"Cornet is my name and I'm a puppeteer, too!"
With a name like Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, you can best-believe that music plays a major role. As the story progresses, characters will break into song and dance. It's a clever feature for an otherwise stale and repetitive RPG. This PlayStation title did not do well upon release, nor has it aged well. Even sadder? The Nintendo DS enhanced port suffers from bugs that prevent progress. It's a shame, too. The leading lady of Rhapsody is a curvy and cute girl named Cornet. Alongside her puppet pals, Cornet needs to go on a quest through the Marl Kingdom so she can marry a handsome prince. It's easy to fall in love with Cornet the moment she appears on screen and begins singing.
Musical Interludes: Cornet's lovely voice doesn't get any use in battle. Instead, she'll break into song during the adventure. She'll sing about her life, she'll sing her favorite lullaby, she'll sing about her insecurities, and more. Anyone familiar with the format of musicals will see all of that here in Rhapsody. The only difference is that the characters aren't on a Broadway Stage and are represented by adorable, 2D sprites.
Sound The Trumpet: In battle, there isn't any singing to be heard. Instead, Cornet's weapon of choice is her horn. It's used to not only attack her foes, but to control her puppet friends. Sometimes, her trumpet will be used to earn the trust of the fluffy monsters she encounters. Speaking of fluffy, the most amusing thing Cornet can do is summon yummy treats, such as pancakes the size of minivans, to squash her foes.
As hilarious as it is to see enemies get crushed by breakfast foods, Rhapsody is still a difficult game to recommend. Cornet's quest is filled with repetition and feels longer than its 10 hour play time would suggest. Still, Cornet is a great songstress that helps kick off our list on a cheery note.
"Listen!! The melodious throbbing of life's sacred rhythms!"
As long as I continue to create top ten lists, I will do what I can to talk about Valkyrie Profile. This divine RPG has a Norse mythology setting, stunning presentation, addictive combat and unique dungeons. Players take control of Lenneth, the middle-child of three Valkyrie sisters, as she leads souls of fallen warriors to Asgard. Her time to do so is limited; the end of the world draws near and only the souls from Lenneth can prevent Ragnarok. One of the later characters that becomes one of her Einherjar comes from the island of Hai-Lan. Shiho is a blind songstress who's voice has the ability to give Hai-Lan soldiers otherworldly courage to fight like demons until the end.
To Arms! If you explore Hai-Lan prior to Shiho's vignette, you'll hear some information about her from the townsfolk. Shiho's recruitment scene is the only time you'll see her singing vocal chords get used. Using her voice, she sings a battle hymn for Hai-Lan's troops prior to battle. Eventually, Shiho realizes that her battle hymns are causing her comrades to, essentially, commit suicide. She stops singing and gets abruptly captured by the enemy army. She meets a sympathetic warrior named Suo. Suo's commander compliments Shiho's beauty, and promptly strikes her down. Lenneth recruits another sorceress from Hai-Lan.
Magic. Music. Might: Those that played Valkyrie Profile understand that magic using Einherjar are pretty samey. Shiho is no different, but there are still snippets of her songstress past shown in combat. When she casts a spell, she poses as if she were performing for an audience. Her character art on the status screen shows her belting a ballad. Other than that, she's just another magic user. But, one thing to point out that works in Shiho's favor is that she is the first character to come with the most useful party support spell: Might Reinforce.
For those that continue to play Valkyrie Profile after recruiting Shiho, you can unlock an adorable scene after you send both her and Suo up to Valhalla. Shiho's singing career might have come to an abrupt end, but her romantic life is just getting started.
"He is my music man."
There are many things that I remember about the Arc the Lad Collection. One is the amount of bonus goodies Working Designs packed into it. Another is the massive campaign in Arc the Lad II. A third was one of my favorite characters in Arc the Lad II: Shante. Not to be confused with a certain purple-headed genie, Shante is sultry and sexy songstress that performs in the bars of Aldia. A true working girl, Shante works so she and her brother can eat and keep a roof over their heads. In the early parts of Arc the Lad II the hero, Elc, is trying to help a girl named Lieza escape some shady authorities. They manage to get away thanks to Shante's help.
Lounge Singer: Sadly, Shante is a character that doesn't get enough time on the stage to showcase her voice. When Elc walks into Indigos Bar, Shante's voice is heard before she's seen on the sage. Her soothing yet jazzy pipes captivate the bar patrons while she performs a song called "Music Man." It's a shame that we don't get more scenes like this; Shante was meant to perform.
