Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today we’re back from our winter break, refreshed and ready to dive into Keiichi Okabe and co’s masterful soundtrack for Nier: Automata.
I was late to the party with Nier: Automata (playlist / longplay / VGMdb). I had only played a tiny bit of the original Nier (the father version, not the brother) and I don’t know what a Drakengard is and at this point I’m too afraid to ask. It took a moment for Automata to grow on me, but one thing I was sure of was that the music was amazing.
Square Enix / YX9S (YouTube)
The first moment that made me think “wow this soundtrack is special” was a moment I was not consciously aware of at the time. When fighting the Simone boss in the Amusement Park, “A Beautiful Song” plays. The boss fight is epic as hell for being so early in the game, but what I didn’t notice was that Simone’s attacks were in time with the musical cues in the song. The first time around, I didn’t notice—too busy dodging purple bullet-orbs you see—I only later discovered it was a thing via this blog from former Kotaku writer Heather Alexandra. The second time you fight Simone, I made it a point to listen for the cue and sure enough, it happened. I was delighted. Add “rhythm game” to the already long list of Nier: Automata genres.
Square Enix / YX9S (YouTube)
There are video game songs that stick with you no matter their context. Final Fantasy’s “Prelude” for example. But, for me, the predominant quality of my favorite Automata songs is less their ability to stick with me and more that they’re very good background music.
I have a tendency to idle in video games, checking emails or scrolling Twitter. I have zero doubt that the Automata track I’ve listened to longest is “Peaceful Sleep” which plays in the Resistance Camp. I’d often pause there without pausing, leaving a dialogue box open or 2B standing in the grassy patch while “Peaceful Sleep” looped over and over.
My second-most-listened-to song? The hacking version of “Pascal.” (Mysteriously, this song doesn’t seem to be on the special Hacking Tracks OST, nor is there a video of it on YouTube, nor can I find it in datamined files of every song used in the game. And! I can’t go back and record it from the game itself because, well…So you’ll have to settle for this gameplay video of the hacking portion of the quest instead.
I had an almost impossible time beating the hacking mini-game in the Idiot Savant quest. I spent a few hours trying to beat that quest and I remember remarking to my partner who watched me struggle that I was glad the music was so pleasant that I didn’t mind it repeating over and over. All of Automata’s songs have the unique quality of being genuinely good while also benign enough to be infinitely repeatable without causing fatigue.
Nier: Automata’s soundtrack is replete with sadness anthems. “City Ruins,” “Amusement Park,” “Rays of Light”...every song has this touch of melancholy that adds weight to the wearying heaviness of the game’s plot. But for all the real sad-girl shit going on in the soundtrack, it’s peaceful to listen to—like something you’d want to have on in the background if you needed to cry for no real reason.
Speaking of crying, the only part of the game that actually made me cry was during my attempt to secure the true ending.
Spoilers for the E ending ahead.
After finishing the C and D ending you have the ability to unlock the game’s true ending, which has you fight an impossible hacking mission that pits you against the game’s developers. Senior Kotaku senior Mike Fahey talks about it here. While attempting to complete that mission, you hear a lone woman, J’Nique Nicole, singing “Weight of the World” in English. After dying a few times, the game asks if you want help from others. Unless you are the god of bullet hells most people accept that help, and the single J’Nique Nicole ship that was, until this point, battling the credits alone, becomes a fleet of ships, making the fight trivially easy. At the same time, the music changes from one voice to a chorus and it’s legitimately one of the most beautiful musical moments in a video game. See it in action here:
Whew, that’s so good. Gets me every time.
That’s it for today’s Morning Music! Do you have any video game musical moments that make you sob like a baby? Got anything to talk about at all this fine Monday morning? Let us know in the comments!