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Sound Check 02 - Character Select

NOTE: I deleted an earlier version of this list and came back with an updated and better effort of this list here.

Working out my second video game song list evolved since its initial inception of simply selecting my favorite character select theme songs. It started off just selecting themes from fighting games, which is where this song list theme originated as. Many of my favorite fighting games had strong soundtracks with the character select themes as one of the standout songs. While I was compiling the list, I quickly thought about games outside of the fighting game genre and plucked out a couple more recalling back to some of my favorite games of all time. The majority of the games listed here date prior to 2000, though there were a few games released within this decade that made the list.

There’s other games that have incredible character select themes that I missed, I wouldn’t mind if folks chimed in on their favorites in the comments. In the meantime, here are my favorites as of August 2019. The character select theme may not be as prevalent in games nowadays, but I hope there will be few games in the future that have a kick ass character select theme. Nothing set the tone better than rocking out to a kick ass theme ready to ride with your character into action.

List items

  • “Time to Set Off”

    There are two things in play with this theme that always gets me to think of the following. First, the repetitive clanking sound underneath all of the instrumentation gives me a picture of a galloping horse. Second, the instrumentation with the synth and percussion sets the tone of heading into a serious firefight. In total, this theme is getting me ready to ride on a horse and gallop into some intense action.

    Favorite Character: Cormano

  • “Choose Your Driver”

    Even to this day, I always imagined this theme being played by a small jazz ensemble led by a conductor. This theme is very measured, from the synth line to the precise percussion, hence why it makes me think as such.

    Favorite Character: Toad

  • “Player Select”

    This house-genre inspired theme by the incredible Yuzo Koshiro got me imagining that this is a theme of a small vigilante crew ready to kick ass on their own terms. Remember, the police won’t be helping us here.

    Favorite Character: Blaze

  • “Player Select”

    I always get a game show vibe listening to Street Fighter II’s character select theme. The way it’s composted with the synth melody and steady percussion creates this mysterious aura around the initial eight warriors from original SFII on the CPS-1 board and carried over with more characters added in Super on the CPS-2 board, not knowing how each character plays. You choose your character and hope you can fight your way to victory.

    Favorite Character: Ryu

  • “Player Select”

    Streets of Rage 3’s character select theme signals the game is venturing out into different and uncomfortable territory. Out goes the engaging, dance-esque songs of 1 and 2 and in comes more harsher tones. The end result in a game that’s very dark in scope and the most challenging to date. I was not a fan of the soundtrack back then, but I warmed up to it with time. It may not capture the instantaneous, infectious fan favorites that the first two games produced, but the theme set the doomsday-esque tone very well and is a well composed song in my opinion.

    Favorite Character: Blaze

  • “15 Warriors”

    Talk about setting the scene. SNK does an excellent job conjuring up feudal-era Japan with the bumping taiko drums and the strong pan flute. The intensity of the instruments in this theme also makes it feel standoff-ish, like a dispute that’s about to go sour and conflict is imminent.

    Favorite Character: Uyko

  • “Player Select”

    Come on down, you’re the next combatant in Street Fighter Alpha 2! Seriously, this is a kick ass theme that definitely adds the amplitude of heading into battle as soon as the characters are selected. The intro with the three note synth and the impressive drum fill is top notch.

    Favorite Character: Sakura

  • “Character Select”

    On the surface, Diddy Kong Racing’s character select theme is simple, joyous, up-tempo with the racers happy to select them as your racer. Underneath is where David Wise shows off his musical muscle by playing little melodies for each driver alongside the main theme. Here is one of the rare instances where subtle details make certain songs stand out to me.

    Favorite Character: Tiptup

  • “Player Select”

    Some themes just get to you through sheer exposure. Snowboard Kids’s theme is good with the chill synth and the consistent percussion, but it became an earworm as I played it constantly it became my favorite kart-racer and personal favorite Nintendo 64 games of all-time.

    Favorite Character: Nancy

  • “Work Your Body”

    Now we’re starting to expand the boundaries of the character select themes starting with this odd jam. Instead of being a short loop, 1080 Snowboarding’s theme is music that is fleshed out as a song in a sense yet maintaining the quick hooks that these short video game themes had before it. The grooves from the bass and drum and the vocal lines makes this an instant classic.

    Favorite Character: Akari

  • “Who’ll Be Your Double?”

    Now we’re talking! Street Fighter Alpha 3’s theme goes heavy on the aggression and feels like a fighter’s entrance music going into the battle arena. The pulsating 4/4 beat and the heavily hit percussions really sets this theme off for me.

