By Mento 16 Comments
Oh hey, I did decide to write up the second part of this look at Japan's favorite VGM, as voted for by a huge bunch of dudes who like Falcom and SaGa games for whatever reasons that are between them and their god. The first part is over here somewhere if you're coming into this raw. Which you well might, since I forgot to publish the last one. Doy, oops. Anyway, go read that for the background and the top-rated games first. Before this blog. The one you're still reading. Shoo!
Highest Placing: #1 ("The Sun Rises")
Other Placings: #95, #303, #383.
Okami's an interesting animal. Not the whole wolf sun goddess literal animal bit, necessarily, but as a very Japanese take on the whole "exploring our mythology" type of setting popularized by character action games in the West like God of War or Dante's Inferno (definitely to a lesser extent with Dante's Inferno). Taking its cues from Zelda, of all places, the game itself was a fun if lightweight adventure with a neat "drawing things" gimmick. Japanese gamers probably (like I'm some great judge of character) dig the traditional instrumental stylings of Okami's soundtrack, hence the coveted #1 spot.
Highest Placing: #33 ("Mighty Obstacle")
Other Placings: #219, #303, #389.
More Ys. The sixth game, Ark of Napishtim, is somewhat responsible for Ys's minor resurgence in Western markets with its moderately well-received PS2 release. It's recently had new life breathed into it with an enhanced PSP port in both regions. The Falcom fan presence strikes again, but it's easily as fun as its higher-rated younger brother.
Highest Placing: #36 ("Valestein Castle")
Other Placings: #61, #617, #628.
Talking of Ys games... Oath of Felghana, otherwise known as the SNES Ys III (the first game to be released in English, even) is another recent PSP rerelease in this franchise. Honestly, I feel the many ports of obscure games is the PSP's major strength these days. It'll be interesting to see if the NGP follows the same track - with its major hardware, it should be able to easily emulate anything in the PS2's back library.
Highest Placing: #45 ("Light Feud")
Other Placings: #107, #116, #680.
Falcom's other big franchise, the Legend of Heroes is yet another series that has been seeing a lot of PSP ports of late. LoH: Sora no Kiseki is actually a trilogy of three parts, of which only the first is available here as "Trails in the Sky" and includes the four tracks above. The soundtracks of the other two games in the trilogy also received a lot of votes. So something to look forward to if you liked the first?
Highest Placing: #55 ("Hometown Domina")
Other Placings: #174, #255, #680.
The Seiken Dentetsu "Mana" series, as pretty much any major JRPG fan will tell you, kind of bottomed out when it hit the PS1 with Legend of Mana. Legend has its fans, unlike the many weird messes that came after, but the glory days of 2 (Secret of Mana) and 3 seemed to be over. The music's great regardless though, with compositions from female maestro Yoko Shimomura (also responsible for the music of Street Fighter II and Super Mario RPG, among others). If you thought Legend of Mana would be better with the Guile Theme (as everything inevitably is), you aren't far off.
Highest Placing: #56 ("Condemnation Wings")
Other Placings: #218, #441, #570.
BlazBlue takes a leaf out of the book of brash fighters like KOF or Guilty Gear with its typically loud and rock-heavy soundtrack. Both Continuum Shift and its predecessor Calamity Trigger received plenty of votes from those keeping the fighter game flame alive.
Highest Placing: #57 ("Now, Full of Power, I'm Your Partner!" ...yeah)
Other Placings: #329, #400, #680.
Mystic Ark is one of the many lost SNES JRPG classics that got never got localized for English audiences in its time. Thanks to emulators and the work of wonderful fan translators like Gideon Zhi of Aeon Genesis, more and more of these are being rediscovered by the less kanji- and kana-proficient fans of the genre. I don't really know anything about the composer, Akihiko Mori, other than that he sadly passed away a few years after this game was completed.
Highest Placing: #59 ("Reach Out To The Truth")
Other Placings: #144, #466, #617.
The engrishy rap soundtrack of GB favorite Persona 4 should be deeply ingrained in the minds of everyone who saw the entire Endurance Run. "Reach Out To The Truth", the normal combat theme, received the most votes and placed just outside the top 50 at #59, though also represented is the chill school background music "Your Affection" at #144, Ameno-sagiri's sublime "The Almighty" boss music at #466 and the normal boss theme "I'll Face Myself" squeaking in at #617.
Highest Placing: #63 ("Melodies of Life")
Other Placings: #131, #321, #570.
Remember when I said that FF5 was like FF9 in that it was just kind of there, and not particularly good or bad or memorable in any way? Turns out FF9 is the next best rated Final Fantasy game. Weird, huh? Like any good FF game, the best rated songs are the final boss, the melodramatic vocalized signature song and the in-game opera song - in this case, the song that's being sung during the performance of the sky pirate actors at the start of the game.
Highest Placing: #71 ("Battle #2" ...that's snappy, I like it.)
Other Placings: #360, #492, #609.
I never did play Lufia 2, though I hear it's pretty good. The music isn't particularly noteworthy, despite the four tracks that made their way onto this list, so maybe it's being influenced by people's happy memories of the game itself? Man, perhaps I should play it then.
Highest Placing: #72 ("Grey Lips")
Other Placings: #400, #547, #561.
No exposure at all to this game. I just know it's one of quite a few Arcade shmups being ported to the 360 every few months, usually from genre giants Cave or Touhou or G.rev (as is this the case with Wartech). The four tracks all come from the original Arcade game or the 360 port, subtitled "Rev. X". Every shmup soundtrack is characteristically fast and crazy and fun, which explains why there's so many on this list.
Highest Placing: #84 ("Ocarina of Time Medley")
Other Placings: #137, #400, #617.
