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Liontamer

"Has Video Game Music Lost Its Way?"

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Jesper Kyd has spoken out himself on game music emulating Hollywood too much being a bad thing and that it's better to just let the medium find its own identity. He has his own type of orchestral music which has remained consistent over the years although I am not that fond of it personally.

Like I said earlier taking inspiration from film scores in itself isn't a bad thing, it's moreso that the modern climate is so fucking vapid and homogenous.

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Seems like chorus and strings = film score style and apparently that is bad?

Not bad, just generic. ;-) As I said, I find the soundtrack competent but forgettable.

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I personally think some of this tracks the decline of Japanese games in the West. A lot of those beloved soundtracks (not all, but a lot) were made by Japanese composers. Western games tend to favor a more ambient music profile. The World Ends with You, Radiant Historia, Valkyria Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles, and BlazBlue are all Japanese games made during the PS3/360/Wii/DS years. Unfortunately, they aren't really that popular in the US so hardly anyone knows about their amazing soundtracks. If I want a game with a loud soundtrack that evokes a strong mood in me, I play a Japanese one, generally.

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I personally think some of this tracks the decline of Japanese games in the West. A lot of those beloved soundtracks (not all, but a lot) were made by Japanese composers. Western games tend to favor a more ambient music profile. The World Ends with You, Radiant Historia, Valkyria Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles, and BlazBlue are all Japanese games made during the PS3/360/Wii/DS years. Unfortunately, they aren't really that popular in the US so hardly anyone knows about their amazing soundtracks. If I want a game with a loud soundtrack that evokes a strong mood in me, I play a Japanese one, generally.

sort of, i guess.

however, there's one prime example showing that it's more about technological culture than regional culture: the C64.

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I'm responding to the OP.

Personally I believe that the reason so many of the older games have more identifiable tracks like the Super Mario Bros. theme (which if you don't know that song, you might be living under a rock, no matter if you play video games or not) is because those songs were just EXTREMELY catchy. It's nothing technical that has to do with the marketing or anything. It's simply what it is: catchy.

The thing is that Koji Kondo--still considerably the most legendary game music composer and probably deserves the title of the father of video game music (unless he already has that title)--was just able to write some of the greatest melodies of all time, like the Mario theme and the Zelda theme. And those songs weren't at some specific points in the game too; they were right there from the start. You begin playing the game and that's what you hear.

To this day I can guarantee you the Mario theme is the most famous video game theme of all time and beyond that, probably of the most famous themes in general of all time.

And then songs like Green Hill Zone. But again, I almost wonder if part of the reason they are so popular and remembered is not just because they were catchy, but because they were of the first songs heard in the game. Other than the start-up jingle on the start menu of the game (which is also very memorable), Green Hill Zone is the first thing you play. The track is much more simple than something Koji would do, but it was extremely catchy and fairly well written for its simplicity, and it worked extremely well into the stage.

Obviously the song being at the beginning of the game isn't always the reason as to why it's so popular or so memorable. You turn on Ocarina of Time and that start-up song may bring back memories, but it's not a song that is particularly as popular as other tracks in the game that appear much later on.

But yes, there are definitely themes nowadays that are so ridiculously memorable, like the Halo theme and Skyrim. But why are they memorable? Because they're so significant to the game. The Halo theme is pretty simple at first, but I think that's part of it. Everyone recognizes it when they hear the men's choir singing the notes everyone is aware of. Skyrim's is very epic and extremely catchy as well, and its melodies are very well written, so naturally it's going to be a memorable song.

Honestly, it all comes down to how well the melody is written and how the song backs it up. People will sing the melody; they can't sing the chords (I often sing basslines, though). And so when the melody is done right, it will get stuck in people's heads. The Mario theme has the ability to basically get stuck in your head the first time you hear it. It's so well done you basically don't even think about it. It feels like you always knew it. It's that good. The Zelda theme isn't far off either. It's the same deal. Koji just knew how to do it. He's the Paul McCartney of game music.

One other thing. I honestly wonder if a lot of those songs also become to well-known and memorable because they repeat. And although most do, catchy songs will repeat until it's stuck in your head for good.

Edited by Garrett Williamson

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Koji just knew how to do it. He's the Paul McCartney of game music.

I find this a gross understatement of Koji Kondo. :<

Not bad, just generic. ;-) As I said, I find the soundtrack competent but forgettable.

