The Leitmotif: The Fat Lady's Legacy

[The following is a companion piece to a larger work, titled "Is Game Music All It Can Be?" I suggest you read that one first.]

The leitmotif is a concept that was really exemplified by Richard Wagner, the famous opera writer of the late Romantic period. You can read that link for a thorough explanation, but at its base level a leitmotif is a very small musical idea that serves to announce the presence of a character, place, object or even idea. Think of it as a mnemonic device of a story. It has become the one of the most important idea in scoring for feature works. Games, however, seemingly have no clue how to exploit this idea to deepen and enhance the player's experience.

“But wait!” you say. “I hear recurring themes in my games all the time!” Yes, it’s true, there are often common themes running through sequels, but this does not explore the full potential of the leitmotif. Wagner himself started out with this sort of unchanging theme, used over and over to the point where Claude Debussy said the use "suggests a world of harmless lunatics who present their visiting cards and shout their name in song." This is not, as you can imagine, the kind of image you want to project.

As an example, the “Zelda Theme” (and many other themes from the Zelda series) has been used in every single Zelda game since Ocarina of Time — always at the actual meeting with Zelda, and always roughly the same. Same tempo, same feel, often even the same key. The only thing that changes is that the orchestration gets a little beefier as technology and budgets grow. For instance, here are the Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess tracks side-by-side:

These do nothing to explore any narrative potential; they simply announce “This is the scene in which you interface with the Princess.” Once more, despite tremendous advances in technology between the two games, the latter can only muster somewhat better samples than the original N64 game. This is about as far as video games have gone in exploring the leitmotif. It is a tremendous missed opportunity; they are one of the most powerful tools a composer has in his toolbox.

Let me show you what I'm talking about in a more sophisticated example. For a very brief, drive-by example of leitmotif in modern cinema, we shall turn to John Williams, the idea’s modern-day master. I could choose a dozen or more themes he’s written and you could instantly think of the character they represent, but for now we’ll stick with this one. So: Name that tune!

Everyone recognizes this. In its most fundamental use, this leitmotif has succeeded — it instantly makes you think of a certain character, place, or idea — but what about the interesting implementations of this? If I may be allowed to torture you for a moment with Hayden Christensen’s acting from Episode III:

Williams subtly inserts this theme into Anakin’s responses to Padme’s pleadings. It starts in very twisted variations around 1:10 and becomes more defined and recognizable as “Imperial March.” The violins take the B theme around 1:30, the trumpet intentionally mangles the A theme at 1:58, the first two bars of the theme are stated quite strongly as Anakin gives us his “evil face” at 2:09. In short, we’re watching Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader, he of the “Imperial March.” The theme is short and stunted at first, distorted in key and pitch, but it coalesces at the same time as Padme’s horrible dawning comprehension of what her husband has become. It — call me crazy on this one — supports the picture.

So where can this recognition and manipulation be found in games? Just about nowhere.

I don’t really know why this is. It’s so effective, but it’s never fully explored. Perhaps it’s because videogame plots tend to be so straightforward that there’s no room for subtlety and alternate takes on reality, but I don’t think that’s always the case. RPGs provide an excellent opportunity for leitmotifs, but honestly even many action and FPS games have plenty of room for subtle ideas. I’d love to hear a theme in Modern Warfare 3 that belied what one of the characters was trying to say.

Sadly, I only know of one game that has used leitmotif to any notable effect: Final Fantasy XIII. [Very early-game plot spoilers ahead]

I’ll be honest: I’ve never really been a big fan of Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks, at least as they pertain to our topic today. They’re pretty, and he writes a catchy melody, but they don’t really carry the narrative. Masashi Hamauzu’s soundtrack of Final Fantasy XIII was panned by some for not being up to the standard set by his predecessor Uematsu, but I think it is hands-down the best, most cinematic game score I have ever heard. It gives me hope for the future of game music.

