October 28, 2009

Beyond the Bounds

Alright, that last post was a break from form- only discussed it because that shit was really bothering me. Back to more regular game commentary.

So, one of the things you hear said is that smell is the sense most directly connected to memory. My sense of smell has always been complete shit, I can hardly smell a damn thing, so that's never really clicked with me. Fortunately, that doesn't hinder my discussion of games, as games, obviously, have no scents, except perhaps that new manual smell. So for me, and I suspect many others, the one sense that I connect to video game memories is sound. Sure, if I see a picture of Mario or something, it makes me think fondly of the games for a moment, but when I hear the Chrono Trigger main theme, it's overwhelming. That's a game that I have a lot of history with, and hearing the song fills me with a rush of pride and sadness and so many memories of the game. Call me a wuss or whatever, but when songs that I feel particularly connected with catch me offguard, it affects me pretty powerfully.

And so I thought for this post I would discuss games that not only had particularly good musical scores in my mind, but ones that are unique and emotional enough to really get me going. I'll do five titles, with specific songs in mind for each. It's going to be mostly Japanese developed games, and this is no coincedence- Japanese game developers are more interested and comfortable with making games about emotion. But that's another post in itself, one I don't think I'll write, as I'm not really smart enough to be an authority on that. I did enough cultural analysis (and proved my incompetence at it) for a year with that last post.

First off, we have Time's Scar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhfvhYkrCW0), the main song of Chrono Cross. Okay. Honesty time. This song makes me tear up. Not cry, but my eyes water. It's just such a powerful song... the music rising and falling with emotion that lyrics could never match. Chrono Cross, actually, is a game I never got very far in (and will probably pick back up because of this post) due to its pedigree- I came in expecting the sequel to Chrono Trigger, and it is in fact a very different game. Not a bad game, just not what I expected. Personally, I find it easier to sense and connect with the emotion in instrumentals than in vocal tracks- music is universal, free of language and connotation. It is to my mind one of the purest forms of communication. Time's Scar speaks of beauty, of chaos, and getting lost in the flow of things. How appropriate for a game about the chaos of existence.

The second, as the title of this post would suggest, is Beyond the Bounds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UePTTAn1FMY) from Zone of Enders 2. It brings back a lot of memories, of course, but unlike like Time's Scar, it isn't so much a concentration of the emotional theme of the game. It speaks a little of the game's theme, but mostly it's just a very beautiful song that fits the game's style perfectly. It's much less chaotic than Time's Scar, which is a constant crescendoing and dimiumendoing, but ZoE 2 is a much more static game- the main character, as opposed to being faced with the denial of his own existence, is confronting the demons of his past, and making new allies, while skirting the edge of death. Hardly a simple story... but what game that takes its story seriously IS simple?

To Zanarkand (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdGXybo_joI) is one you had to know would be on here. This one... actually did make me cry. It's just a simple little piano song... but it speaks so powerfully of crushed hope, of despair, of loss... of sadness. I actually have made non-gamers cry with this song too. It's an incredible song... amazingly beautiful and emotional.

Actually, you know what? Change of plans. I'm posting this today, on Wednesday. Three Japanese songs with some amazing emotional power, not incidentally from amazing games. Tomorrow, Thursday, I will post three Western songs from Western games. Partially, I say this because that's the greater challenge- I already know at least one I'll use, but finding emotional Western music is a challenge. If I was just finding badass tracks, that would be easier. But for now, here are these three, which I encourage you to listen to either before or while you read about them if you haven't... or even if you had. They deserve a second listen.

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