Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today we’re listening to “We Form In Crystals,” an absolute banger of a credits song that is way better than it had any right to be.
“We form in” what? Yes, “we form in crystals.” I’ve been wondering what the hell that’s supposed to mean ever since I first saw the song list for the soundtrack to 1998’s PS1 RPG Star Ocean: The Second Story (playlist / longplay / VGMdb). To add to the confusion, when I was a kid I interpreted it as “we form into crystals,” which left me with the impression of my Star Ocean party becoming hardened fixtures of the natural landscape long after death. Instead of bodies disintegrating into nothing, they’d crystallize into beautiful, lasting gems affixed to the ongoing world. Misreading or not, a less harrowing fate than ceasing to exist for all eternity, and a nice way of thinking about beloved video game characters I’ve left behind long ago.
Anyway, let’s take a listen:
Square Enix / John Mathews (YouTube)
Tri-Ace’s mix of deep crafting systems, action combat, and sci-fi fantasy — that sees a group of exiled magicians try to return to their home by slamming an entire planet into it — is, as you can probably tell, a whole lot of things. “Prestige role-playing game“ isn’t necessarily one of them. I love Second Story, but it can be a hot, goofy mess. Its credit music, however, blew me away the first time I heard it.
I’d just beaten Gabriel, the game’s final boss, in an epic fight that required dozens of revives after near-wipes. I then got to see where all the characters ended up. Who got to go back to pursuing their favourite hobbies during peacetime and who decided to get hitched. Sylvan pugilist Noel hanging with his forest critters? Great! Cool! He deserved it. But then “We Form In Crystals” fades in as a PS1 FMV starts to play.
The song, arranged by series composer Motoi Sakuraba, was like hearing a super-compressed (but lovely) 16-bit orchestra play in my living room. Violins and big basses kick it off, while some clarinet-sounding instrument carries the melody as the camera pans across mountains, oceans, and eventually outer space.
It made me re-remember the rest of the game in a whole other light, imbuing even its head-scratching JRPG minutia with a sense of worthwhile purpose and subtle meaning. It made Second Story’s worlds (the game takes place across to separate planets) come alive, and for those nearly six minutes feel like they actually existed somewhere out there among the stars.
The next day I went back and beat the game again, just so I could record the song onto a cassette with the voice machine my parents had bought me to help with a speech impediment. I played the cassette nearly every night for months, adding other songs to it from the radio and other games (Vagrant Story, Legend of Dragoon — we had so much time on our hands back then). I still have the cassette, and it still has remnants of “We Form In Crystals” on it, and they still bring me joy.
Well, that’s a wrap for today’s Morning Music! Hopefully we all turn into crystals someday, or something even better. In the meantime let me know how it’s going and if you’ve ever gone to incredible lengths to record, capture, or otherwise celebrate a favourite gaming moment.