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Jukebox Heroes: Character select music


Character select and creation music has always fascinated me. OK, maybe not fascinated; it's interested me. I've always viewed such themes as the overture of the game, the interlude between the title theme and the game proper to come.

These themes don't tend to be rip-roaring in their presentation because that's not their purpose. They have to be pleasant enough without being annoying when looped endlessly. After all, sometimes players spend a loooong time making their characters or sitting there at the select screen, and the last thing you want is for their ears to become fatigued by the experience.

So here are six MMO character select and character creation themes that I've enjoyed over the years. And if you saw the title graphic up there and immediately started hearing this song in your head, then you and I probably grew up in the same era.

1. EverQuest II: Character Menu

I've been enchanted by this track for some time now. I don't know if I should put my reputation on the line by saying that it might end up in my top 10 piece of MMO music, but I feel pretty comfortable stating that it's always welcome to come out of my speakers. It's a lilting, magical piece that communicates a world of beauty and wonder, all while being utterly relaxing and even a little catchy.

There's a lot of string work here, from harps to violins, and all of it is masterfully subdued and frosted with the occasional tinkling bells. OK, maybe it's not the most "manly," in-your-face theme of all time, but it's absolutely perfect for the character menu.

2. WildStar: Character Creation Theme

This is the only track on this list from an MMO that hasn't released yet, but I couldn't leave it off as I'm already entranced by the nature of this score (and I haven't even heard most of it yet!). The character creation theme, to which Massively got a first listen a while back, paints the game in watercolors of distant horns, Western motifs, and sweeping melodies. As a child of the '80s, I also liked the addition of the peppy synth in the background.

This whole track feels poised to suddenly develop into a mighty epic theme but continues to hold back until you finally hit that "play" button. So there's this feeling of build-up without culmination (so far for us non-beta testers), but I don't mind. I like that it's not raucous or overly zealous but instead seems to be telling the backstory with the tune. It's the history of the past about to meet with the tale of the future, all in a not-so-brief seven-minute run-time.

3. The Chronicles of Spellborn: Enclave of the Five Sacrifices and Character Select

This soundtrack is my current most-wanted OST that's missing from my library. I simply don't know how to go about getting a copy of it, and that's a shame. Jesper Kyd (Assassin's Creed, Borderlands 2) is a great composer, and reportedly he left his stamp all over TCoS when it was running. There's precious few of its tracks on YouTube, although the character select theme is one of them.

I'll be honest: The character select theme isn't the most awesome thing you'll ever hear. After the first couple of minutes, it's mostly minimalistic synth and ambient noises (particularly blowing wind and rippling thunder) with no melody to speak of. But I have a hunch that this might be the only chance I get to include a Chronicles of Spellborn track in this column, so I'm going to take it.

4. City of Heroes: Main Theme

This may be slightly cheating, but I'd feel horrible if I left this off of today's list. It's slightly cheating because I tried to steer away from games that use its main theme as the character select/creation theme (which is pretty common, to be honest), but I couldn't discard it because out of all of the millions of hours that players spent in City of Heroes' character creation screens, this is what we'd be hearing on an endless loop.

This music marked my real entry into MMOs back in April of 2004, and even to this day I can recall vividly how hearing this dark synth gave me goosebumps and made me all kinds of excited to log in.

5. Final Fantasy XI: Mithra

Since we're bringing up the '80s, this sounds like something right out of Flashdance, no? I guess I'd be at a loss of what else to suggest for a cat-girl race, but I don't think my mind would concoct this jazzy synth beat. Guess a feline fighter has to get her groove on before tackling a world full of problems.

It's really hard to dismiss the infectious fun of this short tune, no matter how many snide comments we might sling at it. When you can't have it all, you're dancing for your life!

6. Vanguard: Character Creation

Let's get away from goofy and end with sublime beauty, shall we? I've loved this soundtrack ever since I first heard it, and the character creation theme is a terrific example of the mastery involved. There seems to be three parts to it: a primarily flute track that transitions to horns, a piano piece, and then a synth choir part. Sometimes it reminds me of what I'd hear playing The Sims, all peaceful and whatnot, while at other times it's definitely building up to the epic journey your character is about to take.

Those are just six character select and creation themes, although I'm sure that many, many more have popped into your head. What would you add to this list? (And a quick shout-out to my MMO music podcast, Battle Bards, which you should check out if you're a fan of these scores!)

MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Every Tuesday, Jukebox Heroes will check out a game's soundtrack and feature the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!

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