Character Themes: Hype Effects
In fighting games individual characters usually received their own theme that plays either during the actual fighting or as selectable music to hear on a selection screen. As extensions of the characters, these theme songs had to be accurate reflections of these characters. If the character was physically strong and was of good character, that song had to reflect that character in its music as well. If the character was considered a ridiculously overpowered super-boss in a different game, then the song had to musically convey the power that this character potentially had. If the character was evil, was made to be this overpowered monster, or essentially fought like ordinary characters, but at astonishing levels of difficulty, then the song had to suit that character's power. One game that did a good job making a theme that suited an individual character were the themes for Spinal in the Killer Instinct reboot. For a very recent fighting game that produced a theme that suited a fighting character was in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax with character Margaret, who was an extra boss in the original Persona 4 game. Another bonus boss, Akuma, from Super Street Fighter II Turbo, had a theme that reflected his immense power, alerted the player of the difficulty that would come from fighting Akuma, and later sequels would make Akuma's theme even more awesome. One of the reasons why fighting games were well-liked by a diverse variety of people was the music that accompanied different fighters, and here were some awesome examples.
Themes in fighting games were meant to make the player excited to play as a certain player. Take for instance Spinal, from the fighting game Killer Instinct. In the original 1994 version developed by Rare Spinal just looked like a generic skeleton warrior. Other than a cutlass, shield, spiked gauntlets, a red bandana, and glowing red orbs for eyes he did not look very appealing visually. In the 2013 reboot of the game, Spinal received a major overhaul to his design. Now emphasizing his identity as a pirate, Spinal wore scraps of clothing like a shirt and kilt, he wore the broken steering wheel of a pirate ship strapped to his back, different gauntlets, actual boots for his feet, his original red bandana, and a magical shield adorned with the face of some squid monster. He also had green eyes instead of red. To go along with Spinal redesign as an actual pirate, the new theme that Spinal would receive for the 2013 reboot would have to be just as new and vocally interesting as Spinal was. Which meant that the making of Spinal's new theme would be a global effort. So with the help of over twenty people across five countries over the course of three months, Spinal's new theme was made. Sung in Swedish, the player was to be under the impression that Spinal's theme was being sung by a group of warriors to summon Spinal and aid them in battle. To make Spinal's theme even more well-suited for the skeletal warrior, an actual instrument made of human bone was used. A Tibetan Kangling, or human leg bone flute was included in the theme as background noise. As a result, players were tempted to play as Spinal if it meant hearing a song that literally described him as an all-powerful warrior.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
In Persona 4 Arena Ultimax the player had the chance to play as Margaret, a not-so-human character from the role-playing game Persona 4. In Persona 4 Margaret acted as a guide for the protagonist during the event of the game. She also served as an optional boss that could be fought at some point. As a bonus boss Margaret basically did things that the protagonist in Persona 4 did in a combat situation, but in a more brutal manner. If the protagonist summoned a persona to use a powerful attack, Margaret could use stronger persona to use even more powerful attacks; if the protagonist managed to significantly hurt Margaret, Margaret would just use an attacks that could end a battle instantly if she was still standing; and while the protagonist could only use one persona in a fight, Margaret could use four during a single fight. Needless to say, Margaret was established to be a force to be reckoned with. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax makes the player feel the power that Margaret possessed with her theme. It starts serene and tranquil, like Margaret when she played a supportive role. But when the music started getting more intense, Persona 4 players would recognize this as Margaret using overpowered bonus boss abilities in a fight. Which sounded awesome.
Street Fighter 2 - Street Fighter 4
Street Fighter 2 was one of the most insanely popular fighting games ever conceived. It was so good that other video game companies tried to make rip-offs of the game. But Street Fighter 2 had something other video games lacked. Numerous re-releases. Also, the introduction of an overpowered secret boss. Akuma, or as he was referred to in Japan, Gouki, was the secret character players could fight in Super Street Fighter II Turbo after fulfilling certain requirements. Once those requirements were fulfilled, Akuma would replace the game's normal final boss. By killing the guy. To help remind the player that this guy was so ridiculously strong compared to the normal opponents of the game, the body of the guy Akuma killed was just lying there. No magical disappearance. An actual dead body was a permanent addition to the fight with Akuma. The accompanying music also supported the seriousness fighting with Akuma implied. In Super Street Fighter II Turbo Akuma's theme sounded intense, but with the limited sound variations of game consoles during that point in time meant that Akuma's theme sounded similar to all of the other themes present in Super Street Fighter II Turbo.
With the advance software that later game consoles received over the years, so to did all of the themes for all of the Street Fighter characters. Now a character the player could play as once certain requirements were met in Street Fighter 4, Akuma also received improvements to his old Super Street Fighter II theme. Now with instrumental elements along with vocal elements added-in, Akuma's theme reflected the power one should expect from a character like him. The drumbeats reflected Akuma's raw power and brutal fighting style, the guitar symbolized the adrenaline rush One fighting with Akuma would most likely receive, and the accompanying flute playing lets the player know that Akuma was still an experienced and well-trained martial artist, which justified some of his more powerful abilities as a fighter. This, combined with him being a character the player had to earn the option to play as, made Akuma a highly desirable fighter in Street Fighter 4.
The themes for characters in fighting games were meant to make the player want to buy the game the character belonged in and a way to make players want to play as that character, Spinal in Killer Instinct had a theme that made him seem like an unstoppable force of nature. Margaret in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax had a theme that reflected her multiple roles in the original Persona 4 game. Akuma's theme in the Street Fighter franchise also suited him and his brutal fighting style.