Those who have played ‘Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines’, or watched the World of Darkness Documentary on Amazon Prime would know that the ‘established’ sound for the World of Darkness is edgy goth rock, which does a splendid job at covering the aforementioned conflicts. I believed, and still do believe, that there are many ways of exploring that inner conflict with oneself, which is why a lot the vast majority of music found within the podcast is either jazz or orchestral, which I (perhaps biasedly) believe are much more effective mood setters than goth rock of the late 90s/early 00s. There are exceptions to this of course, which leads me onto Cigarette Smoke, which I describe as a soft middle of the road rock track with acoustic guitar and jazz harmonies (you can listen to the original here). I had two main thought processes when I first imagined Cigarette Smoke. I imagine vampires to incredibly miserable, perhaps depressed, creatures. It must not be easy for vampires to totally cut off from their former lives as humans, fighting each night just to survive. I imagine that friendships/alliance are formed between vampires on this concept/understanding alone and they meet in bars, smoking and drinking their collective clusterfucks into oblivion. This piece reflects this inner-struggle with oneself, reflected by the three chords in the ‘verse’ sections; Bm9, Fm#9/B (or B69omit3rd), Bm9 and F#mM7, which is a real spicy chord that many people will hate. It sounds like I am constantly playing a mistake, but I assure you it is a very deliberate choice. The tune was always very much intended to have this orchestration, but I wanted to test the waters with its structure, as I do with everything I write. Before I notate things onto the score (which the Lore By Night ost is remarkably assent of, for I played most of the instruments on the soundtrack (minus the orchestra and choir samples obviously)), I take myself to the piano and just play. I make note of anything I like and dislike, as I can attempt to bastardise such rejects at a later date. Cigarette Smoke (Reprise) was never is a 5:32sec one-take, improvised take me playing with ideas on the piano, with no editing of the sort (which is why bits of it sound out of time to the trained ear, but I like to think of it as being free). It was never supposed to be included on the album. It uses the same harmonies as the original, but with a slight change to Em7 here in the chorus to G6 in the main version. I mentioned earlier I had two thought processes. The second is fare more personal struggle with myself. Without going into specifics, I was in an emotionally and mentally dark place when the piece was fully conceived, and I feel that comes across with the spicy jazz chords and the aggressive bridge section in the main version of the cue. I wouldn't be able to recreate this piece again, not with the same level of energy and passion I used to create it. Even though the mix is questionable and the elitist within me hates myself for publishing it to the world, I much prefer this more raw rendition, in addition to the out of time piano reprise. This is why this one the personal pieces I have composed to date.
  4. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from a videogame that I don’t think gets enough love. The game is Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, and the cue is ‘Modern Day Christof’s Theme’ and it is either composed by Kevin Manthei, Chris Collins, Greg Forsberg or Rob Ross (I have found various sources disagreeing with each other constantly, including the game’s credits). Most people who have taken an interest in reading this blog post are likely to be a little confused. The only Vampire: The Masquerade game you are probably aware of is Bloodlines, and its soon-to-be-released sequel. That cult classic was not the first attempt someone made at turning the popular tabletop roleplaying game into a videogame. That credit goes to Redemption, which is actually the first videogame adapted from a game found within the World of Darkness, the universe that Vampire: The Masquerade exists, along with Werewolf: The Apocolypse and Wraith: The Oblivion. But I digress. In this game, you play as the noble French crusader Christof Romuald, a once-proud, religious church knight who is embraced by a vampire of clan (essentially the breed) Brujah, pulled into the politics and squabbling of the Kindred, the in-game word for vampires (they also use Cainite, FYI). Whilst coming to terms with his new condition, questioning his understanding on life and faith allying himself with other Cainites, his anchor to humanity the nun Anezka, a human with a pure soul who loves him even after his transformation, is kidnapped by members of clan Tzimisce (pronounced Zi-me-zee) for plot-related reasons. Christof then makes it his goal in unlife to save her and thrawt the plans of the Tzimisce. Whilst not being a perfect game by any means, one of the things that makes this game very interesting is no only its faithfulness to the lore of VtM (for the most part), but its change in settings. The game occurs in two time periods: 12th century Prague and Vienna, and late-20th century London and New York City, each one having fantastic attention to detail in the voice acting and change in music (for a game released in 2000 on PC may I add). The Dark Ages setting has great