Origin: Kid Icarus Uprising (3DS, 2012)
Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Plays in: Chapters 2 and 18 of Kid Icarus: Uprising.
Status: Original Composition/Orchestrated
Analysis: Kid Icarus: Uprising becomes a year old this Saturday! My, how time flies. Seems just like yesterday Masahiro Sakurai was sharing info on the game through Twitter...
What's Kid Icarus: Uprising, you ask? Why, it's only the best game of 2012! Hyperbole? Perhaps, but it's not every day you encounter a game where you can gleefully pull the menu buttons with a stylus or get acquainted with a protagonist with a penchant for floor ice cream. That it's not only a revival of the 1987 NES game Kid Icarus but also helmed by Kirby/Smash Bros. Masahiro Sakurai only sweetens the deal, particularly in the case of the latter since he has the amazing tradition of cramming as much shit as possible in his works (of which occasionally includes pictures of his cat).
Ah, but if I love it so much, why was there no review? Well, there was the whole absence thing, and uh...yeah. But no time like the present! Rest assured, my love of the game knows no bounds. While unfortunately I haven't been able to invest into its absurdly deep weapon/multiplayer system as much as I'd like, lord knows how many times I've replayed the story mode chapters and still laughed at the (wonderfully absurd!) dialogue. That, or the amount of idols I've collected. Or the powers I earned. Or how many achievements I still have to crack. Or just...lord, just about everything.
Especially the music.
Good god, the music.
Scream your criticisms at the game all you want, whether it be about the controls or how the dialogue wasn't your cup of tea, but the quality of the soundtrack stood far and above just about everything else released last year. While Sakurai opted out of an overly serious storyline to properly channel the original game's tongue-in-cheek tone, the score complimented the chaotic on-screen action with a sweeping epic orchestra that, like Kirby, is flexible enough to transition from Fantasy/Renaissance influences to pervasive touches of Celtic and Sci-Fi. Why, I loved it so much I even bought the official soundtrack with all it's lovely insert artwork.
So which one is my favorite of the bunch? Obviously, the one I picked! Our first character theme for the column, Magnus's Theme plays only twice in the game, first appearing when main hero/angel Pit storms Dark Lord Gaol's castle and finds that a sole human has breached through the castle's defenses: Magnus, the strongest human warrior in the world. A side character who lends an occasional helping hand to Pit, he opposes the Underworld Army as a way both to make end's meet and seek vengeance for the loss of a loved one. The theme trumpets its way back much later in the game, when Magnus reappears in a time where the balance of gods and goddesses have gone awry, and he assists a stupefied Pit in making his first steps to setting things right.
The description above makes it clear what the theme represents: A celebration of triumph and heroics, with adventure and tragedy laced throughout. Magnus is not the most elaborated character within the game, but his theme fills in the blanks. We can grasp that the character has amassed a collection of legendary achievements under his belt, forging friendships with unforgettable companions.Underneath his fame and rugged exterior, however, lies the tragic past that serves as his reason to fight.
And it works outside of the game, too! Try putting this song on your iPod, go for a jog in the woods when you have some alone time, and watch the magic happen. Typically, empowerment game music focuses on one subject, but Magnus's Theme is unique in that it segues through the defining characteristics of what constitutes the character it represents: Achievement, fame, companionship, tragedy, and rising up in the midst of all these factors to overcome what impedes our way.
When applied to the journeys and hardships of the listener, it provides for an inspiring parallel.
Honestly, I'm surprised I love it so much given that, unlike everyone else, I'm not that crazy about Yuzo Koshiro's compositions. While the tracks I've previewed from Actraiser and Streets of Rage (games I have, unfortunately, yet to play) sound rather lovely, I've deduced that the eardrum-raking torture that is Beyond Oasis's score is the primary reason why I refuse to go back and play it. That, and it took me quite some time to appreciate what he was trying to accomplish with the Norfair arrangement in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
All that aside, Koshiro contributed some astounding tracks for Kid Icarus: Uprising (the game's soundtrack was a collaboration of several composers, of which included the likes of Motoi Sakuraba and Yasunori Mitsuda). Putting Magnus's Theme away for the moment, the other songs he provide more depictions of Greek fantasy and Sci-Fi bombast, and it's hard to pick a second favorite. Be sure to check out the Viridi Menu, pretty much everything from the Wrath of the Reset Bomb chapter, and the themes for The Aurum and Pyhhron.
Kid Icarus: Uprising's soundtrack is an extraordinary accomplishment in orchestration and arrangement, and it's sad that the negative stigma regarding the game's controls have downplayed interest in both the game's music and Uprising itself (as is the sad case following pretty much every Sakurai game post-Smash Bros. Melee). The game isn't perfect: The story, while remaining wholly entertaining for what it is, has a habit of getting distracted in world-building instead of building up to its main directives and leaves certain factors to languish (namely regarding the actions of the game's true villain and, unfortunately, Magnus himself), and I guess there must some problems with the controls if people's hands are getting cramped. Strip away all, however, and you have a wonderful game bursting with character and a delicious soundtrack.
I mean, really. The second time Magnus's Theme appears is just about one of the best things ever.