In Final Fantasy XIII, each character has their own theme. This means six separate leitmotifs for the characters, as well as around a dozen conceptual themes — one of which is incredibly important (arguably the most important in the game). Each is used many times in many ways to evoke certain ideas that differ based on where an when they occur, each bringing their own weight to the visuals of the moment. There are themes for objects, important locations, and even for intangible concepts like atonement and promise. Let’s look at one of the important themes.

“The Promise” is the main theme of the game, and can be found peppered all over the place. This theme encapsulates the main purpose and focus of two of the playable characters, and can be extrapolated to all six. It is mostly used to represent a promise that Snow and Lightning made to Serah, an important NPC. She is Lightning's younger sister and Snow's fiancée, and has in a manner of speaking been cursed and turned into a L'cie. The promise made by both Snow and Lightning is to save her by whatever means possible. Here is the theme in its pure form.

It is a simple melody, but it has a complex and evocative underlying chord structure. It also has three distinct parts, each comprising roughly 1/3 of the composition. The A section is the solo piano section at the beginning; the B section starts at about :34 when the full string section and winds enter; and the C section begins at 1:05 with the undulating violins over the top of the slowly plodding lower strings. Interestingly, each section is sometimes used on its own to evoke slightly different aspects of the promises made. The C section, referred to by Hamauzu himself as a "crystal motif", appears in quite unusual places and can give the player fresh perspective. It’s very … wistful. It’s also out of tempo almost every time it appears, which is an interesting effect that composers can be reticent to utilize. Let’s look at a few uses of this theme to see how Hamauzu supported or altered the meaning of the visuals.

The above statement is the first time we hear “The Promise” in the game proper, while the promise is being made. It’s pretty similar to the pure version, which makes sense. There are a few things to be gleaned from it, though. For starters, section A of the theme is performed by a sweeping string section, instead of a simple piano. It adds a more maudlin, bittersweet tone to the moment, reverberating with a promise made to an ostensibly dying individual. Also note that the changes in the theme from A to B to C and back to B are all very loose beats, corresponding with slight shifts in emotion or action of the scene. A is used starting at :40 for introductions and expository setting. B kicks in when Serah speaks, the delivery so to speak, and the promise itself is made by both Snow and Lightning. C enters as the time for words has passed — again, a wistful, poignant moment, as the characters realize that Serah has become a crystal (hence the moniker “crystal motif”) and is therefore “dead”, but fulfilled her focus and avoided the horrible fate of becoming Cie’th. We transition back to B as the process ends and the scene focuses on the characters’ rather bewildered reactions. Because the scene itself is something I would describe as “squishy”, you can see that these aren’t hard beats but softer, more gradual transitions.

Here we have one of several flashbacks to this same location earlier in the story (soundtrack version). This punchy, upbeat arrangement plays over events that occur before things have gone all to hell. It’s a rather playful due to some joking going on, and there are fireworks. Note the distinct lack of the third portion of the theme at the end. Note also that it cuts out for the brief time the discussion turns to darker matters (PSICOM), but then re-enters full blast once the conversation turns to a promise Lightning made to Serah. A different promise, and less serious, but it ties the two sequences together very well. Because it has a more light-hearted tone, the C section is omitted entirely, and we instead alternate repeatedly between the A and B sections of the theme.

This version is presented the first time that our characters enter a “brave new world.” Up to this point, our heroes have worked diligently to try to fulfill their promises, but immediately preceding this they discover that everything they thought they were doing was actually being orchestrated by their enemy, and they’ve only been helping hasten Cocoon’s destruction (which would be the opposite of their promise). So here they are, unceremoniously dumped onto a strange and dangerous world, with no clue of what to do next. It is a huge, sprawling place, with creatures and beings that can look down upon them and judge them. However, we have this level music that remixes the promise to give it a drive, a steady focus. In contrast to the lack of direction portrayed on-screen, it reminds us that the characters all still have a purpose, and it is the engine that drives them forward through their trials.