Stiletto Songstress: You might be surprised to learn that Shante played an integral role in my time with Arc the Lad II. Elc is joined by a huge cast of characters, many of which have better stats than Shante. She comes with a few handy spells like Diamond Dust and Divide, but that's about it. So, what's the appeal? Well, after ordered to attack, there's a chance Shante will perform multiple flying kicks on her opponent. WHILE WEARING THE HIGHEST OF HEELS! That was all I needed to make her a permanent member of my team. As she continued to level up, she became my team's healer. Her singing might be limited to dive bars, but her fierceness is universal.
For those that can't get enough of it, Arc the Lad II has an anime adaptation. I didn't care for it, but it was fun to see Shante make a few appearances and hear more performances of "Music Man."
If you were a Wii owner and an RPG fan, then you knew the pains of having limited RPG selection from the console's library. But, there seemed to be a sliver of hope with the announcement of Arc Rise Fantasia. Developed by the marvelous people behind the Luminous Arc series, Arc Rise Fantasia is remembered for two things. The first is its highly difficult but highly enjoyable combat. The second is the horrendous voice acting. The first character to join the hero, L'Arc, was voiced by one of the most bizarre voice actresses I've ever heard. Thankfully, her singing voice is nothing like her speaking one. Ryfia is our next songstress.
The Imaginal Diva: The first time Ryfia and L'Arc meet, she appears out of nowhere singing a hymn. Ryfia's voice has the power to neutralize poison called felburst. After L'Arc's introductory mission, he comes face to face with a Feldragon that is about to release its toxin. Ryfia's soothing voice prevents it from happening. She'll use her voice throughout the rest of the campaign to prevent other catastrophes. Ryfia's voice is also used to help L'Arc unlock powerful spirits called Rogress. Music doesn't have a major role in Arc Rise Fantasia, but Ryfia's singing does get the party out of dire situations.
Diva Damage: Even more surprising than the difference between her speaking voice and singing voice is the fact that Ryfia is a competent fighter. Her massive rods are used to clobber an enemy's skull, and she's very effective when she casts magic. Her songstress abilities are used in battle thanks to two of her Excel Acts: Radiant Song and Healing Song. Use Radiant Song to deal light damage to an enemy while stunning it. Use Healing Song to recover energy while boosting defense and magic resistance for the entire party.
Arc Rise Fantasia is a difficult game. I saw the game over screen more times than I care to admit, but it never stopped being fun. Ryfia's singing added to that enjoyment.
"A love passed on."
Valkyria Chronicles was my first PlayStation 3 game. While it wasn't the reason why I purchased the console, it was a damn good one to start with. A unique mixture of strategy, RPG, and third-person shooter, Valkyria Chronicles focuses on the heroic deeds of Squad 7 and its leader: Welkin Gunther. One of the first soldiers introduced to Welkin is a tough talking and vivacious shocktrooper named Brigitte Stark. Brigitte was a bartender and a lounge singer before deciding to join the fight for the greater good of Gallia. These days, Brigitte prefers to go by her stage name: Rosie.
Heartstrings: At first, players don't get to hear much of Rosie's chops. She can be seen humming a tune to herself here and there, or she can be seen discussing her joy of music with her squad mates. Rosie doesn't showcase her talent until after the game's most heart wrenching scene. Those that played Valkyria Chronicles know what I'm talking about. Those that haven't played will need to watch said scene for themselves. The result of this scene inspires Rosie to write and perform a song called "A Love Passed On." It's a lovely ballad that further drives the emotional stake into your heart.
Song of Peace: Understandably, Rosie doesn't get to sing while dodging bullets on the war torn battlefield. But, after the tragedy in the above mentioned scene, Rosie unlocks a new potential within her called Song of Peace. If she sees a fellow soldier that is a Darcsen, then Rosie's performance during her action dramatically increases. Other than that, you can find Rosie unleashing her machine gun, chucking grenades, and/or incinerating anything that looks at her sideways with her flamethrower. Rosie has all of the trimmings of any shocktrooper, but the Song of Peace potential belongs to her and her only.
At the end of Valkyria Chronicles, "A Love Passed On" launches Rosie into stardom. From the tragedies of war comes the bittersweet beginning of a singing career.
"Let us create a new legend. Listen to the roar of the sea."
