Mother: Cognitive Dissonance | NALT Giygas

Amazing VGM: Megalovania (Halloween Hack/Homestuck/Cognitive Dissonance/Undertale)

Note: This was originally written as a DeviantArt journal entry on October 21st of 2016 with some edits made.

Major spoiler warning for Halloween Hack, Mother: Cognitive Dissonance, and Undertale.

It is about time I get to another entry on a video game song given how long it has been since the last one. As such, I’m going to structure this one similar to when I covered the eight melodies in that this will include multiple renditions of the song across multiple sources. Of course, some people who discovered this song through Undertale may be somewhat surprised to hear that it was not originally from there. It’s first appearance was in an Earthbound romhack that Toby Fox developed when he was 16 known as “The Halloween Hack“.

Halloween Hack was pretty impressive when one keeps the context of which it was made in mind. It is a game that has a lot of its own original content such as sprite work and music, and the game even makes use of mechanics that were under utilized in Earthbound. So it was definitely a well made Hack from a technical perspective, but other than that it falls flat. Story wise, the game is filled with next to nothing but laughable attempts to be edgy and vague symbolism and there was much more grinding needed to progress through than with Earthbound.

However, it still gave us this song as its final boss theme playing against an insane, anger ridden and power hungry Dr. Andonuts who is sick of your shit, and will “shove your assess so far down your throat that when you crap you’ll sing fucking Beethoven” (see what I mean about the writing?). As cringeworthy as Andonut’s swearing is, the rest of the fight is brilliant in its design. The entire game was meant to be a stark contrast to Earthbound’s original tone by having darker and more disturbing elements involved. The final battle handles this by making it clear that our main protagonist Varik is not a real hero nor is he as badass as he thinks he is. He is basically killing Andonuts within his world of Magicant for uhh…. I actually don’t know. His job was to take care of a monster that killed a bunch of people, and Toby said that the monster was just a generic enemy. The entire game builds up to you trying to save Andonuts only for you to kill him for no real reason. Yes he was the one that created all the monsters, but he clearly regrets doing so.

This is the key problem I have with the story; it is not the edginess or the swearing (the swearing is actually only in the final battle where it was supposed to take the player by surprise), it is just that it has this dark twist, but forgets to give you a believable reason for why it happens. Instead we have the game basically scolding you for killing Andonuts when that is literally the only thing the game gives you the option to do. Apparently it needs to be some type of commentary on how players will just do anything just because it’s what the game wants, but it kinda needs to be implemented into the plot for it to work. Although I will give Toby credit in that five years later, we also saw a game called The Last of Us that had the main character murder innocent people for no real reason during the ending, and the gaming press seemed to love it. Well either way, I’ve gone on enough of a tangent, back to describing the song.

The way that Toby used a set of instruments that were mainly used to create soft ambient songs to create this track shows great creativity and innovation on his part. Those first few notes are always addicting and the way it builds itself up always gets you pumped. The use of the Hammond organ for the melody strikes just well enough to not overpower the rest of the track while still sticking out. The only issue I have is with the way it loops in how it just starts from the beginning.

It is notable that the song’s name was said to be a mix between the word megalomania and Transylvania. Megalomania is defined by as meaning either “a symptom of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness, wealth, etc.” or “an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things.”

This word is definitely something that fits Dr. Andonuts in his rage fueled state, but at the same time, it can also fit Varik who is implied to think of himself as a hero despite the fact that he is basically murdering an innocent old man. Additionally, Toby stated that the word megalomania was used because he originally intended to use a remix of the Live A Live boss theme as the final battle theme. Composition wise, there are not that many similarities between “Megalomania” and “Megalovania”, but there are some similarities to the final boss theme from the Super Famicom version of Brandish 2, “Gadobadorrer.”

It should be noted that Halloween Hack includes several references to the Brandish series with some of its music, the type of narrations that are used before entering a new area, and is even where Varik himself originates. Anyway, now for the next version of the song, that instead of a game, is used as a soundtrack for the webcomic Homestuck in some animations based on the series. As much as I’d like to give my whole analysis of how this relates to Homestuck, I really cannot because I know nothing about it. However, I can still point out what is great about this version.

