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Thursday, March 13, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 3: Short and Sweet.

Centaur Man
from Mega Man VI (NES)
Composer: Yuko Takehara
Capcom; 1993
Odd.  I would describe this tune as “odd”.  Odd in a good way, of course.  There were a million things they could have done with the theme for this stage, but they chose a song that starts off whimsical, then goes straight into a minor key near the end.  It’s one of those tunes that I remember liking as a teenager years ago, and always enjoyed because of how strange it feels hearing that song in that level headed towards that boss.  It has always sort of stood out for me.  The game’s lead composer, Yuko Takehara (often credited as simply “Yuko”), worked on a number of epic soundtracks in the 90’s including a few of the Rockman arcade titles, entries in the Street Fighter series and the freaking Megaman X soundtrack!  This lady has skills.

Battle Theme
from Final Fantasy IX (PSX)
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 2000

This theme is among my favorite regular battle themes in the series.  The loop is pretty long, keeping the song from repeating over and over in a single battle.  This is important seeing as how you will hear it over, and over, and over again throughout the course of the game.  It is also kind of a stand-out theme in this game in-particular because it forgoes much of the title’s old-world style for a more energetic, cinematic attitude.  It’s a great theme and one that brings back a lot of memories.

Ending Theme
from Gunstar Heroes (Genesis)
Composer: Norio Hanzawa
Treasure/Sega; 1993
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I think Gunstar Heroes is a masterpiece.  This theme that plays upon the game’s completion is an encouraging and lively piece.  I cannot recall when exactly it was that I actually beat Gunstar Heroes for the first time.  It would likely be sometime around 1996 or 1997, because I believe it was before High School.  I finally got a used Genesis  (with a broken RF-Adapter) from a family member, and remember wearing the Start button out because I would have to quickly pause the game to jiggle the cable behind the console to get picture back to the screen.  I played the crap out of that console, though, and Gunstar Heroes was one of the titles I spent a lot of time on, though I never owned it, I had to borrow it from a friend.  When I finally completed the game, I was rewarded with this memorable tune and, honestly, I was struggling with its placement.  I was trying to move it higher, but I did have to be honest with myself, and reason that if it was pushed back here, because other things were moved up, it is likely only because this is where it stands with me.  Still, this is a strong piece, and one that is quite nostalgic for me.

Sigma- Stage 1
from Mega Man X2 (SNES)
Composer: Yuki Iwai
Capcom; 1994
This is one awesome song!  The fast riff breakdown at the end put it on this list and it excellently captures the level’s intensity and the mood of the stage.  I would say that, among the Megaman X titles, X-2 has one of the best soundtracks, probably right behind X5 and the original Megaman X.  The song is a short loop though, which pushes it back quite a bit in spite of how awesome the melody actually is.  It plays over and over through the stage and can seem a little repetitive.  But hey, we will not really start getting to the truly “perfect” songs until the top 100, and we still have a ways to go.

Opening Title
from Street Fighter II (Arcade/SNES/Genesis)
Composers: Yoko Shimomura, Isao Abe
Capcom; 1991
This song is just about half-a-minute long and it’s on here purely for nostalgia reasons.  This song played daily in my house, with me and my friends playing hours of this game every weekend.  “I’m playing winner!”  Was the battlecry of these marathon fighting game sessions, and every time the game started, the famous Capcom logo would chime in, followed by this little piece of early-90’s ephemera.  I love the music here, but it is really short, which keeps it from ranking higher.  However, this tune just triggers so many memories and has played in my head for so many years that leaving it off the list just because it is short would simply be dishonest.

from Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2/PS3)
Composers: Noriko Matsueda, Takahito Eguchi
SquareEnix; 2003
Final Fantasy X-2 has an underrated soundtrack.  There!  I said it.  As derided as this game is by fans, I find it to be a strange little piece of marketing that stands alongside oddities like Legend of Zelda CD-i titles and the Rambo animated series as a little piece of crap that is so bizarre, its existence so confounding, that I kind of find it a little endearing.  The fact that the battle system was a lot of fun did not hurt either.  Everything else, though… Well…  The music was good!  Yeah!  There you go!  This game has a great soundtrack.  Seriously.  Many hardcore JRPG and Final Fantasy fans have unfairly dismissed this soundtrack simply because they hate the game, but it is worth a listen and it has a few more entries on this list to come.  The Zanarkand theme, like most of the music in the game, abandons the mournful mood of the first and replaces it with a well-composed, upbeat piece.  Nobuo Uemastu stepped aside for this project, but the compositions created by his replacements, Matsueda and Eguchi, were a solid stand-in.

Stage 1- Paradise ~ Distant Mountain
from Touhou: Perfect Cherry Blossom (PC)
Composer: ZUN
2003; Team Shanghai Alice
Touhou returns to my list and, like other entries in the series, this is an energetic piano-heavy anthem.  Paradise is one of those songs that just catches my attention when I hear it.  It is a strong tune and has a feeling of building pressure.  It does everything right, in my opinion.  As the series makes more and more appearances on my list, you will find that many of them have this same upbeat, piano-tech vibe to them.  It is what makes them really stand out to me.

Freya’s Theme
from Final Fantasy IX (PSX)
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
2000; Squaresoft
One of the better themes from Final Fantasy IX, Freya’s theme, which also plays when you enter her home city of Burmecia, fits the mood of the events perfectly.  The brave dragoon Freya returns home to see her lover only to find her city has fallen to the evil Kuja, who begins a campaign to destroy practically every city in the world.  It’s raining, and there is this grey coloring to everything.  It is pretty perfect, really.  This song just fits here, and it is also a damn good composition on its own, too.

Wily- Stage 5
from Mega Man 10 (PS3/360)
Composers: Capcom Sound Team
Capcom; 2010
This one has a very sci-fi sound, even for a Mega Man theme, taking the player into space for this final stretch of Mega Man 10.  I’m not sure what really caught my ear on this one because when I first heard it, I didn’t like it.  However, when I played through Mega Man 10 again, I couldn’t get the theme out of my head.  It is one of those themes that lingers with me and I would always find myself humming it or playing it back over and over in my mind.

from Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)
Composers: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata
Squaresoft; 1997
This relaxing little tune from the beginning of Final Fantasy Tactics is an example of why I love Hitoshi Sakimoto’s compositions.  It is moody, moving, captivating and very memorable.  As stated in a previous entry, I could not really get into Tactics much, but I did like the music I heard when I played it.  Pray is just a nice, relaxing piece that I would argue is an underrated Final Fantasy Music gem.

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