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Sunday, March 23, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 11: Over the Hill

Sim Broadway
from Sim City 3000
Composer: Jerry Martin
Maxis; 1999

Sim City 3000 makes its first appearance on my list with the theme Sim Broadway.  Playing occasionally during gameplay, this tune chimes in to add a little energy to the proceedings.  It is a classic, early 20th-Century-style jazz ensemble piece highlighted by superb composition.  The steady build of the song, the whimsical trade off between instruments and the way it all comes full circle in the end make this an excellent tune.  I love Jerry Martin’s work on this game and this is one of his best.

from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
Composers: Mutsuhiko Izumi, Miki Higashino
Konami; 1989

A few entries back I featured the stage 1 theme from this arcade classic.  I have always loved scrolling beat-em-ups and TMNT is one the all-time best.  It is a fun, fast-paced game with a ton of great tunes to back it up.  The Freeway theme is one of those songs that I have heard for a large portion of my life and I smile every time it plays.  I just brings back so many memories.  It is  high-energy theme with a great hook, fitting the pace and theme of the level perfectly.

Act 4-2
from Ninja Gaiden
Composers: Keiji Yamagishi, Ryuichi Nitta
Tecmo; 1988

Like the rest of the Ninja Gaiden soundtrack, this is a layered, energetic theme that features some of the most complex riffs on the NES.  It still has the old-school feel but it is so well-constructed as a theme that it feels ahead of its time.  It is bouncy and high-impact, which adds a sense of urgency to the level.  It is a fittingly-powerful theme for such an unforgiving game.

Crystal Snail
from Mega Man X2
Composer: Yuki Iwai
Capcom; 1994

Crystal Snail is one of the more sophisticated tracks of any of the Mega Man titles predating Mega Man 8.  The mood and pace of the song has a nice feel to it, matching the imagery of the level, and the time signature is definitely captivating.  MMX2 was released in a time when games were starting to become less about quick-fix entertainment and more about unique and interesting artistic ideas.  With the PC gaming market growing more rapidly than ever before, the mid-90’s saw a sea change in gaming tropes and ideas and console franchises like Mega Man and Final Fantasy were forced to evolve with them.  I think this is a theme that reflects the ideas of its time as the series soundtrack went from being about heavy guitar rock to being about smooth, captivating themes.

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

Castlevania III has already appeared on my list a few times and Mad Forest is just another example of how great this 8-bit classic really is.  It has that well-known Castlevania feel, conveying a classic Konami sound, full of strong melodies, upbeat rhythms and a rock-inspired minor key.

from Mega Man VI
Composer: Yuko Takehara
Capcom; 1993
I like the main portion of this theme because of just how much energy it brings.  It is a lively piece and paves the way for a solid entry in this storied franchise.  Mega Man VI’s intro brings back a lot of memories for me, too.  This was the last game I ever got NEW for my NES.  Then ten or eleven years of age, I had already jumped onto the Super Nintendo bandwagon at this point and, being a dedicated Mega Man fanboy at the time, I saw this game sitting carelessly in a bargain bin at a local Mall toy store.  The box was slightly beat up and the sticker had the price scribbled out.  I begged for this game and I got it.  I took it home and was completely happy.  It was so good to experience a new installment in what was, at that time, my favorite game franchise.  Period.  

NOTE: I chose to share this16-bit Mega Man 7 version of the theme as I was unable to locate a suitable version of the original in its entirety at the time of this post.

Sky Garden
from Illusion of Gaia
Composer: Yasuhiro Kawasaki
Enix; 1993

Illusion of Gaia appeared once on my list already and, at the time, I did not mention one important detail about this game:  Illusion of Gaia is my favorite RPG of all time.  It is an odd choice, for sure, but I love the game’s fun design, fast pace, interactive story, and use of real-world locations like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza.  it is a game that does a lot right in my opinion, and features a great deal of clever ideas done so well, they are unforgettable.  The soundtrack is a mixed bag, however.  Unlike other RPG soundtracks, Illusion of Gaia is not packed full of original themes that play at very specific points.  It has about twenty or so tracks that often repeat as the game progresses.  The Sky Garden, like the other “dungeons” in the game, does feature its own theme, however.  It is a good one too.  It is adventurous and eerie, a perfect dichotomy for a level with a very literal dark underbelly.

Tifa’s Theme
from Final Fantasy VII
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Sqauresoft; 1997

I am sorry.  I really am.  As I sorted this list I KNEW there would be some people shocked by how low this beloved Final Fantasy classic is.  In some gamers’ eyes, this is one of the best songs ever, and while I agree it is good, I defer to one of my previous entries' statements where I described some songs as “sleepy”.  I do like the melody and mood of the song, hence its placement in my top 100, but I do think it is a little too soft for me to feature it so high on my list as some would say it belongs.

Intro Stage
from Mega Man 8
Composer: Shusaku Uchiyama
Capcom; 1997

Now this is an energetic song.  This is the first song you hear shortly after launching Mega Man 8.  The intro stage is a short introduction to the core mechanics of the game.  It does not take any time at all to get through but the song is so much fun.  It is a great precursor to the rest of the game’s epic soundtrack as well.

Battle Theme
from Final Fantasy VI
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 1994

The battle theme from FFVI is one of the best battle themes in the franchise and I do not think many fans would disagree with that sentiment.  It has a tone that really gets you psyched to get into the spirit of combat, and Final Fantasy VI’s impressive loadout of characters with countless combat possibilities makes for a fun romp to go along with this high-energy theme.  It is also a classic in the sense that it is probably the most heard song in one of the most beloved games of all time.  Final Fantasy VI was a game that helped propel video games into a new era of storytelling and visuals and, to this day, ranks among the undisputed best games of all time (Unless you ask G4... Idiots.).

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