- 1 Overview
- 2 Overworld Themes
- 3 Town Themes
- 4 Battle Themes
- 5 Dungeon Themes
- 6 Character Themes
Last updated August 31, 2015
No music has been composed yet, but when I run across themes in games or in my playlist that fit the feel I'm after, I jot them down for later reference. And now I'll keep that in wiki form!
More music choices and commentary coming as I find time. =)
Dreamblazers will probably have at least two overworld themes (I'm including flying themes here). Inspirations would include:
Hopeful and Adventurous Themes
Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver: Route 3 - This theme, in its many incarnations, is still and always the first music I think of when I think of overworlds. I love its palpable sense of optimism and grandeur. Particular favorite aspects are the flute trills and the main melody switching off between brass and woodwinds.
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: Route 120 - Probably my favorite overworld theme of all time. It's a sunny and positive piece that says that no matter what might go wrong, you'll win in the end. The tempo is a bit too slow for what I'd want and I probably wouldn't go for brass, but as a holistic piece, the overall feeling nails it.
Tales of Phantasia (PSX): The Second Act - A very upbeat piece that captures the spirit of my characters. It might be lacking a bit in "power" because of its instrumentation, but the energy, tone, and flow are all there.
Tales of Symphonia: Aviators ~Rhea-bird~ - If I had to pick one piece of music to represent everything I'm going for with my entire game, no doubt this would be it. Triumphant, beautifully flowing, adventurous, lighthearted, optimistic, and so much more. Literally the only seconds of this piece that I feel anything less than love for are 0:30-0:31 and 0:52-0:53. They're a bit jarring juxtaposed against the rest.
Ys Seven: Innocent Primeval Breaker ~Game Version~ - The violin here is so amazing and such an unusual choice that I would have done the entire main melody in that and cut the guitar, but in general this is the sort of tempo and energy I'm looking for. It also has a very strong sense of flow and smoothness.
Ys Seven: Mother Earth Altago - Another Ys piece with incredible flow. I love the instrumentation more than "Innocent Primeval Breaker," but could do without the dips in the melody.
Bravely Default: Ship Soaring Through the Heavens - Like with the Ys violin, I'm really impressed by the use of piano for the main melody in what's essentially a rock theme. The melody is even better here, with frequent rests building anticipation for rising and falling notes in succession, distinguishing it from the normal Bravely Default main overworld theme.
Final Fantasy VIII: Ride On - 0:47 to 1:00 is pure high-quality airship theme.
Lagoon: Elf Field - Digging into obscurity here! This is one of those themes that keeps a player pumped to play; it's a tightly-focused piece with a minimalistic melody played over a fast-paced beat in the background.
Neutopia II: Sphere 6 - Nearly the same concept as "Elf Field." This is perhaps a bit short, but otherwise energetic and lovable!
This is the category I'm least likely to have, but if I do use it, then...
Bravely Default: The Land of Light and Shadow - Very probably the best use of a flute or piccolo I've ever heard in music. Ever! Everything after 0:36 doesn't quite live up to that introduction, but until that point it's a perfect piece with the background building up to a crescendo, slowly increasing complexity before you know it: first a regular rhythm and occasional percussion, then come the brass flourishes to introduce a full countermelody. Simply untouchable.
Final Fantasy VI: Searching For Friends - I love the simultaneous mixture of melancholy and hope. The woodwinds and synthesizers are very haunting with many notes held for a while and the second half of the song features one of my favorite musical elements: call and response! 0:48-0:54 responds to 0:41-0:47, which is pretty long for a call and response, especially in a composition this short, and really adds to the feel. The synthesizer from 0:41-0:47 in that part (and again on the loop) also sounds otherworldly, which is just excellent.
Pokémon Black and White: Route 10 - Another melancholic yet hopeful piece. I'm not totally sold on the lead instrument, but the background instruments are perfect here both in their choice and rhythm.
I probably don't have the resources to get a unique theme for each town, but I can break towns down into types and have one theme for each!
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals: Theme of Port Town - The predominant "lively town" theme in my book! The simplicity of the percussion allows the main melody to shine, especially from 0:30 to 1:00, and the whole piece is composed around building to a climax. The long whole notes help lend a feel of "continuous activity in a bustling town."