orchestral work and great period music in the almost pointless explorable pubs, whilst the Modern Nights setting has more electonic sounds and gritty phat beats (there is even a rap when you explore certain parts of New York). The exception to this is with the second rendition of Christof’s theme, which returns to the orchestral style in my favourite key, B minor, with a strong dramatic melody with the French Horn, accented with toms and tubular bells and strings, before being replaced by a slightly more simplistic chromatic distorted electric guitar idea, acting as a clever transition between the Dark Ages sound, to the grunge sound of 2000, which has since become the Vampire: The Masquerade sound. Whilst I say this is the second rendition (as the title would imply), that cue plays during the game’s opening cinematic and doesn’t really feel like a character theme to me. This weeks cue does, reflecting the strong willpower of Christof to carry on, and the saddness of his condition. He did not ask to be embraced, he did not want to be one of the damned, a scion of the night. He has these powers, this undeniable thirst, but not wanting to become a monster, he does not want to succumb to the beast and lose control. He wants to do what’s right, which is why on so many occasions Christof tries to detach himself totally from Anezka, so he or his vampire brethren do not harm her. What I have just described is the ethos of Vampire: The Masquerade, which is why I admire it, and this game, as much as I do, for this is an element that Bloodlines doesn’t deliver as strong in my mind, simply because with that game, you create your own character, which becomes an extension of you. With Redemption, you are ‘forced’ to see the world through Christof’s eyes, to feel with his heart, and this theme captures that character perfectly, even if all the samples in that sound terrible because this is 2000, only 20yrs after MIDI was invented.
  5. As I was knee-deep in a particularly large composing gig last week (and still am, sort of), I was unable to talk about a piece of video game music that I like, which is a huge shame (for me and hopefully for you too). This week, I shall try and make up for that and talk about a cue that has two different versions within the same game, one acting as its main theme, and a shorter, instrumental version that plays during the game’s climax. This weeks #TuneTuesday is ‘Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There’, from Persona 5. It was composed by Shoji Meguro and sung by Lyn. I've discussed the Persona games in great detail before, so I will just give a brief overview. Take your favourite shonen, slice-of-life anime, slap it with Pokemon with an existential crisis, and you've got yourself every Persona game. The plot of Persona 3 revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids (surprise-surprise) who hit the books by day and hit the Shadows (daemons essentially) with their powers of Persona summoning by night. These are manifestations of one's inner self, which are essentially more mature 'Pokemon' based on real-life mythic deities. Persona 5 is the latest main entry to the series, with the enhanced version, ‘Persona 5: Royal’ expected to release later this year. Like so many, Persona 5 was my introduction to the franchise and was rather hesitant playing a game where I would have to micromanage animu friends and save the world from corrupt adults. 80hrs later, turns out that shit is loads of fun! I knew I was going to enjoy this game the very moment the opening titles rolled with all that pop art inspired artwork and the first thing you hear is the main theme, titled ‘Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There’. This track, as well as most of its soundtrack, is effectively Acid Jazz. Given that this may well be the most accessible Persona game to date, this musical direction is incredibly bold and brave, as Acid Jazz is not always the easiest form of Jazz to easy to listen to. A form of Jazz that is easier to listen to is Swing, An example of a game that is Swing-based is ‘Cuphead’, (composed by Kristofer Maddigan) which got a great deal of praise and yet. Anyway, back to Persona 5! To further my point about it being an Acid Jazz soundtrack and as to why it was a brave stylistic choice, I shall dump some music theory on you to soak up. The opening track, ‘Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There’ has a clear G Dorian sound (The use of the C chord gives this away as opposed to C minor). The intro then immediately going to G major for the verse (who does that?!). I believe the chord progression here is GM7, Gm7, GM13(?) and GmM7. This repeats before the brilliant use of a D half-diminished chord on the words ‘it’s useless’ which is fantastic word-painting I think. It’s not quite the four-chord progression that we all loathe and love of modern pop songs is it? The point I am attempting to make here is that these folks at ATLUS their in-house composer, Shoji Meguro and the rest of his team, had a very clear vision of the world and sound they wanted. You do not compose an Acid Jazz soundtrack by happenstance, or for the shits and giggles. For a track as polished and deliberate as this, I knew the game was going to be great as they clearly cared for the music, so they must care for the game just as deeply and therefore, would be a fantastic overall project.
