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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 15: The Blue Bomber Takes Over

Squid Adler’s Stage
from Mega Man X-5
Composer: Naoto Tanaka
Capcom; 2000

Mega Man X-5 remains one of my favorite game soundtracks of all time.  There is an intensity there that is simply captivating, and every song is highlighted by a single riff somewhere that makes it just stand out amidst the standard anime-themed video game soundtrack full of rock guitar anthems and 80’s-inspired metal.  Squid Adler’s hook is really the first thirteen or fourteen seconds.  The fast piano riff accompanied by stone-crushing rock chords and powerful drums is just mind-blowing.  It creates so much pressure and pure rock power that it is simply unforgettable, at least for me.  I did not even really play X-5 much, yet the soundtrack still resonates with me.

Besaid Island
from Final Fantasy X-2
Composers: Noriko Matsueda, Takahito Eguchi
SquareEnix; 2003

Here’s another track from the much-derided Final Fantasy X-2.  The sequel’s theme for Yuna’s home island pales in comparison to the original’s but remains a beautifully-executed piano theme on its own.  There is an obvious island inspiration here, and the bluesy piano mixed with a shuffling rhythm section makes for a delightful whole.  There is a lot to love about this theme.  No matter how many times I hear it, it never fails to put a smile on my face.

Aqua Man Theme
from Mega Man 8
Composer: Shusaku Uchiyama
Capcom; 1997

Yet another tune from Mega Man 8, Aqua Man’s theme is a smooth-feeling jazzy groove with a slick bass track and a soft island sound.  Like the Besaid Island theme, the theme song for Aqua Man’s stage is sets a mood that is both relaxing and bright.  However, we know that the stage itself is not all that relaxing.  I find the track a funny contrast to its accompanying level.

Gravity Man Theme
from Mega Man V
Composer: Mari Yamaguchi
Capcom; 1992

Gravity Man’s stage theme has a very sci-fi sound.  It sounds like space, which is a fitting theme for the level it plays over.  Gravity flips as the hero passes specific gates, leaving Mega Man running along the ceiling at times, and the theme creates just the right atmosphere for the stage.  The breakdown has a smooth lead that hums a lead melody that just feels right.  This is another brilliant anthem from a stunning game.

Twin Dragons
from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game
Composers: Anamanaguchi
Ubisoft Montreal; 2010

Twin Dragons is one of the more intense themes from Scott Pilgrim and the talented Anamanaguchi lay out a techno-style rock song with an great synth bridge.  This high-impact tune plays just as good on its own as it does with the game.

Still Alive
from Mirror’s Edge
Composer: Lisa Miskovsky
DICE; 2008
EDITORIAL NOTE:  I accidentally wrote this entry as Portal’s Still Alive, which was an error likely made due to sleep deprivation.  My Mistake.  Hopefully this resolves the problem for any future readers.

Mirror’s Edge is a solid game, and despite a few flaws and some occasionally-frustrating mechanics, is one of the more clever and original titles out there.  The theme song is also great.  I love this tune.  It could easily be construed as a slightly unconventional pick, but Lisa Mikovsky’s Still Alive is a damn-powerful power-pop ballad that fits the tone and feel of the game well.

Charge Man
from Mega Man V
Composer: Mari Yamaguchi
Capcom; 1992

It is Mega Man V again.  Charge Man’s theme is a high-tempo, energetic tune that suits the train theme of the stage, having the rhythm of a steam train.  Imagine the faster pace of a train playing in your head while this song runs.  It is exactly that rhythm.  The brilliance of this alone makes it a classic, but aside from that it is an awesome theme as a whole, where the layers all work and the sound of each part fits perfectly.

Giza Plains
from Final Fantasy XII
Composers: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Nobuo Uematsu
SquareEnix; 2006

Early into the story of Final Fantasy XII, the player, as Vaan, is forced to sidetrack from the core adventure to complete a time sink in a labyrinthine drylands called the Giza Plains.  The player has to travel to several stones and interact with them to fill a gauge.  This part of the game is pointless and only serves to drag out an already long campaign.  I do like Final Fantasy XII, but I hate this segment.  That said, the one and only saving grace to this part is Giza Plains’ theme.  It starts off as a bright, adventurous tune that evolves into an intense action march.  The theme builds and builds, foreshadowing a looming threat.  It is stunning and one of the best songs on one of the best soundtracks of the 2000’s.

Wily Castle I
from Mega Man III
Composers: Yasuaki Fujita, Harumi Fujita
Capcom; 1990

I have already expressed, multiple times, this game’s importance to me.  This theme is part of that.  It brings back a lot of childhood memories of me and my friends passing the controller to once again conquer this classic.  It may seem like a simple, insignificant song in the grand scheme to most, but it has a lot of personal meaning.  Everyone has a song that is solely their own.  It may not be popular, it may not be the best ever, but it is important to them for one reason or another, and this is that tune for me.  That said, I can defend the minor key groove and the nice beat this song boasts as justification for its relatively-high placement on my 200 Favorite themes list.

Forest of Monsters
from Super Castlevania IV
Composers: Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo
Konami; 1991

Here’s a creepy entry… sort of.  Super Castlevania IV has appeared on this list before and will appear again.  One of my favorite SNES soundtracks hosts a haunting Stage 2 theme.  Opening with a slightly detuned organ and then leading into a strong, lively, well-paced tune where that same organ's background chords accentuate a much brighter and deliberate main riff.  By the time the horn and strings kick in, this song has built up to an undeniable climax. It also features the soundtracks trademark jazz influence, with a breakdown at the end that chops the rhythm to emphasize a smooth trumpet solo. The stage has water that pushes Simon forward, matching the faster pace of the theme.  I really love this tune, so much so that years ago I made a cover on the Playstation version of MTV Music Generator.  It’s a fun track with a lot of life to it.

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