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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes- Part 8: A Series of Fours


Here is the point where most video game fans are going to begin, at least more regularly, saying “Hell yeah!” to the entries that showed up on the list.  Many of the past entries, despite myself loving those songs, are based either on nostalgia or on a subjective reaction to the theme.  I know there have been a lot of entries on my list so far that my seem rather eclectic to most, and that is okay.  However, from here on out (really starting with number 131 on my last list), things are going to begin seeming more recognizable to game music geeks like myself.  Also, remember that this list is not me making a declaration of “the best” but rather it is me essentially exploring my gaming past and sharing both my taste in music and my love for video games.  Stay with me and I’m sure you will be satisfied with the entries to come.  Thank you.

Dust Man
from Mega Man IV
Minae Fujii
Capcom; 1991

I really love this theme for the tremolo at the beginning.  It has a strong action theme vibe through the course of the song, but it is the intro that makes this gem stand out for me.  It has a grim feel to it and really works as a dramatic Mega Man theme.  It manages to feel deep while still, given its composition, feeling like a song that belongs in the Mega Man series.

Ice Man
from Mega Man
Manami Mastumae
Capcom; 1987

This is the last Mega Man theme in Part 8, I promise.  Ice Man’s theme from the very first Mega Man game is a classic because of its sophisticated use of time signature and rhythm.  It has a nice sci-fi vibe while setting the stage for what the series will sound like in the future.  This and Bomberman’s theme really are the two songs that, at least for me, show the promise of this franchise’s future musical prowess.

Battle Theme 2- Boss Theme
from Final Fantasy IX
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 2000

Nobuo Uematsu returns as does Final Fantasy IX.  While this is among the series’ more underwhelming titles in terms of music, in my opinion, this is one of my favorite boss themes in the series.  The bass intro is menacing, powerful and hits you hard when you play.  The song, starting before the fight even begins sets a mood of threatening violence as you engage a foe deadlier than any before it (at least most of the time).  It’s both energetic and even a little creepy.  Played at a slower speed this could definitely be part of the score for a Hitchcockian thriller.

The Sole Regret
from Bastion
Composer: Darren Korb
Supergiant Games/Warner Bros.; 2011

Bastion is back.  The Sole Regret is one of the songs on this soundtrack that definitely reflects some inspiration from Martin O’Donnell’s work on the Halo soundtrack.  This mix of Hip Hop and Ravi Shankar is one of the most captivating video game tunes of all time.  It has this dirty, rough edge to it.  Everything sounds slightly off-kilter, but in the right way.  The wet, metal-picked guitar gives the song an eerie mood and the citar adds a layer of worldliness.  Darren Korb is an excellent composer and I look forward to more great work from him in the future.

Prismriver- the Phantom Ensemble
from Touhou: Perfect Cherry Blossom
Composer: ZUN
Team Shanghai Alice; 2003

Prismriver’s theme from the game Perfect Cherry Blossom, is so lovely that it justifies it’s place among Touhou’s most popular themes.  Phantom Ensemble reflects the three sister’s power and mystery, with an energetic, almost-Castlevania-esque organ lead and a delightful harpsichord accompaniment.  Also, there is, of course, a wonderful piano melody, a trademark of the series.

Bob-Omb Battlefield
from Super Mario 64
Composer: Koji Kondo
Nintendo; 1996

Super Mario 64 ranks high among my favorite video games off time, and this theme, from one of the first stages in the game, is a memorable and charming entry in the series’ collection of iconic melodies.  The song builds to a big-band style brass jam with a nice, jazzy breakdown at the end.  It contrasts the quirky, even silly sounding calliope that play’s during the song’s first part.  This mix of well-composed energy and whimsy is one of the things that makes the music from this franchise so enjoyable.

The Library
from Super Castlevania IV
Composers: Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo
Konami; 1991

So, a question: What do you get when you make it through what has been one of the great soundtracks in gaming history to the seventh level?  A soft harp and horn piece.  Yep.  They went there.  Well, it is soft for a while, anyways.  The drums are barely present for most of the song and when they do kick it, they are a faint rattle adding rhythm to this gem of a song.  It is haunting and moody, and it fits the quiet library well with its simplicity and simultaneous complexity.

Just Like in the Movies
from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game
Composers: Anamanaguchi
Ubisoft Montreal; 2010

That’s right, Anamanaguchi is back on my list.  The stage 2 theme from Scott Pilgrim is a fun, melodic and cheery anthem of brawling excitement.  Punch!  Gooooo!  Energy excite!  I love these guys (as you can probably tell) and this soundtrack is so perfect in every way that I just love hearing it.  It always brings a smile to my face.

Clockwork Mansion
from Super Castlevania IV
Composers: Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo
Konami; 19991

The beautiful organ opening, mixed with the powerful and somewhat intimidating drums makes this one of my favorite themes in Castlevania IV.  The stage features rotating rooms and deadly spike traps and is one of my favorite levels in the game.  Every detail of the song is just right.  I love the organ chorus, the beat, and the horn breakdown at the end that ties it into the moody, East Coast Jazz-meets-Gothic tone of a majority of the soundtrack.

Sakura's Theme
from Super Street Fighter IV
Composer: Hideyuki Fukasawa
Capcom; 2010

Are you blown away?  I was when I first played Super Street Fighter IV, a super tight, beautifully artful 2D fighter that honors the legacy of the great fighters of the 90’s while paving the way for a new generation.  Oh, and there’s this song.  Oh my GOD this song!  I love Sakura, and so, naturally, she was one of the first characters I played with.  I  went into training mode in her stage to sort of renew my feel and I played in their for about…. two hours.  It was all for this song.  This is one of Capcom’s best themes ever, in all of their annals, working on classics like Street Fighter II and the Mega Man series, and this is among their best… Ever.  The Japanese-style violin melody, the techno energy, the key shifts…  This song is, quite possibly, the most perfect fighting game theme of all time (and it is not even the highest fighter theme on my list).  It reflects Sakura’s nature while having enough power to keep the pace of the fight and build as the duel progresses.  Now, this song actually dates back to the mid-90's with the Street Fighter Alpha games and has remained Sakura's official theme throughout the long history of the character, as she has appeared in (at least) nine games. However, I prefer the new versions of these songs from Super Street Fighter IV due to their fullness and complex compositions.

P.S. This song is a masterpiece.

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