Official '20 NGADM finals review
I'm surprised by the large amount of castle crashers vibe. I don't expect to think that's what you were going for, but it really had a sense of nostalgia for coming across that way. It has that lighthearted dance feel, and it has a great selection of sound choices used to create the full atmosphere. I definitely got the cartoony feel of a pirate like adventure, and there's some imagery of, again, a castle crashers style pirate level that I really would enjoy clubbing some baddies to. In terms of the writing though it did feel a little stagnant (also fade out lol really). Especially in the bassline. I liked the rhythm, but I would have liked to have seen a little more variation. I wonder how much I would have paid attention to the chord progression too if you'd focus on changing up the bass a little bit, but I also notice that the chord progression stays about the same (barring some key changes). As I pay attention to the melodies, there are tons of scotch snaps everywhere lol. The melodies themselves aren't good earworms since they move kinda fast, so instead of having a motiff or theme in the composition, there's more of an emphasis on keeping the feel similar with the style each melody has and what instruments are involved with it. 2:17 is a nice breakup with what you have going on here, which is great since it's a refreshing break, but I'm also dissapointed because I feel like you could have done more with that. Like I would have loved to have heard a melody developed in that section and drum breakdown before going back to the normal groove (by the way, the guitar gives me an Infected Mushroom feel there). Which on the topic of structure that also circles back to the bassline thing, the energy feels flat throughout the whole thing. It makes it come across with the sense of little progression. This is also maybe why the 2:17 feels extra special too.
What I think you did a lot better on though is the instruments and sounds you used. I question the drums a bit because they're surrounded by so many "real" instruments lol (aside from the VGM synths). The strings are super lighthearted and lush, there's a crazy cool amount of electronic stuff that really meshes with everything you got here, but the drums sound like older cheap dance drums lol. I don't hate them though, because I feel like they add to the nostalgia "Castle Crushers" feel like retro Newgrounds. I don't know if that's what you were going for, but for the benefit of the doubt, I'll run with that. However, I love picking out all the stuff you have in this. Like how you mesh the harpsichord with VGM sounds, the distorted guitar with the "squishy" bass, the marimba duetting the violins (or violas???), there's just a lot of cool details. Like the slammed drums at 3:37 is another cool detail I like, as well as the violin runs at 4:07. Just to listen to the sounds and details is an audible treat, and it's really fun to pick them out.
Yeah, really cool. I'm glad to see you here in the final rounds, and I liked what you have.