Legally, I must comment that Metroid Prime has the best music in the world.
Something weird comes over me, just sitting and listening to the theme which plays behind the game options menu (one button-press past the title screen).
Game music has done odd things with my emotions on numerous previous occasions. It has ever since the original Legend of Zelda, where the first time I placed the game into my NES I simply stared at the TV for what might have been half an hour for all I know, listening to Kondo’s lilting title theme and watching the item scroll. It does when I watch the opening FMV to the first Sonic Adventure. The Phantasy Star II score has done mountains for me.
But even in the best game scores — Jet Set Radio, Streets of Rage, Ninja Gaiden II — generally the best that happens is that they impress the hell out of me and then that’s that. And even in the cases where I’ve been struck more deeply (for one reason or another), generally it’s been a single blow — often a manipulative one — in an otherwise so-so score.
Frankly, the reason the intro to Sonic Adventure does a weird job with my chest lies more in the direction of the intro sequence and my own personal share of nostalgia than anything about the music on its own. Heck, I’m not even very fond of half of the music in that game for its own merit. What music I do like well is mostly from Kumatani Fumie’s end of the stick rather than that of Jun Senoue.
Kenji Yamamoto has done something different here. I can’t explain it rationally. But it fucks with my head. The more I listen to it, the more this becomes true.
I’m afraid I’m going to develop a nervous condition, playing this game.
A bigger one, I mean.
I find this interesting, as I’ve honestly never been as impressed with the Super Metroid score as just about everyone else on the planet. It didn’t come near to Hip Tanaka’s original vision, or even the chirpy B-ambience of Return of Samus (a soundtrack which I still contend has never gotten its proper due). Super Metroid‘s music was appropriate, well-written, and… there. It suited the game, and sounded Metroidy.
But this? Ye god.
Again, I feel more or less exactly as I felt when I was eight and Zelda was new. And this fact is all the more peculiar just because I’m no longer eight years old. Zelda isn’t new. Metroid isn’t new. I’ve played so many games. I’ve seen so many conventions. Cleverness and skill and joy and wonder are about the best I can expect. That anyone can expect who has been around as long as I have.
There just isn’t a lot out there which feels new anymore. There aren’t any more revelations. There’s no new life to discover.
But perhaps there is.
And perhaps it’s not in Japan?
Who would have thought.
It’s not that this game is anything so totally original that it should — taken as a mass of parts — be as much of a breakthrough as Zelda. We’ve seen most of the elements here in at least some form before, for years on end. Some of the incarnations perhaps aren’t even all that different.
Half-Life was a step away from its FPS roots, and toward a more evolved gaming sensibility — and look at where that got it. Metroid Prime, I suppose, a person could consider the next logical step in this direction. Except that when you pull its laces, this is something else entirely.
I guess the way one could put it is that what this game feels like is something close to a culmination of what we’ve learned over the past thirty years of game design. Someone managed to boil it down and make The Game — or something like it. After all of the struggling since the last checkpoint, suddenly we’ve got progress. And we’re allowed to move on.
I’ve not played Eternal Darkness yet, but it’s worth noting again that this game was developed by an American studio, with aid from Nintendo. I imagine it’s got its flaws, but it still sounds like that game did a hell of a lot more right than most games have been doing lately. And like it had a solid vision to it.
Nintendo has been doing a lot for the industry lately. They’ve gone through some pretty huge changes in attitude since the glory days of the NES, and now seem to be pretty much content to be Nintendo. I keep harping on that Q-fund thing of Yamauchi’s, but I feel it’s a lot more important than it looks. It fits right in with the recent “apprenticeship” system of game design that Miyamoto’s been pioneering, and what Nintendo’s been doing with second and third parties.
They’ve got the money and the expertise, so they’re investing it in the next generation. They won’t have it forever. Miyamoto won’t be around forever. Nintendo won’t be. But the art will remain, the skills will flourish. And maybe someone else will march on to victory, birthed from the seeds of that knowledge and support.
Sure, Nintendo is acting in Nintendo’s best interest — but they don’t have to do it in such an enlightened way. The fact that they are, says mountains to me and sets a tremendous example for the rest of the industry.
I think we’re closing in on a new era here. And it’s not going to come from where we expect. The old guard is starting to break down. The entire old infrastructure.
Just look at all of the shit happening in the industry right now. If you’re clinging to the old ways, it’s bad news. And it’s pretty scary. But there’s a new wind in the air, and just about everyone is clueless about it so far. If there’s any time to block one’s sails, I think this is it.
And dammit, I want a copy of this soundtrack.