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  1. As we're now in December, I am going to cover tunes that either Christmasy, Snowy or Icy in nature for this months #TuneTuesday tunes. To kick things off, here is the #Persona3 FES version of Snow Queen, composed by Idehito Aoki & Kenichi Tsuchiya, arranged by Shoji Meguro. This is the version that most Persona fans would be immediately aware of. The original comes from the original Persona, which I will include here also, for comparison's sake, which definitely has a more snowy flavour. 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 3 had an extended version (like the Pokemon games) do call Persona 3 FES, which didn't add in a whole, besides previously Japan-only DLC 'The Answer', an epilogue to the original story and additional music for the dungeon areas, known as Tartarus, a seemingly neverending tower that reaches the heavens by the end of the game. The remix of The Snow Queen was one of those included tunes, which is in A minor, not in the original's C minor and is an emotional dance track and not the whispery orchestral version found in the original Persona game. It's inclusion in FES is a very good one, as it works well as you make your ascent in Tartarus, especially when you reach the final few floors at the game's climax. Another altered version is also on 'Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight', which just adds to the emotional drive of the tune. The Snow Queen is a famous boss in the Persona universe and some gaming circles for two reasons. 1) She is a gruesomely difficult boss, as is her arc in the original game. It is not part of the main story, and players can only do that route of the main story route as if The Snow Queen was DLC or a story in an alternate universe. The reality is that both The Snow Queen and the main route happen at the same time, but with different members of the party, depending on one which ones you choose to explore with or what you decide at a certain point in the story. 2) The Snow Queen questline is not found in any version of the original Persona, outside of Japan and no one seems to know why (inform me if I am wrong about this!). I am presuming it is because of it being too difficult for western audiences, but I am not certain. Both versions of the cue have become iconic within the Persona fanbase, for good reason. They are both incredibly moving, delivering on the intended emotions and setting of each perspective game.
  2. This weeks second wintery TuneTuesday comes from the second Final Fantasy XV DLC, Episode Prompto. The cue is 'Lost in the Snow' by Yoshitaka Suzuki. The latest instalment of the beloved Final Fantasy franchise takes place on the fictional world of Eos. Aside from the capital of Lucis, all the world is dominated by the empire of Niflheim, who seek control of the magical Crystal protected by Lucis' royal family. On the eve of peace negotiations, Niflheim attacks the capital and steals the Crystal. Noctis Lucis Caelum, heir to the Lucian throne, goes on a quest to rescue the Crystal and defeat Niflheim in addition of trying to mary Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, as per the previous peace treaty. He later learns his full role as the "True King", destined to use the Crystal's powers to save Eos from eternal darkness. In short, it is all a typical Final Fantasy/hero's journey setup, be it with a unique game engine that took some 12 years to fully realise. Accompanying Noctis are his four childhood friends/servants. Ignis, the brains and cook with his many Quick Recipehs (that is a legitimate canon spelling by the way), Gladiolus, the throbbing beefcake, aka The King's Shield, and Prompto, who is forever optimistically snapping up photos and selfies of your adventures together. Throughout the game, something happens to the 3 party members that is only fully explained in their respective DLC. How did Ignis <<INSERT SPOILER>>? How did Prompto <<INSERT SPOILER>>? Why does Gladio have two <<INSERT SPOILER>> now? As previously mentioned, today's cue comes from Prompto's DLC. During <<INSERT SPOILER>> Prompto ends up in Gralea, the capital of the Empire of Niflheim in FFXV. It was once a hot desert landscape but due to half-explained lore reasons, is now covered in snow and ice. Fans of FF can probably guess why. In any case, the soundtrack for this DLC is incredibly varied, much like the rest of the game and other DLC's in FFXV. Episode Prompto has the 'standard' orchestral sound (mostly lush strings & solo cello in Episode Prompto) but also have an array of EDM cues that just punch you in the face as you popping caps in many a bad guy ass. 'Lost in The Snow' is one of two world exploration cues, one that plays when you navigate the modestly-sized tundra in a stolen snowmobile, heading for the next objective, or fighting monsters. One of the things I love about this cue is how it builds, starting with that gorgeous Cm11 chord spread across the piano and strings, which immediately creates a very cold texture before the strings take a staccato accompaniment for the simple piano melody. The instruments build and become more exciting and interesting to listen to. When the piece reaches its climax, the string orchestra perform EDM-inspired syncopated rhythms as well, despite containing only orchestral instruments (minus the occasional sneaky synth bass line), and syncopation always creates some level of excitement, with the occasional French Horn response to the piano and string melody. All this creates this wonderful sense of adventure and exploration, pushing you to explore as much as the map as possible, find it's secrets and just enjoy getting Lost in the Snow.
