Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Thought to Chew: Memory

I've been playing a lot of Color Splash lately, and as a disclaimer, I will say upfront that yes, I very much enjoyed it. The gameplay might be a bit rough around the edges, and I'll probably address that at some point, but everything else about the game is endearing and charming. There are three amazing prongs to it- beautiful artistic choices, a profound sense of humor (especially for a Mario game), and a phenomenal soundtrack. If there's one thing that a game can sell me on the most, it's music, and while Color Splash is definitely the most well-rounded game in terms of having consistently good music to match the circumstances of the game, there's one piece of music that I think is better than all of it combined.

The song is "Memory", Rather, it's four songs. The early ones are light and contemplative, with simple piano notes accompanied by the ticks of a clock and a rotating film reel. We get a cinematic, sentimental vibe, an immediate contrast to the otherwise cheerful optimism the game radiates.

The song itself accompanies a series of short vignettes between Timpani and Blumiere. We get no visuals, only white words against black. The power of the backstory lies in the simplicity of its presentation. From the start, we don't know who's talking and about whom. We only get brief exchanges, but slowly, we see the whole picture, and the story becomes more compelling.

The way the piece grows and becomes more enveloping is what makes it so powerful. We start out with these flashbacks and we're unsure of the context- we get the vague situation, perhaps, but it's only up for speculation. As the chapters in the game progress, "Memory" becomes something grander and more powerful. We start to decipher the background and the complexities more. In a sense, the music evolves with our understanding- it starts of hazy but becomes more clear up to the game's ending.

The close of the game finds the song at a triumphant climax- now under the name of "Bounding Through Time." If you've played the game, great! But to those who haven't, here's the spoiler warning.

Towards Chapter 6, the sidekick character, Tippi, suddenly says something about Blumiere, though when questioned, she instantly dismisses it. At this point, unless you're really stupid, the game's upright making that connection for you, and I do partially think it's a way to make it clear to the player. At the same time, however, this is recognition from Tippi herself, some semblance of self-awareness and understanding. That's character development, folks, and it serves as foreshadowing for when the emotions really hit.

Slowly, we begin to understand the villain, Count Bleck, as a tragic hero bent by the events of the story, and to seal a void that threatens the universe, he and Timpani are forced to profess their love, and the story of the game is finally sealed.

That was a really bad summation of the plot, so just read this. My basic point is that as the game unravels into something deceptively complicated, so too does the music. The two go hand in hand, helping to make the events of the game unified. The way the game deplores the backstory is already complicated, so for the game to be able to intertwine both ongoing plots with ease is a testament to how well-crafted Super Paper Mario is.

You can listen to a mix of Memory 1, 2, 3, 4, and "Bounding Through Time" here.

For the last Interview with Kanekiru, CLICK HERE.
For the last Dear Game on patronizing messages in games, CLICK HERE.
For the last A Thought to Chew on Exeggutor Island, CLICK HERE.
For the Legacy List, CLICK HERE.

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