Dream worlds, fantasy, and the creation of music0 Comments
Music is one of the oldest expressions of human creativity, and video games are one of the newest. Music is intensely tied to imagination, fantasy, and dreams. There is even a genre of music that is supposed to usher you to dreamland: the lullaby, my favorite of which is “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. And finally, video games allow players to enact a fantasy life in a new world.
It’s not surprising that music and dreams show up in video games as a recurring theme. Sometimes dreams create music, sometimes music creates dreams, and sometimes they bring about each other’s ends. Here are some of the games that mix music and fantasy.
Nights into Dreams
Claris’ story in Nights into Dreams begins with her audition to sing in a play, but she gets a bad case of stage fright in front of the judges and runs off. That night, she finds herself in a nightmare version of the audition where the judges turn into monsters. By playing through the levels of the game, which are called “Dreams,” Claris is able to overcome her nightmares and return to the audition the next day with courage. She nails it and blows the judges away. Her dream world allows her to find her voice and create music. To this day, the game's soundtrack lives on, and continues to inspire many remixes and performances by fans. So, in a way, the music has broken free of the fantasy world of the game.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
This game has an odd place in the Zelda series because it takes place almost entirely within a dream. In fact, it’s not even solely Link’s dream, but a shared dream with the Wind Fish. To further emphasize the fact that the world is a fantasy, several of the characters break the fourth wall by explaining the game’s controls, but acknowledge that they don’t even know what they are talking about. In addition, many characters from other Nintendo games make appearances throughout the adventure.
Link finds that in order to return to his world, he must collect eight magical, musical instruments and play them to awaken the Wind Fish. Doing so will bring an end to the dream and, consequently, destroy the dream world and all of its inhabitants. One must question whether or not that would make Link the villain of the game. In any case, the music destroys the fantasy, and Link awakens -- hence the title of the game -- on a piece of driftwood. The song ends, the dream ends, and the game ends.
PaRappa the Rapper
PaRappa is a young pup looking to impress a girl. The trouble is he’s not that cool, but he’s got big dreams. He imagines himself as a hero, driving a flying car, or impressing his girl with the perfect cake. It’s these fantasies that drive the young rapper to improve himself. He uses hip hop to train himself in martial arts, get his driver’s license, earn money, and even get to the bathroom in time. Through his daydreams, he’s able to set goals, and through music, he’s able to accomplish those goals. It’s pretty much the story of Jay-Z’s life, I think. In the end, PaRappa is able to perform on stage and win the heart of his Beyoncé, Sunny Funny. PaRappa raps his way into fulfilling his dreams.
Final Fantasy VI
If you played through this game, you’re familiar with “Maria and Draco,” an opera that is also known as “The Dream Oath.” It’s a performance that the player must go through by choosing the correct lyrics in order. Maria sings of her lost love, Draco, and laments that she is being forced to marry a prince she doesn’t love. In the song, she compares love to a dream that fades away, and is even plagued by dreamlike visions of Draco dancing away from her as she tries to approach him. It’s a touching piece, often used to demonstrate how deep and emotional role-playing games can be. This opera is another example of music that has escaped the fantasy of the game world, as many artists have adapted the piece for live performances.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Mario and Luigi find themselves jumping in between the Dream World and their own a lot in this game. But at one point, Private Goomp turns on the Dreambeats, a steady musical drumming that blasts out of four speakers and makes Luigi and the rest of Pi’illo Island fall asleep. Mario is able to escape the beats by jumping through a Dream Portal, which closes quickly because Luigi is in such a deep sleep. Here, the music forces the Mario brothers to enter a dream where they must face nightmarish enemies to escape. The Dreambeats knock Luigi out, allowing the Dream Portal to exist, then creates the need for Mario to go through the portal and end the dream. It’s confusing, but so is the dream I had where I was floating on a raft made of pancakes.
Do you have a favorite game that combines dreams and music? Does the Tetris theme haunt your dreams like it haunts ours?