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ICO – “You were There” (Michiru Oshima, Steven Geraghty)

January 11, 2010

ICO is one of the greatest games ever made. Those who have played and loved this game can attest to it. I think it is truly defining of what videogames can do. Even though the game was not financially successful and has some irregular gameplay, it gains its power through the strength of its art design as well as the emotions it is able to produce in the player. ICO (2001) also has an interesting soundtrack, with music almost entirely absent through most of the game, leaving only the hollow wind blowing through the castle. What music exits is mostly amelodic and discordant for when the monsters attack, but there are a few fleeting moments of melody (“heal”, the save bench theme, for one) as well as the ending theme – “ICO -You were There-“, from the beautifully titled album, ICO ~Melody in the Mist, which is also going to end this week’s series of lyrical vgm.

ICO – “ICO -You were There-” (Michiru Oshima, Steven Geraghty)

The song immediately paints a vivid picture of the setting for ICO, an old, labyrinthine castle set on a forbidding island off the coast. It does this through metaphor that is almost haiku in its economy. Trapped inside is a young boy, Ico, who has been imprisoned because he was born with horns on his head. Inside, he discovers a girl, Yorda, who is bathed in light and glows in the darkness. Ico and Yorda, unable to understand each others’ language, set out to escape together, and must work together to be free of the prison. Ico must protect Yorda from the shadowy monsters, the spirits of others who had been swallowed by the castle. The two hold hands as they run through the castle…

The refrain “You were there”, as if called from the shadows of memory, is testament to the bond forged between these two young people – and by extension a recollection of times when perhaps the listener’s own friends and loved ones had been there for you. Oh yes, and the mystery word, “nonomori” apparently means “Thank you”, and is spoken by Yorda on the bridge in the game’s fictional language.

I can remember the play of light and shadow in this game and how after I had completed it for the first time and stood outside to walk, the trees and the sky was so bright. The memory of playing this game will stay with you for a long time and you will certainly carry it with you through the rest of the day. The beautiful ending song, “You were There” helps ensure this.

ICO‘s soundtrack is pretty short, at only 25:36. As such, it seems even more expensive to purchase the album, but it is worth it to ICO fans (it’s about $15 plus shipping through CD Japan). By the way, the album art is from the Japanese and European releases – a breathtaking piece of surreal art. Sadly, the US release‘s album art is absolute crap, which probably didn’t help sales any. There was also a dojin arrange album of the game, ICO Respect Arrange Album, published by the group Straw Hat. Sadly, as with nearly all dojin albums, this is very hard to find in the US, let alone Japan, and its limited print run plus collector’s status quickly balloon the album’s modest 500 yen cost (about $5 US) WAY out of proportion…

“You were There” was composed by Michiru Oshima with lyrics written by Lynne Hobday. Steven Geraghty from the all-boy vocal group Liberia sung the lyrics. His angelic voice matches the fragility of the characters and the bright light of the game’s visual style. However, it is very difficult for me to hear what he is singing in places because the music is so loud and his voice so soft. So, without further ado, here are the lyrics:
The island bathes in the sun’s bright rays
Distant hills wear a shroud of grey
A lonely breeze whispers in the trees
Sole witness to history

Fleeting memories rise
From the shadows of my mind
Sing “nonomori” – endless corridors
Say “nonomori” – hopeless warriors
You were there
You were there

Am I forever dreaming
How to define the way I’m feeling

You were there
Countless visions they haunt me in my sleep
You were there
Though forgotten all promises we keep

Slaves to our destiny
I recall a melody
Sing “nonomori” – seasons lit with gold
Say “nonomori” – legends yet untold
You were there
You were there

Happiness follows sorrow
Only believing in tomorrow

You were there
Countless visions they haunt me in my sleep
You were there
Though forgotten all promises we keep

The island bathes in the sun’s bright rays
Distant hills wear a shroud of grey
A lonely breeze whispers in the trees
Sole key to this mystery

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