This episode of In Search of Sauce is a bit of a special episode but delivered with our tried and true format. We covered three pieces of music journalism but all three branch out into the wonderful world of video game music! First, we discuss the evolution of video game music and the role it plays in healthy escapism, then the ever-changing, living and breathing music of "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," and finally the rich jazzy soundtrack of "Persona 5."
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On This Episode
"Video Game Music: A world to escape to" by Dylan Yono, The Michigan Daily (March 26, 2020)
This was the perfect article to preface all of the rest of our conversations on the episode. Yono uses a nostalgic personal anecdote (shout out to the Pumpkin Hill theme song from Sonic Adventure Battle 2) to set up a personal relationship with video game music. That personal relationship then becomes the lens that Yono uses to explore a club at his University dedicated specifically to video game music.
As an editor, I loved that this story exists the way it does. The first-person voice is relevant enough to the local angle of the story and Yono uses it to bridge the local with a broader history of video game music and the reason it's found so much love all around the world. We discussed how video games are a blessed form of escapism for many, and how the effect of the music used in games carries a different kind of nostalgia than the escapism of traditional music.
"'Invisible' Sound Design in Breath of the Wild" by Scruffy, YouTube (July 8, 2019)
This video was actually the first piece of video game music journalism that gave us the idea to do a whole episode on the topic. Somehow, Scruffy is able to pin down and explain the beautiful musical quality of the latest "Legend of Zelda" installment. When it comes to emersion into a digital world, "Breath of the Wild" is in the top tier of the genre. A large part of that emersion is — as Scruffy defines it — due to the invisible sound design.
He starts by explaining the detail that went into the variety of sounds created by Link's footsteps in different environments and even the variety of sounds created by dropping objects of different sizes and shapes into water. These are things that the player doesn't necessarily pick up on right away, but they give the game a staple of fully fleshed-out physics rules integrated into the sound design. The sound follows many of the same rules as the physics system.
Rather than playing specific tracks for specific areas, "Breath of the Wild's" music is determined by the chemistry of the game's many variables. A mountain may have specific music, but the theme is affected by the environment and the player's behavior in it. It creates seamless emersion and some truly rare and beautiful moments.
"‘Persona 5’ Review: How Shoji Meguro Changed Game Music With the Human Voice" by Isaac Schutz, Medium (Dec. 5, 2017)
Ever since we covered Japanese City Pop on episode 26, it's been impossible to avoid the deluge of recommended videos and mixes related to the style. I'm not mad about it though, I've actually been enjoying the hell out of it and it came at the perfect time for me to pick up "Persona 5: Strikers" on a whim. The game uses lyrical music influenced by jazz, lo-fi and pop to bring out an overall aesthetic that has made "Persona 5: Strikers" not just fun to play, but ideal to live in.
I brought this piece about the original "Persona 5" for the way it captured my feelings about the "Strikers" edition and brought context to my newfound love for the 100+ song original soundtrack. Where most games shied away from lyrical music for its distracting qualities, "Persona 5" embraced the idea of using pop music to direct the emotional response of the player. The game hurls you into life as an angsty Japanese teenager with the power to change the world with your friends. In a cinematic way, the music was composed to perfectly match the emotional energy of that aesthetic.
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