  6. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of the most emotional and breathtaking games I’ve played in the last two years, one that has an equally fantastic score. The cue is Karasu from GRIS, composed by Berlinist ‘GRIS’ has you control the silent eponymous protagonist, who wakes up in the palm of a crumbling statue of a woman. She attempts to sing but quickly becomes choked up by something, unable to finish her heartfelt song. The statue’s hands crumble, dropping her to the colourless earth below, all of which is presented with this gorgeous watercolour painting styled animation, very fluid and lush. Already the game has told you what it considers to be important in addition to it’s narrative and themes. Death and mourning of a loved one are the main topics, both being told by communicating not a single word, but through its art and it’s music. There are no enemies to fight, no quests to conquer, just you facing a tale of depression, death and possibly suicide. Why suicide? To discuss greatly about that would enter spoiler territory, but I will explore death in GRIS, but discussing today’s cue. Throughout the course of the game, you are being stalked by a flock of black birds, that occasionally destroy paths for you, forcing you to look for alternative routes for progress. At some point, these birds form to create a much larger blackbird that will begin to chase you through one section of the game, shrieking and sending you gusts of wind to disrupt your progress., I am dubbing this birds name as Karasu, which is a reference to the Karasu-Tengu, a goblin, bird, man deity in Japanese culture. The Japanese word Karasu means raven, crow or simply blackbird. Ravens and crows have been used as indicators of death in media, partly due to the many ravens that make their home at The Tower of London, which was a grandiose execution palace. The cue, like the rest of the score is incredibly moving with just the right level of intimidation to make the player worry about what this bird can do to you, with the short, stabbing string pattern, alternating between the chords E minor (the tonic/home key), A minor and C major, not necessarily in that order. ‘GRIS’ is one of many artistic experimental games that takes inspiration from Thegamecompany’s ‘Journey’, which is evident when comparing the design of Gris and the wanderer from ‘Journey’, the two games’ desert areas and the fact that Austin Wintory, the composer for ‘Journey’, is included in the game’s credits’ ‘Special Thanks’ section. As such, some players may also see the ‘subtle’ connections and subconsciously expecting a ‘Journey’ clone as they are playing. I should know, as I stupidly felt the same as I played. I also feel that many players will have just interpreted ‘GRIS’ as a pretentious tale of a sad girl who wants to be less sad but becomes sadder, with no real sense of resolution, if you allow me to be crass for just a moment. It is very clear through the imagery that the game is conveying many a metaphor for enduring depression, and many will just leave it at that. I enjoyed my first playthrough of ‘GRIS’, but I was left feeling a bit hollow, and not in a particularly good way, partly because of audio stuttering at the last cinematic, and partly because I felt it lacked the substance filled punch that I initially felt Nomada Studios was aiming for. It was only after I began thinking about why I felt hollow that I realised how successful ‘GRIS’ was in conveying its messages. Or at the very least, how I have interpreted the game’s themes. It was upon further reflection that I began to fully appreciate ‘GRIS’. ‘GRIS’ is a beautifully depressing experience, one that combines entertaining puzzles into an ethereal platformer. It presents a masterclass in evocative romanticism of depression and death, one that could only work in a videogame. Hopefully, you can come to your own insightful conclusions about ‘GRIS’ and be moved as just as I was.
