The Power of Video Game Music and How Eternal Sonata Made Me Fall in Love With It

Throughout the early 2000s, I unconsciously had an appreciation towards video game music, though I never actively acknowledged this enjoyment. I grew up with a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) as a hand-me-down, a Game Boy Advance SP, and a PlayStation 2.

Needless to say, I was blessed with a variety of platforms, even if my library only consisted of a few titles. As a result, several titles from those olden days have tracks that ingrained themselves within my mind, from practically the entirety of Super Mario World and Kingdom Hearts to “Stickerbrush Symphony” from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest.

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While I was still not conscious of my appreciation for video game music at the time, I recall entering specific stages and worlds just to hear certain songs. Since I was incredibly young, I didn’t have access to any means of listening to this music outside of the game itself, which is not a problem today.

Anyway, I eventually realized that I was not like other kids in one of the pettiest ways imaginable. You see, I didn’t listen to the “normal” music they listened to. As they listened to popular artists, I held onto my knowledge of the hidden brilliance of video game tunes that felt exclusive to me.

Needless to say, I already possessed a sturdy sense of inferiority because my choice in games differed dramatically from that general crowd. While my classmates would play Call of Duty and the like, I would play Final Fantasy, Tales, Kingdom Hearts, etc. It was obvious that I derived joy from gaming in altogether unique ways than how they did.

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Once the internet became more readily available, I spent an embarrassing amount of time looking up songs to video games I liked and playing them when no one else was in the room. This closet love of music evolved as I began to watch anime in my early teen years, where I would play opening and ending songs in the same manner.

Looking back, I felt like an absolute joke, to be honest. I don’t want this to be a pity party because this is such a minor conflict a child could have, and I had my fair share of other concerns I dealt with, but something about not having identical hobbies as contemporaries my age made me feel like I didn’t belong.

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Cut to one Christmas a while after my revelations, and I received a game called Eternal Sonata for the PlayStation 3. I recall asking for it as the box art intrigued me, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it as I unwrapped it that morning. I’ve always been into JRPGs, and I was immediately drawn to this title’s combat and art style.

The use of shadows and light in battle mechanics is not really all that impressive nowadays. Still, it blew my mind at that age and engaged me from beginning to end despite its simplistic execution and questionable decisions. Additionally, I distinctly remember the ending segments bringing me to tears.

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More than any other aspect, though, the second I heard the battle theme “Leap The Precipice,” I legitimately put down my controller and really had to pay attention to what I was hearing. I was transfixed in a way I had never been before by a soundtrack, and I honestly can’t pinpoint any defining reason as to why. The instrumentation was simply magnificent to the point where I would grow somewhat miffed by battles ending because the song would stop.

“Broken Balance” is another distinct one. Well, the entire soundtrack is fantastic, but I think “Broken Balance” might be my overall favorite. I love chaotic violins, and this track cemented this affixation I had. “Dark Impetus” from Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is another track with the same idea that I adore, though that one is admittedly far crazier. The incorporation of Chopin’s compositions into this soundtrack made it feel almost sacred in a sense, too, as odd as that may potentially sound. You also can’t go wrong with Motoi Sakuraba, whose work I don’t think I can ever grow tired of.

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This was obviously not the first video game soundtrack I loved, but for some reason or the other, Eternal Sonata managed to destroy the instinctive aura of shame I willfully indulged in and replaced it with raw fascination and wonder.

Speaking of oddities, shortly after my time playing Eternal Sonata, I developed a strange habit, to put it mildly, that greatly aided with my writing. Whenever I would hear an instrumental song, particularly one I enjoyed, my mind would unconsciously devise random assortments of words in rhythmic timing with the tracks that would play. This helped with writing papers for school since I would simply listen to music and pluck words from those seemingly randomly generated strings that managed to contextualize with my desired intentions correctly.

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I actually shouldn’t be talking about this in the past tense since I still possess this bizarre skill of sorts, and I have grown to vastly appreciate it. I utilize it whenever writing any at least moderately lengthy piece like this one you are currently reading. There is occasionally a repetition of words, though, so it isn’t infallible, but I do still view it as an invaluable tool. This oddity is honestly what most contributed to me succeeding in high school and graduating college, as I could write without ever feeling fundamentally lost. Music quite literally guided me.

I have no specific memory for when this habit formed, but considering how it began roughly when I first played Eternal Sonata, I attribute credit to that title. Furthermore, considering the manners in which Chopin as a character was involved in Eternal Sonata’s narrative, I find the effects that music has on me, most notably this title and others I have not specified, to be vaguely, almost poetically fitting, perhaps in a placebo effect sort of way.

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Other video game soundtracks I discovered around the same time solidified my love of video game music, from the ongoing releases of Kingdom Hearts titles, to more obscure games such as the Ar Tonelico and Ys series. But, I can’t deny that Eternal Sonata has potentially the most unique home in my heart for the specific time in my life for when I experienced it.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.