    Favorite Character: Sakura

  • “Swordsmen”

    There’s a mournful feel whenever I listen to The Last Blade 2’s theme, particularly the pan flute which conjures up the sorrowful emotion amongst the sweeping violins. It signals that fate will not be kind to the majority of the cast. Outside of the mellow emotions it evokes, I also love how powerful the theme is in spite of primarily consisting of violins and pan flute.

    Favorite Character: Hibiki

  • “Let’s Get It On”

    I somehow completely missed out on SFIII when I owned the Dreamcast and didn’t come across this classic until Iron Galaxy’s release on the PS3. It took me awhile to get accustomed SFIII’s aesthetics, but once I grew to like and understood why this game is highly revered in fighting game circles and expansion and appreciation of other music genres is where I finally came to appreciate Capcom’s bold direct they took here. It’s got a solid rap beat with rhymes that actually message some of the nuances of playing fighting games.

    Favorite Character: Akuma (though it’s not a strong favorite as I admit still not putting in a lot of time into 3S.)

  • “Choose Me”

    Rolling into Southtown with…! Garou’s theme, while great, still gets the same trip that I get with Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 2’s themes. I prefer the arranged version of this theme as the original version doesn’t capture the flourish of instruments and its rougher sound output.

    Favorite Character: B.Janet

  • "Take You for a Ride"

    Everyone knows MvC2’s theme by the lyrics, but I don’t think the theme works out if it wasn’t sung in front of some nasty jazz funk. The horns and nasty funk bassline that perfectly complements the woman’s voice and lyrics. When you combine these forces, you have created a monster.

    Team: Sakura / Captain Commando / Son Son… I guess.

  • “Humming the Bassline”

    Just as the song title suggests, the theme works because of that bassline that is groovy, heavy, and so front and center in the mix. The theme works well in the game as you go through The Go-Go’s hangout and all the playable characters are grooving out to the song.

    Favorite Character: Gum

  • “BE-TA Force”

    KOF 2000’s actual character select theme is the looping bit toward the end of the Youtube clip. Nonetheless, the loop is a banger that’s meant to kickstart a mass dance in a club.

    Team: Kyo / Terry / Kim / [Striker]

  • “Player Select”

    Nothing sounds like a celebration of the new millennium than Capcom going with a futuristic sound with the character theme to the first collaboration game with SNK. The loud synths, the thin percussion sound, the warbly vocals, it all screams “the future.”

    Team: Kyo / Sakura

  • “Student Selection”

    This is the ultimate YOU, MEET ME AFTER SCHOOL TO THROW DOWN theme. It simply smack hard! The drums hit hard, the organs play a nice melody, the guitar drone as a nice, angry edge, the bassline is impressive and grooves hard.

    Team: Hinata / Ryoma / Ran

  • “Player Select”

    I realize Capcom wanted to replicate the breaking news bit with the CvS2 theme and while the instrumentation is great, I hate to say that the narrator steals the show. Not quite as earwormy as MvC2’s theme, but still very memorable whenever I think of this classic game.

    Team: Hibiki / Kyo / Sakura

  • “D.O.A.”

    I didn’t come across Guilty Gear until the PS3 release of GGXXAV+R in 2012(?), but I instantly loved this theme composed by series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari with its heavy metal guitar riffs and squeezing in a synth solo freakout. This is quintessential LET’s ROCK material and a perfect theme to introduce it’s fantastic array of characters.

    Favorite Character: Jam

  • “Electronica of the Soul”

    Another game where the theme became an instant earworm due to overexposure. 2012 was the year of Persona 4 Arena for me with the numerous contests that I had with the Giant Bomb community at the time. Not to mention this is a well composted dance electronic remix of “Aria of the Soul” and fits with the tone of the Persona cast duking it out with each other for truth, justice, and friendship.

    Favorite Character: Chie

  • “Gathers Under Night”

    The upward piano keys at the start of UNIB’s intro is one of my favorite video game song introductions of all time. Then it goes into a nice steady pop with the piano at the forefront carried by a steady bass, percussion and guitar with a nice synth melody played underneath. I also think the theme does a great job capturing the dark night setting and the unique characters involved. All an all, a top tier theme!

    Favorite Character: Orie

  • “Fizz”

    Daisuke brings out the guns for Guilty Gear Xrd’s theme by crafting a powerful and impressive metal jam that can be called a song since it does have a start and an end. Everything here is heavy metal, with the screaming guitars taking the spotlight in the mix with a solo as the bass and drums kept up roll along intensely.

    Favorite Character: from Revelator onward, Jam.