  3. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from the recent(ish) remake of one of my favourite games. It is the Acid Jazz remix of YO from Catherine Fullbody, composed by Shoji Meguro, with rap and sung melody by L-VOKAL & Meitsuki respectively. For a quick summary, you play as the hopeless Vincent Brookes, who is pressured into marriage by his long-time girlfriend, Katherine, who is portrayed as strong, stern and remarkably cold at times. Vincent, after one drink too many at The Stray Sheep, he finds himself momentarily intoxicated by alcohol and Catherine, who is best described as the opposite of Katherine; young(er), childish, busty and remarkably blonde, resulting Vincent taking her back home with him. Thus begins a tragically hilarious love triangle, as the game presents to you the idea of you being able to choose your waifu, Catherine, or Katherine as you respond to text messages from both of them at night as you wander around the bar, talking to the other punters (or patrons, to you Yanks out there) and choosing how to respond to them as well, which affects a morality meter unlike any other. I am usually opposed to such methods in games, as you either have to be a cunt or saint to reap the maximum benefits. But without saying too much and ruining the ending, this plays slightly differently in Catherine. And to further complicate Vincent's love life (and the number of waifus to choose from), Fullbody adds another girl, Qatherine, (or, Rin) who Vincent runs into (literally), saving her from some stalker, giving her a place to sleep, and a job at The Stray Sheep, playing the piano. What I have just described is one portion of the narrative, which is the beloved social aspect of many of ATLUS' games. The game proper is a weirdly difficult puzzle game, where Vincent and the souls of other indecisive men (who all appear as sheep to each other) must climb various towers, by pushing blocks about, forming their own climbable paths. On a related note, Catherine (and Fullbody) doesn't shy away from its mature content. That's not to say there is anything pornographic, but do prepare something to say if a member of your family walks to find a naked Catherine straddling Vincent. As for the tune itself, it is a remix of the original theme, titled YO. Unlike that one, it is not a slightly expanded Acid Jazz remix a semitone lower (Bm-Bbm), with a new sung verse, sexy sax, seductive flute and a proper phat bass line. I won't lie, but this is an incredibly sexy arrangement, one that has matured nicely, like an old wine. It immediately lets you know that you are going on a ride like no other. What I think is most odd is the fact it is a rap song in a romantic horror Japanese game. It's very interesting, to say the least, but I think a lot of ATLUS' choices for Catherine could be described as such.
  4. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from a recent (at the time of typing) film soundtrack. It is Bathroom Dance from 'Joker' by Hildur Guðnadóttir. Given that the film is fairly new (at the time of typing), I won't say too much about the overall plot of the film, other than that this film is an interesting take on the origin story of Batman's nemesis, The Joker, who is presented in a far more sympathetic light than pretty much every interpretation of The Clown Prince of Crime. Whilst some may not like this take on the Joker, I love sympathetic villains, especially when it comes to the Joker because you are almost rooting for him to cause chaos, even though you shouldn't. We are not born monsters, but it is our environments that descend us into madness... As such, there are many points in the film where Arthur Fleck could become the mastermind known as The Joker. His metamorphosis is hinted constantly with this cello idea in C sharp minor, rocking back and forth between the C sharp and the E, perhaps representing the seesaw motion of Joker's sanity. These parts of the score are very different from the usual, brooding textual devices and 60s records the rest of the film is filled with. It is held off, for a very long time, for obvious plot and tension reasons. Then there is a moment towards the end of the film, where this idea is fleshed out in full, with more cello overdubs and female vocals. This is where Arthur finally becomes The Joker, dancing to himself in a public bathroom, hence the cue name. I am reminded of a Nietzsche quote at this point in the film. "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” It is incredibly sad to listen to for sure, but more than anything, there is a sense of catharsis as Arthur breaks free, realising that he no longer has to pretend to be like everyone else, not hiding the fact that he takes pleasure in the murder and violence around him, whether he caused it or not. From the point of the audience, he has finally snapped, no longer wants people to abuse and bully him. In any case, he is free from the shackles of his former self. The Joker is born.
