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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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...
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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...
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