Friday, October 4, 2013

DuckTales Remastered's theme song tells you everything you need to know about the game

at 5:58 PM

It is pretty remasterful. It goes without saying that Dave Marcus and Phil Ryan's classic DuckTales TV theme is largely at fault - any arrangement of that earworm is likely to be gold. But Remastered composer Jake Kaufman does a perfect job of rearranging the jingle for this game. It's not just a random instrumental permutation, but a translation of exactly what the game is - a union of Capcom's DuckTales gameplay with a full-fledged DuckTales (TV) narrative complement. I've mentioned before that an RPG's title theme is paramount in setting the game's tone, but there's no reason to limit it to RPGs. In fact, Greg L. already covered the subject of title themes in a Let's Listen. It is undoubtedly the most important song on the soundtrack - it's what tells the gamer "this is what you're about to play". 

When dealing with an adaptation, the first things I want to know are how faithful the conversion is and what's new about it. DuckTales Remastered is actually a double adaptation - a remake of a '90s game that was a tie-in to a TV show. The original game was smart enough to directly convert the show's title theme into a chiptune, which saves the remake from needing to adapt two songs. Remastered's title theme pays homage to both tunes anyway - instead of using modern "lazer disc-printing" technology to include the original cartoon theme or update the chiptune's instrumental take with real instrumental recordings, Kaufman splits the difference and merges the tracks. The alternation between 8-bit and orchestral sounds blurs the line between show and (NES) game, which sets the stage for the rest of Remastered to attempt the exact same thing.

And attempt the exact same thing it does - Remastered takes the stages and gameplay from the NES original and melds them with a more direct interpretation of the show. It thus fulfills the promise of a DuckTales video game: it is a playable episode. The theme music hints at this fulfillment - the chiptune skeleton from the classic game is complemented with the instrumentation from the show theme. Likewise, Remastered injects treasured elements of the cartoon (the voice actors, the art-style, the humor) into the framework of the NES game to draw the original adaptation closer to its inspiration while still preserving its successful innovations.

So the remastered theme song does the exact same thing as the remastered game. It uses an aural experience to communicate the same effect as the interactive story, guiding the player into a singular mindset. And that is exactly what a great theme does.

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