After I lived and breathed NieR Replicant for review, I looked back on my play time with a mixture of fondness and pain. The payoff of the fifth and final ending was worth the effort, but good lord was it a test of resolve. It was brilliance nestled in multiple layers of gift wrap, and I was happy to call it a day once I'd seen the final (x5) credits.
But one thing I haven't stopped thinking about is the menu sounds. NieR Replicant has excellent noises for its start menu and inventory management, both of which aided that sense of being transported to another world of monsters and emotion.
I know I keep bringing this game up whenever I get the chance, but the original Dark Souls has strong menu noises. Select something from a menu and it'll ring out with this loud "dhhnng" sound. It's like a ghostly bell ring of sorts, and this little detail impresses me because it matches the game's mournful ambience.
"If anything, it's like you've trodden on a horn in an abyssal void - it's despairing."
Often when you navigate a menu in a game it can break the immersion. During a terrifying horror sequence, you may have to turn up the brightness; or in the middle of a boss fight, you might have to pause the action and sink a potion to survive. You become acutely aware that you're manipulating a video game for a second or two, as opposed to being 'lost in the moment'. Excuse my transformation into a yoga instructor there.
But when a game's menu sounds match the game's feel, I find they're not only nicer to listen to, but they keep my brain plugged into the character you embody, or the world that's freeze-framed in the background. NieR Replicant nails this, with a delectable assortment of sounds to match your menu-rummages.
Bring up the menu and it hits you with a similar "dhhnng" to Dark Souls, but post helium inhalation. Proceed to dive further into the menus and you'll get this pencil scratch effect as you circle the selected option. Next up on this train of sound, the noise I'd imagine a tome makes when you open one up. I've never opened an ancient tome myself, but seeing as one slides into view to present yet more options, I'd say it's got to be pretty close. Even as you scroll up and down it's not a typical arcadey dink, but more of a shink, like the sound of a blade being unsheathed.
A special shout-out goes to good noises when picking stuff up. NieR Replicant has these, as does Dark Souls, and I'm sure plenty of other games I've totally forgotten. NieR's is a higher pitched "dhhnng"; a sort of robotic ring of triumph, which is appropriate considering the game's history with androids. While Dark Souls takes its standard menu "dhhnng", then deepens and expands it. I wouldn't say it gives off a triumphant feeling of, "Wow, I got an item!". If anything, it's like you've trodden on a horn in an abyssal void - it's despairing. Which is wildly appropriate given the circumstances.
All of these noises add up, especially as you'll hear them frequently throughout a playthrough - or five. I found NieR Replicant's noises almost comforting, or at least satisfying. Somewhere deep within the rickety cogs of my brain, I'd subconsciously anticipate the next menu noise as I clicked through my weapons, flipped pages, and consumed items. It became just as much a part of the game's universe as it did controlling my character and exploring the world.
Is this strange? Am I being strange? Do you have any games where you're oddly into the menu sounds, and/or, noises for minor interactions? It can't only be me, right? RIGHT?