Something we want to let you in on: If you invest in great music in the first iteration of your franchise series, you can use it again in your next game. And in the game after that. You should probably remix it in some way, but it absolves you of a lot of the creative work. If you bang it out of the park your first time and don't reuse it, people will beg and may actually complain if you don't reuse the music. In terms of workload, your fans will whine if you don't do the lazy option.
It also makes for music that's practically guaranteed to please since it's already been pre-approved. It's much less risky. If you do your soundtrack right, you can reuse it forever. Too bad a lot of developers put music as an afterthought.
Our main example is the Kirby franchise, but it's a thing in every franchise, really. Consistent jingles or themes across games. But let's talk about Kirby.
I mean, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse won Best OST of 2015 at KoopaTV. I'm assuming we're the only site that gave that award to that game (I'm not gonna fact-check that) but still. Kirby games use the same musical themes over and over. If a game doesn't have the Gourmet Race theme, people literally freak out. Here's an incomplete sampling of the theme across various games. Curiously, the actual Gourmet Race sub-game in Kirby Super Star has two themes, and the one that hasn't been remixed a million times is totally ignored.
|In this case, Gourmet Race actually is in the game. But if you CTRL + F “Gournet”, you won't find anything anywhere.|
I'm not saying you can only use the same set of music over and over throughout the whole series. Each Kirby game introduces new music along with remixes of older music. Sometimes, that new music becomes an instant classic and joins the set of music that gets remixed. Other times, the music just disappears.
What the hell happened to Dense Fog Today from Kirby Air Ride?
Awesome, surreal theme. Kirby games have all sorts of weird things going on in them that could use a surreal theme like this. Other main course themes in Kirby Air Ride got remixes in Kirby Mass Attack, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse had an awesome Top Ride medley.
Part of the reason you can get away with having the same themes over and over, if they're leitmotifs, is that you have a reoccurring cast of characters. In the Kirby series, Kirby, Meta Knight, and King Dedede appear in almost every game. Dedede in particular is infamous for having a leitmotif, to the degree that “King Dedede's Theme” gets TWO remixes in Super Smash Bros. For Wii U.
Yeah. Dyna Blade gets her theme too anytime she's in a game. Now that Galacta Knight is regularly showing up in Kirby games since his Kirby Super Star Ultra debut, his guitar-spam theme shows up every game as well. These themes become part of the iconic image of the character, and go a long way towards establishing characterisation. That can be a thing with the character/theme only appearing once, of course. But, without any evidence backing this up, I venture it's stronger the more it reoccurs.
By the way. There is a possibility that the remix you make of a theme becomes extremely popular as well. At that point, you begin remixing the original theme AND remixing the remix. You end up with something like this:
It's a remix of Super Smash Bros. Melee's remix of the Gourmet Race theme (Fountain of Dreams).
Is it laziness or is it brilliance?
Bonus question: What about themes that aren't repeated within the same game series, but are repeated across multiple game series because it's the leitmotif of the composer? For example, Totaka's Song. Another example: Toby Fox's Megalovania, which was last seen in Undertale.
Small warning: It's possible to deviate so much from the source material when remixing an earlier theme that the fans actually hate it and there's backlash. My advice is to try to be more incremental to avoid this. That said, if you get that kind of response, then that's definitely proof that you have an enormously passionate fanbase. That's great!
There's no doubt that you'll be able to share examples of franchises reusing themes across games. The more interesting question is if you think a better example could be used than the Kirby series, and what you think of the practice in general. Ludwig is fine with it.
There's a certain song that should be everywhere it can, but the developers aren't taking advantage of it.
It's possible that the Ace Attorney series may be the best use of leitmotifs for characterisation ever.