I’ve often seen people claim that the Wii had no good games and nothing for the more “hardcore” crowd, both of which I find silly because of how untrue they are. When I do hear such things, I have a few games I often point to as counterexamples to both, one of which being the relatively unknown MadWorld. Aside from bringing a very different style and gratuitous amounts of violence to the Wii, it also brought an extremely unique soundtrack. The various tunes manage to separate themselves from nearly all other game music by having a simple focus on two genres that don’t have good representation in gaming: rap and hip-hop.
While some genres have a strong presence throughout gaming, such as orchestrated music and chiptunes, it’s difficult to come up with many examples of either rap or hip hop, although, as last week’s article proved, they do exist. The reason for this is actually rather simple: in addition to issues with fitting the genres to most games, they are already difficult musical styles to perform well in the first place. It takes a dedication to a consistent game style to make the music both good in its own right and appropriate for the myriad situations found in any game. Luckily, that’s exactly what can be seen in MadWorld.
The in-house composer for Platinum Games, Naoto Tanaka, specifically stated that he was going for an American style with the music to fit the genre. In that vein, he checked with the American branch of Platinum to ensure it would match correctly and brought in four local artists of those particular genres to add lyrics to the songs he created. While all four had a distinct presence, Ox shows up the most on the soundtrack with exactly half of the songs being his performances. Ox gives some of the most traditional, and catchiest, hip-hop songs on the CD, with the appropriately titled “Ride!!” and the oriental-inspired “Let’s Go!”, shown below.
However, as previously stated, it wouldn’t have been enough to simply make good music in this style. The songs had to match the situations they played in as well, which is another detail that Tanaka paid special attention to. As such, songs were molded to fit their stages, such as the aforementioned “Let’s Go!” playing in a stage heavily-based on Chinatown and “It’s a Mad World” showing itself in one of the strangest stages of the bunch.
This idea also extends to the boss themes, which is particularly impressive considering how strange the enemies can get and the relatively limited scope to mostly two genres of music. Although all the boss themes match their respective boss perfectly, the highest honors should probably go to the final boss theme, “Look Pimpin’.” It’s a song sung from the perspective of the boss that basically says how the boss thinks you’ve overstepped your bounds and have to be pimp-slapped back into your place. As silly as it may sound, it fits perfectly and is a very catchy song besides.
It’s already a rare thing to see rap or hip-hop in gaming, so seeing an entire soundtrack filled with the genres, and done well on top of that, is something truly unique. Unfortunately, MadWorld, despite some nagging issues, is a criminally underrated gem and very few people have heard more than a passing mention of it. Still, it represents a very important idea in video game music. In a medium where certain types of music dominate, even if they are well done, MadWorld proved that any kind of music could work amazingly provided the effort was put in to make it work. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m not the fondest of rap or hip-hop, so the fact that I enjoy this soundtrack so much despite that fact is a testament to the quality of every track. I always like to see games step away from the norm, and MadWorld is a fine example of what can happen when that step is taken.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.