One will notice that it is the Halloween Hack version except mostly with real instruments and of much higher quality. The addition of that screaming guitar gives this song a much greater sense of intensity and amplifies the effect of the original tenfold, and the organ used in the background as well. Well I can’t say much else here other than stating the obvious. So now for the Undertale version right? Nope

This here, is a version used for the second release of the Earthbound fan game, Cognitive Dissonance. I have already talked about Cognitive Dissonance at length in my review of it, but to keep it short, it is highly recommended if you enjoyed the Earthbound series. There are some issues with the game when you compare it to Mother 2 and 3, but the game is still of the quality that I would expect from an official sequel and if I didn’t know better I would think Shigesato Itoi himself was involved. Also the music is as amazing as always. “Megalovania” isn’t even the best song in the game so you can definitely expect a future Amazing VGM entry on this game. As such, I will give you a second chance to avoid spoilers for this particular game by skipping to the section that covers the Undertale version

While it is a very close call between every version except the original, this is probably my favorite version of “Megalovania,” which is somewhat ironic since it’s the only one to have not been made by Toby Fox. Yeah, one could say that either the Homestuck or Undertale versions are harder or kick more ass, but this version has a more subtle and darker atmospheric feel to it which I tend to value more. As for how it plays out in the game, there are three points where it is used.

The first is in a self destruct sequence where you need to escape a collapsing space ship before it blows up. The second is during the boss battle against Master Magnolia, a plant monster that you fight on the same ship after it is in ruins that uses its plants to take control of the ship’s sentient creatures which basically zombifies them, and even tries to trick you into exiting out of your game by telling you to press ALT f4. Also I guess “Megalovania” and Magnolia sound like similar words, but I’m stretching it there. Where the song fits the most is in its third use as the final boss of the time paradox ending.

This battle is against Giygas’s core that is unlocked after you weaken giygas using Nieue’s sing command. Unlike any time in the main series, this is an actual boss fight based around damage and healing and such. As such, the use of this song during a final boss battle that goes directly against how the main series style is a call back to how Halloween Hack did so. Hell the ending stretch of the game clearly takes a lot of influence from Halloween Hack, except here they are actually well used. Some examples being that chapter 7 has you traveling to Onett in a future where Giygas wins. It has permanently darkened skies, an orange tint to a lot of the scenery, and the music is a dark and distorted version of Onett’s theme. This is similar to how Winters appears in Halloween Hack. There are additional similarities in that both of them involve the Magicant of the game’s main villain, and both games even have a Mother 1 reference in the final dungeon.

Furthermore, it is one of those battles where the boss is made up of five targets, each of which get their own turn. Four of them are different swirls each being a different color and labeled as N, A, L, and T, while the fifth is the core. When you beat Giygas’s core, that NALT swirls drop a red cap, a ribbon, a bazooka, and a sword in that order. Those are all items that are associated with the main protagonists of Mother 1, whose names happen to be Ninten, Anna, Lloyd, and Teddy. The first letter of each of those names in that order spell out NALT (queue Illuminati confirmed jokes). Which of course reveals that, the four swirls you were fighting were the protagonists of Mother 1. This is yet another connection to Halloween Hack where the final boss was an ally in the original game.

As for the whole symbolic nature of the song’s title, there is the fact that the theme of Megalomania definitely fits Giegue/Giygas, but does it also fit Alinivar and his crew? Well it may not be in the original sense, but one of the definitions listed was “an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things.” Of course, one could argue that defeating an eldritch abomination is in and of itself extravagant and grand, but then that would make every jrpg protagonist ever megalomaniacle. However, what separates this battle from the battles against Giygas in the other endings is the result of it. By beating Giygas on this route, you don’t save the universe. You instead end up triggering a time paradox because you were not supposed to be able to defeat him physically, and this paradox makes the entire universe cease to exist. So yeah, there is the implication that it is quite megalomaniacle to literally defy the laws of time and space itself.  And we still got one more version left to go, the one that you most likely are the most familiar with.