Find any game or film score that sounds like Darksiders II and I'll believe you.

Oh wait, that's not what generic means. You'd have to go ahead and find 20 in the last 5 years to even approach backing up that it's generic.

If instrument makes it generic and forgettable, then I think pretty much all NES music is generic and forgettable, because it all sounds the same (a couple oscillators and a white noise generator), just with different melodies (see how that doesn't work). :<

Edited by Neblix

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If instrument makes it generic and forgettable, then I think pretty much all NES music is generic and forgettable, because it all sounds the same (a couple oscillators and a white noise generator), just with different melodies (see how that doesn't work). :<

I think you're actively refusing to understand how the word "generic" is being used here. :-P It's not about the instruments, it's about the writing (unless I'm the one misinterpreting things)

Also, Koji Kondo is for me by very far the greatest genius of video game music, and not only because of his older work. I'm not saying all other composers are bad, not at all, there are a lot of other extremely talented composers who made amazing soundtracks that are very dear to me. I do think though that Koji Kondo in particular is unsurpassable. A bit like comparing Mozart to Salieri, he's got that little special something that makes him just THAT good. I don't think I ever heard a track from him that wasn't absolutely spot on for its context.

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I think you're actively refusing to understand how the word "generic" is being used here. :-P It's not about the instruments, it's about the writing (unless I'm the one misinterpreting things)

We're talking about Darksiders 2's "

". The main melody is played on a choir and strings, which prompts him to say it's generic. See 1:34.

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I find the soundtrack generic sounding, it's really that simple. Not because it has choir and strings, but because it doesn't stand out at all to me. :-P

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Darksiders 2 sounded horribly generic to me as well. I found nothing to really draw me into the soundtrack at all; no hooks, no clear motifs.

In terms of soundtracks that mimic film-style composition and still succeed gloriously in game context, see Bear McCreary's soundtrack to

. The influence of his TV background is pretty clear, but the strong motifs and excellent instrumental variety really, really makes it strong soundtrack material.

It could be that the choice of instrumentation leads some people to be lazy in their composition ("oh, as long as it has the right tone, people will enjoy it"). And, to a point, that may be true; in the heat of battle, you probably won't stop to smell the grace notes. But that doesn't mean a composition can't be more effective in context by tying in motifs and themes.

That is the strongest hook a soundtrack can provide in my mind, regardless of instrumental medium. It's a way to engage the user, interact with them by hinting tying them emotionally to the narrative. As a motif is used in specific points in gameplay, the player slowly comes to attach that motif with corresponding themes in the game. What a powerful mechanism, and how little it is used in modern composition! Even well-composed soundtracks that are pleasant to listen to on their own can be poor soundtracks because they don't leverage their power with the player.

</meandering-train-of-thought>

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Comparing the two of them in an insult to Koji Kondo tbh. :-)

sorry guys, Paul is better, but Koji is a musical genius anyway :-P

I do think though that Koji Kondo in particular is unsurpassable.

to the general public, he will never be surpassable.

however, this happened:

and now there's a chance some kid that was literally like not even 5 when Koji composed the music for Super Mario Bros. could be his successor, whether or not he'll "surpass" Koji.

Honestly, when Koji dies or retires, this guy needs to take over for him. I trust this guy would nail it.

Edited by Garrett Williamson

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As a motif is used in specific points in gameplay, the player slowly comes to attach that motif with corresponding themes in the game. What a powerful mechanism, and how little it is used in modern composition! Even well-composed soundtracks that are pleasant to listen to on their own can be poor soundtracks because they don't leverage their power with the player.

</meandering-train-of-thought>

Motifs. Yes. Easy example: Beethoven's 5th Symphony (more of a leitmotif, but a similar concept of using motifs for a sense of familiarity).

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however, this happened:

and now there's a chance some kid that was literally like not even 5 when Koji composed the music for Super Mario Bros. could be his successor, whether or not he'll "surpass" Koji.

Honestly, when Koji dies or retires, this guy needs to take over for him. I trust this guy would nail it.

That soundtrack is excellent, but I feel like this new guy is better at covers than originals. The arrangements are super awesome, but when I heard the new dungeon tracks (as I was playing) I was very disappointed. I think they sounded too (oh boy, overused word in this thread) generic. :-P

The track in the final dungeon was pretty cool though, but... Meh, I honestly don't know if he could be as versatile and universally appropriate as Koji. Let's hope he will :)

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Just, no. Okay? No.

you disappoint me.

but I'm just gonna get over it now.

