Bard Banter: Favorites From RPG Maker MV
When RPG Maker MV launched on the Nintendo Switch in the North American market last September, I dove in head first and sank an embarrassing amount of time into the creation of an RPG that I’d hoped would rival the best of the Final Fantasy series (pre-FFVI, at least). Okay, I’m only joking about that (half joking) but it is true that I invested an absurd amount of time into the game between the months of September and November, or approximately 560 hours. No, really. And yes, that averaged out to something like 10 hours a day (don’t judge).
The point here isn’t to shamelessly promote the RPG that I made, despite how it may seem as I discuss RPG Maker MV’s array of top-notch tunes. It’s simply a fact that I adored some of the music that Kadokawa Corporation included in their developer’s toolkit-turned-game, and it’s unthinkable for me to seperate the value that these tracks have for me personally from the vision that they helped inspire while I was developing my game.
Thus, in sharing with you my absolute favorite tracks from RPG Maker MV–which was a difficult task given that there were over 200 to choose from and locating them as individual files on YouTube wasn’t as easy as finding your favorite song from that one popular RPG made by Squaresoft back in the day–it is impossible for me to not discuss the feeling and context in which each tune affected my own creative endeavors.
But, that said, I hope you will imagine your own scenarios for each of these tracks, and more importantly, find them nonetheless as memorable as I did during the hundreds of hours that I spent painstakingly piecing together every moment for what finally resulted in a 4-5 hour-long RPG ‘demo’ of sorts.
The tracks as I have found them on YouTube aren’t ‘official’ versions, meaning they loop a few too many times and probably don’t merit the 5-6 minute length of which each track consists. I’d encourage you to listen to every song for at least a minute or so, and hopefully you’ll come to see why they resonated with me so much! Or, if you used them in your own RPG via the RPG Maker MV software, I’d love to hear about that as well! Maybe it reminds you of another song from a different game? Or perhaps you think I’m completely overhyping these tunes!
Whatever the case, I give you… (*drum roll*)
Bard Banter: Favorites From RPG Maker MV:
When I think of quintessential RPG village music, tracks that immediately spring to mind include Final Fantasy VII’s ‘Ahead on Our Way’ (a.k.a. the theme to the appropriately named village, Kalm), FFVIII’s ‘Fisherman’s Horizon’, FFXI’s ‘Village of Dali’ (doggonit Nobuo Uematsu, please don’t ever retire), and, while not really an RPG, Kakiriko Village from… well, pretty much any Zelda game. Add ‘Town21’ to that list. Yes, that may be quite the bold statement, but I absolutely love this track, and of course, I used it for my central hub, ‘Rosedale Village.’ Its sound has that perfect mix of sleepiness with a touch of nostalgic sadness that I find oddly comforting and will make any RPG Maker MV-developed game better for its inclusion.
There’s something haunting, even spooky, about this theme, that for me calls into mind the unease of a solitary wanderer traversing a dimly lit cave or forest, surrounded by an audience of curious eyes hidden in brush and shadow; an illusory remoteness that could at any moment be penetrated by a horde of blood-thirsty custodians. Naturally, I used ‘Field7’ for the first area in which the player encounters an array of predators, ranging from three-legged crows, kinkajous, and goblins, a location that I called the ‘Feraline Woods.’
Speaking of the traumatic ordeal entailed by a sort of Zelda-inspired ‘Lost Woods,’ ‘Event21’ is a track that took me to the relief of a remote cottage deep within said magical forest, home to a sort of Baba Yaga though absent the horrifying child-eating diet that fills some tellings of the folklore. Nay, as I envisioned in my RPG, this tune accompanied the introduction of a sweet, almost grandmotherly witch who lives a hermit’s life in the woods, her demeanor matching the light-heartedness that composer ‘North Sound Co., Ltd’ incorporated into its sublime rendition of this umm… twenty-first event? (Seriously, whoever made the music for RPG Maker MV over at ‘North Sound’ deserves some actual recognition.)
I don’t know what it is about this song; is it the slow and steady build up to a crescendo that results in a sort of marching order which then anticlimactically descends to its original starting point? I’m no music expert so excuse the clumsy terminology—I’ll leave it to those so inclined to put their finger on the nose, but when I hear this tune I am instantly transported to a view of the glimmering morning or evening sun striking the pose of a gallant warrior, standing proudly upon the precipice of an incline looking outward towards a series of rolling hills or mountain peaks. That sounds melodramatic, sure, but in truth I imagined myself traversing some version of Death Mountain (I cannot locate any Zelda soundtrack that parallels this feeling so who knows). Thus, I selected it as the BGM for the peak that hovers over the village of Rosedale, ‘Mt. Tobias.’
