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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My 200 Favorite Video Game Themes - Part 16: The 4th Quarter

Ballad of Hyllis
from Beyond Good and Evil
Composer: Christophe Héral
Ubisoft; 2003

This beautiful Celtic theme bookends a stunning adventure.  Beyond Good and Evil has shown up on my list before and this is not the last time, either.  I love this song.  It is short but sweet, featuring a foot-tappingly-good rhythm and a warm melody.  This is a song that really sets the tone of the game well, and while it isn’t my favorite from the game, it is probably the most effective.

Fisherman’s Horizon
from Final Fantasy VIII
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 1999

A fan-favorite in the annals of Final Fantasy music, and considered by many gamers to be the best “town theme” in RPG history, Fisherman’s Horizon’s theme is a breathtakingly beautiful achievement in composition.  It’s astoundingly-good melody is not just good for video game music, rather, it is good for music as a medium.  Period.  Fisherman’s Horizon is a classic-style orchestral tune that proves video game music belongs at the symphony as well as the screen.  I chose the version of the song from the Final Fantasy concert Voices to share, as it is my favorite rendition.  If you have not seen this show, I suggest watching it in its entirety, it is excellent.

Search Man
from Mega Man 8
Composer: Shusaku Uchiyama
Capcom; 1998

Mega Man 8’s electro-jazz soundtrack is a highlight for me and Search Man nails this style probably better than any other song in the game.  It is slightly off-kilter, which adds to the charm.  It has a whimsical style while still being an accomplished track.  The incredibly complex synth lead during the song proper is a challenge for any skilled keyboardist as well.  It has the beat of a country music song with the heart of a jazz and the soul of funk.  It is quite the amalgamation of sounds and musical ideas.

Kraid’s Chamber
from Metroid
Composer: Hirokazu Tanaka
Nintendo; 1986

Kraid’s Chamber is a Nintendo Classic and ranks among the oldest tracks on my list.  Metroid was released early in the lifecycle of the NES and while the auditory potential of the console was not yet fully realized by this point, Kraid’s Chamber still stands out as an awesome track.  It is an especially nostalgic tune for me, as Metroid was a personal favorite game growing up.  I’m always happy to hear this tune.

Baba Yetu - Opening Theme Song
from Civilization IV
Composer: Christopher Tin
Firaxis Games; 2005

Baba Yetu is one of the most sophisticated tracks in video game history.  It is so far beyond traditional video game music, even for the 21st Century.  It was a sign of a maturing medium and perfect way to open one of the greatest video games of all time.  The scene of an evolving series of civilizations through the ages growing and waging war spans centuries of history in only a few minutes as this theme plays in the background.  “Baba Yetu” is Swahili for “Our Father”, and sets a surprisingly emotional tone for a game that can occasionally leave the player in a state of emotional disconnection.

One Final Effort
from Halo 3
Composers: Martin O'Donnel, Michael Salvatori
Bungie; 2007

The Halo theme has become one of the most iconic video game melodies of the 21st century, ranking among some of the best music out there.  The series as a whole has amazing music, and One Final Effort is hands down my favorite Halo theme.  That’s right.  This is the last time you will see Halo on my list.  A condensed version of this song plays during the official announcement trailer for the game and the brief piano interlude leading into a belting choir creates one of the most powerful musical moments in game music history.

The Landing
from Final Fantasy VIII
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Squaresoft; 1999

The Landing builds tension in just the right way.  It is the first real life or death mission for a small group of mercenaries and while they may be inexperienced, their resolve is clear.  Approaching a battle site by sea, the heroes prepare to storm the beach.  This song is one of the most tense themes out there, and fits the scene astonishingly well.  Also, this is the final appearance of FFVIII on my list.

Another Termina
from Chrono Cross
Composer: Yasunori Mitsuda
Squaresoft; 1999
I cannot express enough how much I love this song.  This is yet another theme I would just sit and listen to back in the day, and years later it still holds up.  The old world sound is cheerful and fits Termina well.  It is hands down one of my favorite town themes.  The violins, the rhythm, everything… It’s all perfect.

Tengu Man (Playstation Version)
from Mega Man 8
Composer: Shusaku Uchiyama
Capcom; 1998

The Playstation release of Mega Man 8 had a few musical differences from the Saturn version.  One of the big ones for me was the theme for Tengu Man’s stage.  This theme is far better, in my opinion, with its fast piano riff and cheery guitar melody, this is one of the better Mega Man tracks out there.  This is also the final appearance of Mega Man 8 on my list, making Tengu Man’s stage my favorite theme from its amazing soundtrack.

Stickerbrush Symphony
from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Composer: David Wise
Rare; 1995

It’s David Wise again.  Stickerbrush Symphony is another moody theme from a series with a stunning soundtrack.  The song builds with a catchy synth bass line and by the time the drums kick in, this song has already grabbed me.  It never fails.  I cannot gush over Wise’s work enough, and this is among his best.

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