I just randomly felt like it, so I made a list of my favourite JRPG normal battle themes. Mainly because I was just thinking about how most JRPGs tend to have that song play a huge role in one’s first impression of a game. So… here you go, I suppose. Before I do, though, some restrictions on the list:
- Only one song per series. This includes cases where a game is officially part of a series but doesn’t have the name of the series in its title (Mana Khemia is officially the ninth Atelier game and thus counts as an Atelier entry, for example, but Bravely Default doesn’t count as a Final Fantasy entry, despite the jokes about it being the best Final Fantasy in years).
- I’m only counting the first normal battle theme in the case of games with multiple. Some games will pick a normal battle theme depending on the exact situation, however, so those will share a slot. (NOTE: This does not include when the requisite situation is “travel to another part of the world”, since those songs would be the second, third, fourth, etc.) Prologues are also excluded from this (such as Tales of Graces‘ lengthy one with the cast as kids).
Okay, so here we go! I’ll keep my explanations as brief as possible.
#10: Time and Eternity (PS3) – Toki Battle Theme/Towa Battle Theme
Yes, Time and Eternity is a bad game. But that’s for everything except its combat. The battle system is honestly quite fun to play around with. These songs, which are picked based on which of the player characters you’re using, are the icing on the cake.
#9: Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald (GBA) – Wild Pokemon Battle!
This is more of a nostalgia entry than anything else. The third generation of Pokémon was the time I was playing the most, so this song means quite a lot to me.
#8: Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 (PS3/PSV) – Solid Park
Most of the entries on this list are on it because of the atmosphere or effect they had in terms of the game’s atmosphere or storytelling. This is the lowest entry on the list that does that. This song simply did the most important thing: match its world. The Neptunia series is about moe versions of game consoles, series and games, but it also has quite a bit of nature in it. mk2, in particular, is about piracy corrupting the game’s world. You can sorta get that vibe here – a song that feels as if something is off, while giving a strong technical feel.
#7: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2/PSV) – Reach Out to the Truth
This song doubles as the protagonist’s theme song. Honestly, this got an entry because of how it’s a happy song that’s a stark contrast to the definitely not-so-happy areas you fight in for most of the game.
#6: Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia (PS2) – Fenrir
Ar tonelico is a series known for its great music but, sadly, most of the more memorable songs are not normal battle themes, but for different purposes, like bosses or key scenes. This was the best I could do for an entry, which doesn’t feel nearly as awesome as any of the Hymmnos songs (none of which qualified for reasons already stated).
Still, this is a rather fun song to listen to in combat. Could do without the random rapping at the end of the track, though.
#5: Tales of Graces (Wii/PS3) – Whet the Sheath
What made this song especially good was the effect it had. Tales of Graces starts off with a prologue showing the cast as children, with this battle theme. When we get to the game proper, it starts off this song, and it’s a more awesome remix of the old one. Guess they’re not kids anymore.
#4: MegaMan StarForce 3: Black Ace and Red Joker (DS) – Radio Virus Busting
StarForce 3 was the finale to the AU MegaMan timeline where networking took off instead of robotics. Sadly, unlike Battle Network, StarForce wasn’t selling very well, so this is a gem that got missed by quite a few people (and this final entry also saw no European release). Something about this song just yells “this is the final time”, which is how I felt throughout the whole experience; sad that this branch of MegaMan, my favourite branch, was over.
As a side-note, I actually did a run of this game with only 100 HP (the starting amount) all the way though – no health upgrades. It was quite fun, and I might do it again someday.
#3: Bravely Default (3DS) – Bell of Battle
This is a case where the title says it all. Nothing says “time to fight” like a song that just kicks off your travels in epic fashion. I normally wouldn’t expect a normal battle theme to be so awesome, as most seem to be happy enough sticking in the background and not standing out.
#2: The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PC/PSP/PS3) – Sophisticated Fight
Speaking of cases where the title says it all, Trails in the Sky has one of the classiest battle themes I’ve ever heard. The game already had quite a bit of atmosphere, but when you couple that with this, you get an adventure you won’t soon forget.
#1: Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3/PSV) – Sylpheed
This series was really having a hard time fitting into one slot on this list, and it shows. There’s awesome, there’s classy and then there’s catchy. Atelier Ayesha‘s battle theme is a mix of the latter two for me, being a catchy song that I liked for much the same reason as Trails in the Sky‘s entry above – it just yells “atmosphere”. Fitting, since that’s most of what the Atelier series has to offer.
And there you have it, my ten favourite JRPG normal battle themes. What are yours?