Hello, Caelondia!: 9 in-game performances of original songs

Hello, Caelondia!: 9 in-game performances of original songs

1. “Build That Wall,” Zia—Bastion

On Bastion’s official soundtrack, Rucks, the carburetor-throated narrator, muses that one of the worst things about the world ending was losing music. If this was the kind of music they lost, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. “Build That Wall,” as performed by apocalypse-survivor Zia, is a sorrowful, soulful work song, stripped of everything but a barely there guitar (although it’s somehow played on a harp) and the singer’s own melancholy vocals. It describes the mounting conflict between the Caelondians and the Ura that would lead to the Calamity, the disaster that kicks off the game’s plot. More importantly, though, it evokes Bastion’s tragic-yet-hopeful tone, capturing the beauty and struggle of the entire game in just under three minutes. [Patrick Lee]

2. “1,000 Words,” Yuna and Lenne—Final Fantasy X-2

Final Fantasy X-2 ditched the self-serious melodrama of its predecessor for something sillier—more buddy-comedy than prestige drama. That much is clear when, in the middle of the game, it decides to take a break from the plot so Yuna can be a pop star. More precisely, Yuna uses a dress sphere—a techno-magical transformation token and the basis of the game’s outfit-based combat—to channel the spirit of a millennium-dead pop star and perform a heartfelt ballad on top of an airship. “1,000 Words” runs on the same mixture of absurdity and melancholy as FF10-2 and channels its interest in celebrity and memory into a tune The Spice Girls would have been proud of. It’s a pretty cool concert, really: Life-size holograms of Zanarkand, a long-lost metropolis, flank Yuna as she sings alongside her dead lookalike to an audience of random, baffled characters. [Jake Muncy]

3. “Ballad Of The Wind Fish,” Link—The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Musical instruments have always played an integral part in The Legend Of Zelda games. From the whistle in the 1986 original to the bell in 2013’s A Link Between Worlds, instruments have been vital tools in almost every entry on the official Zelda timeline. But nowhere has a musical performance been more woven into the adventure than in Link’s Awakening with the “Ballad Of The Wind Fish.” With each of the eight instruments Link collects throughout the game, the song grows more complex. Voices layer and fill cracks it’s hard to realize were there. Building the song becomes just as strong a motivator as saving the world. Whether those two goals are in harmony with one another is still up for debate. [Derrick Sanskrit]

4. “Lament Of The Highborne,” Sylvanas Windrunner and the banshee choir—World Of Warcraft

The banshee queen Sylvanas Windrunner serves as the leader of the Forsaken, a faction of free undead, in World Of Warcraft, but she first appeared as an Elven general in Warcraft III. When Arthas, the death knight, defeats her forces, she asks only for a clean death. Instead, he resurrects her and compels her to join his undead army. Blizzard reminds players of the tragic origin during a quest introduced in the Burning Crusade expansion. Blood Elves fighting their way through Sylvanas’ ancestral home, now infested by hostile undead and cultists, happen across a locket from Sylvanas’ sister. When the locket is returned to Sylvanas, the queen sings “Lament Of The Highborne” accompanied by a banshee choir. A mournful remembrance of the people and life she lost to a terrible enemy, the song was so beloved by players that Blizzard introduced an item that plays it on demand. [Samantha Nelson]

5. “Song Of The Ancients,” Devola—Nier

Nier is what happens when all of Drakengard is as good as its music. Drakengard tried to combine modern “dark” sensibilities with the trappings of traditional high fantasy, so its soundtrack was full of chopped and warped classical tracks—a combination of old and new. Nier, its sort-of sequel, has a tragic center but is otherwise as lovely and mysterious as the “Song Of The Ancients” cooed by Nier’s neighbor Devola in the game’s made-up language. You can actually speak with Devola while she’s in the middle of playing this tune, and the song’s vocal track will drop out for the duration of the conversation. [Patrick Lee]

6. Unnamed festival song, Luna—Lunar: The Silver Star

What matters about the one song performed in antique role-playing game Lunar: The Silver Star is that it’s in there at all. One of the earliest “talkie” games with a real story to tell, Lunar used 14 of its 15 precious minutes of clumsy voiceover to weave its dragon-filled tale. It devoted the other minute to Luna, the game’s love interest, as she practices a song for a festival performance. She’s just singing “la-la-la,” so either she’s having a terrible practice session or she’s just about ready for the annual celebration where everyone humors Luna. Then again, this is the sort of game Lunar: The Silver Star is. It’s earnest. It’s awkward. And even though it mostly exists just to deliver voice acting, it’s still willing to devote nearly seven percent of its script to a kind of talking that has no words. It may be a stilted pseudo-song, but for the adorably adolescent Lunar, it’s just right. [Joe Keiser]

7. “Got To Move,” MilkCan—UmJammer Lammy

UmJammer Lammy, the indirect sequel to a game about a rapping dog trying to win the heart of a sunflower by baking cakes and getting diarrhea, is like Josie And The Pussycats by way of Adult Swim instead of Hanna-Barbera. On her way to the MilkCan concert in which she’s supposed to be playing lead guitar, Lammy is forced to put baby bunnies to sleep with a surf-rock lullaby and use the powers of kid-friendly death metal to help fly a plane. When she eventually arrives at the concert, we finally get to experience Lammy’s true musical style and personality. “Got To Move” is a sugary pop-punk belter—emphasis on the “pop”—that re-affirms the game’s running themes of courage and self-confidence. It’s the perfect tune to round out an extremely bizarre game. [Patrick Lee]

8. “Song Of Rebirth,” Lephise—Klonoa: Door To Phantomile

Trying to repeat “la-la,” croon “la-la,” or belt “la-la” to the sky with emotional conviction is damn difficult unless you either are, or are at least singing to, a small child. But as it does many times, Klonoa: Door To Phantomile squeezes complex emotion out of the child-like with “Song Of Rebirth.” A saccharine dollop of piano and non-lingual vocalizations performed by the diva Lephise, demigod of Phantomile, it sounds like a harmless lullaby you’d sing to a colicky infant. Lephise sweetly lilts on minor key notes, singing a tune as breezy as Klonoa’s hometown, but the performance plays over a vicious sequence where the lead character is literally ripped from reality. Sweet and mean, simple but deep, “Song Of Rebirth” is much more than a lullaby. [Anthony John Agnello]

9. “Girlfriend,” Kabbage Boy—Brütal Legend

Scenes change. What qualified as “emo” in the early ’90s was more similar to the 2000s’ hardcore punk than that era’s “emo,” which skewed more toward mainstream pop. Similarly, “metal” meant very different things to fans in the ’70s than in the 2000s. Thrashers like Motörhead and Iron Maiden made way for bands like Linkin Park and Evanescence, who merged overdriven guitars with operatic swells, hip-hop beats, and wildly unnecessary orchestral samples. The developers at Double Fine poked fun at this trend with Kabbage Boy, the fictional group from Brütal Legend’s prologue. Their one-and-only song, “Girlfriend,” features nonsensical lyrics that layer on top of each other with terrible rapping, wavered singing, and posturing that makes it hard to tell whether the band is making fun of themselves or their audience—and whether either was in on the joke. [Derrick Sanskrit]

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