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Saturday, March 15, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 5: Road Trip!

The Scott Pilgrim Anthem
from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (PS3)
Composers: Anamanaguchi
Ubisoft Montreal; 2010

Anamanaguchi makes their first of several appearances on my list for their outstanding work on the music for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.  The band performs their music using digital filters on actual instruments, making the compositions for the game that much more interesting.  They have a distinct sound, and it works for the game which blends present day sensibilities with classic video game tropes.  The Scott Pilgrim Anthem is a short-but-superb entry in my list, featured because of its catchy melody and full sound.

Shadow’s Theme
from Final Fantasy VI
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 1994

Uematsu crafted a nice tune here.  It has the sound that paints a vivid image in my mind of a lone traveler.  It is a timeless tune, and one of the more famous themes from the larger-than-life Final Fantasy VI, which is considered by many Final Fantasy fans as the best entry in the series, ranking up there with FFVII.  It has the right pace as well, and the distinct whistling melody has a loneliness to it, giving the song a distinct emotional depth that is absent from a lot of game themes.

Forest Interlude
from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Composer: David Wise
Rare/Nintendo; 1995

David Wise’s work on the Donkey Kong Country series makes its first of several appearances on my list with a theme from Donkey Kong Country 2.  Donkey Kong Country was a series I have always had mixed feelings about.  I like them, but as I play through them, they never grab me the way platformers like many of the Mario or Rayman games have.  They are brilliantly designed, graphically impressive for their time and the music is just outstanding!  I don’t know, I really like them, but I also, with the exception of the first one, really never seek them out to play them over and over, either.  That said, David Wise is a brilliant composer and the music in this series is some of the best stuff I have ever heard musically.  Period.  This is not just great work for a video game, this is great work period.  Every little thing is right.  It is all delightfully-composed, from the faster, more intense music, to the lighter, poppy tunes, all the way to the moody, atmospheric tunes like this one.  The percussion, mixing a jungle beat with electronic chimes and chirps creates a worldly sound and the flute lead is quite memorable.  While the first sequel’s soundtrack really, in my opinion, pales in comparison to the first, this song is a standout classic, appealing perfectly to my tastes.

Guile’s Stage
from Street Fighter II
Composers: Yoko Shimomura, Isao Abe
Capcom; 1991

Here’s a classic.  Guile is so freaking American he has a tattoo of Old Glory on his arm and fights in front of a fighter jet!  His theme is also a classic, ranking among the most memorable and recognizable melodies in the medium’s history.  The trumpet sounds, the attitude, everything is perfect.  To me, this has always sounded like montage music.  I have always imagined an 80’s underdog getting into shape to put the cocky bullies in their place whenever this song plays.  It is so great.

Dead Beat
from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
Composers: Hidenori Maezawa, Jun Funahashi, Yukie Morimoto, Yoshinori Sasaki
Konami; 1989

Another entry from Castlevania III, Dead Beat features almost all of the series’ musical trademarks:  An eerie tone, a fast accompaniment, a melodic bridge and a quick pace.  Dead Beat is one of my favorite songs from the series because it, more than almost any of the Castlevania themes, really nails the feel of the games.  It is just creepy enough to be a song from the legendary Castlevania soundtrack but it never goes off the rails either.  I would say Dead Beat is just right.

Overdrive Ostrich
from Megaman X2
Composer: Yuki Iwai
Capcom; 1994

I love this song.  The rhythm in the opening is broken up, and whenever I hear it, I wait for the inevitable point where the drums pick up the pace of the song.  As the song breaks down for the loop, it seamlessly goes back into the alternate beat and back.  Compositionally, this is one of the slickest game themes I’ve heard, because instead of keeping things too simple, they took a risk and went with a structure that is a little unusual and, as a result, captivating. It also fits the fast-paced highway theme it is representing and you have a nice road tune with some kickass speed.

The Road Warriors
from Contra III: The Alien Wars
Composers: Miki Higashino, Masanori Adachi, Tappi Iwase
Konami; 1992

Here’s Contra III again, and this time, it’s the theme from Stage 4, which has the player chasing down a heavily-armed air cruiser on motorcycle.  The song, like every theme in the game, has a fairly long loop and has enough parts that just nail it musically, from the bass heavy section to the song proper to the synth and drums hook.  For me, this is easily among my favorite themes from an utterly outstanding soundtrack and it's yet another road level theme!

Mid-Boss Battle
from Grandia 2
Composer: Noriyuki Iwadare
Game Arts;2000

Here’s a great boss tune.  It is energetic and conveys the right level of menace and threat that a song of this type should.  It is a perfect example of a boss theme that fits the tone of the game, which is an anime-inspired adventure, and instead of going too far into gothic anthem territory, Idaware chose a more action-movie-style theme for this boss anthem that plays at several points during the game.  It is an excellent piece of work, and what makes things better is, as you can see your characters and the enemy’s coming turns on a sliding meter, the movement and pace of the battle fits perfectly with the tempo of the song.

Needle Man
from Mega Man III
Composer: Yasuaki Fujita, Harumi Fujita
Capcom; 1990

Mega Man III is full of excellent and memorable themes and Needle Man’s is the second theme from this game to be featured on my list.  It is a song with a solid groove, opening with a nice bass lick followed by a layered jazz-inspired tune with great accompaniment.  I love the music from this game and you will see it show up many more times on my list in the future.

Stage 1 Theme
from Double Dragon
Composer: Kazunaka Yamane
Taito/Tradewest; 1988

Double Dragon is an Arcade and NES classic and, despite being relatively simplistic compared to beat-em-ups that have since been released, it is a classic in the way some older movies are classics, it set the stage for the future.  The soundtrack is also pretty good and, despite the console version being rather short, it did have a memorable soundtrack.  The first stage theme tricks you into thinking it’s a pretty short loop halfway through by seemingly starting over but then, instead of breaking into a third loop of the same melody, we get a pretty epic guitar solo.  The fact that this song is so well-composed is a testament to the work the developers did to make the music from this game not only stand out among its peers, but also make it properly reflect the times it is meant to represent.

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