Gamers don’t seem to appreciate the opening sequences you get before the “press start” screen comes up. They’re practically the first impression you get from a game, assuming you don’t skip to the title. It’s the pre-title openings that really get you in the right mindset for whatever you’re about to experience for maximum fun, be it getting you ready for epic wars in an RTS or magic and adventure in a fantasy RPG. Game openings have taken many forms as diverse as the games they represent, but I’ve found that there are 10 in my collection that stick out particularly well. This is the Shonen Otaku’s top 10 pre-title game openings. The only qualifications are that they need to play before you press a button to play the game and they must display the game’s title at some point, be it the beginning or the very end to transition to the title screen. Considering, in my experience, the quality of an opening is indicative of the effort put into a game, each of these games are ones I recommend.
Honorable mention: King of Fighters 11:
A short, but sweet, rocking guitar riff.
10. The King of Fighters 96
I know most people really like the opening for King of Fighters 98, but the opening for 96 stuck with me better and gave me more accurate expectations of what was in the game. Its use of still images has enough movement to never look bland, and through a number of clever transitions, it’s able to display every single fighter in the game (besides the bosses) in a small time span. I also like the way the music starts at the same time the 96 logo centers and the spokesman says “in 1996” before it goes into faster-paced build-up music that ends with a confrontation between Iori and Kyo, indicative of the rivalry between the two. As a whole, it’s more appealing to look at than the openings for KOF 94 and 95, which is another indication that unlike those 2 games, 96 one will probably be GOOD. Nothing gets me more in the mood for one of my favorite fighting games ever than one of the greatest openings ever.
A pre-title opening with a single musical track is a given, but Banjo-Kazooie is unique in that it actually has the onscreen characters playing the song themselves, which is something rarely seen in any game. It uses a number of different, unconventional instruments like banjos, xylophones, and flutes to make a fast-paced hoedown song you can really tap your foot to. The upbeat tone of the opening perfectly matches the whimsical, yet bizarre feeling of the game itself, which is exactly what any good opening should do. I also like all the stuff that happens while they’re still playing, like Tootie being chased by a bull and Banjo kicking away Mumbo’s xylophone, just for extra silliness. The Banjo-Kazooie theme has become iconic in the eyes of 90s gamers, and this is the opening that started it all.
8. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom; either one.
For number 8, I’m including both versions of the opening to Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, for Cross Generation of Heroes and Ultimate All-Stars. The opening to Cross Generation of Heroes looks excellent with all the different characters on both sides confronting each other with stellar animation from Tatsunoko, while the opening to Ultimate All-Stars is just a bunch of still artwork of the characters mixed with fancy effects and clips from the game and the original opening. I should really like Cross Generation of Hero’s opening more, since it looks far better, but I liked Ultimate All-Star’s opening just as well because it SOUNDS far better. I like the English opening of the song more than the Japanese version. I think it has a better singer and a better beat to it. Plus it has Viewtiful Joe in it! HOLY SHIIIIIII-
Thankfully, no matter which version you like more, they’re both viewable in Ultimate All-Stars (which was released in
America). You just need to unlock Cross Generation of
7. Bleach: Dark Souls
I may not be much of a fan of Bleach, but Dark Souls was a good fighting game and I admire the effort that goes into the openings for the Bleach games. All 3 Bleach DS games had their own opening number made specifically for the game, and are accompanied by various high quality still-images taken from the series and game itself (most in turn taken from another Bleach game) with different transitions and editing techniques to make them come alive. This opening in particular stuck to me with the images it uses to set the context.
The first batch of images convey the point in time in which the story takes place, with Aizen and his followers walking away and Byakuya in bed, and then it briefly establishes a few of the fighters, like Rangiku passed out, Ichigo’s bankai, and Urahara in front of the shop with his assistants. Then, on the last few notes of the song, it quickly glances over every single one of the playable fighters (and adds more as you unlock them). I can think of no better way to open a Bleach DS fighting game, and it helps that the song is great and comes out of the DS’ speaker clearly and cleanly.
6. Sonic Unleashed
This is the only entry on this list that isn’t simply a cinematic with a single track of musical accompaniment for audio. No matter what anybody thought of the game as a whole (I personally liked it), nobody denied that Sonic Unleashed had an extremely kick-ass opening cutscene. With the highest production values, the scene features Sonic attacking a robot-infested spaceship with his super speed, weaving, dodging, and striking with awe-inspiring grace. Things heat up even more when he goes Super Sonic and chases after Eggman, who pleads for his life before trapping Sonic again, draining his power, morphing him into a beastly monster, and splitting the earth apart! Then, in a coup de’ grace, Eggman shoots Sonic and the emeralds out the airlock with what seems to be a victory for the villain. That is an epic action sequence if I ever saw one. Mike Pollock’s eccentric acting is just the icing on the cake.
5. Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes
Capcom graces this list a second time with its stylish, beautiful, and flashy opening to Sengoku Basara 3’s English release: Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes. The only difference in the two versions’ opening is the music track, and I can safely say the Samurai Heroes’ version is far superior, with T.M. Revolution’s Naked Arms rocking out to the images of sword-slashing, hurricane-punching, and arrow-shooting in front of active and colorful backgrounds that show off each character’s abilities.
T.M. Revolution has been making theme songs for Japanese stuff for a while, including both seasons of the Sengoku Basara anime, and the anime version of Soul Eater, but here’s the kicker: This version of Naked Arms is in English.
Considering it’s impossible to understand the lyrics without having them on paper, I think it’s safe to say that Takanori Nishikawa’s English sucks, but I don’t hold that against him. Even if the lyrics are incomprehensible, the music itself is awesome, as are the visuals, and that’s what’s important. Rock on T.M.!
4. Clash of Ninja 2
I’m a little embarrassed this is so high on the list, to be honest. Not because I’m afraid to say I like Naruto (to a degree) of course, but with all the fancy pre-rendered graphics and vocal tracks that dominate this list, this one seems rather inferior… Or at least it SHOULD. There’s something about this opening that seems to encompass everything that an opening to a fighting game should have. It shows all of the fighters in action with some very well-chosen clips from the already well-animated anime series, and has some great editing to make it look even more like the game’s going to be fun. Take, for example, how it briefly shows the faces of a fighter before showing them in action (or vice-versa), reflective of the pre and post-battle relaxed demeanors the characters take when delivering dialogue, or how the majority of the moments shown are represented in the game’s story mode. Take all that in with a poignant guitar-heavy track that’s both simplistic and provocative, and you get a damn good AMV-styled opening to a good shonen fighter.
3. Super Smash Brothers Melee
This is the most spectacular Nintendo-heavy musical number ever put in a game. It’s difficult for me to put into words just how awesome this opening is. All the visuals that showcase all the ever-shifting Nintendo characters onscreen flow seamlessly together with the music to create its own pseudo-mini-backstories, showing a number of the fighters in their different universes establishing who they are, all with the use of clever transitions and camera angles you’d expect from only the highest-budget movies. There is little for me to say other than it is something that needs to be seen to be believed.
2. Jump Ultimate Stars
That last one was hard to put into words, but this one outright defies description. Just watch it. Not only is the video pre-rendered in amazing detail on the Nintendo DS, but it makes itself look like the most cosmically epic manga-based THING ever made! And it is! It’s like shonen incarnate!
Up to this point we’ve had a lot of different openings and a lot of different songs to accompany them. We’ve seen samurai, ninjas, Nintendo characters, and the near-entirety of Shonen Jump. So what could possibly top all of that? What game opening could possibly be better than the likes of Sengoku Basara and Super Smash Brothers Melee? It’d have to be something huge. Something transcendent. Something…. Perfect. There is only one game series in this world that is truly perfect, and I think we all know what that is.
1. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble
But of course. A great game based off of the greatest anime ever made based off of the greatest game series ever made happens to have the greatest game opening of all time.
Flawless. That’s what it is. Absolutely flawless. Every single thing about this opening is pure unfiltered perfection. You can make a list of all the things perfect with this opening.
- It has top-notch animation by the geniuses at Group TAC with footage made exclusively for the game.
- It introduces every fighter and shows them off in true Viewtiful Joe fashion.
- It sets the mood (trust me. Red Hot Rumble is the most fast-paced, chaotic multiplayer action game I have ever played).
- It sets context. Blue’s directing as well as fighting, Sprocket is ordering Biankies and Flaties around, evidence shows it’s all for a movie, and Rachel looking at the props from the anime is foreshadowing, to name a few.
- It’s all to the iconic anime music track, Mounting the V-Watch.
- IT’S VIEWTIFUL JOE!!! There is no argument, there is no competition, and there is no CHANCE for the greatest game and anime series ever made to not take first place in every list any aspect of it qualifies for.
No matter what the comparison, Viewtiful Joe wins. That’s as simply as I can put it.
Be sure to give your opinions in the comments as well as links to some of your own favorite game openings.