Welcome to the second installment of my new segment: GAME MUSIC HELL. Each post features a gamer, blogger, or musician discussing their least favorite video game soundtrack. This segment takes a good long look (and listen!) at what we perceive to be “bad” music. I’ve left that interpretation open to each individual writer.
Today, the legendary BEthStardust highlights her distaste for Capcom’s Breath of Fire. Known for her insightful, helpful, and self-sacrificing nature as a the undisputed leader of GameFAQs Board-8 for many years, BEthStardust has made quite a name for herself in the world of gaming. Since leaving the boards, she’s continued her work in the game industry, studying game play habits and addictions. A prolific writer and a good friend- here’s BEthStardust’s GAME MUSIC HELL: Breath of Fire.
When I was first asked to contribute to this segment, my visceral response was, Breath of Fire.
I’ve been playing video games (almost exclusively on consoles) since I was 3 years old, and I have heard a wide array of game music spanning various genres and eras from the Atari 2600 to the current generation. The genre nearest and dearest to my heart, however, is the JRPG. For that reason, the SNES era is significant because it brought us some of my favourites, such as Final Fantasy IV-VI, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, and, yes, the BoF series. Breath of Fire stands out, in other words, because of how lacking it is compared to its contemporaries.
When I talk about my favourite RPGs, I always mention the music as a top selling point of that particular game. While I know that Steve is a battle music guy, the themes that almost always stick out most to me are character themes, dungeon themes, and town themes. Whether it’s the pivotal moment when we first hear Frog’s Theme in Chrono Trigger or the sense of Eastern “otherness” (to contrast with the quasi-European Baron) that Uematsu’s Mysidia Theme provides in Final Fantasy IV, appropriate music is key to grounding the player in the game’s world.
However, this segment is not entitled “Game Music Heaven.” Or Rhythm Heaven. Or …
It’s about hell. Well, in that sense, Breath of Fire’s name is apt because it condemns players to a fiery pit of GAME MUSIC HELL!
Well, yes, that’s a bit overly dramatic, but…
Like Malachy_19 said in a previous column when making his case, it’s not that I chose this game because it has the “worst music ever” by some objective standard, or even because I hate all of its music, though as a whole I’d describe this soundtrack as “droning and repetitive”. I chose this game because it commits the cardinal RPG sin of having shitty battle music, shitty dungeon music, and shitty overworld music. In a JRPG, those are probably the themes that the player will hear the most, so the fact that Breath of Fire had me muting the volume two hours into the game is pretty demonstrative of my opinion on the music.
First, let’s listen to the overworld music.
Note that most of the commentary on this link is about the game itself and what a “classic” it was, and not about this particular track. That’s one indication that the track doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s…not noteworthy. It’s not a terrible track in and of itself, but it just doesn’t fit the game’s atmosphere at all. It’s overly happy and uplifting …I mean, the game starts out with your village being burned and your sister being kidnapped. Some people on Youtube refer to the game’s later overworld themes as “epic” but this is neither the time nor the place to educate those young whippersnappers about ancient Greek poetry.
Even worse than the overworld theme, though, is the battle music.
I swear, it sounds straight out of Super Mario Kart. When I was in a Breath of Fire battle, I was half afraid that Mario or Luigi was going to start blinking and make me wreck right before the finish line. Or that my little sister was going to use a lightning bolt and run me over. While those are scary, adrenaline rush-inducing thoughts, they have absolutely nothing to do with Breath of Fire. I know that they used four people to compose the music for Breath of Fire, but it only took one Koji Kondo to make the Super Mario Kart music. What’s Capcom’s excuse for this mediocre, derivative, ill-fitting piece of aural vomit? Huh ?!
…Sorry. That was unprofessional. What I meant to say was that I didn’t like the theme to Ryu Circuit 1.
Let’s not forget this gem of a dungeon theme, one of my all time favorites.
When I hear this theme, I think of some bored Japanese business man sitting by himself in a dark, grimy disco wearing a leisure suit and sipping sake. I do not think of a dungeon. I do not think of dragons. I do not even think it’s appropriate for any game that isn’t a dating sim or H-game. It also annoyed the piss out of me after only one or two loops, too, which is pretty impressive considering that I’ve been known to play Tetris for hours on end with the same music playing.
All in all, the music was so mediocre that it actually overshadowed the game’s hideous colour palette. Quite an achievement, I must say. I’m sure someone out there is going to argue with me and say that this music is underrated or “good” or something, but someone ELSE told me that Wal-Mart has Ranch Fritos now so I’m not going to be around to read your lies. I have more important matters to attend to, like going to Wal-Mart. -BEthStardust
Thanks again for reading and comments are welcome (and there probably will be a lot of comments)! And remember, if you would like to nominate a game soundtrack to be sunk into GAME MUSIC HELL, let me know!. I’m always looking!