Is that a koto at the outset of this lovely serenade? (Musically inclined readers, feel free to jump in and correct my ignorance!) At any rate, whether that or the flute that joins its exquisite harmony, I’m taken to one of two scenes: a monastery cozily nestled on an obscure mountainside, or a legend of old vividly recreated on a series of scrolls in the sumi-e style. I couldn’t incorporate ink painting into RPG Maker MV but otherwise I tried to execute those two scenes as best as I could to do this beautiful track justice.
If there is a generic RPG song that perfectly captures the histrionics of a character sorrowfully recounting past injuries, then ‘Event33’ is it. It is a track that oozes sentiment and seems ripe for any scene attempting to invoke some type of emotional reaction from the player. At least, that’s how I tried to make use of it. And I swear I’ve heard something similar to ‘Event33’ in RPGs before (for some apparently arbitrary reason, it conjures up images in my mind of Octopath Traveler) but of what it reminds me I have not the slightest idea.
Too hype for use in ordinary combat, I found this battle tune to be well-suited for some of my boss fights. And I mean no disrespect to the untouchable compositions of Yasunori Mitsuda but ‘Battle6’s’ blend of electric guitar and violin (I think that’s what I hear in there) laced over a fast-paced tempo had me reliving battle sequences from his brilliantly scored Chrono Cross and Xenoblade Chronicles II (which is not to imply that ‘Battle6’ is quite on that level). What, if any, of your favorite battle themes does it suggest?
Call me crazy but the second that I first heard ‘DLC_Field2’ (and on every subsequent listen) I was immediately whisked away to the following scene:
It is nighttime, or very early in the morning, as the illumination of a full moon still shines in all its glory, slowly descending upon the horizon of an open field that rolls outward into the distance for as far as the eye can see. Then, from the northeast, a weary rider on a horse comes into view, the sound of hooves thumping against grass and dirt as he gallops across the field in a hurry—wait? Who is that? Is that—? Yep. Indeed it is.
If the scene that I have just begun to describe didn’t already enter into your head or doesn’t ring a bell, you can view it for yourself here. Maybe the song which accompanies that moment isn’t as similar to ‘DLC_Field2’ as I initially thought but that’s the memory to which I return every time I hear it (it also gives me serious Breath of the Wild vibes). For me, this minimalistic piano ballad wholly encapsulates a feeling of ‘solace,’ hence I used it as a defining marker to indicate to the player that relief is at hand: he or she has entered into a save room.
While the name implies that this track was composed with a town in mind, the serene and rosy combination of flute, bongo, and acoustic guitar transported me to just outside some village, the point at which an adventurer optimistically sets out into the wide open world for the first time; the path before her flanked by green pastures, the burbling of a nearby creek, and sturdy trunks of longstanding sycamores and pines, their ancient and twisted arms majestically clothed in foliage, hanging over the road, peppered across the landscape on either side.
I did my best to recreate this feeling in the ‘Rosedale Outskirts,’ despite being limited to the fairly primitive sprites that are available in RPG Maker MV. To that end, I’d like to think that the tranquility of ‘DLC1_Town1’ made up for the inability to literally transmute the refreshing air of an open countryside into the experience of a 16-bit video game.
In keeping with the theme of the previous scenario that I envisioned for ‘DLC_Town1,’ now imagine that our adventurer has traveled a short distance from home on the same remote country road, deciding to briefly step off the beaten path for a much needed rest. Then, moving through a small opening discovered amidst some trees at hand, she stumbles upon a grove, and what’s more, finds the depilated ruins of a small village from a bygone era. The stone structures of the former inhabitants remain partially intact, the frames of their houses, scattered treasure, broken furniture, torn curtains still hanging over a few windows, all yet present, becoming one with the grass and moss that grows over and under and everywhere in between them.
Or, rather than dream this up in your head, perhaps you can simply recall the abundance of similarly desolate locales featured in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Anyhow, the point is this: the subtle keystrokes that comprise ‘Theme_Tune26,’ a melody that strikes me as despondent yet warm, naturally takes me to such an environment. Where does it take you?
Whatever it is about ‘Theme_Tune13,’ I can only describe its mood as unsettling: a rocky ravine, steeped in fog, animal bones, thorns, and shrubbery, showing few signs of life absent the occasional cawing of a distant crow or the hiss of a perturbed snake seeking shelter in its hole to evade notice. The path forward is the only way to reach the mysterious temple where an item of necessity awaits our heroic adventurer, and the quest to stand before its towering entrance is, in a word, a harrowing journey.