That soundtrack is excellent, but I feel like this new guy is better at covers than originals. The arrangements are super awesome, but when I heard the new dungeon tracks (as I was playing) I was very disappointed. I think they sounded too (oh boy, overused word in this thread) generic. :-P

The track in the final dungeon was pretty cool though, but... Meh, I honestly don't know if he could be as versatile and universally appropriate as Koji. Let's hope he will :)

Really? You no likey the dungeon songs? Personally, they're probably my favorite dungeon songs in any Zelda game, other than maybe the stuff from Skyward Sword.

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Really? You no likey the dungeon songs? Personally, they're probably my favorite dungeon songs in any Zelda game, other than maybe the stuff from Skyward Sword.

Yeah, I no likey :( The main melody that's repeated in all of the new dungeon tracks doesn't sound interesting to me at all, sadly (I insist on the "new" here, I think the dungeon covers from LttP are also excellent). But this is all very subjective of course. ;)

Sorry for getting a bit off the topic btw xD

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Just, no. Okay? No.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon combined are definitely better than Koji Kondo.

He'd be the first one to agree :P

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NES sounds just don't do it for me.
I don't really dig indie game music.

;_; You guys make me sad.

I'd also like to just drop this off here:

http://bestnestracks.captaintortilla.com/results/index.php?back=115

This is just a small sampling of the best NES tracks... for those of you who seem to think there is only a handful of good NES tunes for some reason, and the "people remember it being good music because they are nostalgic for it" :/

it is kinda contradiction to say "Open up and look at all the amazing music thats created now" and then say in the same breath "There is a lot of garbage in the past. I don't even like listening to it" Just because there are people who are nostalgic and only played [insert favorite game here] and have never explored the rest of the library doesn't mean there weren't a lot of amazing OSTs on the NES... or any other console!

As the same goes for SNES/Gen, PS1/N64/Sat, and again I'd even put the DC/PS2/GC/XB/Wii in there. Take the top 50 games from each of these consoles/eras and I'd guarantee you a great soundtrack for most, if not all of them. Heck, sometimes even terrible games had wonderful memorable soundtracks. But you take the top 50 of 360/PS3 games and you'd get a lot of ambient, "cinema style" stuff, or techno garbage, or licensed music, etc.

Is that a bad thing? That is debatable I guess. It certainly isn't helpful if you like "catchy" memorable soundtracks.

I do agree the generic factor that comes into play with very popular genres (FP shooters). The market is saturated with games that are all the same, which gives the illusion that game composers are writing the same music over and over again out of laziness when it's actually the market genre diversity. I think the problem is modern games, not specifically "game music lost its way".

I can agree with this statement here. This is why the indie scene is so interesting because everything done on the AAA side of gaming is so "safe" and boring its like the same stuff over and over again (But that is another conversation...), and the music having the same style is probably whats putting us who are used to a LARGE variety of music styles (and yes, catchy) in the past a little off. Maybe it does have a little to do with nostalgia in that respect. But I don't think its fair to just say "Well, you're just nostalgic" and write us off, because it is a multi layered "problem" of sorts. But as long as there are a few companies out there still making great soundtracks, especially thanks to the Indie scene, that is all that is important :)

Also thank goodness for the chiptune scene. Amazing stuff coming from those guys all the time.

Edited by Crowbar Man

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Darksiders 2 sounded horribly generic to me as well. I found nothing to really draw me into the soundtrack at all; no hooks, no clear motifs.

I got a Darksiders 2 remix coming to OCR so needless to say I disagree with you! I can only remix something if it has very good hooks and is very enjoyable music... Darksiders 2 falls into that category IMO.. While that may be subjective, it's also fairly objective, cause like I said, I physically cannot remix something unless it has good hooks and is melodic. I'd hope you'd see that trend in my remixing history if you took a gander... :-o

What is "generic" as a description for music in regards to the difference between classic VGM? Was classic vgm not generic compared to Darksiders 2? I think the DS2 OST is super strong so this might be difficult to clarify...

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;_; You guys make me sad.