Our next cue (another flashback) uses a similar arrangement as the original version, although it is slower and a bit more unsure of itself. Less percussive instruments, more low strings. This flashback on the beach is another promise between Snow and Serah, very similar to the one we examined earlier. Again, the A theme is used as introduction and exposition, the B theme (with a nice hard cut to the sunset right as it kicks in) is the statement of the promise, and the C theme is the crystalizing, all-things-left-unsaid piece. It takes us back to that original moment when she turned to crystal, and gives a deeper impact to the promise Snow makes both here and earlier.

There are also several instances of a “blink and you’ll miss it” thematic use. Take this scene, for instance:

...which uses the “Pulse Fal’cie” theme through most of the video. Beginning right at :39, as we pass under the Fal’cie and cut to Snow, we get a very slow, melancholy statement of a single line of section B of the theme. Things look somewhat hopeless at this point, as Snow is amidst rubble and the Fal’cie where Serah’s located is guarded by half the Sanctum fleet. Very subtle, but nice.

The final use of this theme I’ll examine today is the ending credits. It uses a classic movie trope of remixing the main leitmotif of the story in a way that engages the viewer to walk out of the theatre feeling refreshed, saddened, uplifted, or whatever the point of the movie was. (In our case, mostly uplifted.) The underlying chord structure of the theme has changed, become more major key, more majestic, more final. There is a small amount of bitter-sweetness to it to reflect the fates of Fang and Vanille, but most of it points to the joyous reunion of Serah and Dajh with the main characters.

I chose a theme that has simplistic uses of the leitmotif idea and is mostly presented intact, but there are a great many more advanced and subtle uses of the leitmotif in Hamauzu's work in this game (even an incredible rhythmic motif that runs through almost every theme in the game and hearkens back to a similar idea in Beethoven's 5th Symphony). A full article could be written on each of the themes in Final Fantasy XIII, but Lightning's theme in particular is a fun one to dissect, as it gets sliced and diced a lot more. If you're up for homework, check out the following links and see what you can glean from their uses. 1 (through 3:25) 2 3 4 5 6 7

Final Fantasy XIII is an excellent example of using the leitmotif to support the visuals. Sure, the gargantuan orchestra playing impressionist chords is great in a gee-golly-whiz way, and they work well with the highly-produced and generally large focus of the game. But the real point is that the themes themselves, those simple melody lines, can be twisted, reverted, and contorted in all sorts of ways to create interesting emotions and call back certain themes that would otherwise be missed.

Comments

Minarchist wrote:
AJLange wrote:

I think this is awesome, and a great analysis.

But I have to disagree with the point that Uematsu never used leitmotif effectively. I recently read this analysis of character themes in Final Fantasy VI that I thought had a lot of interesting breakdowns. [posted link] There's a lot of songs quoting other songs, and one character theme that piggybacks on another (Locke/Rachel) to tell a story. I think it's a solid motif considering the more limited technology in this title, and uses music to talk about the characters' relationships to one another.

Thanks, that's a really interesting link. It makes me want to go back and play the game again; it has been a long time.

Admittedly, it's tough for me to consider some of those older works in the same breath because of the indeterminate nature of the music. Those songs just played over a bunch of text that could advance at the player's discretion, so you couldn't really set up too many moments. But you make a good point.

I was going to jump in and defend Umatsu with that very argument. What he was doing was more similar to writing music that you would listen to while reading a book than while watching a film. In turn based battles, text based stories, and sprite based 2D animations it's hard to set up a lot of the techniques you mention.

Your overall point, which I agree with, is that games are getting more cinematic and drawing more from film and other types of more established media. The composers should be doing the same.

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

I didn't realize the soundtrack to NieR was a huge reason you loved it. After listening to the specific examples posted, I definitely think I will share the appreciation. I'll be picking up that one in addition to FF XIII very soon.

It's funny; in that big write-up of Nier I did, I think I put in the words near the beginning to the effect of "the music deserves its own special mention; more on that later." Apparently "later" meant "18 months from now."

The Persona 4 examples are pretty funny...

