Hi Destructoid community, long time reader, first time blogger. A quick bit about myself before I go into my main topic: Iíve been gaming for a long time, since around the original NES days, though I never owned one. Back then, I would crash my friendís house every day to play Dragon Warrior. I think my fondest of that was facing off vs. the green dragon holding the princess captive, underleveled, and not really expecting to win, Three consecutive fluke critical hits later, we dragged her ass back to the castle and demanded an award, only to get sent off to do more menial shit. Good times.
Anyway, a lot has been made these days about the demise of the JRPG. Iíve only played a few in this current generation, namely Lost Odyssey (which I mostly loved), Tales of Vesperia (which I mostly hated, fucking Karol!), and Resonance of Fate (which was a mixed bagÖcan anyone explain the plot to me in a sensible fashion?). Like many of the gamers these days, I would definitely agree that the Western RPG has taken over in terms of depth, gameplay, and story telling, with companies like Bioware and Bethesda leading the way while the traditional JRPG companies continue to put out pretty contrived and mediocre bullshit. That having been said, the one thing that JRPGs still have on their Western counterparts is EPIC FUCKING MUSIC. In my opinion, the Western RPG thatís really matched the JRPGs in terms of epic-ness has been Morrowind, but no one besides the Japanese can through 262737 different genres of music together and get something completely fucking awesome out. Here are a few of my favorites from the PS2 generation, with some massive spoilers to be mentioned.
5. Grandia 2
This was one of the first RPGs of the PS2 generation that I played, and still one of my favorites. While thereís not much of a theme involved, it seems like the tracks were just made to be as awesome as possible. And thatís OK with me. I could always use a sweet guitar solo, even when Iím just exterminating insects and birds.
When you hit the evil transformed priest, thatís when the violins, guitars, and drums go to work:
Now thatís the kind of shit I want to hear if Iím saving the world.
4. Persona 3
While some people may think of the Persona games as having cheesy Jpop soundtracks, I think it fits the bill for the games perfectly. We have a bunch of high school students running around trying to hold their social lives and academics together, while whupping some ass for an hour at night. The main battle track has blathering pop diva vocals (baby baby baby baby baby!) and testosterone-y rap over jazz trumpets and rock guitars. I think it captures the co-ed battle teams and raging adolescent hormones perfectly. Then when you get to the last boss and you have to fight the big bad world-ender, you have the hyped-up guitars and dance beat combined with Belladonna belting out a 2x speed Velvet Room vocal. Itís a lot like the main battle theme, but with a lot more gravity. And itís fucking wonderful.
Iíll also mention that I love the French house music that goes along with the change to the Spring semester. I just imagine Mitsuru whispering sweet nothings into your ear while the house music keeps things light and fun. Hell, I donít even like house music, but again, the music composition is just the right thing for the occasion.
3. Star Ocean 3 Ė Till the End of Time
This game hasnít aged well with time, and itís unfortunate that the Tri-Ace team hasnít really learned by taking the worst parts of SO3 and amplifying all of them to make SO4 pretty much intolerable to anyone over the age of 15. NoÖmoreÖbadÖvoiceÖactingÖ.That having been said, SO3 had a fantastic soundtrack that apparently spans 4 CDs if you were to go out and buy it. The compositions range from grand, room-filling cathedral music to tongue-in-cheek bad rap music. And then you hit the part with the pissed-off, giant dragon who wants you to leave him the fuck alone, but nooooo, you need him to transport experimental phase cannon thingie made of archaic materials that will probably blow up the second you attempt to fire it. And the epic fucking metal commences. While fighting a giant, pissed, fire-breathing dragon.
The unfortunate thing is that I whupped his ass in 27 seconds without taking damage. At least the game gave me three battle trophies as a consolation prize.
2. Shadow Hearts: Covenant
I think on average, this game has the best soundtrack of any game of the last generation. The tracks are the epitome of the Japanese mash-up style, with opera, metal, jazz, and freaking Indian vocals thrown all together. Even cooler is the way the music speeds up to manic paces if someone in your party loses all of their Sanity Points. And really, if Iím going to be listening to a battle theme 5000 times in a game, it better be cool. And this game nails that and then some. Like the incendiary Kodo drums when youíre psychically following your nemesis into the core of the earth:
(skip to ~ 7:00)
Or the wailing and violin solo when he opens the gates of time:
(skip to ~ 4:10)
So many good tracks in this game.
1. Xenosaga 3
While I think Xenosaga 2 (yay for brooding and ominous-ness!) actually had a better overall soundtrack, thereís one track in particular that stands out: Godsibb. Itís so epic I even know its name. This is another game where the plot is convoluted enough that Iím not sure exactly what happens at the point the awesome music comes in, but it seems to be something like civilization has used an ancient artifact powered by Jesus and Mary themselves to create giant robots and travel space. And apparently having a madman trying to collect this power for his own ends is grounds for singing in what sounds like a 2000-year old dead language over rock music complemented by violin solos:
What about you? What games tickled your eardrums?