Game That Tune

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Static On The Wire

The music of The World Ends With You spotlights the freedom of urban teenage rebellion.

By Derrick Sanskrit • June 13, 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).

E3 week. Lots of announcements. Lots of sequels. Very few surprises. Square-Enix, in particular, only “announced” titles that were little more than eventualities. Final Fantasy XV? Kingdom Hearts III? Sure, we didn’t know when those would happen (we still don’t) but there was never any doubt that they would exist at some point. I think I speak for a number of players when I say that the one spiky-haired teen angst action-RPG sequel I really wanted to hear about was The World Ends With You 2. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be this year, and that’s a shame. Not just because the original game was so unique and engaging, but because you just don’t hear pop music as spirited “Déjà Vu” in games these days:

This tune is crossover pop magic. Fuzzed-out rhythm guitar creates a sense of teen rebellion atop the canned drum loops. A deep round bass pops in from time to time as a reminder that we’re still human and bound to that thing we call a soul. A flurry of echoed synth pulses fill the air with a borderline giddy amount of nu-electronica that screams, “We are young!” as well as Pat Benatar ever did. The bouncing emotions of both the musical density and the lyrics mirror the heightened teen angst that serves as the thematic core of The World Ends With You. Your character, a sullen teenager, writes off the human race as “stupid,” but once he’s forced to either relate to his peers or die, he discovers a tremendous sense of camaraderie. And the idea of getting “played” by a sense of recurring events is all too familiar for players of this time-bending game. “Where did we meet before just like this? I know your smile, your voice, just like that,” vocalist Joanna Koike sings with a sense of nostalgia for a forgotten friend. “Tell me this isn’t a dream.”

Thanks to Jackbert for the suggestion!

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42 Responses to “Static On The Wire”

  1. GhaleonQ says:

    I guess this was a outside-of-Japan exclusive track, which sucks since it’s not gotten the remix treatment http://vgmdb.net/album/38420 outside of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9BBDBuiTaE , which turns it into a Blondie song (awesome!).

    1. What are people’s thoughts on Takeharu Ishimoto?  http://vgmdb.net/artist/776  I had the impression his star was soaring (see: Kingdom Hearts assistance) due to Final Fantasy VII and this, but his Type-0 soundtrack was the only problem people had with that marvelous game.  (I was expecting greatness, but it was still pretty good.)  I think he’s the best person still employed by Square-Enix directly.

    2. Sorry, Derrick, but Jupiter celebrated E3 by releasing Picross E3 yesterday (GET IT?!).  http://www.jupiter.co.jp/product/game/ds/picrosse3.html  We, uh, just got the announcement of the E1 localization, because a picture of a pixelated dog requires very subtle translation.

    I love them, but this is a very, very sad list: http://www.jupiter.co.jp/product/game/ds .

    • Are you apologizing because it’s not TWEWY 2 or because you somehow knew that the original Mario’s Picross on Game Boy is by far my most-played game ever and the fact that there are two whole installments as Japanese eShop releases that we haven’t seen yet is slowly eating away at the very core of my being?

      (Breathe.)

      (Go to eShop to download the one that finally came out in the West today.)

      What the heck time does the eShop update? Why is my office wifi so slow right now? Who dropped all these dried mango slices all over my keyboard?

      • What were your feelings on 3D Picross?

        It’s been my default time-killing DS game for a few years now. I even had my own design accepted in one of their contests.

        • CountBulletsula says:

          3D Picross is my go-to game for when I can’t quite fall asleep.  Usually after a puzzle or too, my brain is sufficiently tired enough that I pass right out.

        • It took a bit of getting used to, and I definitely had more mistakenly knocked-out blocks due to the imprecise nature of the DS touch screen and the sense of scale in Picross 3D. What it lacked in Jupiter polish it made up for in HAL style (the point at which it slightly sickens me that I can recognize the work of various Nintendo studios without any sort of mascot characters). Ultimately, I thought of it as the Tetris Attack of the Picross series. Really it was its own thing with a totally different set of rules, but it was wonderful once you got into it, and hopefully the start of its own series like Puzzle League turned out to be. Speaking of, why have we not seen Puzzle League on the 3DS or WiiU yet? (probably because Planet Puzzle League on the DS is a hard act to follow)

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @dsanskrit:disqus The Gamecube version of that is actually 1 of MY 10 favorite games.  Intelligent Systems seems to do 1 a generation and they’ve hinted that Nintendo Wars is next.  It’s possible that they’re just too busy putting Nintendo on their back and carrying them to the finish line (Animal Crossing/Forest excepted).