Minus the fog and bones, this also basically describes the area of my RPG that I misleadingly named, ‘Rosy Ravine.’ Oh, and watch out for the giant man-eating ogres too!
I tried to create a Zelda-esque dungeon in my game, the ‘Sunrise Temple,’ and ‘Event36’ seemed like the ideal tune to express the sentiments one might have while traversing an ancient pantheon replete with dusty statues, crumbling columns, puzzles, and of course, traps! Either that or ‘Event36’ sounds like suitable BGM to accompany a good old-fashioned black-and-white flashback!
Another solo piano-driven classic, ‘Theme_Tune17’ invokes the calm after a storm, and is the kind of track that I can easily envision playing during those montages in films or TV shows that lack any dialogue but instead rely upon the actions of the characters, and specifically the mood of the music, to convey some transition that has taken place in the narrative. In my RPG, it serves a similar purpose as well as being the featured BGM that plays during the initial title screen.
Like ‘DLC1_Town1’ discussed a few paragraphs back, ‘Field2’ ferries me away to the scene of a hero leaving her hometown, although this time with consternation in her eyes. Perhaps she has returned to find that the harmony and euphoria which once permeated her quiet domain has been vanquished by catastrophe, and now she must set out to make amends or even the score. When I hear ‘Field2’ I cannot help but think of words like ‘resolve’ and ‘urgency’ in association with a panoramic view of the difficult terrains that lie ahead; that one has been through the wringer, and though regrets the loss of innocence, has grown all the more wiser for it.
Maybe it’s just me but the soothing melody of ‘Event27’ engenders the notion of being some place holy, majestic—a lonely, abandoned castle? No. A cathedral? Yes! I see our hypothetical heroine walking down the carpeted aisle of a large gothic cathedral, surrounded by the preternatural beauty of its stone architecture and lit only by the rays of sunlight piercing through its colorful stained glass windows. Here our shieldmaiden knows that she is safe, taking a moment to supplicate the local gods before heading back into the wild, though also aware that her fate ultimately lies in the nimbleness of her feet and the swiftness by which she wields her blade.
I didn’t use this song (or the two that follow) in my RPG but I had to include it here because it is simply a great track, and I also need to verify that I’m not the only one who hears it and immediately thinks of Final Fantasy VII’s ‘Main Theme.’
I’ve already invoked the work of Nintendo’s legendary composer Koji Kondo throughout this article, and my inclusion of ‘Field16’ is akin to the reasons given for the previous track. A triumphant ballad that elicits grandiose adventures, I can’t quite shake a sense of familiarity with a certain section of Ocarina of Time that happens to rhyme with ‘My Cool Shield.’ Or is it the theme that attends the road to Lavender Town of which ‘Field16’ reminds me?
Given the general tenor of so many of the tracks that I’ve highlighted here, it seems appropriate to conclude with a playful cut. ‘DLC_Field3’ is, if nothing else, a frisky piano jingle that in my estimation perfectly belongs in a scene depicting forest gnomes collectively pulling their weight to accomplish some enormous, improbable task… Yeah, no idea why that is what pops into my head, but maybe it’s because I initially found this tune reminiscent of the music from Kokiri Forest? At second glance, these two numbers are pretty distant from each other, but I’m sure there is something out in the ether that is the cause of my déjà vu, perhaps BGM for the interior of a building, or series of houses in a village? I don’t know… but if you do, dear reader, please let me know!
Well, that about does it insofar as my favorites from RPG Maker MV are concerned! Of course, there are more that I could have included but the eighteen here that I ultimately settled upon are probably more than sufficient. If you have played any of the user creations on the RPG Maker MV Player app (available on both the Nintendo Switch and PS4, though unfortunately lacking crossplay), you’ve likely heard these default assets already–or maybe you’ve made your own RPG and used them for drastically different purposes–regardless, I think that they’re simply lovely songs in-of-themselves, and deserve greater attention than they’ve thus far received. What says you?
Oh, and finally, you may have noticed that I never actually directly referred to the name of my RPG, which is also available on the RPG Maker MV Player app (though exclusively for the Nintendo Switch). Yeah, okay, I suppose this is the shameless plug that I sought to minimize. The game is ‘complete’ and free-to-play (‘complete’ in the sense that it is a cohesive demo with a clear start and finish and not a full-length 40-hour campaign as its story purports to be).
In fact, months before I joined the talented group of game writers here at SwitchRPG, I reached out to our site manager, Gio, who was kind enough to respond to this random nobody seeking to promote his humble RPG creation and agreed to host it on the SwitchRPG YouTube channel. You can check it out for yourself here.
Pretty funny how things come full circle, eh?