  7. This weeks #TuneTuesday just so happens to be one of my favourite boss fight cues, in addition to being one of my favourite bosses in gaming. It is Ludwig, The Holy Blade from Bloodborne, composed by Nobuyoshi Suzuki. Bloodborne is developed by FromSoftware, who are the same people who bought you The Dark Souls Trilogy, so you know that this game is tough as hell and has next to no plot with all the lore told through item descriptions, the environment and the occasional NPC who speaks in riddle. The plot for Bloodborne is incredibly simple on the surface. You are a hunter who must hunt the beasts that are slowly taking over the people of Yharnam, the city/land in which the game is set. As the story marches on, dragging you through the mud and blood (which there is a lot of) you will find that there is a lot more going on than people being turned into monsters for you to be killed. Without too many spoilers, the world in which Bloodborne is incredibly Lovecraftian (the term being derived from everyone’s favourite racist author, H.P. Lovecraft) as you find many of these beastly monsters and creatures to have Cthulhu-esque designs, each with a strange connection to things that live in the stars that may well have been the study of many a scholar within the Bloodborne world. That is where today’s cue comes in. Ludwig, a character who is mentioned every-so-often in the main game by NPCs and item descriptions, is a boss in the one DLC, The Old Hunters. He’s actually the first boss and one of the most unforgiving bosses in the whole game. He is also one of the most enjoyable (for me anyway) in the whole game. As you can tell by the thumbnail of the video and the header, Ludwig has become a beast, one that is best described as a monster/zombie horse lined with teeth and eyes. Like his visage, his theme is incredibly discordant, almost as if the entire orchestra is dying a slow and bloody painful death, led by a solo cello and almost screaming choir. I would usually hate something like this, but to analyse the harmonies and the deceptive rhythm (it makes the casual listener think it is in ¾ when it really is in 4/4) is just fascinating to analyse Bloodborne was the first FromSoftware game the introduced bosses with multiple phases, meaning that once its health has dropped to a certain amount, the boss will unleash a new set of attacks. In the case of Ludwig, his second phase is separated by a cutscene filled with lore, which allows him to transform into a more majestic, and laughably easier, knight form (in the video, this is about the 2min mark). The cue still playing, transitioning into a more sinisterly noble theme, with the brass more prominent, far more frantic with more syncopation, now in the key of E minor, a tone higher (previously D minor) than before. It acts as a final send-off for the character, who is rather significant in Bloodborne’s lore, a brave hunter fallen from grace. Even if you don’t bother reading any of the lore in the game, or ignore all of the NPCs, it would be hard for you not to feel some remorse slaying this mutated stallion, as he is one of the few bosses that talks to you during a fight, and the only one afterwards, where he has realised the monster that he has become and begs for you put him down. As much as I enjoy the narrative and lore of Bloodborne, I am a huge fan of its incredible soundtrack, consisting of 6 fantastic composers, each one adding something amazing to this game. This cue is no exception, as we have intense gothic horror one moment before doing a complete 180 for an almost heroic brass theme, whilst retaining that distinct Bloodborne take on Lovecraftian horror.
