Shadow’s Six – #JRPGMonth: Best Soundtracks

For #JRPGMonth I promised some Shadow’s Six lists. And I intend to deliver! But first, I had to take some time to figure out what was really important… what is it that makes JRPGs special. And, for the themes of these lists, I’m going to be focusing on exactly that. Each list will be devoted to one of the aspects that I love the most about JRPGs.

For my first list, I’d like to tackle probably the most consistent part of most JRPGs – fantastic soundtracks. Japan managed to even shove some amazing soundtracks onto the Super Nintendo – and with the midi-quality effects that system was capable of, creating a memorable soundtrack can’t have been easy. So in honour of their consistent achievement, I’d like to count down my six favourite JRPG Soundtracks! Just as a note, each series is only eligible to be on the list once and we can count that as being representative of the series’ greatness.

6) Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

I talk about this game a lot, and for good reason. But we’re not here to talk about the fantastic localization, the fun gameplay, the amazing progression system or the utterly fantastic story…. we’re here to talk soundtracks. And while I could just say ‘it’s amazing’ and be honest for each of these six games… I’d like to focus a bit on a few specifics.

Legend of Heroes features a harmonica track that one of the two protagonists plays during several story scenes. It’s a neat little track and it really sets the stage… but they didn’t feel comfortable to settle for that, the song is also the game’s ending theme – but in full. And it is a gorgeous song… but what is really spectacular is that when you hear it and recognize that it’s the same song… it just ties the whole thing together.

5) Tales of Graces f

Tales of Graces f’s soundtrack is one of the most fitting I’ve ever seen. Every song sets the tone and mood perfectly for each zone and scene. The soundtrack itself isn’t spectacular on its own and for the most part none of the tracks are ones I’d listen to on their own, but when put in the game with the story and the visuals… it just all works. And it’s spectacular.

I say that none of the tracks are such that I’d listen on their own… but the opening is the exception to that. The opening is phenomenal. It’s a track that will always immediately call fond memories for me… and will always hold a special spot in my heart since it is just so pretty – and they even localized it, pretty well too.

4) Atelier Escha & Logy

From here on… these soundtracks are so good as to all be beyond reproach. These top four were so hard to sort… simply because they were so amazing. The Atelier series has had good soundtracks going as far as I can remember… in fact I currently possess every Atelier game’s soundtrack which is something I can’t say about many games. But each one has gotten progressively better… and Escha & Logy is one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.

This particular track plays whenever you’re in her hometown… and it is such a pretty and relaxing tune. It is one of the few non-vocal tracks that makes its way onto my normal playlists simply because I find it so relaxing.

3) Nier

Nier’s soundtrack is probably the most memorable soundtrack I’ve ever seen. The songs have this otherworldly quality to them that stands out from anything you’ll here anywhere else. They’re so hard to describe because of it, but they’re among the best you’ll hear anywhere. For the … this ethereal and otherworldly soundtrack simply works so well. Some of the tracks even have these haunting vocals in a made up language that just work with the story and the atmosphere to create such a cohesive experience.

2) Final Fantasy 13-2

Final Fantasy’s soundtracks have been stellar from start to finish… I can only think of one track from a Final Fantasy soundtrack that hasn’t been amazing. Ironically, that track exists within the soundtrack I’m highlighting here… but the soundtrack is such a unique mix of vocal and non-vocal tracks that it won out above the other Final Fantasy soundtracks. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is not the best game in the series, but it does have one of the most unique soundtracks amid the series.

It was hard to pick a track to highlight here, with so many awesome tracks, so I settled for the rather fast paced theme of the main villain Caius. But really, the soundtrack is just amazing and is one of the game’s highlights… except the Crazy Chocobo theme. Don’t listen to that. It’s awful.

1) Persona 4 the Golden

You may be surprised to see something other than Final Fantasy in the #1 spot, but Persona 4 the Golden has what is probably the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard. From start to finish, every single track does everything you’d want. They sound amazing, they set the pace, they keep your attention focused… it’s just amazing.

The opening does a great job of getting the mood right. The battle theme keeps you hyped right through even the most simple of fights, the various themes for the dungeons are perfect – especially the Heaven dungeon. And my favourite of all… the game features a concert. This concert features a song sung by the same voice actress who voices the character singing, and it’s incredible.

Really I could’ve spotlighted any of the game’s songs… but these two just seemed like the perfect spotlights for such an incredible soundtrack.

So here we have the first in my series of #JRPGMonth Shadow’s Six articles – what do you guys think? Any favourite JRPG soundtracks I’ve left off? Anything you don’t think should be on here? Any lists of your own to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below and check back over the rest of this month for more #JRPGMonth articles!

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