The last one of these I wrote was for Undertale’s “Reunited,” and that was back near the beginning of January. Naturally, I’m kind of overdue for an update, and since I took so long, I’ve got a special one for you all.
Instead of covering just one song, I’ve decided I will talk about a bunch of songs from the same game that pertain to a specific character. For those that do not know, Mother: Cognitive Dissonance is an Earthbound fangame of exceptionally high quality that I played for the first time last year. I have already talked about the game before so I will skip that fanfare, but I have wanted to go more in depth about its music for a little while. Its music really is amazing, some of it I may dare say is better than the music of the official games.
I decided I would go with the music that pertains the game’s main villain Giegue. For those that don’t know, this game chronologically takes place between the events of Earthbound Beginnings and Earthbound. Cognitive Dissonance is also meant to heavily expand on Giegue’s backstory, and show how he became the eldritch abomination known as Giygas in Earthbound. The point of these articles is generally to expand on just how well a song works, and a lot of the time, its context in the game is important. As such, there will be SPOILERS for the Mother/Earthbound series.
I only realized this song existed recently seeing as how it is only fifty seconds long and plays once in the game, in addition to the fact that it was not included in the game’s soundtrack and not posted online. I only found out this song existed from a Youtube comment mentioning it and how to find it by looking through the game’s music files. The reason it has the weird name is because the music file does not have an official title and this is just the name of the MP3 file.
This plays when you first encounter Giegue in chapter one where he randomly appears during the middle of a boss fight against someone else, and this music starts playing in place of the regular boss music once he appears.
The song is a remix of the 8 bit intro portion of Earthbound’s Final boss theme “Cease to Exist“ (more widely known by its unofficial fan name “Pokey Means Business”) with actual instrumentation this time, and quite intimidating instrumentation at that. A nice use of of the organ and glass harmonica for the main melody with low piano notes, drum beats, and Earthbound’s signature odd sounding low brass chords create a very ominous piece that is very effective despite its short length. It’s just a shame it’s so underused in the game.
This one is basically the same deal as the first one; a remix of “Cease to Exist’s“ intro, although this one goes for a more mechanical sounding tone rather than straight up instrumental. I have heard some compare it to PC98 music, which makes a nice contrast to the original’s NES sound. While I think that “CBGiygasint” is a better version, this one is still pretty good on its own. It still carries an imposing and unnerving tone, very similarly to the original.
It is also when listening to this that I realize how addicting of a melody this is in both the original and the arrangements. Really I wish that the game would have had a full remix of the original and not just the intro (no the Fobbyiyg theme doesn’t count), as it can be rather jarring when the song has a one second pause before looping. Then again, this one also plays during a scripted battle that is over quickly so you won’t be hearing it for long anyway.
King of the World
Now this is where the songs start getting very good. You start out with a very serious sounding rock based intro that plays in the scene before the fight, which itself is very well executed. Specifically of note is how Giegue doesn’t even say anything before the fight begins, no boasting, no evil laughs, no monologues, nothing. Just the intro music playing as he scene sets itself for the showdown. Then you get into the battle theme itself which is especially unique. The entire song sounds very alien and dissonant, as if one just stacked multiple songs on top of each other. This perfectly encapsulates what Giegue is supposed to be; a lovecraftian alien beings with powers beyond comprehension that can drive one insane with its mere presence.
Unlike in Earthbound Beginnings, this is an actual fight against Giegue, you don’t just use a song against him, and this song just emphasizes utter chaos and insanity. There is little semblance of harmony, yet it does so in a unique way. One may notice that this song uses the actual Earthbound sound engine, one that had no songs quite like this. Dare I say, this may be an even better use of that soundfont than “Megalovania.” The sheer intensity, intimidation, and strength of this song are absolutely incredible in every way.
This song plays during a brief cutscene during the battle against Giegue where Niiue and his future self show up in a big damn heroes moment to save the day. Unfortunately this is another case of a song being underutilized, as one will likely not even hear the full song. Regardless, this song does carry quite a bit of emotional strength expressing both the sense of relief that Niiue is here to help while simultaneously reminding one of the near impossible odds. It also has a very spacey sound it which fits the setting greatly.
