Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).
When I spoke to Gerard Marino, composer for the God Of War game series, he talked at length about the art of writing music that can repeat itself in the game without grating on players. If we’re going to hear the same stanza over and over, it had better be a damn good stanza, one with enough intricacies that repeat listenings are welcome.
At first, the theme music that kicks off Nintendo’s Kid Icarus doesn’t appear to fall into this category. There’s a beginning and an end, with a pause before it starts back up again. The only time you’d hear it again is when you were to slow to push the button and start playing already. But you do hear the song whenever you fire up the cartridge, and after enough listens, the song can catch in your brain:
It leaps between highs and lows in a way that keeps you guessing, like trying to predict the movements of a coked-up ballerina. With the exception of the consistent, marching drum beat, no two sections of the song are the same. But the spiral of sound slowly rises. Just when you think the highest note has been played, an even higher note comes along, piercing through the song. This is a game about Icarus, after all, who flew too close to the sun and melted his wings. And similarly, just when the theme music is about to exceed its tonal limits, it ends, abruptly, and Icarus comes crashing down.
(Illustration by Derrick Sanskrit.)