The Fascinating World of Game Music

This year I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few game music concerts and noticed something quite interesting that I hadn’t expected to consistently happen in all of them.

The concerts I attended were the following:

  • KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour-
  • Metal Gear in Concert
  • Persona Super Live P-Sound Bomb!!!! 2017

Two of these were orchestral, while the Persona one was just usual Persona fare.

Now, I am one of those people who really pours themselves into music and lets it emotionally affect me, because I think about lyrics and meanings a lot. What I had not thought about earlier, however, was that games are in a very good position to cause this kind of emotional connection to a music track by linking it to a powerful narrative or gameplay moment within the game. That way, even people who don’t think about music or lyrics too much normally have something to remember fondly (hopefully) when they hear the familiar tune.

This dawned upon me during my three concerts as the thing that kept happening, was someone crying when their favorite songs from the games came up. It really put me in awe of game music and what it can achieve – especially as even I experienced similar symptoms in the form of really strong goosebumps or surges of emotion during those concerts.

It made me think more about what game songs really affect me and most of them are from Japanese games. I feel like they tend to “dare” more than their Western counterparts, especially nowadays, and usually these ventures pay off with an emotional payload. I can’t even remember the music tracks from most of the Western games I have played recently (with the exception of perhaps, Life is Strange games), instead all the ones I still hold onto fondly are from the earlier days of video gaming from titles such as Jazz Jackrabbit, One Must Fall 2097 and Crash Bandicoot 3. Did we allow ourselves to let loose and have more fun back then?

Oh well.

I’ll end this post with one song that means something to me from each of the game series I had the pleasure of attending concerts for.

**SPOILERS FOR THE ENDINGS OF METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER AND PERSONA 3**

Kingdom Hearts – Dearly Beloved

This song has been with you for your whole journey through the Kingdom Hearts game series, with each installment having its own rendition of it on their main menu. While it is not linked to any particular scene within the heartfelt narratives it is an ever present mood piece that you end up linking to the whole emotional journey within the series.

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker – 恋の抑止力 (Love Deterrence)

While I am a bit biased when it comes to this song, it is also one of the most powerful uses of a song in a game in my opinion. It plays while you are fighting the final boss of the game. While at first glance it may seem as a bit of a silly choice for a boss fight where you expect intensity, I think the purpose it really serves is something different – to depict the conflict of Paz’s (the final boss character and also the one who sings the song) actions and what she really feels. There are two sides of her that are at odds, battling it out within her and this contraction of intense battle and melancholic poppy song create an emotional conflict for the player. Think of the use of Singing in the Rain paired with intense violence in A Clockwork Orange.

Persona 3 – キミの記憶 (Memories of You)

This is the ending theme of the game and comes right after you find out that your player character essentially dies in the arms of one of his friends and became a seal to keep away the evil you defeated together. The song is about death and the longing that comes with it, but with a happy tune since you did achieve what you set out to do – even if it came with a sacrifice. It is a really heartbreaking song and I admit it was the only one I shed a tear for during my set of concerts this year.

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