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Monday, March 24, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 12: Meanwhile, In This Millennium:

Leave the Past Behind
from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Composers: Anamanaguchi
Ubisoft Montreal; 2010

This is yet another tune from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Anamanaguchi keeps to the game’s tone and sound with this song and it features all of the characteristic elements of the game and the band’s obvious 8-bit-era-influence.  If you listen closely, you can hear some Mega Man and Double Dragon in there.  The song is incredibly catchy, using a fun and energetic melody that is both exciting and joyous.  I do love this game’s soundtrack in its entirety and this is not the last time it will show up on my list.

Burst Man
from Mega Man 7
Composers: Toshifumi Ōnishi, Kazunori Tazaki, Tatsuya Yoshikawa
Capcom; 1995

This song starts off with the quintessential “Mega Man sound” and then changes into something else entirely.  Mega Man 7 was released pretty late into the SNES cycle yet this song does not reflect the quality or the evolution of its late 16-bit counterparts.  Instead, it has an early-90’s feel to it, which I like.  It keeps things simple, focusing on a good melody rather than showing off the capabilities of the console.  It is a great song, and features a bright and cheerful tone that just makes me smile whenever I hear it, no matter how I am feeling at the time.

Nighttime Excursion
from Flower
Composer: Vincent Diamante
ThatGameCompany; 2009

Flower is back with another breathtakingly-beautiful theme.  I stand by my assertion that this title, along with Halo 3, Bastion and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, comprise the shortlist of standout soundtracks of the last gaming “era”.  Things are really starting to change as the medium matures.  We have titles with thought-provoking, intelligent themes like Gone Home and the Stanley Parable making industry and consumer-wide waves and as the mood and ideas of gaming evolves, so is the music.  Flower is a breathtaking artistic achievement and it hosts a beautifully-woven and smart form of storytelling.  Feeling like a wonderful picture book in motion the scenery flows past as the flower petals ride the wind carefully held sway by the player.  You have power over one of the mightiest forces of nature in its most gentle form.  The soundtrack is a relaxing peaceful series of evolving but connected melodies, adding to the atmosphere and the player’s own emotions play into the controls, as the softness of the game’s mood steadies the hands holding the controller.  It is just a perfect experiment in gaming psychology and a stunning example of video games as art.  If anyone ever states that games are just about killing aliens, this title will certainly, and deservedly, put them in their place.

NOTE: The video formatting is off because I could not locate the song in Blogger's native YouTube embedding tool.

from Starfox
Composer: Hajime Hirasawa
Nintendo; 1993

This classic tune is a favorite among 16-bit era fanboys and is certainly a beloved classic.  It shocked everyone, too, as Nintendo fans were used to bright, whimsical melodies in their first-party titles, but this…  This was shockingly different!  At the time, there were tons of soundtracks that were dark, or simply in a minor key, but Starfox was a milestone in composition quality.  It featured a long loop, and matched the pace and mood of the game.  Also, this game was released following a turning point in musical ideas as well.  Where the fluff and beeps of mainstream 80’s music had since faded and a darker, minor key tone was setting in.  The Corneria theme reflects both the ideas of music in its time, and also the evolution of game music as a whole.

Hallow Bastion
from Kingdom Hearts
Composesr: Yoko Shimomura, Kaoru Wada
Squaresoft; 2002

It is undeniable that this game could have been crap.  Seriously.  It would not have taken much to screw this up.  Disney and Final Fantasy joining forces?  It worked out well as a game, though.  Despite a few clunky moments and some behind-the-times level design (for the most part, anyway), Kingdom Hearts was a great game.  The soundtrack was also quite good, mixing Square’s distinct, orchestral stylings with classic Disney cheer.  Hollow Bastion is probably the most highly-regarded original entry on the soundtrack, with a haunting gothic vibe and a stirring woodwind bridge, it is a memorable and essential video game theme.

Guile’s Theme
from Super Street Fighter IV
Composer: Hideyuki Fukasawa
Capcom; 2010

Guile’s Theme is one of the more overplayed video game themes out there.  An entry in countless spoof videos on YouTube, representing a fight or showdown of any degree.  It works, too, having the sound of an 80’s training montague, it is a fun and badass tune.  It is the “Eye of the Tiger” of video game music, if you will.  Obviously drawing inspiration from early 80’s rock, this theme has captures the hearts of gamers across the world, and for a good reason: it’s awesome!

Mt. Gagazet
from Final Fantasy X-2
Composers: Noriko Matsueda, Takahito Eguchi
SquareEnix; 2003

Back in entry 175, Zanarkand, I stated that Final Fantasy X-2 featured an underrated soundtrack.  I meant it because there is good music to be found on this soundtrack.  The looming mountain of Gagazet was one of the final destinations in Final Fantasy X and featured a great tune.  In X-2, the mood is a lot less mournful, therefore the song is more energetic and gritty.  Featuring a mix of worldly flutes and chanting with a touch of electric drums, this tune exemplifies a modern idea of game music for me.  It is not the best of its time, but it is an example of how game music can bridge the gap between this niche music community and more mainstream music fanatics.

I Want You Gone
from Portal 2
Composer: Jonathan Coulton
Valve; 2011

In 2007, Valve introduced the now fan-favorite Portal series in their Orange Box collection.  The antagonist of the game, a sardonic and megalomaniacal cybernetic intelligence named GLaDOS, became a video game icon due to the game’s clever writing and funny one-liners.
Portal ended with a song that gamers universally loved, so, naturally, its sequel would have one too.  I Want You Gone is along the same lines, theme-wise.  It does do some things differently, however.  It has a more electronic sound and stronger vocals, and thanks to the legacy of the first song, manages to be recognized as a classic in its own right.  It is a well-written and catchy song and is worth watching over the credits for the lyrics and a pretty funny sight gag.

The Faith of Jevel
from Bastion
Composer; Darren Korb
Supergiant Games; 2011

Yet another Bastion song makes my list.  The Faith of Jevel features haunting guitar and piano melodies and a smooth, electronic beat.  The song never overdoes it, staying simple and focusing on mood rather than power or energy.  It is a great song for atmosphere, featuring the game’s distinct Western sound with a well-structured and layered accompaniment.

Cerobi Steppe
from Final Fantasy XII
Composers: Nobuo Uematsu, Hitoshi Sakimoto
SquareEnix; 2006

Uematsu and Sakimoto’s work on Final Fantasy XII is beautiful and bright.  It plays over a distinctly-dangerous part of the game, too, which makes the mood somewhat off-kilter, in a good way.  The song is incredibly soft, never breaking into mighty drums or heavy accompaniment, instead it to its breezy melodies are the showcase.  It is a soothing entry in a strong soundtrack entry in the storied franchise.

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