The Musical Box #06: J-Pop RPG

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation. Edition #6: The World Ends with You

This is an RPG developed by Square Enix, the same company responsible for the famous Final Fantasy franchise and many other widely-acclaimed games. It was released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS and won several awards, including “best score”.

The game features all the elements of a good RPG: exploration, customization and combat strategy. However, the game distinguishes itself from others in the genre through its amazing modern-urban visual style, intense combat system, and impressive score.

The Set-Up

You play as Neku Sakuraba, a teenager struggling to find his place in society. The scenario is a Shibuya, a shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, and the game deals with conflicts and doubts that are very common to modern teenagers. One day, you wake up with a pin in your hand, and a timer. Basically, when the timer runs out, it's the end of the world!

The Moment

The reason why I chose this game for the 6th edition of The Musical Box is because it features a soundtrack that is radically different from every other RPG. It has songs with lyrics and vocals! The style is basically a mix of j-pop, jazz, hip-hop and electronic and the tunes are extremely catchy.

The music style perfectly matches not only the visuals and the theme, but also the gameplay. Fight sequences are absolutely amazing. You need to look at both screens simultaneously, fight with two different characters, create combos and use special attacks.

See the moment below:



The Impact

I’ve seen songs with vocals in sports and racing games, but not in an RPG (excluding some pop songs in Final Fantasy), and certainly almost never during gameplay. I believe that the main reason for this is that most RPGs tend to explore medieval/fantasy themes, and so instrumental, orchestral/epic music is more appropriate for this genre.

Some say that using vocals may break the immersion of the game. Even I once believed this, but then The World Ends With You came along and proved us all wrong! Or, maybe this is a single exception that reinforces the rule? Let me know what you think.

Special thanks: Gilliard Lopes, Rafael Kuhnen, Fernando Secco, Sandro Tomasetti, and Rafael Martins (Sommastudio).

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