Game: Gradius III
Composer: Ueko, Uehara, Muraoka and Morimoto
Above: Invitation from Gradius III
When the Super NES first launched in 1991, side-scrolling shooters (nowsadly called shmups) were a barometer of a new console's capabilities. How many enemies could fit on the screen? How big were the bosses? How insane were your fully powered laser missile cannons? And, most importantly, how inarguably awesome was the soundtrack? When all these pieces came together, you got a system-defining experience, and Gradius III was one of the SNES' very first showcase shooters.
Invitation plays while you create your custom payload for the alien-blasting Vic Viper. I love this welcoming tune, as it also instills a sense of majesty into the screen. Which weapons to choose? Will you be successful? All of humanity rests on your shoulders, you ace pilot you, so get out there and kick some space ass. I also love the myriad mechanical hums and twitters as the song moves from verse to verse, like a hypnotic, robotic siren song.
Invitation is always followed by Departure for Space, a song that plays during a brief intermission area between levels. To this day, hearing this song, along with Gradius' voiced power up notifications (Speed Up! Laser!) gives me goosebumps. It's so damn inspiring. Plus that bass!
And if you want a more metal-y version, this guy does a respectable cover of Departure for Space with his electric guitar. This is just the tip of the iceberg, too. Check out the rest of Gradius III either on YouTube or on Wii's Virtual Console.
The first arcade game with a vocal track, from Eikichi Kawasaki
Rockin' NES beats from Nobuyuki, Marumo, N. Kodaka, About SS and MaboChan
The cheeriest song of all time, from Mariko Nanba