The Musical Narrative of JRPGs

“The Melodies of Life” in Final Fantasy IX

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Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) have come to be known for their sometimes-formulaic plots, as is beautifully lampooned by this CollegeHumor video. Typical plot-points include: a great evil slowly taking over the world (often by collecting powerful crystals), a small team of unlikely heroes, playable characters that have secret past lives, sudden and unavoidable deaths of important main characters, and numerous side-quests (or minigames) that have largely nothing to do with the main plot of the game. Nonetheless, fans of JRPGs have come to love and expect these narrative devices as key elements, and some of video game’s most successful and acclaimed franchises, including Fire Emblem (Nintendo, 1990-ongoing) and Final Fantasy (Square Enix, 1987-ongoing) series, fall into this genre. Continue Reading

Sonic Spaces in Dark Souls

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Dark Souls (2011-2016) is a challenging experience but also one that is solitary and quiet. The only sounds heard for the bulk of my time in Dark Souls were monsters wheezing, weapons clanging, and my character grunting in pain or death. When I pushed through a fog gate into a boss fight for the first time, I knew a special experience awaited me: not only was I facing down a considerable challenge, but music had also flooded into the space. The aural landscape shifted from being solely inhabited by diegetic noise to a mixture of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. Continue Reading