  8. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite games, one that I only discovered last year. It is the Chinatown Theme from Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, composed by Rik Schaffer. I have talked about VtMB before, in addition to the tabletop RPG, it comes from. So much so, I made a conscious effort not to mention it at all, because I know I can (and have) gone into large massive tangents about its expansive lore and metaplot that barely anyone who follows me on social media is interested in. That being said, one has to provide some context for the process of this post. Set in modern-day/night LA, you are some random schmuck who gets laid in your apartment by a vampire, who can be one of 7 different clans/breed of vampire, depending on the sort you wish to play as. Members of the Camarilla, which is sort of the vampire government, comes in, stakes you both (resulting in paralysis, not death in VtM lore) and take you both to court. The Prince, the ruler of LA’s Santa Monica, decides to have your sire killed, before sending you on a suicide mission to prove yourself in Kindred (the VtM word for vampire, along with Cainite) society. The game has you traverse between 4 uniquely hub worlds, Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood, and of course, Chinatown, which is one of my favourite hub worlds and cues in the game. Chinatown is the last hub world you can explore too, which is both the most disappointing and interesting. VtMB went through what many call ‘a development cycle from hell’ and was released unfinished, due to legal reasons with the publisher. This is evident in many of the games’ glitches bugs and exploits, and a lot of the quests in the game’s latter half. Chinatown as a hub world feels considerably rushed when compared to the other three. Whilst this is interesting in of itself, the context of its existence and the current politics is especially interesting to me. The developers of the game, the now-defunct Troika Games, did a fantastic job at explaining and including the lore found within White Wolf Publishing (the original creators and publishers of the VtM tabletop RPG) World of Darkness universe. By the time you reach Chinatown, you should have a good enough grasp about how vampires in this game works, how they feed, behave, and the politics that runs rampant throughout their lives. The game introduces a curveball at Chinatown with the inclusion of the Kuei-Jin, which are described as ‘Kindred of The East’, vampires from China. You speak to one, to find there is about more to them that, as they do not feed on blood, but the soul. They don’t turn to ash in sunlight but just rot, which is certainly a unique twist on vampre legend of old. I go into detail about the game’s setting because the music does a fantastic job at creating the musical impression that you are in a strange place. The other three hubs share a similar sound, which is a Westernised chilled rock or/and lounge jazz sound. Chintatown Theme is not strictly Asian in its sound, but it is not the same sound as the other three. This F minor vamp is mysteriously ominous. You were protected by the Camarilla and the Anarch in the other three hubs. The Kuei-Jin has nothing to do with the rest of vampire society, and you have to be your best behaviour, as the Kuei-Jin and Kindred do not get on. At all.
  9. The first #TuneTuesday of the year/decade is from #Pokemon X&Y. The cue is 'The Pokemon League', composed by Shota Kageyama. We all know Pokemon, right? You are 11-year-old trainer, kicked out of your home to collect all the Pokemon, fill up your Pokedex, defeat the 8 Gym Leaders, take on the Elite Four and defeat the Champion, replacing them. Alongside all of this, there is some narrative where you to stop a group of nasties who steal Pokemon and cause mischief. Since Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, the antagonistic organisation has wanted to use the power of an ancient Legendary Pokemon to take over the world. This isn't the case with Pokemon X&Y, for Team Flare wish to use the power of the main legendary Pokemon (which varies depending on which game you play) to destroy the world, because they believe that there is too much violence in the world and just want to end it old with a 1000-year-old super cannon. Strange flex I know, but one can't but sympathise with Team Flare's leader, Lysandre a little bit. X&Y is also interesting because it introduces a peculiar ancient pride in its lore, that seems to extend beyond its reach of the Kalos region, the continent where the games are set, which is reflected in its narrative, world design and the music. And there isn't a finer example of that with the Pokemon League cue, with the staccato strings playing a perfect fourth apart, which is both ominous and regal sounding, complimented by sustain trombones and horns. It is certainly a sound one would not immediately associate with Pokemon. It works perfectly in game, as you leave the Victory Road, ascend the stairs leading you to the League itself, which is best described as a huge palace that had a baby with a cathedral. It is an incredible site to behold, and it is such a shame that GAME FREAK never made a Pokemon Z, that would have been an extension of X&Y. They were far more keen with Sun & Moon, which I did not enjoy so much.
  10. This weeks winter edition of #TuneTuesday tune does not have the word 'snow' in its title. It is Ice Mountain Zone Act 1 from Sonic Advance on the GBA, composed by Tatsuyuki Maeda & Yutaka Minobe. Everyone knows Sonic the Hedgehog and the concept of all of the games. You 'gotta go fast' to defeat Dr Robotnik/Eggman from taking over the world with his evil robot minions, usually with the aid of at least one of the Chaos Emeralds, which I've never really fully understood what they do other than make Sonic and other characters go Super Saiyan/hedgehog. Levels whiz past in a dizzying blur as run, jump and spin your way through levels and enemies. The music of the games usually reflect this adrenaline rush, but this cue (and the slightly varied Ice Mountain Zone Act 2) is somewhat laid back, as more delicate platforming is involved. That said, there is some brilliant cross-rhythms and almost jarring time syncopations, allows players to continue to fill excited and pumped as they are moving forward in the stage. The plinky percussion is the main instrument that suggests we are entering a winter wonderland, one that is covered with ice or snow. It was also the first level in the game to have an underwater segment, which does slow the player right down because of science. I could be wrong, for it was almost 20 years ago since I first played that game. Fuck, I feel really old now...
