I spend a lot of my downtime playing video games. I spend 90% of this downtime playing one of the myriad Pokémon or Zelda games. I have no regrets at all. Ocarina of Time is arguably the greatest game in history. It’s a gorgeously rendered (for its time) set of lateral thinking puzzles masquerading as a RPG. The story is exquisite, the level design is second to none and the gameplay is so balanced it almost belies belief. Then, there’s Pokémon. Gold was my first Pokémon game and I still have fond memories of trouncing Lance with my trusty Feraligatr. Nowadays, I spend most of my time kicking around Unova or Kalos on White 2 and Y, but I could still hum the music from all the locations in the Pokémon and Zelda games verbatim on demand.
Dun! DunuNUN! DunuNUN! DunuNUUUnuuuuNUUUUUUUUh! DuhnuhNUHnuhNAH! Nuh nah NAH!
Nowadays, games like Mass Effect, Halo and Elder Scrolls have grand, sweeping symphonic soundtracks of an unbelievable scale that are unique to each level. I don’t think I’m alone, however, in saying that I get a rise when I walk into Azalea Town that I just don’t get when I’m slaying Unggoy on the Tsavo Highway, and it’s entirely down to the music. Halo is an action-packed adrenaline ride that literally has you scooting around the galaxy, crushing entire alien races beneath your armoured boots. Pokémon is about a ten-year-old taking on a criminal empire, but only after they’ve spent two hours grinding for experience in the bushes outside Saffron City so that dastardly Blue won’t crush you like a bug in that little room in Silph Co.
The pacing is a little off, is what I’m saying.
Still, I maintain that Nintendo do music in a way that few other game companies can match. Go on YouTube and type in ‘Lost Woods Cover’ and see what a ridiculous number of hits you get. Look at the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses thing that’s touring the world (and yeah, of course I went to see it when they hit Sydney last year). I have played these games for literally hundreds, possibly even thousands of hours over the years and none of them have driven me nuts yet (except the fucking Temple of the Fucking Ocean Fucking King, but that’s another rant for another day).
I see no way this could be annoying to players.
How is that possible? I can’t even listen to an entire album too many times before getting sick of it. How has Nintendo managed to write ten second looping excerpts that don’t simply peel the enamel from my teeth after an hour in the Water Temple? How did Game Freak manage to make those hours spent in Silph Co and Goldenrod Tower not be the root cause of the worst game-initiated homicide spree this side of Monopoly?
Gaze upon the face of evil. Embrace death as an old friend, and you shall know peace.
I can only assume that the evil boffins behind the scenes have channeled the Old Ones reputed to reside beneath the waters of the South Pacific. I cannot believe this isn’t the result of witchcraft, but hell, if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes. The old 8-bit sounds and scratchy bleep bloops of the N64 and Gameboy Colour have left a musical legacy that has impacted millions and far exceeds the assumed capability of the technology. If you came up to me when I was ten, showed me those stupid, tiny speakers that can only produce dodgy, late-90s versions of midi and said “this will produce sounds that will stay with you for the rest of your life,” I would have gone running to Mummy, yelling “Mum! Stranger!” and then you would have been arrested.
I feel this example has escaped my grasp somewhat.
The point is the greatest recording studio in the world didn’t (and probably couldn’t) make these sounds. Koji Kondo and Junichi Masuda did them, and probably for eight bucks and a Frisbee in their respective garages. Those brilliant, industrious little fellows changed my life in ways I never thought possible. So, from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Kondo and Mr. Masuda, thank you. Thank you for ‘Gerudo Valley’. Thank you for ‘Blackthorn City’. Thank you for ‘Kakariko Village’. Thank you for ‘Cianwood City’. Thank you for ‘Song of Storms’. Thank you for ‘Lost Woods’. Neither Pallet Town nor Clock Town would be the same without you.