Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Midweek Music Box: Deja Vu (NES)

From the dank shadows of an alleyway, his fedora pulled low, a mysterious figure shrouds himself in a trench coat while searching the streets for answers.

"Where am I and what's going on," were the first things that came to his mind, shortly followed by a more pressing question, "Who am I?"

No, this isn't some golden age Hollywood film noir, this is Deja Vu by Kemco/Seika, but boy do they try--and succeed--on selling you on that film noir feel.  The setting and surrounding murder mystery and Ace Harding's missing memory has the hallmarks you would get with a classic Humphrey Bogart film.  But setting and gameplay alone doesn't always make a game, nor does it always help create the tone that a developer hopes to strike. You need the right combination of elements, and since this is Midweek Music Box, naturally I'm going to some tune talking.

First, take listen to this:

"Joe's Bar"

Great stuff, right?  I mean, we're talking chip tunes here, but they still manage to capture the same slow jazz feel of the 1930's.  It sells you on the era that this game was set.  True, the graphics in the game are bright, by necessity or you wouldn't be able to play.  Also true that you couldn't synthesize a trumpet or piano onto an NES cart back in the day (not well that is), but as is often the case with this era of gaming, what the composers and programmers managed to do still deserves respect.  Using a few simple chords, they help sell the feeling of a hard-boiled detective looking to fight crime, knock about thugs, and save (pardon the term) "dames."

Now, in all fairness I don't feel that the soundtrack to Deja Vu is as well balanced as it could be.  Ace Harding's theme feels a tad too jaunty and Kemco always did manage to make their, "You're in imminent danger!  Do something quick," music a tad on the annoying side.  It was true in Shadowgate, true in Uninvited, and it's true here with Deja Vu.  But man oh man do they know how to open a show.  Yeah, it's a point-and-click adventure, but thanks to several of the slow jazz tunes you really get the feeling that you're making your way through a classic hard-boiled detective novel or a film that would've starred Humphrey Bogart. 

Most times during Midweek Music Box, I like to recommend music that has a quality to it that makes you want to pop it on your iPod or mobile device of choice.  Sometimes though, a tune doesn't carry over from the game, but still has such merit that it deserves a nod for what it has accomplished.  To send us off, here's a trailer for a classic Bogart film.   Watch it and you will likely see what I mean when I say that Deja Vu's music really helps capture the tone it was going for.

"Dead End" (1937)

No comments:

Post a Comment