When you encounter a boss while playing a J-RPG, you expect, well, Pokemon-style background music. That same, synthesized electronic tripe everyone seems to use nowadays. Bleh. But every once in a while, you find a real rarity vis-a-vis music. Here’s what we think are some of those rarities, and why we think their music’s hella quirky:
1. Legend of Legaia – Songi Battle Theme
The PS1 legend Legend (YEP THAT WAS A PUN) of Legaia brings us Songi’s Battle Theme, a fast-paced rock-cum-heavy-metal track with drum pedalling, adding to the aggressive aura Songi possesses. Even though he’s not the main antagonist, it sure is such a rare indicator of uniqueness amongst a video game’s characters.
2. Xenogears – Knight of Fire
Just like the above, Xenogears was a light unto its own day, especially when it came to music. The boss battle background music starts out like any other J-RPG’s, but then is interrupted by a sort-of whispered declaration. After much sleuthing by fans of the game, it turned out to be a recording of a judge handing down a verdict of 10… jawns to an embattled defendant.
3. Breath of Fire IV – A Warring God
Taking their cues from their previous hit Street Fighter, Capcom really upped the ante when they produced backing music for Breath of Fire IV. If you play as Fou Lu (sorry, Ryu fans), your boss battle music will sound like, well, Street Fighter!
4. Legend of Dragoon – Boss Battle 3
Remember the Legend of Dragoon? The one they used to call second only to Final Fantasy VIII? Though a skosh forgotten today, the third boss battle in the game has a slightly intimidating and spooky sense of the room. Even though the thing’s not a damn horror game.
5. Koudelka – Patience & Kiss Twice
The last but certainly not least of the PS1 games we’re featuring on the list, Koudelka is a horror RPG with a… not-so-horror-y final boss battle theme tune. Okay, seriously, you guys, it sounds like the monster’s gonna pop up in a news station set dressed in an ill-fitting suit and hastily-chosen tie and say “this is Channel 6 Action News!” THAT’S how funky it is.
6. Final Fantasy X-2 – Let Me Blow You a Kiss
One of the only Final Fantasies apparently deliberately designed to appeal to the teenage girl demographic, the contemporary oriental soundtrack contained within is sure to appeal to everyone, however. LeBlanc and both henchpeople have unique theme tunes, so play away!
7. (Dot)Hack Infection – Skeith Battle Theme
.Hack the game has so much musical value, but the best only pops up when you battle Skeith. Retro-informed yet still high-strung, the Skeith boss battle theme tune in .Hack Infection is sure to pump your adrenaline up. Being that Skeith is one of the hardest bosses to defeat in the history of J-RPGs, the track is thus quite apt.
8. Persona 5 – River in the Desert
Shoji Meguro, auteur of the Persona franchise, is known for his penchant for zeitgeist-y theme tunes. In Persona 5, Rivers In The Desert serves exactly that purpose, by being a track that would sound out-of-place as a Top 100 indie track on Spotify. To listen to it, you have to get to the very end’s bosses like Justine, though, but it’s well worth the wait (and fight). Too lazy? Give it a listen by clicking play above.
9. Star Ocean Till the End of Time – Bitter Dance
Star Ocean 3 is now officially straight outta Compton. Taking its cues from Space Jam soundtrack, the arc words “Work that body, work that body” are deftly integrated and fleshed out through the game. You can listen to the track when you get to Sphere Company, on disc 2 of the game. Sure, hip-hop isn’t very Japanese, but then again, gotta keep up with the times, amirite?
10. Shadow Hearts: Covenant – Battle with the Fallen Angel
If you’re Indonesian or been to the island country, you’ll probably be familiar with the ubiquitous dangdut. This ear-wormy genre of music, a result of Indian, Arabic and Malay influences mish-mashing together, has been the bane of many tourists and Indonesians alike trying to enjoy a quiet night. But what you may not know about it is that it’s been used as J-RPG backing music! The 60s track Seroja, by Husein Bawafie, is featured in Shadow Hearts II, during the Astaroth boss battle. Good luck trying to get it out of your head.