In the history of MMORPGs, City of Heroes might well go down as having one of the most passionate communities in the genre. People didn’t just like or love this game, they lived it and rallied to defend it when it was taken down. And even four years after its premature conclusion, the spirit of City of Heroes soars in the hearts of its fans.
Last week, the superhero MMO celebrated the 12th anniversary since its 2004 launch. Even though the game no longer exists, the music does (as do a chat program and various spiritual successors). For me, City of Heroes’ sound was inseparable from the game experience. Watching old videos and hearing those familiar power sounds go off triggers all sorts of happy memories.
The soundtrack was a bit of an odd beast, to say the least. The core game and its companion title, City of Villains, mostly utilized short musical cues (around 20 seconds to a minute long) whenever you would transition into a new zone. Later patches and the expansion worked in full pieces, but it’s these stingers that really exemplify the game for me. Today we’re going to see if we can activate any dormant feels in your brain through the power of soundtrack!
It’s just 25 seconds long, but this theme is my hands-down favorite of the entire OST. You’d hear it when you were coming to the common gathering place for heroes, and it never failed to make me feel inspired and electric. Love those final notes!
“Bloody Bay Green Nugget”
Let’s travel to the darker side for this zone track, shall we? Most of these musical cues dwelt entirely in the realm of the synth, so if you don’t like electronic music, you were probably not too in tune with what the composer was trying to do here. Me? I grooved on it, especially for high-energy themes like this. The little “pops” of the track are what make it stand out to me.
City of Heroes had many main themes over the years, but I have to say that the zenith of these was in the Freedom Theme. It’s so purely superheroic in the first section, then it goes quiet before reinventing itself as a kind of tense, exciting Spider-Man homage.
Face it, every hero ended up in a hospital sooner or later in the game (and for some of us, quite often indeed). I liked peppy tracks like this that seemed to tell me that medicine and science was going to put me back together for another try.
Then again, if your tastes run to the spooky and unsettling, you could do worse than the Dark Astoria tracks. This theme is like the introduction of a Halloween movie, with slow bells playing over a disturbing background sound.
Not so subtle, is this track? That’s fine; sometimes superheroes need a little futuristic rock ‘n’ roll to get motivated!
“Pocket D Themes”
There was a strange and alluring dance subculture in City of Heroes. People just loved pulling out their boomboxes while waiting in a group, and Pocket D was always inviting heroes to come in to boogie down. This piece contains several of the tracks that you’d hear in the dance club, including remixes from other zone cues.
Heavy, ominous, and synthy to the max, the original theme is so iconic to this game that I couldn’t end this tour without including it. The drum roll and the fake horns are definitely cheesy… yet I can’t deny that they raise goosebumps every time that I hear them. And how many thousands of hours did we listen to this music while creating our next superhero concept?