It’s been a while since I’ve done a list article here on Gaming Respawn, so I thought I’d return to the well once again seeing as I haven’t had a chance to play a game thoroughly enough for this week. Previously, I listed what my ten favourite tracks were from the fourth generation of gaming. Well, today I’m going to do the same but for the fifth generation.
The introduction of the PlayStation and SEGA Saturn meant that the majority of consoles during the fifth generation were able to have CD quality audio, which meant that those consoles in question could now push the boundary even further in the musical realm. This didn’t mean that cartridge-based consoles like the Nintendo 64 couldn’t also produce some good tunes as well, although the limitations of the hardware sometimes meant the audio on the CD consoles would sound smoother.
I set myself two ground rules for this one. Firstly, it’s one song per game, meaning that if a game has numerous great tracks on it (such as Wipeout, for instance), I can only pick one of them for the list. Secondly, I will only be using music from games that I have actually played, so if you’re wondering why tracks from your favourite turn-based RPG aren’t present here, then that’s why.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at My Favourite Top Ten Tracks from the Fifth Generation of console gaming!
Shun Di’s Stage Theme
Virtua Fighter 2
As I’ve said in the past, Virtua Fighter 2 is a game that I have a lot of affection for and was also the first game in series to introduce the absolutely batty Shun Di to the fighting roster. Shun Di is an ancient looking Chinese practitioner of Drunken Kung Fu, but don’t let his scraggly looks and warbled voice make you lower your defences, or you’ll be taking a bath in the river that his wooden stage floats upon pretty gosh darn quickly.
I’d enjoyed the original Virtua Fighter in the arcade due to its 3D graphics being a real opener at the time of its release. However, VF2 was the first time I really started getting into the characters of the game, with Shun Di playing a big part in that. He’s such an entertaining and wacky character that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off him when he does battle.
The theme for his fighting stage fits the environment perfectly, which sees you battling the Drunken Kung Fu master atop a rickety wooden slab as it floats along the river, with some gorgeous scenery in the background. It’s easy to forget sometimes just how good VF2 looks, but it really is a treat for the eyes and highlights the big jump in graphics from the fourth to fifth generation of console gaming.
The music is an excellent accompaniment to the fighting stage itself and also suits the frenetic wildness of Shun Di’s fighting style as well. Watching him almost stumble his way to victory but with the knowledge that he’s in full control really is a sight to see. If I could learn any style of fighting, I think I might like to learn this one, and I’d certainly have this track on in the background whilst I trained!
Revenge is one of my all-time favourite wrestling games, and a big reason for that is the music. Each of the arenas has its own unique theme song, and the incidental music throughout the game is great as well. What I love about the Results Theme is how it goes towards creating the authentic WCW Monday Nitro experience.
WCW Monday Nitro was WCW’s weekly Monday television event that ran from September 1995 to March 2001. During the first four years of its life, Nitro had a very recognisable and enjoyable theme tune that would play at the start of the show and prior to advert breaks. Sometimes it would play following the conclusion of a bout as the commentators (usually Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) would look over relevant replays from the bout.
A replay is shown following the match in Revenge as well, and wonderfully a version of this theme is included. It’s the little touches like this that made these AKT/THQ wrestling games for the N64 so great. It really felt like they were made by people who both understood and appreciated the source material, which made them very enjoyable to play. Little things like the Results Theme gave the games a feeling of authenticity, and that’s something wrestling fans like myself appreciated.
The Edge of Soul
The Edge of Soul is played during the opening cinematic of Soul Edge, a video that looks great considering how early in the fifth generation Soul Edge (or Soul Blade as it was known in other parts of the world) hit the shelves.
This track would be the first instance in this list of CD quality audio really making a difference when it came to music on the fifth generation consoles as this is a full song with vocals that probably wouldn’t have fit onto an SNES or Mega Drive cartridge.
Watching this never fails to get me jazzed for playing the game, and the song is both catchy and exciting. It’s a perfect example of how an opening video can play a big part in getting you geared up to play a great game.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Tekken 2 also has a cracking opening video and theme song, seeing as it was made by the same company in NAMCO. This one is grungier and darker than Soul Edge’s opening though, possibly because Tekken 2 is set in the murkier surroundings of the modern day and is based around the always duplicitous Mishima Family trying to out snide and cheat one another rather than fighters from around the world trying to locate a powerful sword.
The music fits the action on-screen perfectly here, such as it kicking up a notch when new character Lei goes flying through a window and slowing down whilst Nina (and her terrifying spaghetti hair) flirts at the camera in a bar. There’s so much to unpack in the intro in general as we see what looks like King stumbling through an alley, which suggests things haven’t been going too well for the Mexican Luchadore following on from the last game.
We also see that Yoshimitsu now seems to have a robotic hand of some kind, which succeeds in making him seem weirder than he already was, which was already very weird indeed. And that’s before we address Heihachi Mishima, seemingly chucked off a cliff to his death in the last game, clawing his way back up the mountain with a murderous look upon his face.