I adore Stella Glow. Another game on the list from the marvelous folks responsible for the Luminous Arc series, Stella(aaaaaa!!) Glow follows the tale of Alto as he tries to gather allies in an effort to prevent the crystallization of the world by the Ice Witch. During the game's prologue, Alto and his best friend Lisette are about to be killed by the Ice Witch and her comrades. But, Alto's best friend quickly learns that she is more than just a simple village girl. In a nick of time, Lisette unlocks new powers and learns that she is the Water Witch. As a witch, she can use her voice to call upon her surroundings and turn the (pardon the word choice) tide of any situation.
Tiny Tunes: Despite Lisette's transformation in the very beginning of this strategy-RPG sensation, she doesn't get to use her singing voice until later chapters. Even then, music isn't as centralized as you'd believe. Songs performed by the witches play an important role, but they're lightly sprinkled into the game. There is a sad shortage of singing when you're not in combat. This is especially true for Lisette.
Atlantic Anthems: Lisette's beautiful pipes shine on the battlefield. She has the option to smack a foe with her staff or summon a jet of water, but utilizing her singing voice will showcase her true power. Stella Glow's combat system allows witches to perform a song for a set amount of their turns. When the witch's turn arrives in the queue, the effects of the song reactivate. Have Lisette perform "To The Sea" and enjoy complete party recovery during her turn. If Alto continues to bond with Lisette, she will be able to perform "Levia" to not only give the party full recovery, but damage all the enemies with a watery whack.
It was hard to pick a witch from Stella Glow to feature in this list. All of the witches - nay - all of the characters in Stella Glow are excellent. But, Lisette is the first witch to join Alto's cause and feels like the most appropriate choice.
"Were you listening? To my singing?"
If there was ever a console that didn't get the love it deserved, it was the Dreamcast. This gorgeous piece of hardware was packed with titles bursting with creativity, as well as faithful ports from the arcades. Of course, it also housed some magnificent RPGs. While it wasn't the first RPG for it, Grandia II is considered one of its best. It stars a snarky mercenary named Ryudo that is tasked with protecting a Songstress of Granas. Ryudo doesn't believe in higher powers like Granas, but a job is a job. So, he begrudgingly accepts the job to protect the next songstress on the list: Elena.
Her Fussiness: As he approaches a church in Carbo Village, Ryudo hears beautiful singing from the inside. This is his first, and fateful, encounter with Elena. Growing up, Elena always enjoyed music, so becoming a Songstress of Granas allows her to do what she loves. Being a talented vocalist doesn't hurt matters, either. While she and Ryudo have nothing in common and have a rough introduction, Ryudo is moved by Elena's voice. As the journey continues, Elena gets to perform her hymns for both entertainment and for saving the world from the clutches of Valmar. Each performance brings her and Ryudo closer together.
Let It Shine: Don't let that Dutch ensemble and pious headdress fool you. Elena is tougher than she looks. She doesn't get to use her singing in battle, but she is able to hold her own. Elena learns some unique skills throughout the journey. Nightmare Ball will put enemies to sleep. Impact Bomb will cause critical damage to an enemy while canceling their movements. My favorite skill of hers is White Apocalypse, which absolves her enemies with the most intense of light. Whether or not she acquired such power from her singing career is up for debate, but really, it doesn't matter. Elena is an unexpected power house.
Elena is my favorite character in Grandia II. Whether she's singing a song or maneuvering her dainty frame to demolish enemies, she proves that you can still kick enemy butt no matter how prim and proper you act.
#3: Tear Grants
"You’re living your own life."
I've gone through Tales of the Abyss more times than any other entry in the Tales of series. It's not even my favorite entry due to its inconsistent pacing and technical issues. But, there's something about its unique setting and cast of characters that really pulls you in. The game takes place on Auldrant, a planet that is composed of seven elemental particles called Fonons. Those that can manipulate Fonons are called Fonists. When the game begins, the amnesiac hero Luke fon Fabre is enjoying a training session with his teacher. Afterwards, Luke begins hearing a soothing yet haunting voice enveloping his manor. The singing comes from a mysterious woman who happens to be a Fonist. Tear Grants is the next songstress on our list.
Fonic Hymns: Tear is a unique songstress. She has the look of a model, the personality of a soldier, and the voice of an angel. As a Fonist, she will sing in order to call upon surrounding Fonons for getting the party out of less than favorable incidents. Even more interesting is that Tear is a descendant of the original Fonist: Yulia. Due to her heritage, Tear can sing the Grand Fonic Hymn. This hymn combines all of the Fonons into a song that has powerful consequences.
