Kindred Spirits on the Roof: a soundtrack analysis

How music enhances the interactive experience.

As promised, I have done a full musical and emotional analysis (more or less) of the soundtrack to Kindred Spirits on the Roof. Windows’ File Explorer helpfully informs me that my first file was created on September 19, 2016 at 11:24 PM, which means I’ve been working on this project for just under a month now.

There were a few times I was worried I bit off more than I could chew. Many times I thought about forgoing the Reddit deadline to give myself a bit more breathing room, but in my stubborn nature and my acceptance of any challenge I steadfastly refused. Probably not a good idea, because now it’s 1:23 AM on a Friday/Saturday and I’ve been putting finishing touches on this thing for the last three hours or so.

Basically, my process was:

  1. Do harmonic reductions on every track (which means quite a bit of transcribing)
  2. Do pencil-on-paper analyses
  3. Type up results

Step 3 took far more time than anticipated. I had gone into this project prepared to write a lot, but I was legitimately enjoying myself going through all of these analyses. I really am quite exhausted right now, so I’ll finish by just pasting the introduction to my paper:

Kindred Spirits on the Roof is, in its own words, Steam’s “first uncensored sex game.” While technically true, such a description does not do it justice. I, for one, first started reading it based solely on that description, only expecting to have some fun with it while bored during a summer stint in California. However, I soon found it to be a very captivating story about friendship and love, about sadness and joy, and a commentary on life in general. I found myself inexplicably drawn to the title’s multifaceted, deep – visceral – characters, and ended up coming back to it two more times.

Soon, I started thinking about what made this visual novel so effective in eliciting such a powerful emotional response. The answer, in a nutshell, is everything. That is to say, the relatable situations that protagonist Yuna is thrown into (minus the supernatural shenanigans, of course), the careful development of each character and their significant others, the art style itself, and, simultaneously the most and least important thing, the music.

For music, when done well, is inexplicably subtle, especially in a visual novel setting where the entire story is told primarily through boxes of text (hence the name visual novel). In KSotR, the music, in my opinion, fits the game’s various settings perfectly, and on multiple different levels (that we’ll talk about later). That’s a difficult goal to reach. In my experience and in my opinion, music tends to be one of the more divergent things about a video game, either because of budget problems or because the composer fails to capture emotion. Music is also all about creating and releasing tension, and the very setting of Kindred Spirits on the Roof allows such music to flourish.

The point of this document…essay…thing…is to dissect the music of Kindred Spirits on the Roof and see what about each of the tracks makes it fit so well in the overall scope of the game and in each of its particular styles of scenes. In particular, I will be looking at each track first from a theoretical perspective, then moving on to how each technique highlights specific emotions and why they fit with their respective scenes.

You can read my paper here.

Featured image: me right now (now it’s 1:32 AM).