Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lovely Sweet Dream Emulator Kyoto OST Analysis and Review

Lovely Sweet Dream emulator, a surrealistic exploration game made by Asmik Entertainment in 1998 for the Sony Playstation, is an often-mentioned classic in the realm of weird video games.  The game has a simple premise.  The player moves around through strange and surreal worlds, randomly teleporting to another every time they touch an object.  The player is left to explore the spooky low-poly stages and uncover the game's mysteries on their own.  A big part of what makes the game great, however, is the soundtrack, composed by Osamu Sato, who also did a lot of the graphic design and executive art work on the game itself.  I'll take a look at the music from one specific stage, Kyoto.

To start off, the game's BGM (background music) functions in a bit of a strange way.  There are seven sections, Ambient, Cartoon, Electro, Ethnova, Human, Lovely, and Standard, and within each of those sections there are five pieces of BGM, A, B, C, D, and E.  The interesting thing about this system is that the lettered pieces correspond with a certain melody and the different styles make slight variations and changes to that melody.  This results in a level of consistency throughout the stage while also allowing different moods to be played with.  I'll go a bit into depth about the different lettered BGM and then within that discussion talk about the different styles and what they offer to the theme.

This is definitely my least favorite theme of the whole bunch.  The standard version has a really annoying noise in the background which sounds like a camera taking a ton of pictures very quickly.  I don't really like the main melody as much as I like other ones either.  The ambient version, however, sounds very cool, almost like a cool mix between choir-ish sounds and white noise.  The electro version also sounds intense and foreboding while also having a pleasant soundfont timbre in the main part of the melody.  It's also interesting to look at those soundfonts used.  In case you're unfamiliar as to what a soundfont is, old video game systems and computers didn't have the technological capabilities of playing back full audio files like we can today, and even when they became capable, the discs that ran older games couldn't store all he information for the files anyway.  Thus, older video games held samples and midi files.  These samples, which were made up of tones, such as a piano playing a single note for example, would then be played in a musical succession by midi files.  This partnership was much more low-cost than actual audio files for music.  Because of this, video game composers had to choose their sounds wisely, which resulted in a lot of interesting and iconic tones and songs to go with them from this time period.  To get back on topic, the sound which makes up the main melody in standard, cartoon, and lovely is very interesting.  It sounds a lot like a fretless bass sound mixed with a synthesizer.

Upon listening to the standard B theme, it sounds really cool and glitchy.  I think that the standard version of this is much better than any of the others, although there are a lot of really cool sounds used in all of them.  The coolest part in all cases is the weird glitchy ascending part right after the main part of the melody.  In every case, interesting textures are brought out from seemingly average soundfonts.  Looking at a few of the other versions also gives us insight into how this sound was made.  The cartoon version especially leans towards a pitch bend effect having been used in the midi files to get this cool effect.  On another note, the most interesting textures are in standard and electro. It's interesting to look at this part of the soundtrack, because although the loops are short and strange, there's actually a lot of thought and intricacy put into each piece of BGM.

In speaking of the intricacy of these tracks, the standard version of of C definitely qualifies too.  The standard piece creates a really cool illusion.  While the drums, which are sampled from a tr-909, play in the background, a metallic hit sound is pitched up and down in the background.  This gives the whole thing a great amount of movement and ties the piece together.  The strings sound nice and the descending resonant noises at the top are interesting too.  I think that this is the part with the most variation and interesting change between styles.  The ambient version is interesting-sounding, breaking a bit from the original melody, but still being recognizable.  It sounds like something underwater or a crowded subway or something like that.  The cartoon version is weird too, taking the earlier-explored concept of pitch-shifting and combining it with the techniques used in the standard version of this piece.  I really love the lovely version too!  The triangle waves in it sound really familiar and nice to me, so this is the part of C I enjoyed the most!

This piece is one of the more glitchy ones in the game.  I think it has one of the more enjoyable melodies compared to the others.  All the versions of this are pretty good.  The lovely version has a nice percussive melody, the cartoon version has an intense, hollow-sounding sound, the Ethnova version has an oriental-sounding guitar sound, and the electro version has really cool, intense pads.  All these versions feature cool beats in the background, with many of them having biting and visceral snare sounds.  What they all lack, however, are intense kick drum patterns.  The standard version more than makes up for this, with a gut-punching tr-909 kick backing the hectic piano melody.

For some reason, this melody is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this game.  The standard version and lovely are my favorites.  For the standard, the strings on top with a hectic baseline and scattered tr-909 drums dancing erratically in support are really what puts this track together for me.  I think this is definitely the most quintessential song in the game.  The lovely version also has a triangle-wave chord progression, which I really like as always.  The other versions of this are cool too, often switching the bass and chords and creating more dissonance in the parts, but I really just love the standard and lovely versions the most for E.

In Conclusion...
Overall, this game features a very intricate and well-done soundtrack full of background music that suits many moods and fits the aesthetic and feeling of the game very well.  While I wouldn't listen to these on repeat in my free time for the sake of my own sanity, I think they all serve their purpose and go very well with the game.  Overall, this game has a very interesting and cool soundtrack.  I hope you've enjoyed my analysis and review of the Kyoto stage music.  Below, I'll link a video of every piece of BGM from Kyoto, as well as a playlist of every song from the game.


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