Quite frankly, life would be much better with a soundtrack to back it up. Moments of tension, excitement, hilarity and poignancy? They’d all be much improved with some music. You’d be hard-pressed not to find a situation where this isn’t the case. Epic battles are no exception, because honestly, if you’re not going to have an exciting song playing in the background while locked in mortal combat, then when the hell are you going to have it?
So here are five of the best songs I’ve heard in the fighting game genre. Now only the songs that play during stages qualify for this list. Only the songs that provide the backing for a furious ass-whupping. No opening themes here. Something which our Editor in Chief shed bitter tears of anguish over and threatened me with grievous bodily harm for. Sorry Mark. No Soul Edge opening for you.
5Reach Out to the Truth – Theme of Yu Narukami (Persona 4 Arena)
Oh goddamnit. Really? Again?! You’re not going to bother creating a new theme song for the protagonist – like you did for everyone else, and which sound awesome – but instead you’re just going to reuse the battle theme from Persona 4? Damn you. Damn you all to hell. As anyone who has played Persona 4 will tell you, the main battle theme: Reach Out To The Truth is an absolute earworm. It’s one of the most memorable battle themes in a JRPG, and that’s competing with some serious stuff. Every time you’re done with a play session, bam! It’s lodged in there. Burrowed in like the parasite it is. I’ve heard it enough to love the damn thing. I’m pretty sure that’s Stockholm Syndrome.
Damnit, and I thought I was done with Persona. I guess I’ll just have to resign myself to constantly hearing this in my head for the next few weeks … I face out, I hold out, I reach out to the truth … (hums)
4Goodbye Esaka – Theme of NESTS Kyo (King of Fighters XIII)
The year is 2000. SNK, long time makers of a number of venerable fighting game series, was on the verge of collapse. With King of Fighters 2000 being the last game they were going to develop, and their headquarters located near Esaka train station about to shut down, they composed a rather melancholy tune for KOF poster boy Kyo Kusanagi.
Touching. Very touching. Had SNK stayed dead, then truly it would have been a fitting swan song. Fans would get misty-eyed, fond reminiscing would be rife and it’d all be terribly poignant. But SNK was soon back in the saddle, with SNK Playmore ready to pick up the reins of their flagship series just two years later. Less dramatic perhaps but still, it’s a nice sentiment and pretty great song.
3Noontide – Theme of Sol vs Ky (Guilty Gear X2)
Guilty Gear was a pretty goddamn weird series. Developed by Arc System Works, the makers of Blazblue, it was, if anything, stranger than it’s spiritual successor. This is a post cataclysmic steampunk world where scientists discovered magic with all manner of weird and wonderful characters, and also Bridget, a pre-teen boy who looks like a girl and dresses like a fetish nun. Which says so much about Japan it isn’t even funny.
Anyway, the two major rival protagonists, the Ryu and Ken if you will, were Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske, the former of which might as well have been called “Awesome McCoolname”. And in a title where everyone had a bitching sweet hard rock theme song with awesome electric guitars, the best was saved for their battle. Tell me you wouldn’t happily fight to the death with your destined rival if this song was playing in the background? I’d start a fight right now if this was playing.
2Jazzy NYC ’99 -Theme of Ken/Alex (Street Fighter III: Third Strike)
When I first played Street Fighter III I was confused and disorientated. Who the hell was everyone? Why do they look so goddamn freakish? And what the hell happened to the music? Street Fighter III had a distinctly different sound to most SF titles, and after all those remixes and variants of classic themes, the change was a little off-putting.
But I grew to appreciate the soundtrack and of all the songs – nothing is as funky as Jazzy NYC. Listen to that. Were you a stylish badarse, you wouldn’t be ashamed to have a song like that heralding your presence. Even that appalling faux pas of playing music via loudspeaker on public transport – of which the offenders deserve only the most cruel and unusual of punishments – would become a delight if this was what played. Like Guile’s Theme, Jazzy NYC GOES WITH EVERYTHING.
1Theme of Akuma vs Ryu (Street Fighter IV)
What’s this? Guile’s Theme didn’t win?! Well I was considering it, but alas I thought it was a little played out. Besides, by this stage, it has surely transcended the mere boundaries of “best fighting game music.” Truly, it has reached a level of mythic proportions that is beyond such pedestrian lists. So what then? How about the second best fighting game song Capcom has ever made?
Ryu’s theme. So classic, so quintessentially Street Fighter. Any fan will immediately recognise it. But of all the variants, which one is best? Well, let’s go with the Akuma vs Ryu remix. If Noontide is a song that plays when locked in combat with your arch enemy, then this is the song that you play at the climax of your battle, after a terrible struggle, just as you’re about to land that final blow.
That does it for our favourites, what are some of your favourite tunes from the fighting game genre? Let us know in the comment section below!