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I HOPE that everyone enjoys Picross (and you’ve totally mentioned your fandom).  I also hope that everyone wants more for Jupiter than 3-month long, downloadable projects.  At the very least, I demand an ingenious, Twinkle Star Sprites combination of puzzle and action in their next long game, since the pretenders to their throne are reduced to ripping off Xi/Devil Dice: http://www.siliconera.com/2013/05/14/blazblue-maker-rolls-out-dice-rolling-puzzle-game-on-nintendo-eshop .

        Also, your brain spasm is also how I reacted to Chain Of Memories and this the 1st time I played them.  Aw, no, everything’s falling apart and I’m fizzing from my mouth!  It’s weird that they created the most placid and most frantic games on the 3/DS.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I think Takeharu Ishimoto is a really talented guy. I’ve never played Crisis Core, but by chance I heard some of his soundtrack for that game on Youtube. I loved it so much I downloaded the whole OST and put it on my iPod. It’s the only game soundtrack I take with me everywhere despite having never played the actual game associated with it.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Hah!  I bet you could sneak a few of the guitar-based tracks under anyone’s nose as real instrumental pop music.

      • Jackbert says:

        Oh man, he did the Crisis Core soundtrack? No wonder I dig the music in that game so much. I’m not too far in the game at all so I haven’t heard much though. I’ll have to check out some of the other tracks on Youtube as well.

    • Sleverin says:

       YES YES YES!  I’ve been thinking of suggesting this for months now.  I love this game, love this soundtrack and I’m super glad to see it shown on the GS! 

        You are right in that is was an outside of Japan only track, but there are in fact three (or four?) versions that are on official soundtracks and remixes.  There are four TWEWY albums out there…or three, I forget, but they have different versions.  They also have some amazing and I mean AMAZING combinations of Twister, Three Minutes Clapping, Deja Vu and Calling slammed together in one song. 

      After this soundtrack I find Ishimoto one of the more talented direct employees at Square.  I think he needs some more stuff to stretch his legs honestly, this game showed that he had quite the chops to create not only a varied soundtrack, but one that fit the game so perfectly.  The variety of combat music was always a treat and not only got me into the fighting mood, but really got me into the game.  Every battle the music would psych me up to get through the fights, blasting through my Psychs with the largest combos I could throw around and fighting for what felt like my life.  It’s not often I find a game with a soundtrack that isn’t just “Oh man this is an epic song for this fight” but instead a series (not just one song but a bunch) of songs that makes me think “Time to kick it into gear, you can’t fail because you’ve got to save yourself from death, GO!”  Ah, such fantastic brilliance I have not heard since Chrono Cross…even though in CC the only song I didn’t like was the random battle music….

  2. Cloks says:

    I’ve always meant to play this game but the DS has such an abundance of quality titles that I’ve never made it through even a fourth of the ones that interest me.

    What I wanted to say is that the header image for this article is pretty cool, even more so than usual.

    • Cheese says:

      This is absolutely one of the great DS games. Give it a playthrough sometime.

      • Chronomage says:

        Seconded.  It’s one of the most memorable games I’ve played in the last ten years.  Not just on DS, on any system.  

  3. PaganPoet says:

    I’ve always wanted to play this game, mainly because the setting (and apparently the music) remind me of Persona. Alas, there is no DS to speak of in my possession. Maybe I’ll end up getting a 3DS one of these days for the rich plethora of JRPGs I’ll have to catch up on.

    • caspiancomic says:

       A DS is almost worth picking up on the strength of TWEWY alone. And you’re quite right, the tone, setting, characters, and music are very reminiscent of Persona.

  4. BuddhaBox says:

    TWEWY was a game I desperately wanted to like. Everything about it, from the aesthetic to (what I had heard about) the gameplay made me incredibly excited for it. The characters seemed like more than paper cutouts, the plot was novel and suitably weird, and the setting was interesting.

    Then I started to play it. While I appreciate the spirited attempt to utilize the dual screen as a core part of gameplay rather than just a gimmick, doing so in an action RPG doesn’t work. Because I lacked the requisite 2+ pairs of eyes and hands, I found it incredibly frustrating and counter-intuitive. I don’t think that I ever scored above a “D” in a single fight. I’ve played through poorly designed and/or overly difficult games with enjoyable aesthetics (e.g. Jet Set Radio Future) just to see what else the game has to offer, but there is a limit.

