ARTICLE: The Little Things



Video games are in many instances a amazing way to present a idea, a vision, a idea, a story, or even a experience. The end-goal of all game designers is to create a game that will not only sell but stick with you, so next time you see their name on the shelf you are that more likely to purchase their product (Or in the case of the starving artist type devs to get something from their game for their own fulfillment. Many factors go towards a game being able to successfully convey that message or experience. Gameplay and game design go a long way, but are by far the only star on the stage and only a part of what makes a great game an amazing game.

It’s the little things that count, today we are going to look at music.

Let’s look at some games that use music as a primary focus, while well designed overall the music is the heart and soul of these two series. First let’s have a look at a puzzler I’m sure many of you are well aware of if not….Stay a while and listen.

Do it…Cain compels you!

Who could forget this rhythmic adventure. The symphonic landscape that is Lumines ranges from serene to downright hallucinogenic drug trips, but let’s look under all the acclaim of the game being an amazing puzzler shall we?

What makes Lumines so special? What sets it apart from the other puzzle games? Compare it to any other puzzle game and you don’t see a lot of things different. Here is Lumines at a quick bullet point glance:

Grid based
Time sensitive
Slowly ramping difficulty curve
Hard to master
Easy to play

Now when we compare that to something like…Tetris or Professor Layton you will find a ton of similar traits but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to point out what Lumines major focus is. Aside from being a puzzle game, Lumines is a celebration of music, every stage of the game is a different theme all custom designed around the music. The music is not picked to fit the level, EVERY aspect of the game revolves around this music (Much of which is from popular artists) the tempo of the level, the colours, the timeline sweep, the entire stage is designed around the music.

You can’t hear it but trust me, it’s amazing.

It’s this celebration of music that gives Lumines that “Flare” that “Spark” that it needs to stand out from a sea of generic puzzle games. No other puzzle game has such a massive soundtrack nor attention to detail that Lumines has with it’s music. Eventually the puzzle melts away and your not stacking blocks anymore you are producing music, your blocks are your keys and your combos are the ensemble. The better you play the more energetic or entrancing the music becomes. Lumines takes something often ignored in game design and brings it to the forefront making it a unique and amazing puzzle game that will forever stand the test of time.

(On a special note Tetris does have awesome music for it’s time, but you can’t compare the limited soundtrack to Lumines, nor was Tetris bringing the music to the forefront)


Jamsch – Even his name rocks.

Everything about Patapon revolves around a rhythm and what is rhythm without music? The Patapons lived for and around music, it gives them power, it gives them life, it gives them a reason to live.

The Patapons believe that “It” lies at Earthend, what “It” is has never been revealed in the entire series only alluded to at the end of two of the games to be a false “Earthend” (and something entirely bizarre at the end of the third game) Despite all of this the Patapons march on to the rhythm of the drums you their god play for them. Attack, defense, self preservation all of these are controlled by 4 simple button clicks but each press when done with proper timing has a resounding “Oomph” and your followers gain zealous frenzies when the beat is on cue.

Without the music Patapon would be soulless, the game would be dry without the thumping beat that is ingrained in every aspect of the game. Even the side missions involve you mashing to the rhythm to gain resources to power your army.

Even something as simple as cooking a meal requires a solid beat

Once again this is a great example of a game that takes something that many others games ignore or toss to the side and bring it to the forefront to become a pillar which the game is designed around.

Now I know there are other games that use a heavy focus on music and in many cases have music as a main component. Loco Roco, Elite Beat agents, Rhythm Fever, so many games but those just had a special place in my collection as downright amazing games with music on top to make them radiant examples of music oriented games.

Now more to the point, how many iconic games do you know of that don’t have addicting music? The difference between a good game and a great game you remember for ages could be the music. You can hum Mario’s theme song, open a box and sing a Zelda “Found item” tune, or have Final Fantasy Fanfare as a ringtone and people all around you will quickly key in and know the exact series your thinking about.

Music is a powerful tool, we have a tendency to associate the world around us to the sounds we hear, in doing so we create a emotional response to something as simple as a familiar tune.

Along with allowing us to recognize a series a great score can set the atmosphere or set the mood for a game just as fast as the most detailed environment. This rings extremely true with Horror games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Hearing the “Safe room” music let you know that you were “at least for the moment” away from harm, in a sanctuary. When a dangerous foe was near the music would go wild, and during exploration a creepy orchestra would sound your way.

RPG’s also have a large dependency on a great score to set the mood, and the pace of battle. Nobuo Eumatsu is famous for his work in the Final Fantasy series and is arguably one of the most celebrated game music composers of his age. Music plays a massive role in setting the stage for the characters and the environment. So next time you pop in your game be sure to take in all it has to offer, and appreciate how much work went into the music even if it doesn’t play a huge roll.

Just imagine your games if they were devoid of amazing scores and epic music, because we all know it’s the little things that count.