When you’re playing a fighter or an RPG, the main characters have two influenctial kinds of characters that you see in the general story, the Main Boss and your Rival. These are the two types of characters in gaming that you learn or hear the most about (besides the Protagonist) and play a huge part about the story. The protagonist or character’s personality itself is developed by a rival or a boss when it is seen that you want to be more powerful against them to prove your worth similar to facing Blue or Silver in Pokémon, facing each other multiple times within the story to see who is more powerful. Also, the character could be pushed by vengeance for killing someone close to them or scaring your character when we see a story similar to Carl Clover and his father Relius in the Blazblue series. We all probably know that developers have created themes for the rival or boss in order to help further solidify their importance in the game, but the question for this is whose theme should have more of an impact to the player. This doesn’t mean the theme automatically has to be badass since you have to take consideration of how the boss or the rival influences and interacts with your character. So let’s see how these character’s themes can be seen as.
When most of us think about a boss theme, the usually picture that comes in mind is that the song should get you pumped as you face what is the strongest foe in the game. A boss theme from the first second should make you want to scream that you’re ready to win the game no matter now long or frustrated you get, even making you want to bang you’re head for a bit. Now a boss theme most of the time ends up falling under two categories, either the theme is a fast-pace hard rock feel that helps complement the battle altogether, especially games that already have flashy speed similar to an Arc System fighter. The other style usually is more an orchestration sounds that reflects the boss character themselves, imagine a character that believes they have finally obtained ultimate power or facing a god and if the orchestration has people singing in Latin too, you know that character is automatically a badass. Let see some examples.
Endless Despair (Final Boss: Hazama): Blazblue Continuum Shift:
You want a perfect example of a theme that both makes the boss look omnipotent and pump you up to face them, look no further than Hazama’s theme. Those first few seconds when all you hear is strings building up and the choir starts when the strings hit their peaks alone establish the idea that you’re about to face an OP monster that will beat you to a pulp several times. As the music progresses, the tune gets more fast paced with the guitars and piano, filling you with pure determination to kick Hazama’s butt even if you have see that continue screen several times. Then there’s the awesome guitar solos that made me want to headbang while destroying Hazama (of course I know, that is nearly impossible).
Hellfire (Final Boss: Inferno): Soul Calibur 2:
Similar to Hazama’s theme, Hellfire accomplishes both an energetic atmosphere for facing Inferno and enforcing the power of Soul Edge as you face the will of the evil destructive sword. When you get an almost full minute intro to establish how powerful and evil you are, that’s points in my book as shown in Inferno’s theme as you get a minute intro as the screen changes from the Ostrheinsburg Chapel to Chaos and witness Inferno arise from Soul Edge before the battle. The music once the battle starts is pure energy as the strings play pretty fast and the drums blast in the background as you face inferno, trying to deplete his health as it changes weapons, fighting through the fire that expels out of him each section until you defeat him and hear his cries of agonizing defeat before he diminishes, leaving only Soul Edge stabbed in the ground of the Chapel.
Unknown’s Theme: Tekken Tag Tournament:
Raise of hands, who thought this theme was creepy as hell the first time they faced Unknown. Unknown’s theme sounded so contrasting compared to all the others themes in TTT that had more of a happy Disco-esk aura in them, which does an excellent job reflecting her as this mysterious figure with a black latex (?) suit and a disembodied wolf as a partner. With that mysterious atmosphere, Unknown’s theme creates some nervousness in players as they play in a dark stage where most of the light is radiating off Unknown, further depicting her is a powerful opponent as she combos you till you knock out over and over.
Champion’s Theme (Final Boss: Red)/ Pokémon G/S/C:
The Johto Champion theme from Pokémon simply sounds like a thrilling boss theme that shouts to player to get ready for the battle of their life. I don’t care if you’ve heard this millions of time while Exp farming off the Elite Four and Lance, this theme continuously tells me that the test to become Pokémon master is at arm’s reach but you must prove yourself (and by that I mean face three Dragonites that have powerful special attacks that seem too accurate). However, then there is the battle with Red and boy does this theme’s strength kick in. If you were like me and played Gen 1, the big question that kept popping in your head when playing Gen 2 was “Where’s Red?” you’ve seen everyone else including you previous rival Blue and how they changed within the three year span between R/B and G/S/C yet the person you haven’t seen is the person you were most connected to, the trainer that you first grew up as and one the Pokémon League with. Then you go into Mt. Silver where the Pokémon increase in difficulty only to end up at the top of the Mountain where you see one person with the same sprite as you standing as if he was waiting for you. Once you converse, he states nothing then you hear Dun Dun Dun and see his sprite, the true Pokémon league Champion that you worked hours into facing you, that music feeling more powerful than ever as for go all out on Red and hope to defeat him, telling you that this battle is the true final test.
