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Monday, March 17, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 7: The Classics Begin to Rise

Chun-Li’s Theme
from Super Street Fighter IV
Composer: Hideyuki Fukasawa
Capcom; 2010

Another remix from Super Street Fighter IV makes my list.  This time it’s the revision of the classic Street Fighter theme for Chun-Li’s stage.  This version is much more epic and full, with a long loop and a strong presence.  It is definitely among the best updates to classics in Super Street Fighter IV in my opinion.

Skull Man’s Theme
from Mega Man IV
Composer: Minae Fujii
Capcom; 1991

Skull Man’s stage is another flawless example of great Mega Man music.  It blends the energy to match the game’s pace with a strong melodic lead.  The song also has a surprisingly-long loop for an NES Rockman title.  Minae “Ojalin” Fujii, did amazing work on Mega Man IV and, about two decades later, with Mega Man 10, she has cemented a sound that is uniquely her own.  Compare the themes of Bright Man, Dive Man, Dust Man, Ring Man, Skull Man and Tornado Man to the themes from the rest of the series.  She really does have her own voice.

Nesting in the Sands
from Contra III: The Alien Wars
Composer: Miki Higashino, Masanori Adachi, Tappi Iwase
Konami; 1992

Contra III is back and this time it is the Stage 5 theme.  The player is forced to cautiously navigate a twisting overhead landscape full of firebreathing spiders and quicksand conveyor belts.  Stage 5 is essentially a more challenging version of stage 2, similar to stage 4’s relationship to the Base 1 (stage 2) from the first Contra title.  The song fits the level well, with a creepiness that reflects the strange alien-infested environment and enough energy to push the gameplay forward.

Unavoidable Battle
from Final Fantasy Tactics
Composer: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata
Squaresoft; 1997

Another tense battle theme from Final Fantasy Tactics, Unavoidable Battle is used a few times in the game for scripted, non-boss battles (at least I do not think they were boss battles, but it has been a while).  The theme is powerful, with an epic tone that conveys all of the threat and intensity of a truly amazing fight, even if it is only used for a few minor story skirmishes.  I find this strange, but once again, Sakimoto and company put one of my favorite Final Fantasy XII themes in a single, solitary elevator room.  I cannot say I am surprised that this awesome theme is hidden in a forest of battle music in Tactics.

Wind Man
from Mega Man VI
Composer: Yuko Takehara
Capcom; 1993

This perky, hyperactive theme was a highlight for me in Mega Man 6, in a series that has produced some of the best game music of all time (famously-so), six stands among the weaker of the original series’ soundtracks.  It does not generally have many truly memorable songs.  It is not that they are bad, they just do not live up to the standard of the series.  That said, Wind Man's Stage is a fun theme.  It is one of my favorite Mega Man themes of the NES era, in fact.  

An Old Irish Song
from Suikoden
Composers: Miki Higashino, Hiroshi Tamawari, Tappi Iwase, Hirofumi Taniguchi, Mayuko Kageshita
Konami; 1995

Hey!  Are these composers’ names becoming familiar yet!?  There is a pattern here is what I am saying.  This European-style theme is a soothing and gentle RPG tune.  The Konami sound team really know their stuff and Suikoden was no exception.  Their work in this and all of the other headlining Konami franchises will stand the test of time.

Someday the Dream Will End
from Final Fantasy X
Composers: Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Junya Nakano
Squaresoft; 2001

This mournful rendition of Final Fantasy X’s theme song Sudeki da Ne (“Isn’t it Wonderful?”) plays over the final stretch of the summoner Yuna’s pilgrimage through the ruins of the once great Machina city.  The final campfire at the entrance to Zanarkand is filled with sorrow and, the next day, the trek into the ruined city is meant to be a farewell of sorts.  We know now, for certain, that Tidus can never go home, that Yuna is willingly becoming a sacrificial lamb for Spira, and that once this is all over, the Fayth’s dream of Tidus will be end for good (or will it..?).  

Reach for the Moon, Immortal Smoke
from Touhou: Imperishable Night
Compser: ZUN
Team Shanghai Alice; 2004

Touhou returns to the list.  Mouko’s theme from Imperishable Night is an amazing piano song, and like all of the music from this series, it is both imposing and beautiful in its composition.  The melody is simple and memorable and as the song builds until it becomes an anthem, accelerating as the game piles on the intensity.  It is a great tune and one of the most well-known in this cult series.

Waltz for the Moon
from Final Fantasy VIII
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 1999

Uematsu-san did amazing work in Final Fantasy VIII.  It is one of my favorite soundtracks of the series and this theme is one of my favorites in it.  Waltz for the Moon, playing during a cutscene at the SeeD graduation ball… thingy, is an instrumental, classical rendition of the game’s theme song Eyes on Me and, as with Someday the Dream Will End, is superior to the theme because of its use in the game and its overall composition.

The Lost Woods
from Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Composer: Koji Kondo
Nintendo; 1991

Here’s a classic.  For those who do not already know from my favorite video games of all time list, LTTP is my favorite Zelda game.  The Lost Woods theme from this Super Nintendo masterpiece sounds like a walk through an enchanted forest.  It is haunting, spirited and has this almost Celtic charm to it.  The song has become a staple of great video game themes and ranks among the great Koji Kondo’s best work.

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