Now this feels like a cheat. While Brawl does have an amazing choral orchestra signature tune, with an even-crazier Final Destination remix (which got a relatively low #617 placing), the top three are all from other game series that received fancy remixes. #84 is, of course, the Legend of Zelda medley. #137 is the enhanced "Stickerbrush Symphony", a hauntingly beautiful tune from a game about monkeys wearing hats rescuing an ape wearing a tie. #400 is the enhanced Revenge of Meta Knight theme. Melee's equally impressive range of remixes also made this list twice, with another Kirby theme (Fountain of Dreams) and the EarthBound stage music.
Highest Placing: #86 ("Love Song - Only Lonely Boy")
Other Placings: #110, #186, #274.
Now this was a surprise. I have very limited experience with the DQ series (as I apparently do with many Enix games it seems), but DQ2 was back in the NES days where music was still kind of.. well, primitive. Not that games like Mega Man 2 or DuckTales didn't have great music, but when you have at least six DQ games from the 16-bit era or later to choose from, it's odd that a Famicom game performs the best. DQ's music pretty much remains constant, as a mix of comedic and adventurous ditties and the always-present Dragon Quest theme. Dum-dah-dah dah dah dah dum-daaaaaaaah!
Highest Placing: #90 ("Last Battle - T260G")
Other Placings: #121, #343, #454.
More of this SaGa nonsense. I honestly don't get it, but as VGK pointed out in the comments of the last blog: there are people who play these games just to hear the music of Kenji Ito. I guess that's a good reason to play a video game? Frontier is scenario-based, so the T260G in that track title refers to a robotic character whose final boss fight has that music. In case you thought I copy/pasted the name of the audio codec or something.
Highest Placing: #95 ("To Zanarkand")
Other Placings: #150, #360, #547.
The colossal Final Fantasy series has its third best soundtrack in the mostly well-received Final Fantasy X. It certainly has its mix of decent tracks, including the Seymour boss music and the actually-quite-good "To Zanarkand" signature theme. If anyone's wondering how the other Final Fantasies did (especially 6 and 7, I'm guessing), here's a rundown: FF6 (3 tracks, highest at #53), FF4 (3 tracks, highest at #131), FF8 (3 tracks, highest at #158), FF3 (3 tracks, highest at #231), FF2 (2 tracks, highest at #170), FF13 (2 tracks, highest at #250) and FF7 (2 tracks, highest at #400). FFT and FF12 also have a single track each. It's criminal, I know.
Highest Placing: #124 ("Frog's Theme")
Other Placings: #180, #343, #389.
Arguably the greatest JRPG ever made, Squaresoft's time-travel adventure does quite admirably thanks to the efforts of Square music pros Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu. Man, do I love Glenn/Frog's Theme though. One of the best and most memorable video game leitmotifs ever put to keyboard.
Highest Placing: #147 ("Battle! Champion")
Other Placings: #372, #372, #617.
A lot of Pokemon music made this list, which should come as no surprise to anyone. While three of the tracks here came from the second generation (the precious metals), there's one that's actually from HeartGold/SoulSilver, which are technically fourth generation remakes of the second generation duo. I don't know, don't ask me to figure this stuff out. My interest in Pokemon has long since dissipated into the winds of time.
Highest Placing: #211 ("Chapter 01 - Ideal")
Other Placings: #377, #531, #531.
A prolific shmup quite a few people have played at this point, due to it bouncing around the arcades to Dreamcast to GameCube to XBLA. While the highly symbolic polarity-shifter has some damn fine shmup music, I couldn't honestly tell you when played alongside all the other shmup music on this list which came from where. I guess there's more orchestral work in this one? Wait, why am I the one reviewing music tracks again?
Highest Placing: #329 ("M. Bison's Theme")
Other Placings: #343, #389, #649.
All four of Street Fighter IV's entries on this list are remixes of the stage music from the original games. I think that may be the point though. Oddly enough, Guile's theme isn't one of them. So that's that meme disproven. What is here is the music from M. Bison's, Sakura's, Zangief's and Cammy's respective stages.
Okay, done. But wait, am I really? Am I REALLY? No, because I have a few surprises. While perusing this list, I found several Western games that seemed an ill fit with all the very Japaneses shmups and fighters and JRPGS. Songs that, perhaps, would be right near the top if one were to front this poll to Western gamers and Giant Bomb users in particular. I've compiled a list below of tunes that would've done better in an Occidental world, including where they placed on this 700.
- Halo 3 - Finish the Fight - #6 --- Well. I guess there are Halo fanboys everywhere. Oddly, though, no other Halo music made the list. Halo 3's theme must be really powerful, huh.
- Donkey Kong Country 2 - Stickerbrush Symphony - #17 --- Yep, this appeared twice, both in its original form here and its enhanced Smash Bros Brawl version.
- Portal - Still Alive - #59 --- Everyone's favorite upbeat GLaDOS gloating kiss-off did pretty well on the list. I'm actually sort of glad it placed where it did: Not too high, because it's meme-tastic, but also not too low because it demonstrates that Portal's sense of humor is more or less global.
- Sid Meier's Civilization IV - Baba Yetu - #81 --- Popularly known as that one video game track that won a Grammy, it makes sense it'd make this list somewhere, right?
- Ultima Online - Stones - #180 --- Uhh.. I guess Japanese people love ugly-ass MMOs from a decade ago? That seems like a kind of racist thing to say.
- Diddy Kong Racing - Greenwood Village - #219 --- I guess they really love those monkeys. DK is pretty huge in Japan, to be fair.
- Alan Wake - War - #680 --- Don't ask me why they dug this Nickelback-esque rock song. I can't help you.
And so there's no more questions, the Moon Stage theme from DuckTales was #274 and the Space Harrier theme was #680. Which is way too low. Okay, now I'm done.