Readers, a random Jarenth Info Tidbit for you: my favourite famous classical composer is Frédéric Chopin. I’ve never quite managed to figure out why this is, but it is so regardless. I mean, his music is beyond excellent, there’s that. And his war-torn history of exile and turbulent personal life are definitely interesting reads. And I may just have a soft spot for the name ‘Frédéric’, e-accents and all.
But really, probably both the dumbest and most influential reason I came to like Chopin as much as I do is that, back when I bought my Xbox 360, one of the first games I got to play on it was Eternal Sonata, the JRPG that — and this summary doesn’t really do it a lot of justice — you watch and play the story Frédéric Chopin as he explores a magical musical dream world which represents his dying mind. It’s a game I enjoyed on many levels: while it’s often held up as a prime example of the nonsense and weirdery that JRPGs tend to get up to, it turns out that there are people who really enjoy things like that! And the fact that it implies that Chopin, literally on his death bed, had the presence of mind and the mental fortitude to think up an entire world, backstory, and oddly engrossing location-based RPG combat system, cemented him in my mind as Probably A Pretty Amazing Dude Overall.
Now, the reason I’m telling you all this is because, while browsing Steam for inspiration a few weeks back, I ran across a game called Frederic: Resurrection of Music. A creation of one Forever Entertainment S.A., Frederic: Resurrection of Music promises to follow the journey of a resurrected Frederic Chopin as he travels around the world, challenging other musicians to duels based on modern interpretations of his work.
So, basically, another game where I’d guide Frédéric Chopin through a magical wonderland of musical whimsy? I couldn’t not play that.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium, but it’s also madness. Mechanical, high, but unimportant.)
Frederic: Resurrection of Music scores immediate points with me with its opening menu, which is a brightly lit, colourful affair, with (what else) Chopin playing in the background.
It proceeds to immediately lose some points by not having any options beyond input controls. No video, no audio… as with other games I’ve reviewed for this column, I recognize that Frederic: Resurrection of Music began life as a mobile-oriented game, where such options are traditionally skipped entirely. But a musical rhythm game, on PC, not having any audio options whatsoever sets off my ‘lazy port’ sense something fierce.
And it’s not like the input options themselves are that encompassing, either. I get to rebind no more than seven buttons. Seven piano buttons, mind:
It’s worth mentioning that, since I briefly played the demo of Frederic: Resurrection of Music before purchasing, the full game has remembered my altered input settings. I’ve changed the inputs to the ones you see on that screenshot, because the original ones were… well, dumb.
The how-to-play Help menu — my nemesis — provides both the aforementioned blast from the past, and a basic gameplay overview. Frederic: Resurrection of Music is basically a rhythm game: musical notes fall down from the top of the screen, onto a series of seven buttons, I press the buttons when the notes are over the buttons, points and music happen. There’s a little more to it than that, of course, with double notes and holding-notes, and some weird sliding note that I’m not entirely sure how it works. But the gist of it is that I am to press piano buttons at the right time, to make piano music happen.
Between lackluster options, a surprisingly in-depth how-to-play that still manages to tell me nothing, and some neat hand-drawn-esque credits vignettes, there isn’t really anything keeping me in this main menu any longer. Onto the actual game!
Difficulty level, you say? Too Easy, Normal, Hard, or Chopin? Hah! I pick… actually, my prior experiences with difficulty levels in rhythm games like these are throwing up huge red alarm flags in my mind. As much as I often like to pretend I’m the coolest thing since ice cream sandwiches, the reality of the situation is that I know I probably don’t have the reflexes and the manual dexterity to keep up with any kind of higher difficulty level here. I’m no Chopin, sadly. So Normal it is: let’s see how that goes, and adapt later.
“Rise and shine, Frédéric, rise and shine.”
My eyes creak open to the sound of a reverberating voice, just in time to see a human figure fly away in the distance. Yes, actually fly away. No, I don’t understand either. I sit upright, in my open casket, and take stock of my cemetery surroundings. I, of course, am Frédéric Chopin.
Frédéric-me walks out of his own mausoleum, into the night sky of Paris. Lost in thought, he wanders to the nearest exit… only to almost get hit by a car! Welcome to the future, Frédéric Chopin.
Cars, and noises, and neon lights, and men dressed up as ketchup bottles, oh dear.
Dejected, Frédéric returns to the cemetery, sitting on a bench to mull over things. What happened? Why is he back? What force brought him over from the beyond, only to strand him in a Parisian graveyard? In this strange, uncertain future, where carriages ride without horses and men with the appearance of condiment containers talk into small boxes?
This line of thinking is interrupted when three Greek Muses suddenly appear.
“Who are you”, asks Frédéric, his first line in the game, in the most bland, white-bread American voice imaginable. Not a trace of any Polish accent detectable. I make a mental note to refer to him as Frédéric Drake from now on, then immediately forget all about it.
Rather than explain anything, however, the Muses are here to give Frédéric some cool gifts! Specifically, a golden horse carriage that can carry him all across the world, a tiny golden grand piano that will unfold itself to regular size, and a magical suitcase to hold both of these in. They then mutter something about how Frédéric was the ‘last master’, and that the world of music is in some kind of unspecified danger, before disappearing again. Because they have a McDonalds ad to appear in. Careers don’t build themselves, Frédéric! Ta ta!