Additionally, it carries symbolic meaning to Niiue’s relationship to Giegue in that they are the same person. Niiue is Giegue’s good side; all his positive emotions that he forced out of himself after his defeat in Earthbound Beginnings. Normally the two are forbidden from fighting with each other but Niiue breaks that rule in this fight now that he sees Giegue has been so corrupted by his own immense strength that he is no longer himself, thus explaining the name change to Giygas (despite the fact that the Japanese scripts always used the same name).
The title of the game comes from a term meaning that one has behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts that are contradicted by one’s behavior or actions; basically hypocrisy. This game takes it completely literally with Giegue essentially being at war with himself, and with himself and Niiue being two halves of the same being yet being radically different, thus causing conflict. Additionally, the song is titled “Cognitive”, which means relation to the process of knowing or perceiving something. This song is also slower paced and relaxing. Meanwhile, the song that plays during the rest of the fight, “Dissonance”, is a much faster paced and action-y arrangement that plays while the two actually fight each other. Speaking of which…
Now this song kicks ass. The main melody of “Cognitive” is remixed into a fast paced tune that is part chip tune and part metal. It is fast paced, intense, and energetic all the way through. Unlike “King of the World” this song tells you that the tables are turned now that Niiue is on your side, and the more intense beat symbolizes Giegue and Niiue’s clash when contrasted with “Cognitive.” The title of “Dissonance” further symbolizes this considering that “Cognitive” represented harmony and working things out through communication and words, while “Dissonance” represents dissonance (duh) and the use of force and violence.
On top of all that, the song is optimistic tone it carries. It has a fair bit of emotion to it that really gives off the impression that you HAVE to win or else the universe will be destroyed. It contrasts with King of the World in that you are now on even terms with Giegue with the use of a much more harmony than the aforementioned song. The chiptune elements also give off the spacey vibe a bit more, and serve as another nod to Earthbound Beginnings similarly to “Cease to Exist.” Surprisingly is just how out of tone this song is with most of the series typical music. This song sounds more in place in something like Mega Man Battle Network than Earthbound given the sheer kickassery of it. It shows that for the first time in the series, you are fighting Giegue/Giygas on equal terms, and it’s time to take him down. The only problem I have with this one is that it is a bit too short as well.
Also of note is the the phase between the second Giegue fight (The one with only Alinivar, Col. Saturn, and Larice that also uses “Dissonance” and the one using “Giygas Howls” there is another theme used. It is a partial remix of Giegue’s theme from Earthbound Beginning but with some creepier stuff thrown in. I unfortunately don’t know what it was called and I don’t think it’s good enough to go out of my way to find it, but it does definitely work for the scenario in question.
It’s a combination of “Giygas’s Intimidation“ theme from Earthbound and “Battle Against the Masked Man“ from Mother 3. The two songs are very similar in tone in that they are trying to represent an unimaginable horror, yet they do so in different ways. “Giygas’s Intimidation” (as well as the rest of his battle theme) is ambient, slow, and lacks a beat. Its strange structure is meant to represent just how strange and incomprehensible Giygas is. “Battle Against the Masked Man” is just as intimidating but it also has a bass line, which makes it slightly more like a typical boss theme. This was representative of how the final battle of Mother 3 instead had its horror in the fact that you are in a fight to the death again someone close to you that has been warped beyond reconizability, which is a much more human struggle.
So naturally, the Giygas theme would be a given to use, but “Battle Against the Masked” Man also works because this is when we first see Giegue lose control of his power, and it shows that what happened to Giegue isn’t all that different from what happened to Claus, thus drawing an abstract connection between the two. If you want to take it even further, it could also be implying that Giygas had something to do with the events of Mother 3, that Claus would have met a similar fate to Giegue had he not been stopped, or even that there may have been a connection between the 7 needles and the devil’s machine or apple of enlightenment (yes, Cognitive Dissonance isn’t canon, it may as well be).