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: Slateport City - This port town theme takes an opposing approach to the one in Lufia II with a heavy emphasis on quarter notes in the main melody. By constantly hitting notes on the beat, you get a feel of regularity and schedule; by changing their pitch so rapidly, you get a feel of "to and fro." I'd probably use a different lead instrument, but otherwise this is excellent.
Pokémon X and Y: Bicycle - While not technically a town theme, this is the most appropriate place for it. Usually I can explain what I like about a piece to some extent, but with this one I'm not sure other than the really cheerful instruments and flow. I've probably heard this for over a thousand hours since I'm a competitive Pokémon player, but I never, ever grow tired of it.
Wild Arms: Adlehyde Castle - This piece is flawless. The flute trills, the string countermelody, the military-style drums, the rising and falling, the pauses in the main melody. It's beautifully complex and complete, which is all the more astonishing and powerful because it's only truly 30 seconds long (45, but the last 15 is a repeat of the previous 15).
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies: Come to Our Town - I thought nothing could top the Dragon Quest IV town theme, but I thought wrong. Flutes as the flourishes instead of, say, trumpets immediately establish the warm everyday feel, then we have a lot of beautifully-flowing music with softer instruments like strings.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: Hearthome City (Day) - I love the interplay here as the piece constantly hands off the main melody between contrasting instruments, each of which has an upbeat feel, but in a different way.
Secret of Mana: The Color of the Summer Sky - Granted that the percussion is completely overpowering the melody, but this theme is otherwise just so peppy and cheerful. It's never left my love list and never will!
Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing: Town - One of the best Sega Genesis/Mega Drive pieces, this composition mainly relies on a sense of flow and continuity and works out perfectly for it.
My favorites! If effort is focused anywhere in particular, it'll be here.
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City: Battlefield: The First Campaign - This is here for the segment from 1:30 to 2:22. While I'm not fond of the instrumentation, the composition itself has a tactical yet upbeat feel that I really dig.
Final Fantasy IV: Boss Battle - Even if nothing else from FFIV lives on, the music sure will. The percussion acts as perfect punctuation and the trombones in back add something that I can't quite put my finger on. A fast-paced and great theme.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals: Battle 1 - Speed up the tempo and maybe slightly increase the pitch and this would be pretty much what I'm looking for. The instruments, half notes and whole notes, drums, and subtle complexity are all there making an excellent piece.
Pokémon Black and White: Kanto Gym Leader Battle - I'd probably switch out the first lead instrument for something else, but otherwise the main refrain of the Kanto gym music (0:13-0:24) is everything I could possibly want. The rest of it I'm not quite as sure about, but that individual part is perfection to me.
Star Ocean: The Second Story: Stab the Sword of Justice - I'd probably cut the seven-second intro, but otherwise this is a shocking experiment in what can be accomplished with a single major instrument and percussion. (I mean, technically there are background instruments, but they're extremely subtle.) Somehow a very energetic piece despite its minimalism.
Tales of Symphonia: Full Force - The synthesizers and flutes in this piece do it for me on every possible level. Probably my strongest overall pick in this category even though it doesn't have any individual standout section, I love the raw energy of this piece and the contrast of rapid segments with drawn-out ones.
Energetic Boss Battles
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals: Battle 2 - So perfect I'm not even going to defile its name by pretending I'd model any other boss battle music in this style. No, not even you, Final Fantasy VI!
What do I like about it? First it declares the battle from 0:00 to 0:05, then it takes its sweet time until 0:26 building up the clash with trumpets and cymbals, as if the two powerhouses of the party and the enemy are feeling each other out with initial weak strikes, coming to terms with how strong the other is. The background instruments in this segment are especially crucial for communicating this, as their short quarter note (or eighth note?) bursts give the impression that the battlers haven't yet fully committed to the fight or haven't realized the magnitude of the difficult battle and how different it will be from their other encounters. (Which is great since that might also be the mindset of the player!)
By 0:27 they've realized they need to go all out. Forget the big blaring trumpets or clashing cymbals; now it's straight synthesizer taking the lead from here until the end (or the loop) as the battlers have gotten in the zone. No breaks in the melody anymore, but just super smooth music with lots of full notes (and probably even longer than that) especially from 0:49 on. To be honest, the section from 0:27 to 1:11 is generally what I think of when I think of this piece because it does comprise the majority, but the value of those earlier segments also can't be overlooked.
