The music of the Demon’s Souls remake shows the problem with constant bombast

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PurpleShyGuy

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Edited By PurpleShyGuy

The process of designing remakes will always be a tricky one.

Just as the sun sets and rises, an old fan of the original is going to complain about the remake. I don’t like to rain on the parade of the Demon’s Souls remake, since it is in some respects, a wonderfully done touch up of a game that certainly was never a looker in its PS3 form. On the PS5, it’s one of the most technically beautiful games I’ve laid my eyes on, and also one the few games that actually show what a next-gen game can look like. But a remake is always going to face an uphill struggle with the old guard, since the tiniest change could get rid of something that particular person liked. I’ll admit that I’m one of those weirdos who will moan about the redone moon face in the Majora’s Mask remake, since it made the moon just look constantly pissed off. In the N64 rendition, the moon’s face could be interrupted a number of different ways, which included sad, pained and pissed off. The redesigns in Demon’s Souls have certainly caught some ire as some might know, but my biggest beef with this remake is the music.

Music in Souls games might not initially seem like a major part of the their structure. On your journey, you’ll spend most of your time in complete silence, with most of the sounds consisting of the howls of monsters, sweeping sword swings and that chime that plays whenever the “YOU DIED” comes on to screen. Yet, I would argue that because of its scarcity, the music in Souls games can have all the more impact. When enter the boss room and suddenly the air is filled strings, drums and choirs, you tense up as you prepare for the brutal battle ahead. The music of the original Demon’s Souls has special place in my heart, partly because it sounds quaintly cheap is some places. The music in the intro cutscene can sound endearingly cheesy at times:

I love it, and naturally, it wasn’t going to cut it in this newer, sleeker version of the game. Truly, no expense was going to be spared when it came to this remake, especially since its one of those rare beasts that is actually a platform exclusive. Which meant that it had the job of going to the front lines and help push launch sales of the PS5 (not that that PS5 needs any help selling out mind you). The Demon’s Souls remake needed to make a statement, that this was next-gen and it had all the particle effects and all the loud noises you could want. And some of those loud noises belonged to the revised soundtrack, a soundtrack that had opted to sound like God of War. Now there’s nothing wrong with the music of God of War, but Demon’s Souls is less about titanic spectacle and more about unnerving dread, and that’s something the new music mostly misses. But don’t take the mad scribblings of some random internet person, take a listen to the Flamelurker theme:

The new

The old

While the remake version is far more grandiose, there’s this unique, memorable quality about the original. In short, I haven’t heard many songs in video games that sound like the songs in Demon’s Souls of 2009, and with the remake, some of that distinctive Demon’s Souls personality has been eroded away. While I try not to be one of these people who turns their nose up at anything unfamiliar or different, my point is that the new soundtrack doesn’t sound like Demon’s Souls. Its generic, and the push to make everything sound as impressive as possible paradoxically makes the music in the remake all the more forgettable. Like I said, any change to Demon’s Souls was going to face some scrutiny from me, since I hold the original in such high regard, but I hope you can at least understand my point even if you don’t agree with me. I knew that the soundtrack was going to be updated, I just wish it wasn’t into something that I’ve heard dozens of times before from other games.

I want to be clear that I don’t think remakes aren’t inherently bad, in fact, one of my most beloved games is the Resident Evil 1 remake. And yes, I’m entirely convinced that there is someone out there who prefers the PS1 version, and I understand to some degree. But the difference I think between the Resident Evil 1 remake and something like the Ratchet and Clank remake (which was considered lacklustre compared to the original by some) is the times they were made in. Not to excuse any shitty business practices, but games are getting more expensive to make, and that's going to have an impact when remaking an older game. The Final Fantasy 7 remake is the clearest example of that, which eschewed turn-based battles in favour of something more flashy (and marketable).

Maybe I should be grateful that there wasn’t much meddling on the gameplay front when it came to Demon’s Souls. Sure, there was a lot to fix about the game, but the threat of developers second-guessing themselves and filing down those edges to a featureless blob is also a worry. Am I glad that people who missed out the first time get a chance to play Demon’s Souls? Of course I am. Game preservation is something that’s going to get harder and harder. Even now, there are games that have been rendered unplayable due to the requirement of needing a connection to servers that have long since gone offline. Remakes give newer generations easier access to older titles, but the greater the time between original and remake, the greater chance that the remake is going to deviate from the original, and by that point, why not just make something new?

Or you could just remake The Last of Us again, I guess.

I suppose there are worse things in life than slowly turning into Abe Simpson.
I suppose there are worse things in life than slowly turning into Abe Simpson.

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Shindig

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From went in that direction pretty heavily as well. BluePoint clearly looked to fit in with the series, rather than look like an outlier with the original score. I'm with you, though. The original soundtrack was a lot more memorable. You lose a lot from a fight if the soundtrack isn't right. Case in point, Maiden Astrea.

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Mishapr

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cool, but the original one is a legend

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bybeach

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#3  Edited By bybeach

It's the Boss fight against the Tower Knight, when Danny played it, I noted the absence of the original score for that fight. The first was actually pretty unique with a chorus of sorts, and a approach that was...different. Eclectic almost. It reminded me of Jazz in an alternative universe, but certainly not this one. I really liked it.

And of course, it was not in the re-make.

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TheRealTurk

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On the one hand, I don't disagree that remakes need to be careful about how much and how they go about their changes, and that changing things too much can result in diminishing the experience (this is coming from someone who loathes the combat and story changes in the FFVII remake).

On the other, I'm not sure I'd specifically blame Bluepoint here. If anything, I think that the new version is actually more in keeping with the direction that the Souls series headed down recently. If you listen to that track, it wouldn't be out of place in Dark Souls 3, which leaned much more heavily into the choir-like vocals. You have to remember that a significant chunk of the audience for this game (myself included) never played the original Demon Souls, so they have no frame of reference for what it is "supposed" to sound like. However, a lot of them probably *did* play one or more Dark Souls games, so they're going into the experience probably expecting something similar.

I'd also argue that it fits that specific boss fight better than the original, but that's obviously just my opinion.

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Fistoh

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@bybeach: I got a similar impression from the re-interpretations of some of the other very unique tracks in the game when I heard them, namely the Adjudicator song and Maiden Astraea's. At the very least I wish they could have gone with something closer to the original with Astraea because that song is so beautiful and unique in the original.

But in any case, I can't fault them too much, as shindig just mentioned before, From went in that direction themselves, although I think they still have been able to produce unique and memorable tracks (Gwyn) that stand out amongst the standard orchestral affair.

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PurpleShyGuy

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@therealturk: I know I was harsh on Bluepoint and I don't want to undersell the incredible work they have done on this remake. It's just that Demon's Souls had its own look and sound, even when compared to the Dark Souls trilogy, and that identity has been diminished somewhat.