It is still “Battle Against the Masked Man” but now it’s combined with “Prayer for Safety” from Earthbound. The short organ tune that plays while praying during the Giygas fight, and when everyone else sends their prayers. “Prayer for Safety” was always an underrated track seeing as how most people tend to look at Giygas’s battle theme as one piece instead of as the individual short tracks that make it up. It always had a simultaneously ominous and relieving vibe. It is much more harmonious than Giygas’s other themes, but it also echoes despair and desperation. A last ditch attempt to overcome an unimaginable horror beyond human comprehension that literally consists of asking others to pray because they cannot do anything else, which makes the organ fit even more due to its association with the church. As an atheist who does not hold belief in the power of prayer, that just makes the scenario all the more horrifying.
As for this specific track, you hear it briefly when you use PK Harmony. Normally, it restores the entire party’s HP at the cost of all of Alinivar’s PP. In this battle though, nothing happens to Alinivar’s PP and it has an effect on Giygas. It causes Giygas to remember Niiue and thus is own positive emotions. The way the music is used here is very similar to Mother 3’s final battle, which establishes the connection between Giegue and Claus further. Each time it is used, it has a stronger effect and you hear more of it, until…
It’s the same “Battle Against the Masked Man” baseline (albeit much weaker without any of the other ominous chords combined played over Earthbound Beginning’s “Eight Melodies.” What is especially noteworthy is that this specific rendition is the placeholder fan remix of Earthbound Beginning’s ending theme used to represent the unused Eight Melodies remix in Super Smash Bros Brawl. I have had a previous segment done on “The Eight Melodies” featuring various arrangements of the song from the original game to Smash Bros, and I included this one. Unfortunately, I don’t think I said nearly enough about it.
This is one of the most breath taking pieces of music I have ever heard. Not just in terms of fan remixes or even game music, I mean in general. If this song actually played in a game, I would be tempted to say it’s my favorite video game song of all time. I specific And thanks to Cognitive Dissonance, it now does. The only problem is that you don’t hear the full thing, but its use is still amazing. The way it plays out is very similar to that of Mother 3‘s “It Is Finished“ (another song in the god tier of video game music). Both of them play when the battle is already over, yet it isn’t a win in the traditional sense.
It is one where Giygas temporarily regains his sanity and turns back into Giegue, and then teams up with Niiue to allow Alinivar and his partners to escape. Furthermore, the song starts out with the “BATMM” baseline playing over the soft music box portion at the beginning but fades out when the high point of “Eight Melodies” kicks in and you are taken out of the battle screen and the song plays out like normal through the following cutscene. Even though the result still isn’t even the best ending possible, it makes the set up for the ending absolutely beautiful. Oh, and I suppose there is one more.
Now I have already had a previous piece on every version of “Megalovania,” but I don’t think I talked enough about the song itself. I did say that I liked this one because of its darker sound than Undertale’s, which fits since this the only use of this theme where you are on the side of good and the fate of the universe is literally at stake. It plays previously in the chapter 3 escape sequence and halfway through the battle against Master Magnolia, but it fits mostly when used during the final battle against Giygas’s core. I have already gone over the thematic implications of its use, so I will just stick to its sound.
The instrumentation choice is what really makes this one for me, especially the synth in the beginning and that fucking air raid siren! It does everything that any kind of boss theme should do. It makes your opponent look imposing, it fills you with energy, and its just fucking catchy as hell to. Unfortunately, this leads to the Paradox Ending, which leads to the universe’s destruction, but it wouldn’t be “Megalovania” if it didn’t represent some type of tragic irony.
Well anyway that is all of them. A lot of themes here and all of them awesome. And I plan to Amazing VGM a more regular thing from now on since I have the time.
If you would like to play Mother: Cognitive Dissonance for yourself, it is available here for free.
If you have not played the other entries in the Mother/Earthbound series, it is also recommended that you check them out.
Mother/Earthbound Beginnings/Earthbound Zero can be bought here (Original version on Wii U E-shop) & here (Reproduction cart of fan translated GBA version. Mother 2 is NOT fully translated). My review can be read here.
Mother 2/Earthbound can be bought here (New 3DS E-shop) here (Wii U E-shop) here (original SNES cartridge), & here (Reproduction cart of Earthbound Uncut fan mod, which is supposedly 99% similar with censorship removed). My review can be read here.
Mother 3 can be bought here (Reproduction cart of fan translated GBA version).
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