This really is a fantastic opening video, which sets the scene perfectly for the game in a mere 90 seconds whilst also getting the blood pumping with an awesome bit of music. It’s probably one of my all-time favourite openings to any video game ever. I also love how it’s been parodied elsewhere as well, being put to things like the Jean Claude Van Damme movie Bloodsport, for instance. This opening clearly had an effect on more people than just me.
Big credit needs to go to Graeme Norgate and Grant Kirkhope not just for this fine piece of music but for the entire soundtrack of GoldenEye 007 on the N64, because they did an excellent job giving it the same feel and tone that the music from the film had.
Facility was probably one of the levels I went back to play the most when I played GoldenEye just because it feels truthful to the great scenes from the movie it is based on and also because it’s such fun to play as well. The music plays a big role also though and can’t be discounted when it comes to discussing why Facility is such a good level.
It’s punchy, memorable and really gets the tone of the movie just right. You really do feel like a super spy breaking into a high security facility, even down to sneaking in from the ventilation shafts just as Bond himself did in the movie. It’s one of the more memorable and enjoyable levels in the whole game, and the soundtrack does its part towards that.
Let’s Go Away
One of the catchiest tunes you could hear in an arcade when SEGA released the Saturn as their fifth generation console, it only made sense that they would port Daytona USA over. This song is just fantastic and immediately sends your mind to the racecourse, awash with colour and excitement as you prepare to come out victorious.
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s voice is so full of excitement and enjoyment, and you can just picture him with a big smile on his face as he yelps out the lyrics. Let’s Go Away really is just fun personified and is perfect for the fast racing thrills of Daytona, a game where even the bloody Game Over screen is full of bombast and joy!
Eddy Gordo’s Theme
I have defended Eddy Gordo in the past here on this site in my review of Tekken 3. Unfairly seen as just a character merely for untalented button bashers, Eddy can be utterly lethal in the hands of a skilled player as there’s far more to success at the high level than just spamming buttons.
Even Eddy’s biggest detractors would have to admit though that his theme song is absolutely brilliant. I struggle to think of a theme song that fits its particular fighter better in the Tekken series than Eddy’s theme in Tekken 3.
It’s at both times steady and cool as well as frenetic and fiery, and there is nothing better than busting out some awesome Capoeira moves on a hapless opponent in time with the beat of this catchy track.
PlayStation and SEGA Saturn
Wipeout is a game full of pulsating music, but my personal favourite would probably be this track from Cold Storage. To me this is always the “go to” track whenever I think of the original Wipeout game as it summed up what the game was always about to me. It’s a futuristic sounding track that you could picture being played in a nightclub for a bunch of mind-rotted ravers somewhere.
This genre of music isn’t something I tend to listen to recreationally very often, but I find it works great in Wipeout and also is a good song to have on in the background whilst driving (at a sensible speed that is well within the defined speed limits of whatever road you happen to be driving on at that particular time, I should add!).
I like how the song goes through many different peaks and valleys as well, with it seemingly evolving like an organic being as it moves from beginning to end. This isn’t just a generic piece of background music on a 30-second loop; this is a genuine song you could listen to outside of a video game environment.
The Best Is Yet to Come
Metal Gear Solid
This song almost feels out of place in a game all about “Tactical Espionage Action”, but that is actually exactly why it does fit, because Metal Gear Solid is about far more than it appears on the surface. This is also the case for lead character Solid Snake, who on the outside seems like just a gruff soldier deploying skills he has honed over years of combat, but there’s a lot more going on inside him than outside appearances might suggest.
When you play this game for the first time and hear a Celtic choir, it’s quite easy to get a bit befuddled because you’re not expecting it, but as the game wears on, it feels just as relevant to the game as all the other music does. This is a game with layers beyond just standard action fare, and music like this is the first indication.
On top of it all, it really is a beautiful piece of music, and it has always had a very profound effect on me whenever I’ve listened to it. It’s powerful yet delicate also, which is a hard balance to get right. This isn’t just one of the best pieces of music from the fifth generation consoles, but it would also be one of the best pieces of music from video games as a whole, in my opinion.
Dire Dire Docks
Super Mario 64
Truth be told, Super Mario 64 is not a game I’ve ever really gotten along with that much. I admire it as an important step in 3D video games, but I really just don’t enjoy playing it that much. For me, I’ve always preferred Mario in his traditional 2D form, and the fiddly and sometimes unreliable N64 analogue stick can sometimes make his inaugural fifth generation appearance a real nightmare to play.
However, one area where the game is an absolute stone cold classic is the soundtrack. Some of the best music from any Mario game period can be found here, with this relaxing and delightful track being my pick of the bunch. It’s funny how many times I’ve seen someone write how they loved this song so much that they’d sometimes just start up a level that had it and just leave Mario standing around doing nothing so that they could enjoy the music.
Dire Dire Docks is beautifully ambient and atmospheric, making it the perfect song to have on in the background if you’re trying to relax. It’s something that really makes use of the N64’s superior sound capabilities as you wouldn’t be able to hear something like this on the SNES. It really is just a superb piece of music and by far my favourite track from the fifth generation home consoles.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey down memory lane with me. Why not share some of your favourite tracks from the fifth generation in the comments section below?
Have a gooden!