How Octopath Traveler Hypes its Boss Battles | Game Score Fanfare

The best part of a boss battle for me is often not the actual fight itself. It’s what comes right before: the build-up. The tense anticipation as you nervously wait and ready yourself to go face-to-face with something you have no idea what to expect from. And then finally it happens, the boss music
kicks in and the adrenaline takes over. This is the same feeling that Masaaki Hayasaka
had when he went to a live gig of one of his favourite bands. He got excited whenever the band opened their
songs with new extended intros that he hadn’t heard before. He felt that giddy suspense of not knowing
what’s about to come, and the euphoric moment when you finally recognise that one chord
or riff and it all clicks together. Hayasaka was inspired by the emotional climax
achieved by these introductions and wanted to bring that same feeling to the music of
the game that he was working on as a sound designer at the time: Octopath Traveler. As the name suggests, in Octopath Traveler
you play as an ensemble troupe of eight characters, who all travel and fight together but each
have their own discrete storylines. For instance, the scholar Cyrus is tracking
down a missing ancient tome, the priest Ophelia is on a pious pilgrimage called the Kindling,
and Primrose seeks revenge on the three men that murdered her father. With personalised tales for each of the travelers,
it’s easy to form a bond with these characters, quickly understanding their personality, motivations
and goals. This is something that Octopath’s composer
Yasunori Nishiki was mindful of while writing the eight character themes, saying that melody
is an important part in helping you empathise with the character, that through the theme
of each character you can immediately understand where they’re from, the situation they are
in, and what their journey will look like. Nishiki does this not only through melody,
but also instrument choice: each of the eight themes feature a unique instrument that best
embodies the spirit of that character. Take Olberic for example: a famed swordsman
of the fallen King who now lives in hiding in a small mountain village. His theme has a small brassy horn section
which feels noble yet remains humble. This theme plays during important story beats
for Olberic, and is also referenced in one other track called For Redemption, which plays
in the lead-up to the bosses that Olberic faces. Because the story paths are individualised
for each character in Octopath Traveler, the bosses they face are generally much more personal
– rather than fighting a slightly more ferocious dungeon dweller, or some disposable cog in
a grand machine that’s looking to destroy the world, you’re generally facing a long-time
rival or someone who has a specific conflicting interest to that character’s own goal. By reintroducing the unique instrument from
the character’s theme in this moment, it reminds you of the personal stakes at hand. But then why does it need a second theme at
all? Why not just use Olberic’s theme in this
scene too? Well what For Redemption enables is the moment
that inspired Masaaki Hayasaka at the gig: the mounting anticipation and slow-build into
a musical climax, seamlessly flowing into the part that the audience is all eagerly
waiting for. This would usually be rather simple to do
if it weren’t for one small problem: you. You are unpredictable and have complete control
over the speed at which the scene progresses, the game letting you read through the dialogue
at your own pace. Who knows, you could go make a cup of tea
and leave the final dialogue box hanging – the battle only begins when you are ready and
press the A button. So instead of building one single musical
climax that fits all, as you can with a live performance or even a cutscene, the music
needs to be ready to react to your input and make the transition at any given moment. This is achieved through a rather simple dynamic
music system. The entire sequence is made up of three parts
– the first is the pre-battle track, For Redemption. This is a 25-second long track that will continuously
loop either forever, or until you press the A button and enter the battle, whichever comes
first. When that happens, the track will immediately
cut on the next beat to a short transitionary cue, which seamlessly connects the end of
the lead-in track with the beginning of the boss track. Where it gets more complicated is in the actual
music. Because this transition can happen at any
point during the 25-second loop, For Redemption needs account for this in its composition,
and as a result is quite different to anything else found on Octopath’s soundtrack. Unlike the rest of the score, the melody takes
a bit of back-seat here – you can’t just use Olberic’s Theme in this scene because
the melody would get cut short, leaving it unresolved and breaking the momentum in the
process. Olberic’s theme is instead hinted at through
use of the horns, albeit in a much more textural way that allows them to be suddenly interrupted
with minimal impact. The same goes for the key of the piece. As 8-Bit Music Theory discussed in his video,
Olberic’s Theme changes its key from D-minor to F-minor in order to spice things up a little. However the looping section of For Redemption
is limited to staying in D-minor so that it can smoothly jump into the transition cue
at any moment. The transition’s purpose is to somehow find
its way from D-minor to the opening key of the boss track, G-minor, which it does by
the way of A-flat-major. One final consideration to make is the tempo. The boss theme is set to a brisk 164 beats
per minute, so in order to maintain the momentum through the transition, For Redemption needs
to be locked to this same tempo as well. But Olberic is only one of the playable characters
in Octopath Traveler and Redemption is his goal. All eight characters have their own stories,
goals, bosses to face and music that plays in the lead-up to them. So actually it’s not just one track into
one other, but rather 8 tracks that all perfectly build into the Decisive Battle. Each one was written not only to capture the
spirit of the character but all exist within the same limitations: a melody that can at
any point immediately pivot to a new section, being locked to a specific tempo and remain
in a single key. But what makes this even more impressive is
that there’s a second boss track. And in Chapter 4 there’s a third, and they
all manage to be just as seamless in their transition. This is because these boss tracks also stick
to the same limitations as the first: They’re set to 164 bpm and start in G-minor in order
to make it work. On top of this, there are optional boss battles
that give you the hidden job classes and these also have a unique boss theme that sticks
to these same limitations, despite not even doing the transition in-game. But it still works! So that’s eight different character tracks,
all of which build perfectly and transition smoothly into four different boss themes at
whatever point the player chooses. That is madness. But, it’s evidence of the level of care
that went into the game and its score. Octopath Traveler is one of my favourite games
of 2018 because you can feel the developers’ passion for the project and love for the classic
JRPGs and soundtracks that inspired them. But it’s not just a rehash of everything
that’s come before to capitalise on nostalgia – they let inspiration in from other aspects
of life, as so many of the great game designers of the past have. They were willing to try ambitious new things
to bring that same experience to a new generation. Thanks for watching! Be sure to watch 8-Bit Music Theory’s deep
dive on Octopath’s use of key changes, his videos have taught me literally everything
I know about the composition of video game music. If you’ve just come from there, then hi! Feel free to check out my other Octopath video
exploring how Nishiki made retro game music with an orchestra.