Yeah....yeah. It's funny, because much of the blowback I've received in the article's comments have been on calling that game out. Some even say they like it as an OST, which is missing the point entirely. It's one thing to work as a soundtrack, something you put on in the car while you're driving to work. It's another thing entirely to work as a score, and support the game itself.

As you well know, anyone that's spent five minutes in these forums knows that I am a total Atlus whore -- for Persona stuff especially -- and will sing their praises to anyone I meet, but man alive does their music suck. Let it never be said that I am biased when it comes to music criticism.

Glad you enjoyed the article!

Ha! Yeah, I don't think I even read the writeup you did on NieR. I'll have to do that but will probably wait till I've played NieR. I just noticed a few off hand comments here and there on GWJ.

The whole question of a soundtrack being good as a score and a soundtrack being good as an album is fascinating but not particularly relevant to the discussion. That's why I didn't even mention Machinarium which is my all time favorite soundtrack. While that soundtrack did decent things as a score it excels as an album. I still listen to it once a week most of the time and at the least once a month. I do believe it's the only game soundtrack that I listen to like any other music album I own. Part of this might be due to the fact that I started listening to the album heavily before I even played the game. I also listen to Tomas Dvorak's Floex stuff which is very similar.

As you mentioned in the Gamasutra article, Botanicula is much more pertinent to the discussion because it is the better score and does much more interesting things in how it integrates music into a point and click game.

Minarchist wrote:

He may not remember it, but I did a quick little interview of M0nk3yboy when I was writing this. He had just finished the game and had no idea that I was writing an article, but I just asked him a few questions about the score, and if he noticed any recurring themes. I am proud to say with basically no prompting he was able to remember examples of, say, how they floated a couple bars of "Snow's Theme" over a scene with Hope when hope is talking about getting revenge. So it's intuited more than you may think. Or, as some of us are fond of saying, "Don't assume your players are idiots!"

Who are you calling 'not an idiot'?

I remember it well, good article!

Still one of the hardest game soundtracks to listen to and not be transported back to the action/scene/emotion.

m0nk3yboy wrote:

Still one of the hardest game soundtracks to listen to and not be transported back to the action/scene/emotion.

I agree.

I dunno if you had a chance to read the full article, but if you'll remember, at the time we discussed how Nier was also a very well put-together score. That gets a good half a page.

Nice work on the article!

A few thoughts:

One reason that Leitmotif is not common in game scores is because it's really not popular in Hollywood anymore. I am constantly hearing working composers complain about how melody is dead in modern film scoring, harmony is dead in modern film scoring, orchestration is dead in modern film scoring, and so on. Generally speaking, elaborate and subtle thematic writing is not in fashion and hasn't been for a long time. John Williams still writes that way, of course, because he's John Williams, and you'll hear that kind of writing emerge in family-oriented animated features--Powell's How to Train Your Dragon score is an excellent example, and Giacchino's Pixar scores--but mainstream Hollywood genre films mostly don't sound like that anymore.

In the West, producers of big budget games mostly want their scores to sound like Hollywood, and when Hollywood is shying away from overtly melodic and thematically intricate scores, the game industry follows along.

Also, I think Warriorpoet897 made some really good points, and I agree that it's not fair to say that Zimmer phones it in. He's one of the hardest working guys in the business, and while his writing may seem simple at first glance it is often amazingly smart and creative once you peel back a few layers. Between Hans and James Newton Howard, they essentially created the template for the modern action movie score with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. His Inception score is surprisingly deep, and has been copied endlessly. The thing about Zimmer is that he comes not from the world of formal composition, but from the world of the recording studio, programming and playing synths in pop music, and so his innovations are often more about timbre and texture than they are about theme or structure. And again, for better or worse Hollywood is more about timbre and texture these days.

One reason that Leitmotif is not common in game scores is because it's really not popular in Hollywood anymore. I am constantly hearing working composers complain about how melody is dead in modern film scoring, harmony is dead in modern film scoring, orchestration is dead in modern film scoring, and so on.