  5. This weeks #TuneTuesday is long overdue, as I deem it to be one of the most influential pieces of game music and I should have talked about it ages ago. It is One-Winged Angel, from Final Fantasy VII, composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. To give a VERY brief overview of the plot, for those who have not played this 1997 gem for whatever reason, the story follows Cloud Strife, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist organization to stop a world-controlling corporation from using the planet's life essence as an energy source. Events send Cloud and his allies in pursuit of Sephiroth, a superhuman intent on destroying their planet. During the journey, Cloud builds close friendships with his party members, including Aerith Gainsborough, who holds the secret to saving their world. FFVII introduced quite a few firsts for the series. It was the first in the series to use full-motion video and 3D computer graphics, which featured 3D character models superimposed over 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. Although the gameplay systems remained mostly unchanged from previous entries, it introduced more widespread science fiction elements and a more realistic presentation. The game had a staff of over 100, with a combined development and marketing budget of around $80 million, which was one of the largest budgets for a game at the time. FFVII is arguably one of the most influential and important games in the industry, as many open-world and (J)RPGs can be take right back to this game as its source. The game also has some of the most famous plot twists and narrative in gaming, which I'm certain most gamers are aware of, even if they haven't played FFVII. 'But what about this EPIC theme?' I hear you ask. Don't worry, I'm getting onto that! Like the plot twists, I am certain that every gamer knows that this is the theme during the final fight with Sepiroth, in his final form and it is very different to everything else in the soundtrack and pretty much every piece of gaming music up until that point. Uematsu has often stated that this piece of music takes inspiration from Igor Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring', which is a famous atonal ballet that caused riots in the streets of Paris upon it's premiere. Like the 'Rite of Spring', 'One-Winged Angel' presented a new way of composing video game music, combining modern classical music motifs (or chopped-up fragments, as he calls it) with rock and roll music from the late 60s to early 70s to make an orchestral track with a "destructive impact", to use his words. It also used a live choir, something that hadn't been done in any game (to my knowledge) up until that point. Imagine the look on SQUARE's face when Uematsu presented that idea, knowing how limited the PlayStation's hardware was! The PlayStation had 24 audio channels. Eight were reserved for sound effects, leaving sixteen available for the music. To be terribly crude for a moment, many game soundtracks before (and a little bit afterwards) could be described as 'plinky-tinky' noises. Game music had a very unique sound, with the 90s using the most basic of MIDI samples to produce sounds that sort-of resemble instruments, or create weird new ones with synthesisers. To an extent, a lot of music in FFVII falls under this category. But what makes a lot of this soundtrack different in its sound was the process that it was written. Uematsu's approach to composing the game's music was to treat it like a film score and write music that reflected the mood of the scenes, rather than trying to make strong melodies as that approach would come across too strong when placed alongside the game's new 3D visuals. It is this sort of mindset that I think all composers in media should aspire for. Not to get caught up in all of the Fmod or Wwise tools and toys to make the music as interactive as possible, as I think that just alienates players and flexes your ego. Nor should you get caught up in maximising templates and buying every sample library Spitfire, NI or any other company spits out. The music in any piece of media, be it game, film or TV should enhance, suggest and support whatever emotion is being portrayed in the visuals and narrative, not to get in its way.
  6. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from, 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street'. The song is 'My Friends', composed by the incredible Stephen Sondheim. This musical is based on the play of the same name by Christoper Bond, who depicted Sweeney Todd, not as a raving throat-slitting lunatic like the Sweeney Todd of ye olde British myth, but a killer with a purpose. Similarly, Mrs Lovett, a woman who puts people into meat pies. As morbid a topic for a musical you think it is, very few musicals have overly positive themes. Les Miserable has The French Revolution, Hairspray has racism and segregation, to use two examples. This song appears towards the beginning of Act 1. Sweeney Todd has discovered through Mrs Lovett what happened to his wife and daughter, the latter in the 'care' of a Judge Turpin, who raped Todd's wife, forcing her to commit suicide. Todd has a new mission, which is to avenge his supposed dead wife and reclaim his daughter, Johanna. Mrs Lovett suggests Todd becomes a barber once more, to lore the Judge to him. She returns him his razors, which is when this almost hypnotic Ab sus chord plays on sustained strings and Todd sings today's song to his razor. Todd is almost in a trance as he sings to them. The opening lyrics are filled with sibilances (S sounds). 'These are my friends. See how they glisten, see this one shine, how he smiles, in the lights.', giving a beautiful dream-like quality to the song. He then opens up in both volume and emotion with the following line, 'My friends'. The song progresses, and there is a key change to A major, the semitone higher and Mrs Lovett begins to sing, making the song a duet. What makes this song a different sort of duet is that they don't sing together. Todd is still singing to his razors, whilst Mrs Lovett is singing at Todd, hinting her true feelings to him, but he is obsessed with his own motives and razors that will 'soon drip rubies'. And if that is not enough death for you, the melody constantly references the 'Dies Irae', as does the rest of the musical. I'd look into it if I were you, as it has been referenced as a sign of death in film. My brother loves every Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (poor thing) and my mother has a fantastic taste in older musicals (her favourites are 42nd Street and Fiddler on The Roof), so for years I felt I couldn't rightfully claim one as my own. Daft as that may sound, but we all have our fav bands, musicians that are different from what our friends and family listen to, even if we all share the same music tastes. That changed when I began my A levels and we had to study 3 musicals, which were 'Oliver!', 'Oklahoma!' (another fav of mine) and 'Sweeney Todd' (I still own my various notes and the piano score of 'Sweeney Todd'. Best £70 I've spent!). Whilst my class hated the musical lessons, I naturally loved them and was very drawn to the almost operatic Sweeney Todd, which I saw in the summer of 2012, with Micheal Ball and Imelda Staunton as Sweeney Todd & Mrs Lovett respectively and I thought that was fantastic. It may come to no surprise to you that 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' is my favourite musical. It is morbidly dark and witty in places, with some of the best music to ever hit the West End (and Broadway). If you ever get the chance to see it on stage, you must go! Failing that, the Tim Burton film adaption starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter is a very good film, staying very faithful to the musical.
