No RPG is complete without a suitable music score, and some of the most classic titles have become so thanks to their soundtracks. The last few years have seen a few rookie composers break their way into the field while some of the titans of the industry held on to their grip. It should be noted that the increasing fan base of RPGs in recent years has helped some titles expand their musical horizons by merging with organizations capable of providing some impressive musical talent. With this in mind, the readers and staff of RPGamer gave the Best Music of 2002 award to Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts had a nearly unstoppable combination when it came to musical talent: veteran composer Yoko Shimomura of Parasite Eve and Legend of Mana headed up the soundtrack, with North American help coming from Alan Menken of Disney fame and Danny Elfman, famous for his film scores in Batman and Spiderman, among other movies. However, the game's main theme, Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru, became one of the year's most memorable gaming tracks.
More traditional picks rounded out the second and third place picks, and the readers selected Konami's Suikoden III for second place. Fitting to the game's epic story, Suikoden III's soundtrack was filled with over 70 tracks, and RPGamers were introduced to the game by an amazing anime-style FMV accompanied by the opening track, Exceeding Love. Third place honors from the readers went to Wild ARMs 3, the first foray of the Old West-style RPG series to the PlayStation 2. Sony brought back the composer of the first two games of the series, Michiko Naruke, who was responsible for a variety of tracks that fused traditional console RPG music with Western-themed instruments.
While Wild ARMs 3 got the attention of the readers, the staff took note of an old classic that was resurrected for the Game Boy Advance this year: The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. As a modern remake of the SNES classic, it contained all the music of the original title - and as such warranted enough attention to gain the staff's 2nd place pick. In a nod to one of the most anticipated titles of 2002 that lived up to most of its expectations, Suikoden III came in at third.
It turns out that the fusion of Squaresoft and Disney provided more than just odd creativity. Backed up by talent from both sides of the Pacific, Kingdom Hearts stood out as a successful combination of both traditional composition and modern pop music. Whether this trend will be continued in future RPG titles is yet to be seen.