TheHighNotesIdeally, every song in any game we play would be something enjoyable to hear. Of course, that’s probably an unreasonable expectation, but one of the most important places for the music to be good is during a boss fight. Depending on the game, boss battles can be long and difficult, and even if the fight is fun, it still always helps the time go by if there’s a cool song playing in the background.

On this week’s High Notes, some of the staff delved into their gaming memories to share some of their favorite boss themes. There’s a pretty good range of music here, so hopefully, you’ll agree with us.

Persona 3 — “Battle for Everyone’s Souls”
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is an incredibly fun (and, for me at least, maybe slightly addictive) game with role-playing, dungeon crawling, and social sim elements. A large part of the reason I love this game so much is that it has a great soundtrack, composed by Shoji Meguro. However, as much as I adore Persona 3, I do have to admit that the final boss fight was a tedious pain in the butt. Thankfully, “Battle for Everyone’s Souls” made for some awesome theme music during that battle. It’s a rock remix of the Velvet Room theme, so there’s plenty of guitar to go along with the operatic vocals.”
–Jennifer Griffith, Associate Editor

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep — “Rage Awakened ~ The Origin”
“The Kingdom Hearts series is an action role-playing series with a great story (at this point, you might even call it a saga), and it also happens to have tons of awesome orchestral music. You might recall from a previous edition of The High Notes that I’m a fan of Yoko Shimomura’s compositions for these games, and Birth by Sleep in particular had a lot of great tracks. One of my favorite boss themes comes at the end of Terra’s storyline. “Rage Awakened ~ The Origin” starts off quietly, and then the strings come in with a frantic melody that really fits the fight well.”
–Jennifer Griffith, Associate Editor

Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story — “Final Boss Theme”
“For anyone who prefers their RPGs without all the angst, the Mario and Luigi franchise has always been there with fun, action-based battles, a witty script, and Luigi in a dress. The third game in the franchise, Bowser’s Inside Story, continues these traditions (except the one about Luigi). As is the series standard, most of the music in Bowser’s Inside Story is cheerful and lighthearted, which matches the overall tone of game. The theme for the final boss, however, took me a little by surprise. Fast-paced and exciting, this song sticks out from the rest of the soundtrack, and it really helped get me pumped about facing off against Fawful and his fury.”
–Jimmy Stephenson, Staff Writer

Nier: “Song of the Ancients/Fate”
Nier, one of the under-appreciated gems of this generation, is an action-RPG that manages to successfully mix in elements from other genres, like dungeon crawlers, shoot-’em-ups, and even text adventures. While its not the best-looking RPG from Square Enix, I would argue that it is their best-sounding game in years. This song, which is itself a remix of another that appears earlier in the game, is a perfect example. Like the rest of the soundtrack, the vocals in “Song of the Ancients/Fate” add a sad and haunting edge to this boss theme. To explain anymore would be a disservice; seriously, go play this game, if you haven’t already.”
–Jimmy Stephenson, Staff Writer

Final Fantasy VI: “Dancing Mad”
Note: Dan felt that a 12-minute song deserved a 12-minute explanation. Carry on.

“Ok, so before you start with the “Oh, look. Dan picked FFVI again” stuff, hear me out. You’ve failed to stop the big baddie. You’ve let him ruin the world and obtain inhuman amounts of power. Kefka has begun to lose interest in humanity, even as playthings. All he has left to do is destroy everything, and now it’s your last chance to stop him.

But first, you have to battle your way up a tower of religious imagery: a giant demonic figure, a group of lost souls, and what looks to be some sort of saint. Once you reach the top, you see a winged, divine Kefka, ready to pass judgment. Such an epic progression requires an equally epic soundrack, and clocking in at 12 minutes (in this Black Mages version, 17 minutes in the original), “Dancing Mad” gets it done. To start, an organ wails in the background, the perfect accompaniment to all of the religious imagery set before you, but as the second movement begins, the pace picks up, delivering more urgency. The organ returns in the third movement, alone this time, sounding like a classically religious piece, but with a hint of the sinister underneath. The fourth movement sounds to me more like old Kefka bleeding through, the reedier organ sound with a busy percussion section sheds the religious feeling for something a bit more chaotic. It almost feels a little desperate with the way the beat rushes. Then finally, right around when you finish the fight (if you haven’t already) the music slows, shedding its previous forms for something almost a little melancholy, which echoes what the fight would be like by then: everyone is tired, maybe starting to lose hope a little as the battle rages on against this falsely beatific creature.

TL;DR: Nobuo Uematsu manages to put a five act play into a single song, which is what makes “Dancing Mad” such an epic piece of music.”
–Dan Furnas, Editor-in-Chief

So, what did you think our picks? Obviously we couldn’t list every awesome boss battle theme here, so if you didn’t see your favorite one, jump into the comments and tell us about it!

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