  7. To conclude this years #Spooktober's Edition of #TuneTuesday, I will talk about the panic-inducing Taurus Demon cue from Dark Souls, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. I'm fairly certain everyone at this point is familiar with how difficult the Soulsborne series is, which would soon create the 'git gud' mentality from many players, but you may not be aware of the story, which I will briefly go over for you, for context sake. You are undead, and you must go and link this great fire. That's it. Everything else remotely narrative is built upon various bits of lore that you can choose to read on items and weapons you find, and the occasional NPC who talks at you. But one does not play the From Software games for stories, they play them because they are masochists who like smacking their head against a brick wall 100s of times to defeat the franchise's gruelling boss fights. It is also during said fights you will hear music, as the games are pretty mute otherwise (with a couple of areas having some music, and Sekiro having music practically everywhere). First time players would have struggled with the game's first proper area, Undead Burg, as they learn that anything can easily kill you, enemies often ambush you and not to take on the Black Knight, lest you get completely destroyed. You finally ascend the inner works of a castle, pass through a fog gate, and wander around the very narrow Crenellations, which can be easy to fall off of, should you not pay attention to the environment. The next thing you know, a large, sheep/bull demon with a huge axe leaps off of the opposite tower and begins to charge at you. This is where today's cue enters. What I think many fans of Dark Souls and video game soundtracks overlook is the size of its orchestra. Most games that have symphonic sounding soundtracks have full-phat orchestras with lush reverbs and may have screaming full-phat choirs. I don't need to go into more details about that I'm sure. Dark Souls has a much smaller ensemble, most likely a chamber orchestra, recorded in a much smaller recording space. The choir seems to be much smaller as well. Because it sounds smaller, does not mean it has any less punch. In fact, I would say that it was more because of this orchestration/compositional decision, which adds to the fear of whatever hideous boss monster, demon or dragon is tearing your arms and pancreas apart, the vast majority of these cues being atonal messes. If the orchestra was the more typical 80-100 piece a lot of the unique energy the cues had would be lost. There are very few soundtracks to that of the original Dark Souls, where the soundtrack is just boss cues. Some of them are rather moving and emotional, whilst others, like Tauras Demon, induce PTSD-esque flashbacks. And of course, there are very few games as frighteningly frustrating as Dark Souls.
  8. Carrying on with the paints-shitting terrifying music, this weeks Spooktober #TuneTuesday is Peak Level from 'Chaos;Child', composed by Takeshi Abo. I did cover this game in a recent(ish) #TuneTuesday thread, but to give a brief summary, Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of The New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so death is commonplace within the narrative. Various members of the cast are thrown into mortal danger constantly. This is when today's cue enters. When 'Peak Level' is heard in the game, it is usually in direct conjunction with murders related to the Return of The New Generation Madness. In other words, it is played when someone is being murdered, usually horrifically and slowly. Chaos;Child doesn't fuck about either, as it does not shy away from any of the horrific imagery of someone chopping up their own arm and eating their own fingers, to use the very first thing you see in the game. And being a visual novel, the sound design and descriptions is just so much more immersive than your typical game, for a lot of the work is done by you. These are genuinely terrifying moments to sit through. In the early sections of the game, it is other people who are killed when this cue plays, but when the cue plays when you and/or your school buddies are around, that is when the fear goes from 0-to-10 really fucking fast as you are forced to watch your near defenceless protagonist and friends flee from whatever is attempting to tear them apart (literally in one case!). On its own, without any context, 'Peak Level' sounds like a broken Trance/Dubstep with some weird tribal vocals going on. But when 'Peak Level' is played in-game, it makes Chaos;Child one of the most frightening narratives to experience. There are 2 instances where this cue is it's most frightening, which is the end of Chapter 6 and 8. I won't tell you why so you'll have to experience Chaos;Child to find out.
