Thursday, May 10, 2012

Killer Soundtracks - My Personal Favorites, Part One

Coming fresh off the heels of beginning the next 100 VGMs is a new article celebrating video game music and all of its eccentricities! I promised I would be revealing my most cherished soundtracks, the ones that are just as strong today as when I first played the games they accompanied. For Part One of this feature I have ten soundtracks to share from games from consoles and handhelds far and wide. Let's see which ones make the grade!

Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

Final Fantasy VI is in my mind Nobuo Uematsu's magnum opus. It is the culmination of all of his compositional prowess. You get the World of Balance theme, Terra, you have the fight with the weapons in The Fierce Battle, the theme of flying in the World of Ruin in Searching For Friends, the fabulous boss theme in The Decisive Battle, one of my favorite town themes in Kids Run Through the City, the hauntingly beautiful theme of The Phantom Forest, the glorious character theme of Celes, and of course, the big one, Dancing Mad. It is the bounty of memorable tunes that makes Final Fantasy VI one of my favorites.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GCN)

I adore the soundtrack of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for its worldly instruments and its wonderful music by Kuni Tanioka. The opening song is Kaze no Ne while you have incredible dungeon themes such as When the Northern Sky Is Clear, Magii is Everything, and Daemon's Court. You also get the fast-paced boss theme, Monster's Dance ~Rondo~. Then there's town tunes like Amidatti, And Eleonor Too and the lovely A Gentle Wind Blows. Darn it-- now I want to play Crystal Chronicles all over again!

Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1)/Star Ocean: Second Evolution (PSP)

Whether you are playing the original second Star Ocean or its PSP port with character portraits and voice acting, you are definitely going to get a healthy dose of excellent video game music thanks in total by veteran composer Motoi Sakuraba. You have breaths of fresh air like The Venerable Forest and Pyroxene, you have town themes like Shower of Blossoms, Walk Over, and Let's Walk in a Parade, the sad Theme of RENA, and tense tunes like Rescue Operation and Dynamite, the boss song. Whatever your preference in music, Star Ocean 2 most likely has something for you.

Sonic Adventure 2 (DC)

I never owned the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, but that didn't stop me from playing Sonic Adventure 2. It thankfully came the Nintendo GameCube's way in the form of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. Jun Senoue and friends provided a rocking at times, jazzy at other times soundtrack. Escape From the City, That's the Way I Like It, Won't Stop, Just Go!, and Keys the Ruin make up my favorite blue blur themes while other character themes like This Way Out and Rumbling HWY for Tails' stages, Soarin' Over the Space for Dr. Eggman, and the cool feeling Bright Sound and Lovely Gate 3 for the cleavage-showing bat Rouge. Not only the best Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack in his 3D escapades, but it is just fun to listen to outside the game.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)

The fine and ultra-talented composers at Rare pushed the Super Nintendo's sound drivers as much as Rare's graphical side pushed how far the Super Nintendo's technical capabilities could be shoved. It most indubitably shows too. Atmospheric tunes like the underwater sloshing of Lockjaw's Saga, the volcano journey of Hot-Head Bop will full lava bubble sounds, the buzzing of bees in Flight of the Zinger, and the peaceful tranquility of Forest Interlude made for an engaging OST. But it didn't end there. Tracks like Snakey Chantey, borrowing the melody of the original DKC's Gang-Plank Galleon, Disco Train, and the fan-favorite in Stickerbush Symphony led the way to make Donkey Kong Country 2's soundtrack my favorite of the Super Nintendo era.

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

To make a play-on words, the soundtrack of Super Mario Galaxy is without a doubt out of this world. Who would have thought that Mario's space epic would be backed by an entire orchestral score? You have sensational galaxy themes like Egg Planet, Wind Garden, Floater Land, Stardust Road, Battlerock, Hell Prominence, and Galaxy Plant. Mahito Yokota-- who previously worked on the music for the GameCube's Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat-- wrote most of Mario Galaxy's music. Sometimes I found myself sitting in a particularly galaxy with Mario in an idling animation just so I could hear the soundtrack for extended periods of time. Sure, it's even more exhilarating to have the symphonic score accompany Mario's platforming pursuits, but that's just how good the music really is.

Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1)/
War of the Lions (PSP)

Get enough Final Fantasy yet? Final Fantasy Tactics is most likely my favorite PlayStation 1 soundtrack. Its majestic, poignant, and medieval themes set against a war-torn world in Ivalice make for a stunning and moving score. The game's music is one of the few that makes me heavily nostalgic. Yes, Final Fantasy Tactics has had various spinoffs, but none come close to the original article. I love the beauty that is Ovelia's Theme and Ovelia's Worries, or the jaunty Tutorial theme. Then there's such tremendous battle tunes that get the heart racing as you make strategies to clear the map of enemies with songs like Apoplexy, Battle on the Bridge, Decisive Battle, and Trisection. I'm not going to say the soundtrack alone makes the game worth buying, but it's pretty darn close.

Katamari Damacy (PS2)

I mentioned something about my eccentricities earlier in this article. Well, if there is one game that is full of eccentric music, it has to be Katamari Damacy. Have a favorite genre of music? Katamari probably has you covered. From jazz in A Crimson Rose and a Gin Tonic and Que Sera Sera to hard rock in Katamari Love to just random craziness in Lonely Rolling Star and You Are Smart, the varying musical stylings of the game are present and accounted for. Who doesn't love a choir of young children with Cherry Blossom Color Season? You'd have to have no soul if you don't.

Mega Man X (SNES)

Even though Capcom doesn't care for the blue bomber anymore, I will always have a soft spot for Mega Man and his many forms. My favorite would have to be Mega Man X. The quality of his games dipped between X5-X7, but X8 got him back on track in my opinion. Songs like Opening Stage, Spark Mandrill, Flame Mammoth, Storm Eagle, Armored Armadillo, Sigma Stage 1, and Zero's Theme all kick serious robotic butt and still sound pleasant on the ears to this day. Mega Man X is one of the greatest Super Nintendo games in existence. The PSP remake is good, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original great.

Xenogears (PS1)

Yasunori Mitsuda was listed as my fifth favorite composer of all time on a list I did way back when, and for good reason, he has brilliant range. Xenogears is a soundtrack that makes this point highly evident. With the score you get such songs like the opening theme, Star of Tears, the timeless and charming My Village is Number One, the better-get-outta-here-now theme Fuse, the militant Flight, one of my favorite airship themes in Wings, the final boss theme Awakening, the chilling and powerful epilogue song The Beginning and the End, and finally, one of the best vocal songs in gaming, Small of Two Pieces. You want to know how I know this soundtrack is outstanding? I've never made it very far in this game, and I still adore the music.


Did you enjoy listening to some of the samples I listed? What soundtracks from video games are your favorite? Nonetheless, stay tuned next week for Part Two of Killer Soundtracks - My Personal Favorites! I'll have ten more excellent scores to share.


coffeewithgames said...

I played through Super Mario Galaxy, but honestly can't recall the music that much in it.
There are a few games I have enjoyed the music in, and left the menu's playing, but it doesn't happen often enough these days.

Reggie White Jr. said...

Fantastic picking you got here. FFVI is easily among Uematsu's finest work on the FF series and Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favorite Mario soundtracks. MMX, Katamari Damacy, Star Ocean, Sonic Adventure 2, DKC2, I've got music from nearly every game you've listed on my portable music player.