Step back and take a listen- Music in games #2

Jet is back with another Music Monday segment, hope you enjoy!


It’s Monday again, hope everyone has had a fantastic week! My last post was about Super Metroid and I said I would do individual music discussions on the music of Metroid, well its time. I’m going to spend the next several weeks talking about what makes the music of the series as memorable and effective as it is. For today I want to start with the water zones, and the instrumentation and melodies of Maridia, Torvus, Sector 4 and the crashed frigate.

 

While red soil Brinstar of Super Metroid and lower Torvus Bog of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes have the same theme, there is a distinct instrumentation difference and it changes the purpose of the piece. Red soil Brinstar uses piano, flute, and choral Ahhs, while the Torvus version uses soft pads, strings, and wind- and water-related named patches on synths (at least my patches that sound similar have names like Solar Wind, and Teardrops). These patches help solidify the relation of the music to the underwater zone with their leaky faucet plops of synths against strings and pads that have been used for other water levels since Aquatic Ambiance. The rhythm and melody lend themselves entirely to the water theme easily, as well, as the repeated scale ebbs and flows over a motionless two note bass all under a half time melody that uses subtle dynamic shifts to continue the flowing movement. I’m not saying that the Super Metroid version is bad, or doesn’t work as well, but I find the Echoes version is far more in touch with its environment and that makes it feel like a better piece to the composer in me.

 

Maridia does much the same thing with instrumentation, using plinky glockenspiel, low string pads, and a flute melody. Its a dark and haunting piece, and I think that it pulls off isolation and paranoia better than water. It’s a great piece of music, but I think it doesn’t meld with the area as well as other pieces do in their respective zones. Whereas Sector 4 from Fusion has the same general idea, using low strings again, soft pads, and a harp. The piece is far less busy, focusing on a slow melody with a stepwise bass. It’s use of harp arpeggios serves much the same purpose as the plinking synths from the Torvus version of red Brinstar, and in conjunction with the rest of the aspects of the piece creates a decidedly familiar feeling of aquatic music that we have grown accustomed to over the years of gaming.

 

I had played the Metroid series prior to Prime, but it was Prime that made me fall in love with the series, and it was Prime that led me down the path of music theory and composition. Phendrana may be my favorite tune, but it was crashed frigate that set me on that path, so I may be biased in saying how great this piece is. However, from as unbiased an opinion as I can share, based purely off my theory knowledge and my work with the piece, I can say that this track is a great track and one of the best at telling the story of its zone in the game. Once again, using the soft string pads and plinking high notes, it begins painting the picture of a water world. The slow paced ambiance fits the relative calm of the zone as, with only a few select exceptions, the area is mostly creatures rather than baddies. The use of harder synths suggest of a powered environment, or technology or some such effect with the short lived and fading effect giving the vibes of failed technology, which fits well with the zone as the crashed frigate is a bashed and battered underwater version of the introduction stage. Personally, after having experienced this work in game, I find the high piano runs to be an auditory emulation of bubbles, and while I don’t know whether that was intended or not, it resonates with my inner composer as a technique to use for my own water worlds.

 

I hope a tiny bit of insight from a composer is inspiring you all to take a deeper look into your music, it is as much a part of the game as any npc or item, and deserves to be seen on a deeper level. If you enjoy these discussions, or have a suggestion, please comment.

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