  9. Week 3 of the #Spooktober takeover of #TuneTuesday has us look at a more intense #horror game cue, one that I think is terrifying, both in and out of its associated game. The cue is 'Suitor Attacks' from Justine, the DLC from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, composed by Mikko Tarmia. You play as Daniel, a young man from London who has awoken in the dark and empty halls of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle with little to no memory about himself or his past. All he can remember is his name, that he lives in Mayfair and that a 'Shadow' is hunting him. It does not take him long to find a letter from his past self, telling him that he has deliberately erased his own memory. But before doing this, he instructed his future self (ie, you) to kill Alexander, the castle's baron (it's set in 1839). Why he didn't kill Alexander before wiping his memory is beyond me... Gaping plot flaw aside, it is considered to be one of the greatest horror games to have spawned from the mouths of hell, and I am in that mindset. The Dark Descent takes many influences from Lovecraftian horror, using the famous quote “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” to it's fullest. I discussed in a previous #TuneTuesday thread (almost a year ago) about the impeccable sound design and score, both of which scares you more than the monsters themselves. You cannot fight the monsters, so your only option is to hide. They are sensitive to the light from your lamp, so you have to hide in the dark. Problem is, Daniel is scared of the dark and can start making whimpering noises, should his Sanity drop too much. You can't really look at them drains your Sanity Meter, which is not good for Daniel. In short, you're fucked. As for today's cue, this is found in the game's only DLC, Justine. Here, the player takes control of an unnamed female character, who awakens with amnesia in a dungeon cell, accompanied a phonograph. It contains a recording by a woman named Justine, who tells you that she is the subject of a psychological test. The player character is then allowed to escape, or die trying. In some ways, it is more frightening than the base game, for reasons I will avoid for spoiler reasons. In addition to the new monsters that you can't look at, there is also permadeath, so if you die in the game, you have to start all over again! Where it excels is its ability as a laxative. You will die a lot in this DLC, especially at the DLC's penultimate puzzle, which involves you moving about in a pool of water, so your movements are slower, whilst you are being chased by one of these Suitors, who is much faster and aggressive than the ones before it. Accompanying this is this uniquely aggressive cue, which is horrible in every sense of the word. I won't begin to attempt to pull it apart in a music theory sense, because (as I'm sure you can hear) is an atonal mess of screeching strings, harrowing synth pads and thumping percussion. As I said on November 2018, I do believe everyone should experience this game, whether you have the stomach to actually play it, or watch someone else through a let's play. One could argue it is because of PewDiePie's Lets Play that Lets Plays are a thing at all. It certainly made PewDiePie an internet sensation which, in turn, made gaming more mainstream, rather than just an expensive waste of time to the general public.
  10. 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...
  11. To carry on this musical #Spooktober, this weeks #TuneTuesday is the creepy cue 'Who's There?' from Persona 4, composed by Shoji Meguro. Persona 4, like the Persona games before and after it revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids who are granted magical powers by a man with large nose to defeat this impending evil that lurks in the shadows. These powers allow them to summon a Persona (the protagonist can summon multiple), which is a manifestation of their inner-self. It is essentially Pokemon with an existential crisis. There are two things that have made Persona 4 particularly famous: 1) How hard ATLUS has milked the franchise with a variety of spin-offs, including an extended version (Persona 4: GOLDEN) 2 fighting games, surprisingly good dancing game. In addition, there are also 2 animes and manga. 2) How happy-clappy much of the game is. If you are a fan of slice-of-life anime where everyone and everything is fine and enjoy the schoolfriends having fun and solving problems in their life, you will enjoy Persona 4, without a shadow of a doubt. You'll probably enjoy GOLDEN more because there are more in-game events where the characters have even more fun with each other. Such as them going to the beach, bringing it all the more closer to its slice-of-life anime counterpart. Now what I have avoided is the plot, because it is actually incredibly dark, the severity I feel is overlooked from time-to-time with fans within the Persona community. The plot revolves around a strange case of murders, where people are being wound up dead, strung up by TV aerials, the first two being young women, one of them a teenager. Besides this, what they also had in common is that they both appeared on TV, as would the other targets on The Midnight Channel, which is only on during midnight in the rain. The protagonist and friends become an Investigation Team to solve the case by entering the TV World and saving those who appear on The Midnight Channel. It is during the more sinister moments in the game where this creepy piano motif plays. Either when an antagonist threatens the party, horrible truths are discovered. The cue is at it's strongest when it plays just before the game's climax when the party has to make decisions that not only affect the outcome of the story but whether certain characters live or die by your direct hand. You can become a heartless murderer in this game if you wish. Similarly, there is a secret(ish) ending you can achieve in GOLDEN which is just as, if not more heartless as the previous one. You can work out that one for yourself... As for the cue itself, it's barely in F#minor, which can be worked out from the haunting tremolo strings and stabbing celli (plural for cello) and basses. It works so well in distilling horror to the players in the game, especially as one that is as upbeat and as jolly as this one. You can be having fun with your friends or working on that social link when BANG! The scary music returns and someone is dead or about to die with next to no chance of saving them. In an instant, your lives are in turmoil once more. This is one of the few cases where the music of a Persona game delivers horror brilliantly.