100 thoughts on “How Octopath Traveler Hypes its Boss Battles | Game Score Fanfare

  1. Awesome video! This is why Octopath Traveler is one of the best games of 2018! The level of care provided is very well respected!

  2. When I picked up my switch, I got Breath of the Wild and decided to grab Octopath on a whim. After playing Zelda halfway through, I gave Octopath a quick play for 30 minutes and realized that I'd have to put it down until after I finished Zelda, otherwise I probably wouldn't come back to BotW for a few months. The music was what immediately caught my attention, and Olberic's story and theme in particular was phenomenal.

  3. This was something I noticed while playing the game, but never got the full amount of work behind it. I have to say it made every boss fight feel like a spectacle

  4. Had to to stop the video before it was over to avoid spoilers. No, not story spoilers. Music spoilers. I haven't heard the third and last boss themes yet and by god nothing will rob me of the excitement when I get there. I've never had that happen with any other game.

  5. I really would have loved to hear all of the “For” songs transition into They Who Govern Reason. Not in the video, but in the game itself. 8:50

  6. This is an amazing video! Thanks so much for doing this amazing content on such beautiful art.

  7. OCTOPATH TRAVELER soundtrack is truly something that I did not ever expect to come from a video game music
    While I adore many musics from various games, OCTOPATH is composed so brilliantly that I had to get the albums on my hands myself
    Thank you for making the analysis video to grow bigger community of the game to appreciate the composer of this game

    As a side note, there is a translated Japanese interview of the composer in the official 4-disks OCTOPATH TRAVELER CD album! I highly recommend to purchase the good to those who love the game’s music!

  8. Omar's boss fight, Erhardt's boss fight, and Werner's boss fights are the best examples of the boss intro generating hype.

  9. HOL UP YOU HAD TO FIGHT THE SPIRITS TO GET THE JOBS? I just went up to the statues and got them immediately; was I playing on easy mode?

  10. There was someone on YouTube who uploaded the three story boss themes with each of the travelers' battle transitions. At some point I petitioned that they do one for Moment of Truth and the boss theme /that/ leads to, but now I also want to hear what each transition would sound like with Those Who Govern Reason as well.

  11. I have a feeling we have an upcoming video having to do with Berlinist and one very special, very recent game (and of course its soundtrack)
    How far off am I?

  12. Just started Octopath, and I love the soundtrack so much that I had its OST being played on loop. Then YT recommended me 8-bit Music's video, and then yours. Watched both of your Octopath vids that solved the reason why I have earworms after a long while. Great video!

    On another note about compositional limitations on video game scores, when's your take on Touhou music? Would like to hear your thoughts on that 😃

  13. Also for some one who takes English as second language, the English localization really did a fantastic job . I just loved reading everything every sentence in the game , really pulls me into the game, its like reading a bedtime story for myself every night i played it . Also, Team Olberic here!

  14. This game is such an incredible piece of art, from top to bottom. I have been playing since Christmas day and loving every second of the experience ❤️

  15. I love For Redemption! Also helps Olberic is my fav character, lol. My second favorite transition track is probably For Revenge, its so raw and makes you feel like you finally cornered your prey. When will you talk about the secret bosses music? Its easily my favorite track on the OST!

