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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Top 20 Video Game Themes (#15-11)

So, this is the second part of my Top 20 Video Game Themes, if you've not read the first part and you're interested you can find it here.
Anyway, I won't delay any further, here are the next five entries on my list.

15. Parity (Katawa Shoujo)

I'll try to refrain from going on about how great I feel this the game is, Katawa Shoujo is a Japanese-style visual novel developed by Four Leaf Studios. I'd been aware of the game for a while before its full release due to the prior distribution of its first act. After first starting the demo it caught my attention quickly due to its clever, immersive writing, its cast of diverse and interesting characters, its mature approach to a sensitive subject and, importantly here, its startlingly good score. Almost every song not only suits the scenes it plays over but goes beyond background music to really help develop the atmosphere of each event. Parity in the original demo was already a favourite of mine, however when the full game was released with a reworked soundtrack the new version quickly became my favourite song from the game. As a character theme it works less on overall atmosphere and more as a representation of Rin's personality, describing her quirky disposition of upbeat disinterest brilliantly. On top of how well it suits her character, however, the laid-back, cool tone of Parity makes it as much a joy to listen to out of context as it is in the game.

14. Opening Theme - English (Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World)

The Tales of franchise is one of my favourite series in video games and as such I have a number of songs from the games that I love, but this is the first song I heard from the series and the one I could never shake. While the game is not as good as a number of the other Tales of titles, the music is still excellent. I'm aware a lot of people will prefer the Japanese opening theme, and while I do think the Japanese song is good, I feel the English release simply does so much more. It describes a huge range of emotions and tones in a short space, transitioning from one to the next so smoothly, always complimenting the animation. The dynamic of the song changes as required and it brings to light the true diversity of a full orchestral piece. It gets loud and grand for the battle scenes, subtle and dark toward the middle yet can still create warm, light tones towards the beginning and end all while capturing a feeling of adventure. For me, this opening theme just works.

13. Terra's Theme (Final Fantasy VI)

Let me say this now to get it out of the way...I have not yet played Final Fantasy VI. Trust me, I want to, but I've simply not gotten round to it yet. Despite my lack of context for Terra's Theme, however, it truly stands testament to Nobuo Uematsu's skill as a composer just how profound and powerful this piece can still feel. Admittedly it becomes quite difficult to discuss a song where I haven't played the game as I can't comment on how it suits the themes of the story or reflect's Terra's character and if I say I like it because of the way it captures certain emotions, someone might come up to me and tell me I'm reading the song completely wrong. Unfortunately, all I can say is that listening to this piece is something special and leave you to enjoy the music.

12. Fire Aura (The Impossible Game)

This time, a song with no extra meaning or contextual depth. No need to read into how it reflects the themes of the game or describes the story. Fire Aura simply starts a blood-pumping assault and never lets it die, creating an unbreakable feeling of determination as you play The Impossible Game. The tracks chosen for the game all carry this motivation with them, but for me personally Fire Aura does it the best. In my opinion, few other songs equal the same level of inspiration to get back up and not be beaten that this song presents.

11. "Metal Gear Solid" Main Theme (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

Alas, another game I've never actually played, again somewhat to my own shame. I first heard this song watching Extra Credits' episode on video game music (which is excellent, watch it here). The extract they played grabbed me immediately and I needed to listen to the full song. After listening through it only once or twice it had already become one of my favourite video game themes. The Metal Gear Solid theme in general is a stand-out piece of music, but I love the way it's used here. The song is overflowing with tension and action for most of the first half, though the stealth essence of the series is also wonderfully represented by the calmer, moody sections of music. All of it's brought together in the finale, however, which is nothing short of epic. From 5:10 the tone of the song changes completely, but creates such a vivid climax of power and emotion using the Metal Gear Solid theme and the result is spectacular.

So that's Part 2. Hope you enjoyed it, feel free to leave comments and opinions about my choices or about your own, I'm always happy to discuss things. Look out for part 3!

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