Frédéric gets exactly eight seconds to reflect on these most recent developments, before a new one rudely interrupts him. That is to say, this man literally floats down from the sky:
The man introduces himself as Jean, French musician extraordinaire. He challenges Frédéric to a musical duel, with the magical grand piano as a prize! This nonsense cannot stand.
An actual fighting-screen splash page sets the stage for the duel itself. “FRÉDÉRIC…”, yells an announcer out of nowhere, “VERSUS, JEAN!” The page also makes clear that the song we’ll be dueling in is Preludium E-moll, Op.28, Nr 4. Which… I feel gives Frédéric an advantage, of sorts? I mean, he’s the one who composed the piece.
Except we’re not playing classic Preludium E-moll Op.28 Nr 4, aren’t we? As cartoon Paris fades into view, the distinct presence of electronic background beats puts the lie to any hope of uninterrupted classical music.
The gameplay itself proceeds… Well, let’s not mince words here, shall we? The gameplay itself proceeds pretty much exactly the way I imagined it would, and exactly the way I told you it would in the previous section: notes rain down from the sky, ready for me to push buttons at.
Let me quickly clarify that this is by no means a bad thing. Frederic: Resurrection of Music is a rhythm game, that works in the way rhythm games should work. Notes drop down in sync with the music, I score points if I press them at the right time, and the easiest way to gain the most points is by pressing the notes in time with the rhythm or beat they’re emulating. Pressing the right notes at the right time makes music happen; pressing the wrong notes produces sour piano notes, and makes Frédéric frown at me — even more than he usually frowns — or even cover his ears.
I swiftly recognize the basic gameplay building blocks of the how-to-play screen in this first song. Regular notes are just that, regular notes, representing a single button press. Black notes go over black keys, white notes over white. Notes with a green tail present the option of holding down the associated key for a while, for extra points. And notes with an arrow over them… I still don’t know what to do with, actually. I figure maybe it means I have to press the key they’re pointing towards? But that just causes more of the sour piano notes and angry Chopin, so I quickly abandon the idea.
As I play, the screen is a veritable blur of activity. Notes streak down, with or without coloured tails. Every so often, hitting a note correctly causes a golden floating note to pop up: I discover that hitting the letter key associated with that note makes extra points happen. A few times, a brief graphic prompts me to press the spacebar, resulting in a brief cutscene — while the musical gameplay keeps going — of Frédéric performing some sort of… musical attack, on Jean? Other times, without prompting, Jean strikes back in similar ways at me.
And all throughout the duel, the background view of Paris shifts, moves, and alters. The camera changes position and orientation, zooming in on Frédéric, then zooming in on Jean, then panning out for a wide-angle view of Paris. And brief temporary animations play out every now and again: pigeons play in and land, a pug with a beret jumps into view, and an upset frog protests the famous French tradition of eating their legs as a snack.
I hardly notice any of it, of course: the musical gameplay demands most of my attention. From the volume and speed of the notes, this level doesn’t seem particularly hard… but it’s the learning curve of the thing that keeps me so absorbed. As with any rhythm game, the first few songs here are dedicated to me building the immediate mental connection between ‘this thing happens on-screen’ and ‘my fingers reply in this way’. Initially, having to explicitly recognize and think about these things keeps me back, causing mistakes and errors and angry Chopins. But the more I play, the more I get back into the groove that playing the demo already partially instilled in me.
That is how, after playing the duel with Jean only one time, I manage to come out the untouched victor. That’s right: one time. I didn’t lose embarrassingly the actual first time I played, and none of you can prove otherwise.
Also, I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m surprised with how non-awful this electronic Chopin remix was. In fact, let’s just be entirely honest: I thought it was quite good! I enjoyed listening to it as much as I did playing it. The electronic tempo adds an element of speed that I felt the original lacked, while still remaining fairly true to Chopin’s work. Here, listen to it yourself. As a ‘bonus’, you can also see that first opening cutscene in this video.
For my victory, I am rewarded with some points, and one star out of a possible three. I have no idea why only one star? Then, in a cutscene, Frédéric’s powerful music shorts out Jean’s electro-floatation apparatus, causing him to crash to the ground. Correspondingly, Jean surrenders.
Frédéric and Jean talk briefly, and Jean reveals that he was hired by the same shady figure that brought Frédéric back. That figure has now moved on to the ‘cultural capital of the world’. Which isn’t Paris, silly Frédéric, why would you even think that, but…
New York? What? In what possible alternate universe is New York considered to be a musical-cultural hotspot of any kind? I mean, it’s a great city and all, Big Apple, never sleeps, all that jazz, but… cultural capital? I… I may need a moment to process this information.
Frédéric, of course, takes this revelation at face value, and hops into his magical horse-carriage to fly straight across the Atlantic Ocean. Because let it never be said that Greek Muses give poor gifts.
Oddly, instead of flying straight for New York, Frédéric decides to stop at the Caribbean for some reason. He sits down on the beach at night, reflects on the strange turns his life has taken, and then runs straight into a hate crime.
Hoo boy. I am way too sober to deal with nonsense at this level. Readers, I’m grabbing my emergency Bowmore 12. Be back in one page!