Friday, October 14, 2011

Top Ten Final Boss Themes

Beware as this article contains spoilers!

The final boss, a staple of Japanese game design-- not so much Western. Whether it was Mario taking on Bowser, Sonic engaging Eggman, Mega Man battling Dr. Wily, or Chris Redfield and Sheva combating against Wesker, with almost every final boss comes a memorable piece of music to enjoy the encounter. This special top ten list showcases my favorite final boss themes in the history of video games. As always, share your own personal faves in the comment section-- after you read my list, of course.

10) Last Battle - Xenosaga (PS2)

Yasunori Mitsuda composed this piece, appropriately enough entitled Last Battle. It begins with several strings articulating the accompanying theme alongside a piano. Then comes in a chorus of deep voices, sounding very medieval. The pace picks up, the octave gets raised, and the battle quickens to a feverish rate. The entirety of the Xenosaga soundtrack was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and they never sounded better. While not one of Yasunori Mitsuda's best compositions, Last Battle certainly is one of the better final boss themes one will find.

9) Final Battle - Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

Grant Kirkhope bestows a bounty of beauty upon the ears with Final Battle, the theme heard when fighting the wicked witch, Gruntilda, on top of her castle in Banjo-Kazooie. Kirkhope gets the most out of the Nintendo 64's synth with impressive utilization of instruments and sounds to really create a bold and daring composition. The theme borrows melodic elements of Gruntilda's castle to manifest itself into a fast paced piece, fitting for the final fight with Grunty. Take a listen to the track, and you'll see why it made my list.

8) Last Battle (Opportunity) - Skies of Arcadia (DC)

The team of Yutaka Minobe and Takayuki Maeda combine ideas to unleash this final boss theme from Skies of Arcadia. Depending on how the battle goes, the song changes from its normal version to a more positive or negative outlook (hence the Opportunity moniker in parentheses). Ramirez is already a daunting figure, and this piece only strengthens that position. Vyse and the gang have a tough road ahead of them if they want to achieve victory. At least if you fail in your mission, you can always retry and listen to this brilliant boss theme all over again!

7) One-Winged Angel - Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

Any Final Fantasy fan knows of One-Winged Angel, the boss theme of Safer Sephiroth. Drums and strings pound on as the battlefield is displayed, and Sephiroth's final form hovers into view. Then one's heart starts beating wildly as the chorus chimes in. The reason this piece isn't higher on my list is because it's been used in so many concerts and games that it is starting to get old to me. It's been the go-to theme of concerts, been used in the Final Fantasy VII movie of Advent Children, and heard in both Kingdom Hearts I and II. Despite this, the memories of taking down Safer Sephiroth still hold a warm place in my heart, and make One-Winged Angel number seven on my list of favorite final boss themes.

6) Sigma 2nd - Mega Man X6 (PS1)

Sigma just never gives up, does he? In this final form in Mega Man X6, he places his head inside a giant gold golem that shoots out slimy enemies to slip up X or Zero and unleashes a powerful laser beam from its mouth. The theme itself is a remixed version of Sigma's boss battle song from the original Mega Man X on the Super Nintendo. Way to throw it back to the past, Capcom! There's nothing like rocking out while attempting to avoid all of Sigma's attacks.

5) Grand Cross - Final Fantasy IX (PS1)

Necron comes out of nowhere to battle Zidane's party in a final confrontation that is without a doubt challenging. The theme begins with the moaning of tortured souls-- very conducive to the area where Necron is fought. Suddenly the main melody and beat kick in, moving through the player's mind, and pumping up the adrenaline of even the most calm and tacit player. The track itself is six minutes (approximately) long (at least on the CD version), and repeats itself twice. Once again, Nobuo Uematsu shows his composing prowess as he lends his talents to make an otherwise good boss battle great.

4) Final Bowser Battle - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

After three failed attempts to destroy Mario, Bowser goes for broke in Super Mario Galaxy 2. He opens a wormhole of sorts and sends Mario free-falling. Mario must ground pound various spheres to smash them into the ever-inching-closer Bowser. This final part of the fight is easy, so it's unfortunate that players probably won't be able to hear the duration of this backed by choir piece. It's Bowser's Super Mario Galaxy theme amped up sevenfold. It tells the player that the chips are down, and Bowser has gone all out. It's up to Mario and the player to defeat the king of the koopas and save the damsel in distress once more.

3) The Theme of Alexia Type II - Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii)

While not the final boss of the entire game, Alexia's second form is the final boss of the Code: Veronica (or Game of Oblivion as it is known in-game) chapter of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, one of the best light gun shooters on the market today, regardless of console. Alexia transforms into a fluttering and fast dragonfly-like monstrosity that needs to be taken out with a special weapon known as the linear launcher. The opera singer in this piece knows how to hit those high notes, and the catchy orchestral accompaniment only enhances her already astounding voice. Chilling as much as it is powerful, The Theme of Alexia II takes the number three spot on my countdown.

2) [Boss] Solaris Phase 2 - Sonic the Hedgehog (PS3, 360)

Sonic the Hedgehog games generally have outstanding scores to coincide with the action on-screen. This is true with even the worst games in the series. Sonic the Hedgehog's 2006 reboot is one of those titles. Everything from the god-awful mach speed sections to falling through the floor to homing attacking the wrong enemy, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was a glitch-filled festering pile of feces. The soundtrack, however, is simply superb. Solaris Phase 2's theme is a symphonic version of the main theme of the game, His World. It is backed by a strong guitar, and it makes the final boss encounter especially epic-- to use an overindulged internet word. Take a listen, and you'll understand why I have this theme listed as number two.

1) Dancing Mad - Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

Nobuo Uematsu successfully completes his hat trick on my top ten with Kefka's theme, Dancing Mad, from Final Fantasy VI, one of the best installments the franchise has to offer. This piece is divided up into four parts. It was extraordinary then, and it's extraordinary now. The theme slowly transitions between movements as the player makes his or her way up the tower of Espers in a four-part battle to save the world in ruin. The last movement is faster-paced and features Kefka's theme. The version I chose to represent this pleasing piece is from an album called Distant Worlds II. It's orchestrated and comes with a haunting choir. It sounds absolutely spectacular, wouldn't you agree?


What final boss themes do you appreciate the most? Do you share some of your favorites with mine? Let everyone know in the comments section. They are always appreciated.

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