  12. I have decided to celebrate Spooktober by choosing #TuneTuesday tunes that are either spooky or paints-shitting terrifying. To kick the scarefest off, this weeks #TuneTuesday is 'Black Fairy' from Silent Hill 2, composed by Akira Yamaoka. Set some undetermined time after the events of the original Silent Hill, you take control of Jaaaaaaaaaames Sunderland, who returns to the eponymous town after receiving a letter from his wife, Mary, to come to their 'special place'. It's a fairly normal premise, but what makes it odd is that Mary is dead and has been for 3 years. Regardless, James sets out to the monster-ridden town that is enveloped in a strange for. From this opening, the astute player will work out that James isn't ok, and neither are the few people he encounters on his journey. I'll say no more on the matter, as I will enter massive spoiler territory. That being said, this cue is played during the final boss and is a perfect culmination of the game's themes and ideas. James finds out that <<INSERT SPOILER>> and his whole world begins to crumble. The strange, almost atonal synth pad just pulsates, not really going anywhere creating this incredibly uncomfortable tension for the player. Yet somehow, there is something about it that makes you want to listen to it over and over. Like much of the game's soundtrack, 'Black Fairy' has a strange dreamlike quality, or more appropriately, one befitting an awful nightmare. I highly recommend lovers of horror games and game soundtracks to listen to experience Silent Hill 2 and it's trippy ambiences, for it is arguably one of the best horror games to exist, with one of the most unusually pleasing soundtracks.
  13. 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!
  14. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from the visual novel I have just finished playing/reading/experiencing. It is 'Visible Essence' from 'Chaos;Child' composed by Takeshi Abo Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of the New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so many of the cues are varying degrees of creepy and frightening, depending on what is going on at a certain moment in the story. With Japanese high school students as the protagonists, there are some lighter relief moments where some of the cues are more upbeat and pleasant, as well as some appropriately sad ones for certain moments. It is not a terribly interactive soundtrack, but music in media should always enhance the emotions on screen first before you throw all the clever Wwise toys at it. The cues never feel repetitive or monotonous, which is why this soundtrack is just fantastic. Then you have today's cue, which is very different from what the player is used to hearing in the game. I personally get Jean-Michel Jarre vibes from it, probably because it sounds very similar to one of the Oxygene tracks that's in G minor. Visible Essence plays towards the end of the visual novel, in association with a certain group of characters (who are nameless here for spoiler reasons) and certain climatic plot revelations that are true 'mind-blown' moments. The cue represents these people perfectly. They are frightening, extremely intelligent and have this strange brewing power that is never truly explained. That is all I'm going to say on the cue, for I fear I have said too much already. Go play Chaos;Child, for it is one of the best narrative experiences I have encountered in a game. It's sound design and voice acting is top-notch as well. I have very little to fault this game on, which is incredibly rare to find a piece of media this good.
