October 29, 2009

Stop What You Are Doing

It's Thursday, so it's time for the continuation of yesterday's post, as promised. Today, we're going to do three pieces of particularly powerful music from Western games, to contrast the three Eastern pieces we did yesterday. I gotta admit... it was trickier than I'd thought. Western developers don't put nearly as much stock in original scores for games, and that makes it much harder.

Let's start with 4000 Degrees Kelvin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33jk7MXZJeU) from Portal. Obviously, it's not the one song from Portal that everyone freaked out about... but that song, though good, is both overdone, and not really evocative of any particular emotion. 4000 Degrees Kelvin, though, which kicks in just as you take the game "off the rails" and start actively defining GlaDoS, the psychotic AI, punches with pounding electronic beats that inspire panic and fear. It's partially the power of the moment and partially that of the music, but when it kicks in for the first time, nearly everyone I've spoken to admits that it gave them shivers. It perfectly captures the moment where you realize the slightly demented, uncaring computer that has guided you thus far is more than just uncaring... it's completely insane and trying to murder you. A very creepy part of the game, and it's represented very well in this song.

Next, we have Something Beautiful (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp1WY2ldjxE) from Mirror's Edge. It's a much more calm song than... well, really, all the past entries from both posts. Again, though, the really impressive thing is how perfectly it symbolizes the game it was made for. The soothing, simple synthesized sounds match perfectly with the futuristic dystopic setting, where everything is clean and simple... and the emotion of the song is very fitting for Faith, the game's lead- a character who is faced with misfortune after misfortune, but is content that things will work out as long as she keeps running. A melancholic song with an underlying theme of hope. Very nice.

And to wrap it all up... I'm picking the uninventively titled Max Payne's Theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGvwmZmFi0w though that one kinda cuts off abruptly) from Max Payne 2. Note, that's TWO- the song is the same in the first for the most part, but for the second, they rescored it on violin... and man was that a good call. The one from the first was just a nice film-noir style dark song, quite fitting of New York, without really saying much about the game. The violin, though... it's almost a copout. Anything played with a violin gets +5 to emotional power automatically. The once dark and, for lack of a better word, badass tones of the first give way to the bittersweet sound of the violin, singing of Max's poor luck, how he somehow always makes the wrong choices, and ends up in the worst situations. It's the weakest link on this list, I admit it, but it's still an amazing song.

Notable omissions? ANYTHING with a fake Latin choir (Final Fantasy, God of War, I'm looking at you), any game that takes an existing licensed song (almost all Western games, sadly), and... oh! Dammit! I meant to put Godot's Theme from Phoenix Wright 3: Trials and Tribulations! Dammit! Well, that's a good song too, look it up. It speaks a lot about the character, and the character's a badass anyway.

Maybe I'll do a retro one- there are some pretty amazing SNES titles that I didn't include, for instance.

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