If I could change anything, I'd probably loop 0:27 to 1:11 into itself and then go back to the intro segments, but that might only be nitpicking. As the Lufia II box says, albeit referring to Natsume, this piece is Serious Fun(TM). Even the version of this piece in the action RPG re-imagining, though it obviously blows this one out of the water for sound quality, doesn't fully "get it." The guitars in part of the main segment trail off, which breaks the flow of what was an uninterrupted "heat of battle" feel in the original.
Energetic Rival Battles
Pokémon (anime): Advance Adventure instrumental - Not a piece from a video game, but it's so good I'm mentioning it anyway. The sheer sense of triumph and power in this theme are unparalleled, making it perfect for something like a friendly rival battle.
Tales of the Abyss: Meaning of Birth - I keep coming back to this point, but the use of flutes in a battle theme adds so much because of its unconventionality. Those and the flutes really add a strangely inspiring feel here that I really like. To pick at flaws, though, the rests in this piece really stick out to me in a bad way and interrupt the flow, stopping it from reaching the heights it normally could.
Epic Boss Battles
Intense Rival Battles
Mega Man X5: X vs. Zero - Incredible contrast of a crystalline lead instrument over background guitars. Perfect tempo. Basically everything one could ask for from epic duel music. There are no competitors!
Twisted Boss Battles
Lufia and the Fortress of Doom: The Last Duel - Can we all just agree this music and its variations comprise the greatest dungeon theme ever? Period? You can make it the first dungeon theme, the last dungeon theme, or a middle dungeon theme (and games have done all three), but it's always awesome. It's multi-layered, intense, lonely (the haunting echo of that trumpet), builds perfectly to a crescendo, and barely even needs percussion to do it, which is incredible.
Turrican 2: The Final Challenge - I don't care for the original Amiga sound quality, but for the composition itself, 2:16 to 2:54 is video game transcendence. Here is another rendition remixed by the original composer in which that segment carries from 2:17 to 3:08 just to make it even better, though I think the guitar detracts by adding a lone wolf feel reminiscent of "You Are Not Alone" from Final Fantasy IX, taking away from the intensity.
I have too many characters to give each one her own theme, but some of them can be grouped together and share musical thematics.
Adventurous or Heroic Themes
Street Fighter Alpha 2: Sakura's Theme - I love this piece because it's simultaneously high-energy and high-power while also conveying a strong sense of femininity. (Either that or I've just played as Sakura in Street Fighter games too long, I don't know. :P) I think the high-pitched instruments are what mainly expresses that to me, but I also like the contrast they have with very heavy punctuated bursts like at 0:49 - 0:50 and the trumpet-esque flourishes all throughout. The more J-poppy background instrument flourishes after 0:35 are also really lovely. Now, I just so happened to pick this Street Fighter Alpha 2 version because I'm aiming for a 16-bit style, but the same general principle applies to other versions of her theme. For example, her Street Fighter IV theme almost invokes 'Eye of the Tiger' as it introduces itself at 0:26, but then goes to a violin and follows up with piano, which are more sensitive-sounding instruments.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals: Lexis Shaia Lab - This piece is so genius that it's almost hard to express how, but I'll try! First of all, a xylophone is brilliant. Its short yet whimsical sound perfectly expresses the inventive scientist type it represents while also conveying something similar to a hammer striking away at new inventions. It starts off with a very prominent main instrument playing repeating notes, as if to communicate a sense of working hard, but then ends on a down note like it's signaling another failed experiment. But, of course, failed experiments are how science progresses and "failures" aren't meant to be lingered on for too long, so then the melody picks up with a new and proud trumpet. Each failure is one step closer to success and the process of invention marches on--now literally bringing in a drum beat! It then wraps up with another proud-sounding final melody... but yet again it ends on a down note! Overall I'd say the consistent swing between low notes and high notes expresses the highs and lows of the inventor Lexis plugging away in his lab. It's just phenomenal.
Suikoden II: Beautiful Morning - The best use of a flute in game music until Bravely Default came to exist! This is top-notch cheerful and top-notch lovable.