  15. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of the Persona games, the PSP remake of Persona 1! The cue is 'School Days' by Shoji Meguro, with vocals by Yumi Kawamura, a long time vocalist for many of the songs in the Persona games. The Persona games where the player controls a Japanese high school student who has the ability to summon 'Personas', the multiple selves within them (your friends gain the ability to summon a Persona during the course of the story). Think of it as Pokemon with an existential crisis What makes the more recent Persona games (3-5 & their various spin-offs) stand-out from everyone else is that you play out practically every single in-game day (the late afternoons anyway, when the school bell has run). You can meet up with friends (and make new ones outside of the classroom) and bond 'Social Links' with them, which has the gameplay mechanic of making Personas of a certain type stronger. You can go and have something to eat, study in the library, watch a film, go fishing, go practice some baseball, which are just things you can do in Persona 5 may I add (each activity increases a certain skill you have)! The music for these sections always reflect the carefree attitude one has spending your teenage years with nothing to worry about (such as a previous #TuneTuesday of mine, 'Tokyo Daylight' from Persona 5). Narratively, it's like you are playing your favourite slice-of-life anime before going all shonen mode as you beat up Shadows (essentially wild/bad Personas/Daemons (varies from game-to-game)), which is the game proper, but it is a much smaller portion of the games. The original Persona game (and it's PSP remake) does away with all this social stuff and have the players just fight with their friends, once they can wield their own Persona. There is one slight exception to this, which is right at the beginning of the game...sort of. When you begin the game, you are given the objective to visit a hospital to check up on a school friend. You don't have to do that straight away, as you can wander around St. Hermelin High School to talk to classmates and explore the fictional town of Mikage-cho, which does some pretty nice world-building before shit hits the fan. Whereas a lot of the soundtrack are redone/remastered versions of the PS1's original soundtrack, 'School Days' (that plays at the beginning sections of the game) is found only on the PSP version. Whilst Persona 1 is very different from the more popular Persona games, this bouncy little J-Pop song has a wonderful sense of nostalgia to it, which I am putting down to the use of the Major 7ths, a sound I have always associated with sunsets (or sunrises, depending on what mode I'm in). The inclusion of a song (a love song at that may I add) like this drags Persona into the same sonic sound as later games, thus bringing it into the same world as later games. As odd as this may sound, longterm Persona players will know what I mean. If your one of the 10 people who own a PS Vita, you can download Persona, as well as both instalments of Persona 2, usually at a very cheap price.
  16. Today is a Tuesday 3rd September, so there is only one song I could talk about for this weeks #TuneTuesday. That, of course, is 'Papa Was A Rollin' Stone' by The Temptations (I do talk about 'normal music' sometimes you know!). Not many people know this, but The Temptations version is a cover version. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1971, and released as a single in May 1972 for the Motown act The Undisputed Truth. Later that year, Whitfield, who also produced the song, took it and remade it as a 12-minute record for The Temptations, which was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and won three Grammy Awards the following year. It has since become a Soul classic, for good reason. It's a fucking good tune! On a production and arrangement level, it is fantastic. A solo plucked bass guitar part that does not change for the whole song, establishes the moody yet serious he musical theme, a simple three-note figure, letting the listener know we are going to be Bb minor. This is backed by hi-hat cymbal, which are gradually joined by other instruments, including a blues guitar, wah-wah guitar, Wurlitzer electric piano, handclaps, strings and solo trumpet; all are tied together by the ever-present bass guitar line and repeating hi-hat rhythm.And of course, the fantastic vocals of The Temptations themselves. There are also several trumpet solos with a stupid amount of reverb and delay for such an instrument. A brilliantly brave move! This song represents many things on a social level. The sound of Motown was changing. Gone was the previous happy-clappy sound of the 50s and 60s. Now in the 70s, Motown adopted a more serious, hard-hitting sound funk sound to reflect the more serious and depressing events that were happening in Detroit at the time, mostly race riots and a shit tonne of racism. This song was one of the first in a whole line of 'cinematic soul' songs during the late-70s, where soul records would just go one forever, with the arrangements would build and drop, allowing the music to tell a story. Think any Issac Haye song for example. So go ahead and listen to this song, and if you dare skip the 4min intro, then you might as well skip the song, you weirdo!
  17. This week's #TuneTuesday is from #VampireTheMasqueradeBloodlines, that PC game I keep coming back to. The cue is Downtown Theme composed by Ric Schaffer. In case you're not aware, Bloodlines is based off World of Darkness' LARP (live-action roleplaying (game)) 'Vampire: The Masquerade' and has you play as one of 7 vampiric clans, each with their own quirks and powers (note: VtM has 13 clans...for the most part). Once you are embraced in Bloodlines, you are pretty much a puppet to a Sebastian LaCroix, who is the leader of a vampiric group called the Camarilla, who are enemies with a slightly freer group, the Anarchs. I could go on more about the story, but I do not want to spoil more than I already have done. I may have made the rivalry sound very simplistic and uninteresting, but that is not the case at all. VtM (and by extension, VtMB) is, and always has been, a game of politics, as these two factions (and the more primal Sabbat), have their own beliefs and systems as to why they are the better than the others and why their way is the best way. To be very crude, the Camarilla is basically 'fuck you, peasants, bow down and kiss the knee', the Anarchs is 'fuck da police' and the Sabbat is 'fuck everyone'. So where does this cue play into this? VtMB has you, the player, explore 4 different hub zones in a really small version of LA; Santa Monica, Chinatown, Hollywood and Downtown, each one with their own theme that plays on a loop as you explore each hub. Whilst VtMB does have its own theme, which is basically a rip off of 'Angel' by Massive Attack, I think Downtown Theme reflects the gritty politics found in the game (the Camarilla and Anarchs have a strong footing here) much more. It's dark brooding F minor riff is the darker reality of a modern vampire stalking the streets on modern bystanders, not some Count Dracula 'I hath come to suck'th the blood', luring innocents into their lair. And with almost every American able to carry around guns easily, no Kindred is safe...