    • I know it overwhelmed a lot of people, but the game really encourages to ease into it. The computer will take over the top screen character if you leave them alone to focus on the touch screen. The light-puck that passes between the two screens is a good thing to focus on, trying to pull off a solid attack with whomever has the puck at a given time is more effective than just firing on all cylinders with either one all the time. What worked for me, even though it’s cheap, was just recognizing simple patterns in the attacks. If I was watching the bottom screen, my thumb would just keep hitting “left-left-up. left-left-down. right-right-up. right-right-down” and the top screen combat was taken care of. Similarly, if I was watching the top screen, I’d keep doing three horizontal slashes right, then three horizontal slashes left and the bottom screen combat was under control.

      I hear the iOS version is much easier to control, but I just can’t bring myself to play a game that huge and time consuming on the same device I use to check email and weather.

      • Yeah if you give Neku some simple to use pins you can all but eliminate the multitasking when the puck goes to the top screen. My favorite was one that just dropped a stationary sphere of water wherever I tapped the stylus. Enemies walked into it and did my work for me.

        And then as you said, recognizing the somewhat limited combos for the top screen lets your thumb take over while you pay attention to Neku.

        There have been very few games that put almost all of the DS’s unique features to work*, but WEWY is among the very best at doing so.

        *That isn’t a collection of mini-games.

        • Absolutely, pin choice helped a ton in this once combat actually got challenging. I would always keep one of the pins that caused an earthquake whenever it picked up noise through the microphone because I mostly played on the train. The pin took about ten seconds to recharge, so every ten seconds the entire bottom screen’s worth of enemies would get a solid hit and frozen in place without my lifting a finger. I just let the sounds of mass transit do the fighting for me while I focused on more nuanced maneuvers.

          TWEWY and Phantom Hourglass and basically neck-and-neck for best use of the full DS feature set, though it did confuse me at first that the battery indicator in the corner of TWEWY had nothing to do with your actual DS’s battery life. That would have been amazing.

      • CountBulletsula says:

        Agreed.  The combat can feel overwhelming at first, but it just takes some easing into.  I definitely don’t feel like it was poorly designed at all.  It helps that thre is a slider for difficulty that you can gradually increase as you play as well.  The computer is fairly reliable in the top screen, although quite a bit slower than just mashing directions yourself.  I think it’s also really important to be aware of the types of pins you have equipped.  Pins where you can slash the bottom screen provide a great opportunity for you to check what you’re doing on the top screen because generally slash pins keep enemies at bay.  You can also try dodging enemies by dashing around until the light puck comes back to you on the bottom.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      This gets discussed in game design all of the time, but I’m of the crowd that thinks that a player need not feel in control at all times.  It’s probably impossible to play the game perfectly, so the game becomes about management and choosing between imperfect choices.  (Also, as Derrick mentions, it does introduce things well.)  That can frustrate players, but I think it’s a mind-broadening exercise that also opens up lots of gameplay possibilities.

      I don’t know if Kingdom Hearts or card-based gameplay is your thing, but Chain Of Memories is mostly the single-screen version of the game.  It has equally top-notch aesthetics.

      • CountBulletsula says:

        When I played KH:CoM, I enjoyed it very much, but I fell in love once I finally got to Reverse/Rebirth.  The fact that they give you an uneditable deck to utilize made the game way more fun and strategic.  By the end of Sora’s Story I was just spamming my high numbered sleights or cycling back to my 0’s, Riku’s story actually made you think and pay attention all while scrambling around and I loved it.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Indeed.  It has 1 of the most satisfying and overlooked New Game Pluses around, I’d say.  They tweaked it so the disparity’s not quite as great in the remake, and I could never decide whether that was a good choice or not.

      • Chronomage says:

        Right.  Part of the fun of the twin screen battle system is that, even when things go well, you feel like you’re barely hanging on.  It prevents battles from feeling dull and rote, which is a major problem with many jrpg games.  I loved it.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I would never call TWEWY poorly designed, in fact I might go in completely the opposite direction and call it one of the system’s best designed games. I might be willing to concede “difficult” though. Although I prefer to call it demanding. I found it pretty refreshing that that game actually expects a lot from its player, and expects more of the player as he or she proceeds. It was always difficult to keep track of, and every time you thought you had a handle on the game it would throw you another curve ball, but that’s what a difficulty curve is all about.