  11. This weeks #TuneTuesday is a guilty pleasure of mine within gaming music. It's Pepsi Man, composed by James Shimoji, performed by his band 'James & The Gang'. This will require some explaining, as I'm sure many of you have no idea what's going on. Having survived the great Game Crash during the mid-late 80s (yes, this was a thing), video game popularity skyrocketed, thanks to a little Japanese company known as Nintendo. Up until then, they made playing cards. They would change the world of gaming. This of course inspired all sorts of people in the 90s who played Nintendo's games during the 80s. Many non-game companies saw the opportunity to promote their goods to children through video games such as horrible Yo!Noid (Dominos Pizza) Cool Spot (Sprite) and of course, Pepsi Man, who was only ever marketed in Japan, as was the game...despite being in English. It didn't sell well. The game itself is really weird. It is in the style of Temple Run, where Pepsi Man must run to people who need help, not to be rescued from a burning building or a plane crash (which are actual scenarios), but to give them a drink of teeth-rotting Pepsi. If you can get past the over the top advertising, strange logic and Mike Butters watching you (it makes sense (almost) in the game), it is not a terrible game by any means. It's not great, but not terrible. What I especially like about the song is how all the instruments are live. This game came out in 1999 on the PS1 and many at the soundtracks relied heavily on MIDI. Not our Lord and Saviour Pepsi Man! He gets his own band! Maybe someday when I put together my own game music concert/show, I'll include Pepsi Man. I mean, how many surf-rock game cues can you think of? It will certainly spice things up a bit...
  12. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite JRPGs. It is 'The Way of The Embodied Dragon' from Tales of Berseria, composed by Motoi Sakuraba Tales of Berseria is the most recent entry of the Tales and acts as a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, some 1000 years prior. The Tales games take the usual anime adventure, happy-clappy setting of a group of varied and talented friends off to vanquish some great evil. Berseria is not so jolly. Velvet Crowe and her younger brother Laphicet are saved by her brother-in-law Artorius when a Scarlet Night occured, causing daemons to attack their village. Seven years later, Velvet takes care of her sickly brother with Artorius. The Scarlet Night returns, with the entire village succumbing to the Daemonblight: when Velvet finds Artorius, sacrificing her brother as part of a ritual, known as the "Advent". Artorius attempts to use her for the Advent as well, but she fights back and the Daemonblight possesses her arm, mutating it and turning her into a Daemon called a "Therion", with the ability to absorb Daemons. In a rage, she slaughters the nearby Daemons before passing out. She awakes in a prison for Daemons on the island Titania, swearing to kill Artorius and avenge her brother's murder. Velvet does encounter others who wish to stop Artorious and his newly founded Church, but for different reasons. Every character in the party is incredibly selfish, acting in their own accord, using the others for their own benefit.It is not until the very end of the game's narrative that they acquaintances. It is where this cue sneaks in. This cue plays during the final area, where Velvet and co. are off for that final showdown with Artorious, ending his tyrannical rule. I can't reveal why the cue is named as such without spoilers, but as the dragon and the dungeon itself, it is quite the epic cue. The cue begins in G minor, but doesn't really stay there for very long as it leaps and stabs its way into other keys totally detached from the starting key. The constantly shifting harmony creates a lot of tension, which is added to the excitement the player climbing higher and higher through this last dungeon to fight the final boss after a good 60hrs of compelling narrative and frantic fights. I don't usually make comments about samples, but I feel that it's required here to note that whilst I would have loved have heard more live instruments in this cue (and the rest of the soundtrack), there is a certain 'punch' that has been achieved that I don't think one could have replicated with a live string section and drums. I could be wrong in that assumption, but if there are any live performances of it out there, chuck it my way and prove me wrong!
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