About a week ago, Sabotage Studio, the developer of the upcoming retro-inspired RPG Sea of Stars, did a live-streamed playthrough of its latest demo, where it revealed a fascinating bit of polish that's nestled away in the game's audio (as spotted by TechRaptor).
Speaking roughly 57 minutes into the stream, the main composer of the project, Eric W. Brown, told viewers that the game's battle music actually recreates the SNES's 8-channel audio limitation, which only allowed for 8 voices at a single time. It does this via the use of filters and is most noticeable during moments where the drums need to back off and give room for other audio effects like spells and sounds of collision. According to Brown, this was included in order to pay tribute to classic SNES RPGs like Chrono Trigger, which also removed certain instruments during battles in order to adhere to the hardware's limitations.
Here's a transcript of what Eric W. Brown said about this during the livestream:
"Speaking of secret things that nobody is gonna notice [...] so the Super Nintendo only had eight channels which means eight simultaneous voices. You could just think of that as only eight notes or samples can be played at a time. And so when you’re in battle, you do like a spell or whatever and the drums would actually have to disappear in order to make room for the sound effects.
"I’m actually recreating that using filters. So like this battle theme [...] it basically registers impact sounds and it will mute the drum track real quick. But that was sort of a deliberate limitation that I recreated."
This is an incredible bit of audio polish that won't immediately be noticeable to many, but will likely satisfy retro gamers who happen to pick up the title.
Sea of Stars is coming to PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on August 29, 2023, and will also feature guest tracks from Chrono Trigger composer Yasunori Mitsuda as part of its score.