Game That Tune

Dragon's Dogma

Dragons East!

The title song of Dragon’s Dogma is an aural culture clash.

By Drew Toal • February 7, 2013

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).

Every early review I read for Dragon’s Dogma last spring included some variation on the “Japanese game maker Capcom tries to make a western-style, open world role-playing game” angle. Obviously, America and Japan both have their own cultural cues and styles, from weapons to color palette to expressions of emotion to gravity’s effect on hair. Japanese role-playing games even have their own jargon-y designation—“JRPG”—which, on a basic level anyway, signifies a distinctly manga-influenced gaming experience. For Capcom to cross the streams, as it were, is a pretty ballsy move—one that might yet cause every molecule in our bodies to explode at the speed of light.

If you’re Capcom, how do you ape the west in an authentic way? You start with the basics. Swords and magic? Check. Lots of grays and browns? Check. Stunning high-fantasy vistas? Check. Dyspeptic goblin hordes? Check. All Capcom would need to make the transition complete is an appropriate score—gothic, yet rousing—fit for a brooding hero. Maybe Capcom could do something akin to what composer Jeremy Soule created for Skyrim—those monkish chanting that greet you on that game’s title screen really get you in the mood for smiting, and first impressions are important.

The Dragon’s Dogma title screen arrives unremarkably enough—a dragon perched on a rock in the distance accompanied by dulcet piano tones. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a ripping guitar drops in, and some guy from the Cheap Trick school of WAAAAAAAAA starts singing about flying free and letting go and iodine and seriously what the hell is this, Capcom? I’ve never been to Japan, but this is how I picture the elevator music in Tokyo. It’s as though I’m being subjected to a variation on the Clockwork Orange Ludovico technique, except with my ears. Instead of developing an aversion to violence, though, I fear I’ll never be able to watch an episode of Dragon Ball Z ever again. But I’m physically unable to stop listening the whole way through. There’s even a solo. It’s just all so incredibly incongruous to the mood and style of the game. The song is in English, but I can’t help but feel something was lost in translation. I love it.

Illustration by Derrick Sanskrit.

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21 Responses to “Dragons East!”

  1. PaganPoet says:

    I can’t help but sing “Let’s fighting love” along with this song.

  2. I was just looking up the lyrics to figure out what the hell he’s saying and… is the song actually about the nuclear disaster in Fukushima?

    “Today I woke and looked outside again
    But the sky looked the same to me
    Something told me that this world had changed
    Couldn’t figure out what did it mean

    Some say to get out fast, looks like it’s gonna last
    Get all your things and fly (DON’T LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND)
    Some said it’ll be OK, just go ahead and stay
    Be sure to drink your iodine”

  3. AmaltheaElanor says:

    Oh, I hate, HATE this opening song.  I’m playing through the game right now, and I feel like the song starts pretty with the piano, deceiving you into thinking it’s a nice song, and then suddenly turns into something atrocious with a guy who can’t sing, and I can’t get through those titles fast enough.  Seriously – it drives me nuts that the game has to spend 30 seconds to check and make sure and I don’t have DLC and then remind me how I can buy DLC and then check once again to make sure I don’t have to have DLC, because it always means I run the risk of hearing the start of him singing and it’s awful.

    Gah.  I’m sure I care way too much about this.

    • George_Liquor says:

      I love it. It reminds me of the Pod People song:

      With a pickle mind

      We kick the nipple beer

      Steady as a goat

      We’re flying over trout

      Ghetto down the highway

      At the speed of light

      All I wanna feel now

      Is the wind in my eyes

      Sack of monkeys in my pocket

      My sister’s ready to go!

  4. His_Space_Holiness says:

    Double Dragon’s Dogma: Neon

  5. stakkalee says:

    Now i have to run out and purchase a denim jacket and leg-warmers!  Quick, is my collar popped high enough?

  6. Ok, so I might be dating my self, but what does Cheap Trick School of WAAAAAAAAA, mean, exactly?

  7. Chip Dipson says:

    This is the type of music one would expect for the Ladyhawke video game that only exists in my head.

  8. Reuben says:

    When did Green Day start doing game music?

  9. Simon Jones says:

    To hell with you all.

    This is the single greatest piece of video game music ever.