Frederic: Resurrection of Music

“Musicality” just doesn’t work, okay.

Well this was an interesting play.

*Spoilers*

During this year’s summer sale, I spotted Frederic: Resurrection of Music on a Reddit post that linked some lesser-known, potentially interesting titles not shown on Steam’s front page. With me getting back into piano this past November and chipping away at Ballade No 1, I figured I’d check it out.

It’s…interesting. It’s basically just a little rhythm game to be played on your keyboard. The art is a little gloomy for my liking, the voice acting’s a bit on the abysmal side, and literally everything is as caricatured and stereotypical as you can get – but the music was a pleasant surprise. Each battle track in the game is a stylized remix of a Chopin piece – i.e., the American Midwest has a western, while New York has hip-hop, etc. Part of me dislikes what I consider to be sacrilege of musical masterpieces, while the other part of me is extremely impressed in how these remixes were designed and created.

Unfortunately, the music might be the only saving grace about this game. On top of the earlier complaints, the plot is effectively nonexistent (though the commentary on music labels was somewhat amusing) – but the worst part was the keyboard control scheme. The game is essentially a seven-lane falling rhythm game (like Guitar Hero or Tap Tap Revenge), mapped to A, W, S, E, D, R, F, forming the notes F to B on a piano keyboard. If you look at your keyboard right now, you can tell how that might be a problem. These controls can be remapped, which alleviates the problem somewhat – but for me the worse part was seeing how the notes were constrained to seven keys. It was quite disorienting to be playing what I expected to be chromatics while hearing diatonic movements, and it took me forever to get past that.

The last gripe I have about this game was its difficulty curve. The first few levels were doable, even on the aptly-named “Chopin” difficulty, but when reaching Ireland the difficulty shot up. At this point I gave up on trying to finish the game at Chopin, and just decided to get it over with on Normal.

Was Frederic a good game? I dunno. The art, though not my style, does have an appeal; the music, as stated earlier, is quite good; but I just can’t get past the other parts of the game, parodies notwithstanding. I think I’d only recommend it to someone who likes listening to Chopin, and nobody else.

Also, there is no way in hell that a keytar is cooler than a grand piano. C’mon.

Crypt of the Necrodancer

An innovative experience with a kickass soundtrack

Crypt of the Necrodancer may be one of the best games I’ve played in a long time.

It’s a fairly simple concept. It’s a roguelike dungeon crawler, except all game mechanics are rhythm-based: movement, combat, item usage, etc. You’re rewarded for continuous movement and staying on the beat, and you’re punished for being off-tempo or off-time.

It is through this singular gameplay mechanic that the game’s charm comes through. Right off the bat, it teaches you to identify and memorize enemies’ patterns; you have to, because the turn-based real time (for lack of a better phrase) is not conducive to random enemies like one might find in Call of Duty or any other sort of reaction-based game.

However, these patterns don’t necessarily slow down the game’s pacing; rather, in a way it actually intensifies the experience. Theoretically, you could clear a room of enemies, find a safe corner, and take your hands off the keyboard. The track continues regardless of your actions, and though enemies will still take their actions not many are actually able to break through walls. When the track ends, you’re dropped to the next level, albeit without your coin multiplier. In other words, you don’t actually need to take the risks to find the stairs; staying still is a surefire way of getting to the next level without really making any mistakes.

That being said, the game rewards you greatly for taking risks. There are secret shops on every floor (as far as I remember), and you receive many benefits for going out and exploring the unmapped areas: potentially beneficial shrines, item chests, or good stock in the shop. Killing enemies without taking damage and travelling without missing a beat continues your coin multiplier, which can help you buy the more powerful items from the shops. Considering that every zone ends in a boss, it’s not a bad idea to spend the three sub-levels stocking up and gearing up.

Those who know me know my fascination with music – particularly when part of a video game (though I’m certainly not limited to such). Previously, I’ve looked at soundtracks to a visual novel and two anime productions, but in all cases the music served as an enhancement of the experience; that is to say, while it made its respective media better it was in no way the foreground. In Crypt, that is obviously not the case. The music is not only the driving force; it also simultaneously guides and follows the story. Every zone’s music has some sort of rough theme to it, and every subsequent track increases slightly in tempo, adhering to the story while making the game progressively harder. I particularly like the Necrodancer’s battle and how the music switches for his second phase, adding a sense of desperation and chaos in the last fight.

In summary, Crypt of the Necrodancer is a refreshing dungeon crawling title. The music, while catchy on its own, is also effective in driving the pace and forcing the player to think quickly even in a turn-based setting. It’s an easy game to pick up, but a fairly difficult game to master. Its pattern-based enemies means that the game is mostly skill-based, with randomness appearing only in enemy and floor composition.

I am far from done with this game; at the time of writing, I have only finished Cadence’s and Melody’s lines, and I am kicking my own ass at trying to beat Zone 4 with Aria. If you’re looking for an enjoyable challenge, I highly recommend this game.