  18. Hello, my fellow Ember Members! I hope you are doing well wherever you all are. For those of you who are unaware, my name is Jack Le Breton. I am a composer, most known for composing some of the music for the award-winning, BAFTA-nominated game 'Two Point Hospital', which was released 31st August 2018. I also did the music for an indie game 'Hartacon Tactics' which released 1st January 2019. Hopefully, I can add more to this soon! But I digress. If you follow me on Twitter, you may be aware that every Tuesday, I discuss in great length about a piece of music that I like, be it for an anime, film, TV show or, most usually, a video game. 'Why do I do this?' you may ask yourself. As a composer and a creative individual, I think it is often very easy for those who are neither of these to not appreciate the thought processes behind these things. I don't think this is deliberate, but I do think this should change, hence the creation of #TuneTuesday So, I wish to bring my celebrated weekly dose of music here, where I am not restricted by Twitter's character restrictions. To get you started, you can find the vast majority of my #TuneTuesday moments on my Twitter. The ones you won't find are 'The Path of Wind' from 'My Neighbour Totoro' and 'Insane Family' from 'Vampyr' as Twitter's new look has prevented me from any more to a year's worth of moments. Thanks, Twitter I hope you will all enjoy my weekly info dump on music and have fun learning and appreciating some good ol' music.
  19. This week's #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite PS3 games and is quite possibly one of the most underrated games on the previous generation. It is the theme from 'The Darkness', composed by Gustaf Grefberg. But first, some context as to how I discovered this game that is loosely based on the comic of the same name. I didn't use the internet that much during school. All the games I would ever hear about either came up in playground conversation, adverts, magazine reviews, or that one program on Bravo that I would watch, before both the show and program were discontinued. It was only during the end of teens that I began to use YouTube as a source of game news and reviews, which was how I discovered 'The Darkness' during my first year at college. This was through a Watch Mojo Top 10 list on the most violent video games, the game's sequel being on that list. The game (and the comics it is based on) follows Jackie Estacado, a former hit-man in The Mafia, was targeted for assassination on the eve of his 21st birthday by the don of the New York mafia, "Uncle" Paulie Franchetti, following a failed task to retrieve money for the latter. While hiding in a cemetery bathroom, The Darkness, an ancient force that has inhabited his family for several generations, awakens within Jackie, becoming the possessor of unholy demonic abilities that feed off the dark. As for the music for the game, you explore a fictionalised New York, with no UI/HUD to help you. You explore different districts, each one has their own sinister ambient 'pad' that plays. Like ogres, each district cue has layers that are mixed in and out depending on what is happening on the screen. One version is an ambient one when there are no enemies around. The other is a stealth one, which has more tension, as there are enemies present that you are either sneaking around or hiding from. The third is a combat version, where you are fighting enemies, and there are metal guitars and drums in your face as your popping caps like a badass and ripping people's heads off with these weird Darkness snakeheads. In game audio, this technique is known as 'Vertical Layering', as they are literally stacking on top of each other. The theme itself has never heard isn't entirely in the game (believe me, I've checked!) but you hear the loud chorus at various points, usually during climactic moments with The Darkness, who is voiced by fucking Mike Patton of Faith No More! I believe there is no piece of music for a film, game etc. more important then it's the main theme, as the sets the tone of what to expect when enjoying this piece of media. Much of the theme is very dark, borderline the Satanic (which makes it a brilliant tool for scaring of Jehovah's Witness) with brilliantly unpredictable harmony that just somehow works, almost in a tonal sense. There is a slightly faster section towards the large climatic chorus, which I suppose represents the rush and excitement of being an indestructible daemonic force, decapitating Mafia gunman, and sending Gatlin-gun-wielding gremlins to fuck shit up further. If you do own a PS3 still, I would recommend you playing this game and its sequel. That being said, despite being incredibly more violent and faster than it's predecessor, it does not have the same sinister tone and you may be a tad disappointed with the ending like I was.
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