I wanted an excuse to share this excellent piece of battle music from Demon Gaze, which I’m still playing through for review, so I figured, what the hey, why not just do a battle music post?
All right. Without further ado, first up, and in no particular order after that:
Demon Gaze (PS Vita) – Blue Eyes Hunter
This track from the dungeon crawler is the battle theme that plays when you fight against the enemies that pop out when you toss a gem into one of the many Demon Circles that adorn each of the game’s levels. This is a core game mechanic that allows you to acquire new equipment without having to pay for it; you can subsequently either equip it if it’s better than what you’ve got, break it down for Ether to use in upgrading existing equipment, or sell it for profit.
Demon Gaze’s soundtrack is consistently excellent and unusual. The fact there’s a heavy Vocaloid component to most of the tracks gives them a very distinctive feel, and this track is a good example. There’s a pretty wide selection of music throughout the game, and partway through your adventure the default battle theme changes — something that I always like to hear happen in an RPG, as it’s an obvious signal that you’ve made significant progress.
Final Fantasy XIV (PC, PS3, PS4) – Fallen Angel
This track from one of the toughest battles in Final Fantasy XIV’s main story (but one of the more straightforward battles from the endgame) is one of the best pieces of music in the whole game. It accompanies the battle against Garuda, one of the gigantic Primals who are threatening the land of Eorzea after being summoned by the beastmen tribes who worship them.
Garuda, or the Lady of the Vortex as she’s also known, is a nasty piece of work, and her fight really gives a strong feeling of clinging on for dear life against powerful winds lashing against your face. The music’s frantic energy helps complement that, too, making this an incredibly exciting confrontation.
Menace (Atari ST, Amiga) – Boss Fight Theme
This isn’t an RPG battle theme; instead it’s a boss battle theme from the Psygnosis side-scrolling shooter Menace — a surprisingly competent game that stood up reasonably well to its console equivalents of the same period.
This track by David Whittaker may be repetitive and simple, but it helped get the idea across that battling bosses was serious business. I vividly recall finding it almost impossible to beat the first boss on Menace when I was a kid. I wonder how difficult I’d find it now?
Time and Eternity (PS3) – Towa Battle Theme
Time and Eternity was critically panned when it was released by pretty much everyone except me — I rather liked it, and looking back on last year it’s actually one of the games I feel like I enjoyed most even though I will freely admit it was not, by any means, the best game I’ve ever played.
Two big contributing factors to my enjoyment of the game were its beautiful HD anime art style — the game used hand-drawn anime cels for sprites rather than the more common polygons seen in many of today’s games — and Yuzo Koshiro’s astonishing soundtrack. Koshiro, if you’re unfamiliar, is the guy behind one of the finest soundtracks of the 16-bit era, the Streets of Rage 2 score. This particular track is one of the normal battle themes for the game — there are two; one for each of the two main characters, Toki and Towa. This is Towa’s.
Baldur’s Gate (PC) – Attacked by Assassins
I’m generally not so much of a fan of Western-style RPG soundtracks because they tend to be more “cinematic” in nature; in other words, in contrast to the catchy, singable tunes of Eastern games, Western games tend to have music more as something going on in the background. This is fine, of course — it’s worked for a lot of movies and TV shows over the years — but I’ve never been a huge fan because it makes the soundtracks less memorable overall for me.
There are exceptions, though, and this track by Michael Hoenig for the original Baldur’s Gate is one of them. One of the first battle themes you hear in the game, this track just has a wonderfully aggressive, pounding energy to it that makes you want to keep on fighting. (Of course, at the time you first hear this track, all your characters are level 1 and consequently are very likely to get killed by a small rat breathing anywhere near them, but that shouldn’t stop you from feeling like a hero while you still have a few HP.)
TFX (PC) – Defence Suppression
Oh man, I’ve been wanting to hear this track again for years now, and good old YouTube delivered the goods. YAY. Ahem. Anyway.
This is from the distinctly “arcadey” (for want of a better word) flight sim TFX from 1993, a spectacular-for-the-time game that I always really wanted to play 1) to hear this music (which was included as Redbook CD audio, so you could listen to it on a CD player) during gameplay and 2) to switch between the internal and external views a few times just to see the G-LOC-style “zoom” animation where the camera zipped back and forth dynamically rather than just switching like other boring flight sims.
Unfortunately, I could never get the copy we owned running, and thus to this day I’ve still never played TFX. I somehow doubt it will stand up quite so well today, but this is still a cool (if distinctly ’90s cheesy) piece of music.
Ar Tonelico Qoga (PS3) – EXEC_COSMOFLIPS
Ar Tonelico Qoga was not the strongest installment in the Ar Tonelico series — that honour belongs to Ar Tonelico 2 – but it has one of the finest soundtracks. In fact, with the amazing music in all three Ar Tonelico games, it’s nigh-impossible to pick one favourite soundtrack.
It is less difficult, however, to pick a favourite individual song; this one, from Ar Tonelico Qoga, is simply wonderful. Just listening to it will hopefully give you an idea of its majesty to a certain extent, but taken in context of what is going on in the story at this point, it’s just magnificent.
Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1) – Trisection
Final Fantasy Tactics had a few good tunes, but on the whole I thought it was a relatively weak soundtrack, especially when compared to the rest of the Final Fantasy series which, at this point, was still dominated almost exclusively by Nobuo Uematsu. (Tactics, meanwhile, was composed by Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto.)
This track, though, is one that I’ll always remember. Accompanying the very first battle in the game, it was the absolute perfect way to stir up the emotions and encourage you to do your best — which is why I was disappointed it wasn’t used more often over the course of the rest of the game. I always wanted major battles to be accompanied by this tune, and every time the “story” music faded out in preparation for the battle to begin, I found myself hoping and hoping that I’d hear those distinctive opening rising passages again.
Trauma Team (Wii) – Be the One
The Trauma Center series has consistently fantastic music throughout, thanks largely to the involvement of Persona composer Shoji Meguro for part of the run, but this track here is a particular highlight that I believe I’ve drawn attention to on this blog before.
This track is from the culmination of the entire game’s storyline; the final operation to stamp out the disease that has been running rampant throughout the population once and for all. (I won’t spoil any further circumstances, as additional narrative aspects make this an incredibly nerve-wracking scene overall.) It’s a track that says “don’t fuck this up; everything is depending on this”, and the track that comes immediately after it was enough to get me sitting forward in my seat pretty much holding my breath as I attempting to bring the game to its conclusion. Amazing stuff.
Well, at nearly 1,500 words that’s probably enough for a “throwaway” post on battle themes from video games. If you have any favourites of your own, feel free to share in the comments. Include a YouTube link if there is one!