Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jofo's Top Ten: Video game themes

Music makes me lose control!

I feel that most people underestimate the importance of a good opening theme, but I feel that of all the pieces in a game, the opening theme is actually VITALLY important since it is what effectively sets the tone of the game before it even begins, a sweeping bombastic orchestra can get you in the mood to go on an epic adventure, while a chilling organ solo can fill you with dread before you even entire the spooky house. So with that said, allow me to share with you some of my favorite opening themes along with a few thoughts on why I think they serve this purpose well.

10. Persona 3

This was a hard one since I like both this and the theme from Persona 4 (Pursuing my True Self), but I felt that this theme captured the essence of the Persona games a bit more, you've got the modern (J) pop in the beginning followed by a rather dark breakdown, representative of the dual tones of the Persona games, with the mundane day-to-day tasks and social interactions of a high schooler during the day time, and the intense terror, and threatening nature of the Dark Hour. It's a little ruined by the lyrics though which are translated rather poorly, and thus come off as a bit silly. Regardless, it's a great way to open one of the more...interesting JRPG franchises.

9. Super Smash Bros Melee

Some may call blasphemy on my choosing of this piece over the one featured in Super Smash Bros Brawl, but I find this piece to be more dynamic and fitting for this crossover fighter rather than the operatic overkill and latin lyrics in Brawl. It's adrenaline pumping, memorable, and it really gets you in the mood to see the characters of Nintendo's various franchise beat the stuffing out of each other.

8. Batman Arkham Origins

Attention Hans Zimmer, THIS IS HOW YOU DO A BATMAN THEME!!! This piece is dark and moody, but still sweeping, grand, and perfectly fitting of the Dark Knight rather than forgettable bass-heavy electronic NOISE found in Zimmer's soundtracks. What really makes this piece for me, is the inclusion of what seems to be part of the Christmas song Caroling Caroling which naturally works given that the game takes place at Christmastime, but I think what really gets me drooling over it is that it reminds me of the soundtrack to Batman Returns, which happens to be my favorite soundtrack of all the Bat-films 

7. Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali

I admit, I'm not the biggest fan of FF8, but in retrospect I think this game gets a bad rap compared to what followed it after FF9. And even if you aren't fond of the gameplay it's hard to deny that the soundtrack is still fantastic, and Liberi Fatali really gets you set for an epic adventure. With it's bombastic orchestral glory, and the inclusion of an invisible choir of epicness, it's hard not to get excited before playing this game...unless you only turn it on to hear this I do.

6. Chrono Cross: Time's Scar

Ahhh Chrono Cross, while it doesn't really feel like a sequel to Chrono Trigger in a lot of ways, it's still a fantastic game that deserves to be preserved, it's gameplay is complex, unique and fun, and it has one of the greatest soundtracks EVER! Music from this game frequents many top ten lists, but since we're only covering opening themes, it's a little lower on this list than others. The soothing string and wind sections in the beginning gives way to a thrilling piece befitting a grand adventure that spans dimensions. It's not my favorite piece from Chrono Cross, but it's certainly one of my favorite opening themes!
5. Silent Hill (Opening theme)

Akira Yamaoka is a uniquely gifted musician, particularly in the horror genre, with his uncanny ability to make well-composed creepy music out of the most unlikely instruments, in this case, a mandolin and a electric guitar. Silent Hill 1 is definitely my favorite game in the franchise and it all starts with the beginning, with it's cryptic line of text reading "The fear of blood tends to create a fear for the flesh" before giving way to the opening mandolin solo which gives you the most unusual feeling of unease as you aren't able to particularly nail down the feelings you have during this piece, which goes along with one of Silent Hill's strong points, instilling a sense of uncertainty which ultimately leads to pure terror as you literally encounter and run from personal demons, be they your own, or someone else's.

4. Kingdom Hearts: Simple and Clean (Orchestral)

I'm not particularly fond of the version that plays when you press New Game at the I'm cheating a bit with this one...but holy cow, do I LOVE this piece, everything about it, just absolutely screams DISNEY! This is how you make a game that involves a kid with a key-sword and Donald Duck being a wizard, absolutely epic; and the experience is only enhanced by seeing the opening montage along with it which each chord and cue in the music seems to go hand in hand with various scenes from the game within it. Don't believe me, then watch the video and try to tell me otherwise.

3. Parasite Eve: Primal Eyes

If there is one game soundtrack that has been unfairly lost to the void amongst game music fans, it is definitely Parasite Eve. Composed by the same musician as Kingdom Hearts, this soundtrack not only thrills, but also chills. The ingenious combination of harsh urban electronica, with the sophisticated but haunting piano solos and soprano vocalizations makes for a rather unique experience in this horror RPG that you will likely never forget. 

2. Ni No Kuni: Another World (Overture)

...I thought I'd never hear an actual overture in a video game. Ni No Kuni is absolute musical heaven to the ears with it's beautiful compositions masterfully performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic orchestra, and in this excellent opening piece, the major pieces are all on display giving you the full range of the game's soundtrack and what is to come in under 5 minutes! 

1. Uncharted: Nate's Theme

It may not be the most masterfully composed, or even one of the most unique soundtracks, but there are very few pieces that can get me up and rarin to go like the opening theme to the Uncharted games. The Williams-esque sweeping orchestra, the rousing percussion solo at the beginning, all say one thing...get ready for an adventure with Nathan Drake, Elena Fischer, and Sully that once over will leave you wanting to go on another one.

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