Editorial: On the Importance of Graphics and Music

Hello Lusi-fans! This week, I would like to talk about graphics and music. Long-time readers may remember that I have, in the past, gone on record as saying I do not think graphics or music are of great importance to a gaming experience. I have, however, grown quite a bit as a gamer during my time here at Lusipurr.com, and I realize now that I was somewhat misguided. While I still maintain the belief that gameplay is far and away the most important part of a video game, I have come to realize that for many games, the appearance and soundtrack are extremely important parts of presentation.

Good game, good graphics, good music. As it should be.
I know that we here at Lusipurr.com tend to talk about Bastion too much, but LOOK HOW GOOD THIS GAME LOOKS.

I feel now, as I did over a year ago, that graphics are not nearly as important as music when it comes to crafting a game, but graphics are something that need to be looked at when examining a game’s merits and faults. Yet what is it that makes graphics good? It is not purely technology, as many game which look excellent were made using technology that is by today’s standards extremely outdated. No, graphics are a far more complicated entity; art style is everything. A game like Bastion is not a technological wonder, but the game still looks wonderful. Likewise, Final Fantasy VI was made on a system that is vastly technically inferior to modern gaming consoles but manages to look phenomenal after almost twenty years. It seems, then, that graphics are more than simply a technical creation but also an artistic one. That said, of course, there are certainly games that blend technological advances in graphic modeling with wonderful art; I believe I would be hard-pressed to find a gamer that says Flower is not a visually stunning piece of work.

Mega Man 3, I'm happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Mega Man 2 had one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.
Just seeing this stage is enough to remind me of one of the greatest pieces of music from the NES era.

And now, I come to what may perhaps be the biggest mistake I have ever made during my time here at Lusipurr.com. I once said that music is not something I typically pay attention to in a game unless it is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad, but lately I find that things have changed a bit. Forgettable music is a much worse offense to me now than it used to be; this is a product of my realization that many of my favorite games also have great music while many of the games I do not like had mediocre or flat-out bad soundtracks. While a good soundtrack still is not enough to redeem a game (Chrono Cross, for example), I am far more forgiving of a bad game with good music than I am of a bad game that also has bad music. I have also found myself listening to video game soundtracks more than I used to and remembering fond (and not so fond) times spent with these games. I have come to realize that a game’s soundtrack is an important part of a game’s presentation, perhaps even more than its story. Two perfect examples of this are the classic Mega Man and early Castlevania games. Both series have games with extremely minimalistic stories and phenomenal soundtracks. Even though the story of Mega Man 2 was barebones at best, the music still holds up more than twenty years later.

Well, readers, I hope this article has made my views on graphics and music a bit clearer. I am curious to know, though, Lusi-sprites: are there any cases of a mediocre or bad game that you found to be somewhat redeemed by graphics or music. Or, perhaps, are there otherwise good games that are kept from excellence by their lackluster appearance or audio? I know that in the latter case, I can certainly cite Magi-Nation as a case of a good game that is nearly ruined by its horrendous soundtrack. But what of your experiences with this trend, readers? Let me know what you think in the comments!

4 comments

  1. I don’t think I could call a game excellent unless its soundtrack was – at the least – very good. The only example I can think off the top of my head of a bad game with good music was Harvest Moon DS Cute. I mean, the music was pretty bad in general, but I distinctly remember one track that made me think “wow, this is nice music that will be forever lost in the ether of horrible, horrible games”.

  2. What Ethos said. Calling a game as a whole ‘excellent’ means that it excels in all regards. This is different from saying something has ‘excellent platforming’ or ‘excellent storyline’ — those are individual features of a game. Therefore, a whole game cannot be excellent if it lacks an excellent storyline or an excellent soundtrack, though it may certainly have aspects which excel.

    I have often found that games with excellent soundtracks are, themselves, usually at least very good. In fact, only a few counterexamples come to mind: SaGa as a series, but SaGa Frontier and Unlimited SaGa in particular; Final Fantasy Mystic Quest; Castlevania: Judgement (the terrible Wii fighting game); and so on.

    I think this may be because a soundtrack is perhaps harder to get ‘right’ than any other aspect of the game (barring, perhaps, characterisation/story). Therefore, if a company spends the time and effort required to get the soundtrack right, they’ve probably done the rest right as well. But, of course, exceptions exist, and I put this down to the ability of certain companies to use their own in-house real talent and force them to work on lacklustre projects (all of the above titles fit that bill, and this is why such exceptions are becoming less frequent, as such renowned composers are ever-more often contracted, rather than in-house).

  3. Good music is important to video games, now more than ever. We have concerts like Video Games Live and Distant Worlds which bring the music we enjoy to a wider audience.

  4. This may not be a good example as the gameplay, story and characters elements in most of the Ys series are fantastic but it wouldn’t be the same without the awesome music. One case I remember vividly is in Ys Seven, where after a somewhat long prologue you go out on the field for the first time and this plays: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oenpsp8VAwE It created a sense of awe and adventure in a game that I hadn’t felt in a LONG time. Pretty much every track in every Ys soundtrack is amazing (maybe with the exception of Ys V) but the way they play them just at the right time is impressive.

    Funny Lusipurr mentioned the SaGa series. I listened to the music way before I even tried a game, but then I tried some of the games and I think I’m ok with just enjoying the music (although I kinda enjoyed Frontier) I’m convinced that if Kenji Ito had composed for a main Final Fantasy game, he would be given much more recognition. Hunt down an album called SaGa Battle Track Compilation. Some great stuff there.

    Castlevania Judgement also has masterful music and the best version of Beginning EVER but so much was wrong with that game, especially those character designs. Who the hell thought Simon Belmont should look like that? They also gave all the characters these weird personalities that conflicted with their personality in the series. So yeah, great music couldn’t save that game. Dracula X for SNES also comes to mind, but that is more of a bad port than a bad game really.

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