Did I say that the Cognitive Dissonance version was my favorite? I meant to say this one was my favorite. Well to be honest, I don’t know which one is seeing as how both of those versions become my favorite whenever I listen to them. The best way to sum this one up though, it’s basically the Homestuck version on Steroids. A lot stronger, faster, and more upbeat and higher quality where the entire thing is done with regular instruments as opposed to just layering real life instruments over a backing track that was made to fit the soundfont of a SNES game, but it is now time for the story analysis part.

Like Halloween Hack and Cognitive Dissonance, Undertale has “Megalovania” as a final boss theme. It is also a final boss theme for a bad ending route that ends with the universe destroyed, similarly to Cognitive Dissonance. Additionally, the final boss is a former ally just like in both of the previous games. If you didn’t already know who it was, I may as well tell you now. It is against Sans, you know, the lazy skeleton with the stupid puns. Surely he should be easy right? #famouslastwords

Unlike all the major characters in the game, there is no fight against Sans in any normal playthrough, and the only way you get to fight him is if you not only kill every major character in the game, but also choose to grind out the enemies in every area in the game until there are no more encounters. Even if you kill his brother Papyrus on a normal playthrough, he will not fight you unless you take this specific route. The reason for this is because he promised Toriel that he would not harm any humans that fell into the underworld, and he will only break that promise if you seek to destroy the universe itself. Even in the battle against Flowey on a normal playthrough he does not step in.

He reveals that he is aware of the fact that the player can reset time ala re loading save files and starting new games. As such, he thinks it is pointless to get involved in anything unless you come along and decide to fuck things up for everybody and destroy existence. In order to make sure you don’t succeed, he poses the role of the hardest boss in the game by far.

Similarly to Halloween Hack (I’m going to be saying that a lot aren’t I?), this was not originally planned to be the battle theme against Sans, if the song on the game’s Soundtrack titled “The Song that Might Play When you Fight Sans.”

The song gives off a similar feeling to “Megalovania” but is strangely enough, a bit more light hearted. Some have theorized that this may have been originally intended to play in a battle against Sans in a normal playthrough, and some fan made boss fights have definitely interpreted it that way. However, it should be noted that this song still has a much more intense feel to it then Papyrus’s battle theme “Bonetrousle” and still has some parts of it that sound like a final boss theme. Maybe Sans would have been originally intended to fight on a normal playthrough at the same point in the game as some sort of test or something. Of course there is also the possibility that it was never even intended to be in the game and was included as some subtle background lore similar to a bunch of stuff that is in the games code that hints towards certain things. The game has enough weird shit in it that it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to do that.

Either way, there could be a thematic reason why they did not use “TSTMPWYFS” against the Sans fight, that being that none of the Genocide exclusive boss themes are meant to represent the bosses themselves. Similarly to Undyne the Undying’s battle theme, “Battle Against a True Hero,” “Megalovania” is not Sans’s boss theme, it is YOU’RE boss theme. This meaning that the song is meant to represent Chara and the player’s own megalomania. As such, this gives off the impression that Undertale’s Genocide route is basically a better version of Halloween Hack. In Halloween Hack, Varik had no real motivation to kill Andonuts and you technically do not have a realistic motivation to in Undertale. This theme, however, works much better when it is based on actual player choice. In Halloween Hack you have no choice if you want to beat the game, but in Undertale you could easily abort a Genocide route whenever you want up until after you kill Mettaton NEO. You are the one making the choice to kill everyone when there is no motivation. It’s no one’s fault but your own.

Additionally, Undertale even has the final boss swear in a game that otherwise had little swearing (except it’s much more reasonable in Undertale). It is also a strictly gameplay based fight as opposed to the heavily scripted battles against Flowey and Asriel.  Furthermore, both Sans and Master Magnolia try to use interface screws to beat the player (Magnolia with suggesting you press ALT F4 and Sans with attacking you in the menus). There might even be more that I am missing.

Anyway, to finally end this entry, just about any version of this song is amazing. It serves as a kickass final boss theme and its use seems to have a lot of symbolic aspects to it if you look into things. Anyway it was quite interesting to write this and I hope I can write more pieces that go into detail about themes of a story in addition to putting more pieces out about Video Game Music.

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