  16. I can't really recognize what the Travelers have as their representative instruments for the themes and pre-battle ones. Is Tressa's a harmonica and a…clarinet? Would love to know what they are

  17. Admittedly, Octopath battles are also amazingly fun when in the battle. I've never played boss battles that were as consistently fun and engaging. I beat the 4 guardians at a fairly early level, and at least 2 of them took me 2-3 hours over the course of 2 days. Admittedly, I spent a decent amount of time planning out each turn, but that was necessary. Especially on Winniheld and Steorra.

  18. This pleb-lord used decisive battle II music for the FIRST bosses, and decisive battle I for the second and third bosses of stories smh

  19. The third boss track, At Journey’s End is played during the 4th chapters, not the 3rds. Also, how do the final final boss themes and transition compare to these transitions?

  20. The video Is perfect but… You never mentioned The final Boss theme! daughter of a dark god and Who one they called the witch, there are in my opinion the best two themes of all game, you could make a second part using that themes. Its and idea xD.

  21. These scores were my favorites in the entire game, possibly of ANY game as far as boss themes go. They never fail to hype me the heck up for a boss and the transition is just pure genius!

  22. Would you make a video on the Sexy Brutale tracks? It's a great game and the music plays a HUGE part on the "game feel" and puzzles, especially how it ramps up gradually and pratically puts a countdown in your head

  23. I know I’m not a patron (wish I could be) so my suggestion might go unnoticed, but could you look into the game soundtrack of Klonoa door to Phantomile and Lunatea’s Veil? Their soundtracks are beautiful and really set the game’s mood.
    The series is SO SMALL, so it would be amazing to see your opinion/review. The second game in particular is my favorite, and I think both games have a lot of music and enunciation for their age.
    Please check these out!! The stories are absolutely amazing and mature for kids’ games. Thank you!

  24. I just finished the last chapter for my last character and I gotta say, I really enjoyed this game! Don't know if I'll go fight the "true" final boss given how optional it is…and I'm a little worn out with this game. Lots of grinding, going from dungeon to dungeon to complete chapters and all. I've had enough of my RPG fill for a while.

  25. Octopath Traveler could easily be a contender for best OST of the decade. Whoever taught RDR2 was better needs to have his ears examined.

  26. Ooh I didn't notice this. I mean I heard the music and it was amazing but the subtle transition was lost on me the first time. Hearing it now that's actually amazing.

  27. I finished Octopath Traveler just two weeks ago and it even manages to have an incredible buildup before the true final boss. By God the soundtrack never fails to astound me.

  28. My favorite has to be during primroses final chapter. That music that plays during the fight and during the dialogue really got to me

  29. Bunch of fucking weebs…

    Look, I adore Octopath Traveler's soundtrack. It's absolutely sublime, and the boss themes are especially exhilerating. That being said, Red Dead Redemption 2 also has a fantastic soundtrack. This generation's gamers will remember Arthur's final ride to "That's the Way It Is" for decades. They'll remember charging into battle with "My Last Son" in the background. They'll remember the painful farewell with John to "You're My Brother." RDR2 was a masterpiece in terms of its storytelling and music, and the soundtrack deserves all of its accolades. Octopath was not "robbed" at the VGAs. It went up against a game with similarly astounding musical pieces to its name and simply lost. It doesn't mean the Octopath soundtrack isn't great in its own right. Get over it, and enjoy both.

  30. I keep coming back to Octopath because of its soundtrack. The very first song I heard was in Haanit's village, and that blew my way. That alone kept me excited to continue through this diverse game.

  31. This playlist features all the characters themes added before all the Decisive Battle themes, and it actually fits perfectly !

    That's crazy

  32. I know that you are talking about specifically of the music… But I think that there is no construction of spectations on a fight that is hinted by a save point and a weird merchant right before the big battles. I'm seriously disappointed by this game on that building point, it automatically breaks the immersion, don't you agree?

  33. Man, Octopath's soundtrack pops off. It's incredible how, despite never completely focusing on the music in the background, whenever any song comes on it's so easy to hum along to it because of how well it's ingrained into my memory. And the best part is: for whatever reason, I wouldn't consider any of these songs annoyingly repetitive, despite listening to them constantly throughout my 40 hours of playthrough.

  34. I didn’t pick up on the cool transitions, all I knew was that the music was awesome. Thanks for pointing it out, next time I play I should use headphones to really enjoy it

  35. I remember watching this video 6 months ago and couldn't remember the name. Had to watch it again when I found it. Amazing video! 10/10 would watch again.

  36. Helgenish. I appreciated this boss for doing something I rarely get from a boss: An absolute urge to kick his fucking ass.

  37. Haven't played this but have enjoyed the OST for months now. The artist's love and devotion for the soundtrack was evident in the Main Theme as well as the tra ks that followed.

    I'm so glad you mentioned that aspect.

  38. I know it's not the same composer, but I figure that octopath traveler work on instrument for each character remind me the work they do for Bravely Default… this team of square enix makes 3 of my favorites jrpg and ost at the same time

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