New Discoveries in Tales of the Abyss: Unused BGM, Overworld Soundfonts, and MORE

I would apologize for the clickbait title if I weren't SO excited about this!


My name is Leo, I love ROMHacking, and I also love video game audio. So what better way to spend a weekend than opening up the Tales of the Abyss PS2 ROM and meticulously documenting every single BGM audio file in it as well as all of the tools one could use to access them on their own for extraction or hacking?


I'll save that boring crap for later though, so you don't have to read it if you don't want to. The cool stuff is RIGHT HERE:


Unused BGM Files


That's right! I FOUND TWO COMPLETELY UNUSED FULLY COMPOSED BACKGROUND MUSIC PIECES. They were just sitting there! How could I NOT extract and upload them???



The biggest reason this is huge is... this game is 16 years old. There are probably games half as old that have been completely taken apart and analyzed, so finding two complete not-that-hard-to-discover-once-i-knew-what-i-was-doing and interesting music files that (as far as I can tell) aren't documented anywhere on the internet... that was pretty sweet.


A user on Twitter said the first piece (featuring the percussion loop from the Belkend town theme) reminded them of a "Dist's Lab" BGM. Well, headcanon accepted as far as I'm concerned. The second piece has a more obvious circumstance where it may have played, but I won't comment on that. If you know, you know.


The SECOND-coolest find after these tracks, in my opinion, was obtaining......


Overworld Soundfonts


Before DZ says anything, the files in question - after extraction and conversion - are in fact .sf2 okay.


As before-- goods first, details later. Here are the .SF2 soundfonts extracted from the game.


The majority of BGM in this game are stored as pre-rendered lossy compressed audio files (.ADX format) - the two extracted pieces above were recovered in that format, then converted to .WAV for the purposes of sharing. Trying to reconstruct a soundfont from these would be a waste of time and effort.


However, the overworld BGM is NOT pre-rendered. It is sequenced audio in PSF2 format, which consists of SQ (sequence) and HD/BD (sample and instrument) files, which - with some additional ROM-specific data - are streamed to generate the music during gameplay. You can think of it as MIDI, when the rest of the music is more like an MP3.


This means that by extracting the parts and reconstructing those PSF2 files, we actually have access to the sample and instrument data used! I used a tool called VGMTrans to convert that data to .SF2 soundfonts, and those are what are shared above.


Note: I verified that the PSF2 files I reconstructed accurately recreated the overworld BGM. However, I only did the most barebones test of the converted SF2 files. They definitely work; I can't vouch for whether the full functionality seen in the game overworld themes can be replicated in this format though. If you're curious, try them out and see how they are!


 

In all likelihood, this is where the stuff 99% of people might care about ends. I mainly just wanted to share my findings of cool unused assets, and some reconstructed soundfonts. I like sharing cool stuff! I want people to know!!


BUT.


This next part here... this is for any of you potential Tales of the Abyss ROMHackers out there. If there is a part of you reading this that is thinking "if the overworld BGM is basically MIDI, could i make it play the sexy sax song instead of 'Guilt, Duty, and...'?" or "if you can extract audio, could you replace it with something else? Can the Deo Pass BGM be Rick Astley instead?"


I am here to tell you YES. Yes, you MOST DEFINITELY CAN DO ALL OF THAT AND MORE. To that end, I have written the most comprehensive document I was physically capable of creating to help you on that journey.


The document is here.


It contains information on the format of the files and containers, the locations and naming conventions, and ALL of the tools I needed to do what I was doing. It contains step-by-step instructions to replicate my findings, and it also contains a list of every single file in TO7BGM.CVM labeled by the track name in the OST for reference and identification.


And although it's specifically geared toward Tales of the Abyss, it may prove a useful starting point for any other PS2 games that use similar formats (ADX/PSF2 files in CVM's).


Do with this information what you will. <3


--


UPDATE 1/25/2022: It appears that the default soundfont has been successfully extracted by others prior to this. However, the 2 additional soundfonts for "Qliphoth" and "The Last Chapter" appear to be new discoveries that have not been successfully extracted before this.

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