I'd also like to just drop this off here:

http://bestnestracks.captaintortilla.com/results/index.php?back=115

This is just a small sampling of the best NES tracks... for those of you who seem to think there is only a handful of good NES tunes for some reason, and the "people remember it being good music because they are nostalgic for it" :/

it is kinda contradiction to say "Open up and look at all the amazing music thats created now" and then say in the same breath "There is a lot of garbage in the past. I don't even like listening to it" Just because there are people who are nostalgic and only played [insert favorite game here] and have never explored the rest of the library doesn't mean there weren't a lot of amazing OSTs on the NES... or any other console!

As the same goes for SNES/Gen, PS1/N64/Sat, and again I'd even put the DC/PS2/GC/XB/Wii in there. Take the top 50 games from each of these consoles/eras and I'd guarantee you a great soundtrack for most, if not all of them. Heck, sometimes even terrible games had wonderful memorable soundtracks. But you take the top 50 of 360/PS3 games and you'd get a lot of ambient, "cinema style" stuff, or techno garbage, or licensed music, etc.

Is that a bad thing? That is debatable I guess. It certainly isn't helpful if you like "catchy" memorable soundtracks.

And for everyone one of that top 50 NES soundtracks, you have several that sound like this.

I don't think anyone is arguing that there were no great classic soundtracks and the only reason anyone likes them is nostalgia. The point is that nostalgia is no excuse to pretend that one way of making soundtracks is inherently better than another. The only real justification for saying that is closed-mindedness and childhood attachment to classic games. People in general are biased in favor of what they grew up with, like how people who grew up in the 80's insist that all of the best music was released in that decade, but bias doesn't really make for a solid argument. Your generalized top 50 example doesn't really prove your point. There were plenty of soundtracks with extremely memorable themes this last console gen, just as there were the gen before. The main difference is that there are bigger names and more powerful audio tools involved.

I strongly suspect that the music of this console cycle will be looked on more favorably once it's older and people can complain about how all of the new stuff on PS4 and X1 is so much worse than music used to be in games.

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I got a Darksiders 2 remix coming to OCR so needless to say I disagree with you! I can only remix something if it has very good hooks and is very enjoyable music... Darksiders 2 falls into that category IMO.. While that may be subjective, it's also fairly objective, cause like I said, I physically cannot remix something unless it has good hooks and is melodic. I'd hope you'd see that trend in my remixing history if you took a gander... :-o

What is "generic" as a description for music in regards to the difference between classic VGM? Was classic vgm not generic compared to Darksiders 2? I think the DS2 OST is super strong so this might be difficult to clarify...

Not to mention the fact that "The Makers Overworld" uses a very minimal amount of notes in the entire song and still manages to be my favorite battle song (I heard it merely once at my brother's house and got it stuck in my head, "no hooks" my ass).

Just gonna drop this here:

(melody at :30)

@haters: These all have very strong melodies, and I didn't even try to link the rest of them on the soundtrack. If you want to call these generic, please find at least one example of a film or game score that sounds anything like these.

Because Darksiders II is the most unique soundtrack I have ever heard. It doesn't even sound like Kyd's other work.

As the same goes for SNES/Gen, PS1/N64/Sat, and again I'd even put the DC/PS2/GC/XB/Wii in there. Take the top 50 games from each of these consoles/eras and I'd guarantee you a great soundtrack for most, if not all of them. Heck, sometimes even terrible games had wonderful memorable soundtracks. But you take the top 50 of 360/PS3 games and you'd get a lot of ambient, "cinema style" stuff, or techno garbage, or licensed music, etc.

I literally just explained this it's called

MARKET SATURATION.

An absolute value of 50 carries a different statistical significance when comparing populations with both different sizes and circumstances.

Top 50 of an era when only the big names could afford and had the development tech to create video games is completely different than top 50 of an era where games have literally become a manufactured commercialized commodity. There are literally thousands more games now in this generation than there were in older generations, it's no surprise that there's a lot more bad/uninteresting music coming out for them. It's almost common sense if you stopped to think about it for a few seconds.

Like I said already, and you agreed, the problem is modern games, not specifically music for these games.

But I don't think its fair to just say "Well, you're just nostalgic" and write us off, because it is a multi layered "problem" of sorts.

I'd be surprised if you found more than 2 or 3 people in this thread who actually said that.

Edited by Neblix

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