      • BuddhaBox says:

        The “poorly designed” part was directed more at JSRF. I have no problem with demanding games, but the frenetic speed of the action combined with the difficulty was what got me. It’s like if FTL had no pause button and enemy systems moved around; I just can’t process all of that at once.

        Admittedly, it’s been something like a year since I played it, so my it’s entirely possible I’m misremembering it as more difficult than it actually was.

  5. Jackbert says:

    Thanks, Derrick! Love this song, soundtrack, and game! Some of my other favorites are “Give Me All Your Love”, “Calling”, and “Game Over”. A lot of the short loop tracks that are played in shops and stuff are really great too.

    • Sleverin says:

      Calling is my second fav track and I love the different versions of it as well.  The shop tracks are great little mixes of either old school hip hop esque tracks or stuff you hear in modern “fancy” stores with whatever techno they play, either way catchy stuff.  I liked “The One Star” as well, a good sort of American Hardcore sound, however the only track I don’t really like is “Transformation”.  It’s a bit too Linkin Park for my taste. 

      • Chronomage says:

        “Calling” is also good exercise music.  It’s on my ipod’s work out playlist.

        • Sleverin says:

           I have all the soundtracks and cherry picked all of the stuff I like into a mega near 3 hour playlist.  If I need to focus super hard on work or get pumped on a bike ride, hit shuffle and go!

  6. Chalkdust says:

    Nice pick!  I will springboard from this because I was reminded of another recent Square-Enix track that is heavy on vocals, from Final Fantasy XIII-2.  Composed by Mitsuto Suzuki and featuring Origa, a Russian-born singer who may be better known for appearances in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack.

    Historia Crux

    It’s probably my favorite track from XIII-2, which is good, because it’s heard very frequently.  It’s the background track for the Historia Crux (of course), a map/timeline that you use to navigate between areas in the game.  The game’s central hub, essentially.  It was well into my playthrough before I realized how long the song actually is, because I never spent more than a minute at a time between stages.

    I left it running long at one point, though, and heard the tonal change around 2:00, which still gives me chills (I am highly susceptible to frisson, moreso than other people I’ve talked to about the phenomenon).  That’s when I knew I really really liked this song.  The synths counterbalanced against the live strings and horns, the forward-marching pace, the way it stays dramatic without becoming bombastic, and then the idiosyncratic quality of Origa repeating the phrase “time and space” at the end with increasing urgency… it trips up some deeply buried circuit in my lizard brain to positive effect.

  7. Brainstrain says:

    I have this game, but I never could get very far into it. I was never sure what the combat system wanted from me. Do I need to hire a friend to play the other screen? Do I need to ignore one to excel on the other? I felt like it expected me to have all this figured out almost immediately, which is silly with such a novel system. Maybe someday I’ll take another stab at it.

    • Sleverin says:

      You can always set your partner to “Automatic” if it’s really difficult for you.  It’s not as efficient as you doing it yourself, but you can get through the game no problem with it.

  8. caspiancomic says:

    Derrick, sometimes I feel like this feature is a love letter to me, and I want you to know I accept.

    I was really hoping for a TWEWY 2 as well (hell I tried my hand at designing one myself.). It seemed like Square was testing the waters with that iOS port last year and with their inclusion of the TWEWY crew in Kingdom Hearts 3D. Apparently earning the hidden ending in Solo Remix earned you some kind of non-committal teaser about another possible entry into the series, but whatever it is must not be ready for the limelight yet.

    (Man, a TWEWY track on Game That Tune on my birthday! It’s like you knew!)

    • PaganPoet says:

      Happy bidet, friend! Make merriment!

    • That non-committal teaser was exactly why I allowed my hopes to be raised.

      I only played Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance because the cast of TWEWY pop up (in lieu of Final Fantasy characters this time) (also because Agnello literally pushed the box into my hands) and it totally rekindled my dormant enthusiasm for that series, so the KHIII teaser got me smiling, but we can pretty safely assume that game is still years away.

      A very happy birthday to you! I wish I’d planned this! Or probably something better!

    • Jackbert says:

      Happy birthday, Pat! Enjoy your new 3DS and however else you celebrate!

      [And if you’ll check out the bottom of the article, you’ll see I got suggestion credit. Maybe I did know and planned it! (I didn’t!)]

  9. Sleverin says:

    Comment redacted and moved to the proper place.

  10. Chronomage says:

    Anyone know why the game’s final track, which plays over the credits, isn’t available on itunes?  I think it’s called Lullaby for You.  It’s a shameless, cheesy ballad, but sue me, I like it.