NACVGM 2020 – Musical and Narrative Transformation in Nier and Nier: Automata

From the Abstract

Christopher Greene (Tuffs University)

Musical and Narrative Transformation in Nier and Nier: Automata

One of the richest, yet relatively unexplored areas of study in ludomusicololgy is the transformation of musical materials across multiple installments of a game franchise.  Scholars have begun examining the issue in series including Zelda (Brame 2011) and Final Fantasy (Simon 2016). This paper examines the melodic and harmonic transformation between Nier (2010) and Nier: Automata (2017). Nier: Automata has proven a robust subject for academic study (Smith 2017; Greenfield-Casas 2019), through the question of game-spanning musical development remains open.  The musical transformations, between Nier and Nier: Automata mirrors developments in character and story, while deepening and complicating the player’s emotional connection to them.

Of central focus in this presentation are the pieces of music that are carried over between the two games: “Grandma (comp. Takahashi & Okabe),” “Dark Colossus (Obake & Hoashi),” “Song of the Ancients (Okabe),” and “Emil (Hoashi).”  Each of these cues have specific significance in relation aspects of narrative or characterization in the original Nier that carry over or transform in Nier: Automata. Drawing on theories of harmonic transformation in multimedia (Murphy 2012, Lehman 2018) and modular structure in game (Medina-Grey 2016), I will demonstrate that the musical metamorphoses in Automata directly relate to-and comment on- events in the game’s story (“Grandma” and “Dark Colossus”) or returning characters (“Song of the Ancients” and “Emil”).  Furthermore, this paper acts as a first step in developing a model of video game musical analysis that prioritizes transformation as a theoretical category.

Source: Bardic Knowledge

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