I spent a long time staring at a blank document trying to make this next thought sound as eloquent and not-gross sounding as possible. I’m here to tell you I failed.
I like Mighty Switch Force‘s Patricia Wagon. I like her a lot. She wears skin tight uniforms and doesn’t give a damn. I can dig that. She has a big butt. I can dig that too, but she’s also the most fun female protagonist this side of Bayonetta. And I definitely dig that.
Now I say “fun” but what does that mean? Well, regardless of your thinking, I mean it in that she’s someone that just seems to enjoy what she’s doing. Whether catching criminals or putting out fires, she seems to be every bit as fun outside the job as she is focused while on it. The incredible thing is I have no real basis for this assumption aside from a couple images that show at the end of each level of her in a hot tub, or training new recruits.
Actually, I should say I have no textual basis for my claim; no dialogue, no spoken words. Yet like the North American box art of any Kirby title, the stern face in the title screen belies a character that’s as charming and adorable without losing any of her badass credibility. It’s even more clear when you realize you get snippets of Paddy Wagon’s personality though the music itself.
Jake Kaufman has done work on many of Wayforward’s games and each time he does a great job at matching the style of Wayforward’s eclectic library. However on the Mighty Switch Force series, his music actively works to characterize our protagonist by making the music representative of the heroine rather than become an accessory to her. (I was working very hard to turn that into some sort of crime pun and the best I could come up with was “Accessory to murd-her” but that sounded too unsavory).
For example, right off the bat there is the track Caught Red Handed which begins with a very heavy, repeating beat that seems to set the angry-eyed Kirby tone of the game. But give it some time and it bursts open with a bubbly, electro-pop sound that just sets your heart on fire. I would know, once that beat drops, my head won’t quit till my neck’s all stiff (that doesn’t rhyme Matt, get outta’ here).
So what does this say about Officer Wagon? Probably something along the lines of how underneath the stern exterior lies the fun-loving authority figure we all presumably fell in love with. It could mean that, and that’s the general point I’m basically trying to make, but also just how this fun, club-y dance music like Jive Bot sets the perfect tone for the game and its lead, as a whole.
For better or worse, 2D side-scrolling heroines are going to be compared in some shape and form to other prominent 2D side-scrolling heroines. There’s a big ol’ elephant in the room here who can morph into a tiny ball and drop bombs that I’m refusing to acknowledge directly here. And this is because Patricia is such a different character than her personality-wise that it’d be silly to bring them into direct contest. But just as the ambient space music set the tone for the dark brooding (silent) heroine, the dance music here helps establish Patricia as the sort of antithesis to not just Samus, but brooding protagonists in general. Nowhere is it written that you can’t live in a city under threat of monsters and crime and still go out clubbing on the weekends. That’s just silly. In fact it was titles of tracks such as Woah I’m In Space Cuba that made me think “Yeah, if I finished up fighting alien crime I’d probably hit the clubs. Maybe Cuban clubs? I dunno.”
Hands down my favorite track between both the soundtracks of Mighty Switch Force 1 and 2 has to be Love You Love You Love. What can I say? It ignites my soul. Who knew all it took to basically capture the sound fun makes is some keys on a keyboard and repeating techno beats? It’s the perfect blend of pop and electronic hooks that I had no chance against it. Like, zero chance of thinking I wouldn’t fall in love with this track.
Now if you’ve been paying attention I’ve used two fire metaphors to describe what this soundtrack does to me and I feel like that’s a good segue into the music of the second soundtrack that I’m going to try to cram as much of it in as I can in these last few paragraphs.
For the most part the tracks in the second soundtrack rely more on dub…dubby…dubsteppy (Editor’s Note: Matthew Kim has never, ever claimed to know how to write about music) sounds than the first soundtrack but it’s actually the titles of the songs I’d like to draw your attention to. Like I said previously, while I don’t have any textual evidence for my head-canon characterization of Fire Fighter Wagon; there doesn’t mean there aren’t any. It’s just that many of them I gathered from titles off the soundtrack. Titles such as Got2BAStar, The Afterblaze, and especially Rainbow Love Zone paints the portrait of a woman who is just as comfortable in front of flashing lights (of her fans’ cameras) as she is in front of them (I’m sure if fires flashed then this would be a successful metaphor).
Never mind that the Mighty Switch Force series is one of the most inventive and fun puzzle platformers in recent memory…Actually you should definitely mind that bit. However the series’ popularity is in no doubt aided by just how great Patricia Wagon is in the series and Jake Kaufman’s score goes a long way in both setting the mood of the world as well as the star who headlines the series.
Bonus: Love You Love You Love (Good Morning Onee-san Mix)
Both of these soundtrack and more are available on Jake Kaufman’s Bandcamp page: http://virt.bandcamp.com/