Now when it comes to rival themes, there really isn’t a set style that the music radiates. The reason being that your rival can have a wider choice of personality compared to the final boss is really supposed to be all mighty. A rivalry can have numerous different sentiments including two best friends who want to test their strength or two people that hate each other due to a death in the past. Due to wide variety of emotions, the rival theme can span from a joyful spirit-lifting tune to a badass fight to the death theme to reflect the relationship and emotions of the characters. Let’s check some out.
Existence (Assassin’s theme)/Guilty Gear XX:
Let’s kick off the Rival themes with one that does an amazing job mirroring that antagonism that surrounds the four Assassins in the Guilty Gear series. This song constantly builds up from intro to end, beginning with a chorus singing in the distance with a tinkering notes playing is a uniform pattern as two assassins get in position to battle and warm up, and starting to truly fight as the music grows louder and robust. With the climax of the music at the end, you’re around the end of the match and pulling specials or destroys as the music pumps you to finish the fellow assassin off, usually ending in a sudden stop when you’re victorious whether you’re Millia, Venom, Slayer or Eddie.
Tekken Rivals Theme 2/ Street Fighter x Tekken:
I know I’m cheating a bit here since the Tekken Rival theme in SFxT is just a remix of the intro theme from Tekken Tag Tournament, but in SFxT this theme sounds too smooth to be used as a regular stage theme yet packs enough energy to be used in a battle. From the beginning when I heard that first Piano note gradually fading the the techno section start up allowed me to recognize that this battle ain’t just some ordinary random duel and once that drifting piano melody and dynamic techno blend together, the sound is just beautiful and boosts your energy as you help your character be victorious against the person they see as their equal or especially want to go down.
If There Were Any Other Way: Soul Calibur 2/3:
Whenever this melody plays when I play as Talim against Yun-Seong in Soul Calibur 2, the tune just feels so accurate as the song keeps thickening the tension between the rivals. Just those strings building up as I kept battling whoever my character’s equal was created this epic cinematic yet the emotion in areas like the chorus made the atmosphere seem so different from a usual boss battle, further establishing the connection these two characters have in the story of Soul Calibur. I always sensed the worry in characters like Talim or the hatred similar to Yoshimitsu towards Voldo when listening to this song while I faced my opponent, experiencing that same amount not matter how many times I listened to it in one play through.
Hoenn Rival theme: Pokémon R/S/E:
Going through all of these more suspenseful tension building themes, let’s end this section with a Rival theme that seems more energetic in a happier point of view. So, why not Pokémon but more specifically Gen 3’s rival theme since the Hoenn region introduced us not only to two rivals at one time but both aren’t complete jerks in comparison to Blue and Silver. Different from the previous two rival themes in Pokémon, this theme creates the impression of let’s be serious about our match but enjoy it as much as possible in the same time, reflecting the relation between you and either your kind yet aspiring neighbor who you just met after moving or Wally who is a polar opposite personality wise to Blue but also strives to become a Pokémon master even though he’s constantly ill. This melody never gave me the feeling that I had to be superior, especially the beginning which made me feel as though I was hearing a marching band at a parade, just pure ecstatic fun.
Honestly it depends on the genre of game. When it comes to fighters, the Boss theme should be the most impacting since they’re the person you’ll face the most, especially ones that have boss-mod or are SNK hard. With RPG’s, the Rival theme should be the most memorable since you constantly face your rival as the story progresses, continuously comparing your strength to theirs as they try prove that their power surpasses yours as we see in every Pokémon game when you always run into your rival who gloats that their Pokémon can wipe the floor with yours. However, More story based fighters including the Blazblue series may also focus towards Rival themes as the inter-connecting stories of the cast regularly interact with each other multiple times, creating many friendships and enemies, thus needing many themes that reflect the emotion between specific individuals like Litchi and Arakune.
Well g1’s, which kind of theme has had a more impact in your gaming life, talk about them in the comments as your opinions and stories are as important as mine plus I bet your thoughts are different. Until next time, Ciao.