Could I coax you into talking about why you think that is, and what's replaced it?

wordsmythe wrote:
One reason that Leitmotif is not common in game scores is because it's really not popular in Hollywood anymore. I am constantly hearing working composers complain about how melody is dead in modern film scoring, harmony is dead in modern film scoring, orchestration is dead in modern film scoring, and so on.

Could I coax you into talking about why you think that is, and what's replaced it?

And if he can't coax it out of you, can I? That seems to have worked out well for Minarchist.

I enjoyed the thoughts, Podunk! I suppose I don't really have any specific comment, though. I ordered NieR and FF XIII today. I'm quite excited to give them a go. I was curious about picking up the soundtracks later sometime after I finished the game and found that Square definitely doesn't make it easy. You can find NieR on CD for about 21 bucks on Square's website. A normally priced CD version of FF XIII's soundtrack doesn't seem to be anywhere. They are all expensive imports from what I can tell. It does seem like they are on iTunes but not on Amazon MP3 for whatever reason. I really wouldn't want to have to use iTunes to buy it, but it might be the only reasonable route other than that "other" method. I wish iTunes sold lossless versions. Ah well, I won't have to worry about it for quite a while.

Podunk wrote:

...mainstream Hollywood genre films mostly don't sound like that anymore.

Yes and no, I think. You still see it used a lot by some guys like Howard Shore, who aren't quite part of the old guard that Williams is and Goldsmith was. At any rate, I don't think it's a bad thing. I discussed that in the larger piece, using the Alias theme "song" as an apocryphal example.

This particular extract focused on the leitmotif as a melodic concept, that was done for the reader's ease. I'm totally cool with using other methods, be it rhythmic, sonic, or what have you, to get a leitmotif concept across. My goal in writing the piece was to get people to think of game scores as a cohesive whole that can really act as another character to the designer/director, supporting recurring themes throughout the game.

I'm with you on scores getting away from melody, but I think the argument still holds up. Even the Inception horns could be considered a leitmotif, as they consistently represent a particular thematic idea in the movie.

There's actually a really mega-nerd simple rhythmic theme that runs underneath almost every single theme in Final Fantasy XIII that I would have loved to talk about, but it's not a concept that would come across to someone without a fair amount of training. Much like how a classic sonata-allegro form of symphony would carry a basic rhythmic motif throughout all four movements, a simple statement of "quarter, dotted quarter, eighth, eighth, eighth" is present in a huge number of cues in FF XIII. It's way simpler and more subtle, and gets more to a Zimmer style of execution.

...and I agree that it's not fair to say that Zimmer phones it in.

But you're forgetting the fact that he's a big jerk.

EDIT: also, these would have been great points to bring up when I sent this to you for review a while ago.

EDIT 2:

Minarchist wrote:

Much like how a classic sonata-allegro form of symphony would carry a basic rhythmic motif throughout all four movements, a simple statement of "quarter, dotted quarter, eighth, eighth, eighth" is present in a huge number of cues in FF XIII.

Nifty! I'll have to listen for that when I end up getting a chance to play it.

Minarchist wrote:

EDIT: also, these would have been great points to bring up when I sent this to you for review a while ago. :P

Ha!

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Nifty! I'll have to listen for that when I end up getting a chance to play it.

The first line of Lightning's theme/main battle theme are the most obvious places to pick up on it, but it's seriously all over the place.

Minarchist wrote:
tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Nifty! I'll have to listen for that when I end up getting a chance to play it.

The first line of Lightning's theme/main battle theme are the most obvious places to pick up on it, but it's seriously all over the place.

Ha! Okay, I went to that first numbered link listed regarding Lightning's theme and yeah, it definitely shows up when the horns come in at 1:55. Cool! I'll be interested to see the different incarnations. That'll be another fun thing to listen for. Since the game is supposed to take a long time to get into, it'll make it easier playing it more for the music.

Minarchist wrote:
m0nk3yboy wrote:

Still one of the hardest game soundtracks to listen to and not be transported back to the action/scene/emotion.

I agree.

I dunno if you had a chance to read the full article, but if you'll remember, at the time we discussed how Nier was also a very well put-together score. That gets a good half a page.

Something I definitely intend to do (as soon as the kids give me 5 to check it out and digest it properly)

Minarchist wrote:

EDIT: also, these would have been great points to bring up when I sent this to you for review a while ago.

EDIT 2: :P

Don't get me wrong, I'm not disagreeing with you! I love the kind of deep, smart writing which you are advocating, and I wish there was more of it in games. I'm just suggesting as a possible corollary that maybe the rarity of good, well-developed melodic leitmotif in Western games is partly because that kind of writing has been less common in Hollywood than it used to be.

wordsmythe wrote:

Could I coax you into talking about why you think that is, and what's replaced it?

My perspective mainly comes from listening to grousing composers, so it ought to be taken with a grain of salt, but from what I can discern it's a combination of things, including but not limited to:

a) Hans Zimmer. Zimmer came along with an exciting, impactful style that de-emphasized intricate melody and orchestration in favor of an immediately accessible pop-influenced musical and production sensibility. Zimmer helped to establish the 90s blueprint for the action soundtrack: huge percussion, often augmented by synths and samples, almost no writing for woodwinds (unless they are exotic sounding ethnic winds), and orchestral recordings that are reinforced by layering in orchestral samples to create impossibly huge-sounding brass and impossibly aggressive-sounding strings. Zimmer also was (and remains) an incredibly shrewd businessman, and his Media Ventures (now Remote Control) studio became a both a powerhouse of music production and one of the premiere training grounds for Hollywood composers. Zimmer has served as a mentor for a shocking number of today's successful film composers, and a lot of those guys write in a similar style to Zimmer.

b) The democratization of music technology. 20-30 years ago, composing for film required either a very high degree of musical training, or some very expensive hardware. The Fairlight CMI, which Hans Zimmer used to create most of the score for Rain Man, cost around $68,000 in today's dollars. Around 10 years ago, the advent of reliable software samplers coincided with with affordable, widespread broadband, and suddenly a broke college student with a little moral flexibility could turn a reasonably capable PC into a workstation that crushed the Fairlight for the price of an internet connection. Among other things, this meant that more tech savvy, self-taught musicians like Hans Zimmer were able to score films, which inevitably meant less elaborate, musically literate writing in film scores.

c) A really well-crafted big orchestral score is expensive, and the film industry is increasingly risk averse. One somewhat bizarre new development in film scoring involves an outside investment group that will work with film studios to finance a high end orchestral score in exchange for the rights to the music. Last I heard, this group was working with some top-level composers on some big movies. That's how hard it is to get the studios to pony up the cash for a "traditional" orchestral score. Another side effect is that studios are increasingly interested in working with "name" artists who have a fan base outside of the ultra-niche market of people who buy film soundtracks, people like Johnny Greenwood, Daft Punk and Trent Reznor who have a chance of helping to recoup the cost of the score via selling a bunch of copies of the OST. That means fewer gigs for the types of composers who might write the sort of smart, developed orchestral leitmotif that Minarchist discusses.

I've also heard composers complain that directors are less musically literate than they used to be, which may be the case, I don't know. That might just be rose-colored glasses.

Podunk wrote:

huge percussion

I've changed my mind. Other styles are obviously inferior.

There is definitely something to be said for huge percussion.

IMAGE(http://www.st-striker.com/purduedrumline/drupal/bbd/10.jpg)

Something something work, something something bang something drum all day.

garion333 wrote:

Edit: Now that I'm skipping through some tracks [of the Gladiator soundtrack] it appears that much of the score isn't very good, but it's punctuated with some great tracks. /derail

Yup, sounds like Wagner, all right. (Wagner-slam!) Now, I love me some Wagner, but sheesh, Rossini was right.

Keithustus wrote:

Yup, sounds like Wagner, all right. (Wagner-slam!) Now, I love me some Wagner, but sheesh, Rossini was right.

Is this a reference to Rossini's famous quote that "Wagner has good moments, but bad quarter-hours"? If so, I am high-fiving you so hard right now.

See also:

"After Lohengrin, I had a splitting headache, and all through the night I dreamed about a goose." — anonymous Russian
"I like Wagner's music better than anybody's. It is so loud that one can talk without other people hearing what one says." — Oscar Wilde
"I love Wagner, but the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws." — Baudelaire

Yes, Minarchist, Rossini quote FTW.

I didn't much like Gladiator, the movie, when it came out, so am just now (literally now) listening to parts of the soundtrack on youtube. "The Might of Rome" Wow......soooooo playing with the sound of Wagner, wow. It instantly pictures in my mind the teaser clips at the beginning of each of the Met's recent Ring cycle in HD recordings, and will test soon whether my less-musically-minded wife has the same reaction. If you're going to steal, steal from the best.

detailed link

In case your curious I found the second soundtrack they released for Gladiator to be rather underwhelming. They released it because the first sold so well (and won awards) and it shows. I never found anything in that second disc that I didn't already enjoy in the first. Would I like a "complete" soundtrack that puts the two together? Moreso than the second disc alone, yes, but I'm now of the view that the Gladiator soundtrack is probably 20 to 40 minutes of good music and the rest is better left playing behind the scenes on screen.

Today's Top Score was an interview of Christopher Lennertz. They were discussing the score to Starhawk. Apparently that game score utilizes a ton of Leitmotif, and they talk about it for a few minutes.

Malor wrote:

I'm pretty sure that more games did this in the MIDI era, though I can't remember any offhand.

Monkey Island 2 for sure. LeChuck's theme, which was kind of basic and in-your-face (although still great) in the first game, comes back in a lot of subtle ways in the second one, for instance. The way iMUSE is shown off in Woodtick might not be an example of the leitmotif itself since it's just for the one town, but it's still cool how each area has its own variation on the town theme that blends seamlessly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N41T...

I don't know how I missed this article, and reading it and reflecting on the leitmotif elements in FFXIII's score (I think I let the pop-song ending bug me too much; kinda like how for some people, the last five minutes of ME3 really devastated their reflection on the games), I have to agree with Minarchist now: FFXIII really does have a pretty brilliant soundtrack.

I've been a fan of the usage of leitmotifs for a long time but just never knew it; I hadn't really learned about the term and practice until reading this (never took music theory), but just knew I loved the way some composers develop themes and then modify and overlap them throughout a large work (such as Shore with the LotR films, and Williams with the Star Wars movies).

And no, not many games have done this. The FF games have since FFIV, to some extent (the Rachel/Locke example given above in the comments is one of my favorite elements of that game, and then working Celes's theme in with the opera and later on with Locke's theme in the ending is great too).

All I know is, when Minarchist starts praising a game's music again, you can bet I'm going to perk up and pay attention.

To be fair, that pop song is pretty terrible.

Farscry wrote:

All I know is, when Minarchist starts praising a game's music again, you can bet I'm going to perk up and pay attention. :D

Played NIER yet? It's got a brilliant soundtrack (and, you know, it's a brilliant game).

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Farscry wrote:

All I know is, when Minarchist starts praising a game's music again, you can bet I'm going to perk up and pay attention. :D

Played NIER yet? It's got a brilliant soundtrack (and, you know, it's a brilliant game).

Also, that guy Minarchist talked about it a whole bunch in the main article linked at the top of this one. Y'know.

I have been enjoying the hell out of Nier lately. I've been rather busy, so whenever I do get a chance to sit down, Nier has been my top choice over FF XIII as of late. I think my favorite piece is that temple of the drifting sands one mentioned in the article. I was so happy when I finally got to the desert area because I knew that track was coming up. I could listen to it forever. There are many times when I just pause the game and keep the music going while I do other stuff for a bit.