Innocent Shine: Tear's singing is just as useful in battle. She'll sing Fonic Hymns in order to provide support to her friends or bring terror to her enemies. By channeling the first Fonon, she uses Nightmare. This hymn puts enemies to sleep while dealing dark damage. By channeling the fourth Fonon, she uses Revitalize. This life saving anthem provides much needed recovery to the party. Sure, Tear has other attacks at her disposal ranging from the classic Pow Hammer to the unique Eclair de Larmes, but Tear's ability to channel Fonons via singing is her most unique attribute.
Another interesting tidbit about Tear's hymns is that they can't be converted. In Tales of the Abyss, most of the characters will alter their Artes by stepping in an elemental fields appropriately called Fields of Fonons. In the case of Tear's hymns, they can't be changed.
"Have you forgotten the gentle wind?"
It would be bad manners to have a list about RPG songstresses and not feature a character from Ar tonelico. This series has enough lore and history to fill a text book; trying to summarize it would be beyond the scope of this list. But, I will say this: one of the most important aspects of the series is the Reyvateil. These female beings use a special ability called Song Magic. By connecting their psyches to a Song Server, Reyvateils convert sound into tangible power. Music plays a vital role in this series. Deciding on just one Reyvateil to feature was difficult, but for this list we'll be looking at the third one to join leading man Croix Bartel from Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. Our runner-up songstress is the fierce and fearless Jacqli.
"Mir"acle: Jacqli (originally known as Mir) actually appears as the main antagonist in the first Ar tonelico. After her defeat, she headed for Metafalss. At first, Jacqli remains somewhat in the shadows and dubiously provides Croix and his friends with information. She won't sing until the party learns they need something called the Heart of Gaea. To gain access to it, she sings "EXEC_SPHILIA/." Later, she sings "EXEC_HARMONIOUS_FUSION/" in an attempt to placate a beast that's readying to pounce on the party. Finally, in a last-minute effort to control a robotic army, Jacqli sings "EXEC_DESPEDIA/."
The Bodyguard: Ar tonelico II's combat is a lovely turn-based design that requires precise button inputs and quick thinking. At the start of combat, you select a song for your Reyvtaeils to sing. As they build song power, you need to use your front line fighters to protect them from harm. Once the Reyvateils have accumulated enough power, they can activate the song. Song Magic can be offensive or defensive. Jacqli's repertoire is no different. Two personal favorites of Jacqli's are "Those Memories" and "My Slaves." Activating "Those Memories" can result in the release of a magic missile or a humongous laser from on-high. Selecting "My Slaves" will result in various avatars of different shapes and sizes performing their own unique attacks.
Those that aren't familiar with Ar tonelico probably looked at this entry like, "...what the hell?" Like I mentioned in the intro, trying summarize this series would make this list exponentially longer. The important thing is that Jacqli uses her Reyvateil (i.e. songstress) abilities to help the party both in and out of battle.
#1: Luna Noa
"Wishing on a dream that seems far off. Hoping it will come today."
The first Lunar has gone through many name changes and many ports. There's Lunar: The Silver Star on the Sega CD. There's Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete on the PlayStation. There's Lunar Legend on the Game Boy Advance. There's Lunar: Silver Star Harmony on the PSP. There's even a version for iOS called Lunar Silver Star Touch. Lunar's console of choice continues to change, but one thing remains true: the game is a classic. Beautiful in its modesty and filled with a memorable narrative, the journey to the Silver Star has personified classic role-playing. At the center of its narrative is a motivated adventurer named Alex Noa. His adoptive sister is a darling songstress that will steal your heart. Not only does Luna Noa have the pipes of a goddess, but her voice plays a pivotal role in the survival of the planet. Luna is the best songstress to ever grace the RPG genre. For the sake of this list, we'll be looking at her in the PlayStation version.
Ladybird Luna: Lunar begins in the village of Burg. Luna has built a reputation as a talented singer in the small village and gets to showcase her singing during a festival paying homage to the goddess Althena. Afterwards, Alex, Luna and a couple of comrades leave Burg so Alex can follow in the footsteps of his hero: Dragonmaster Dyne. As the group makes their way through a forest, Luna uses her voice to clear heavy fog obstructing everyone's vision. When the party leaves the port of Saith en route to Meribia, Luna is seen singing a beautiful tune that will give you all the feels and stay with you for the rest of your life. There comes a point when Luna leaves the party for reasons I won't get into because of spoilers. But, I will say that her singing voice is much more than a pretty display of musicality.
Soothing Songs: Naturally, Luna's voice has just as an important use in battle. When she sings Cascade Song, she ups the defense and offense of a party member. When she sings Tranquil Song, she restores precious energy to the entire team. And, if battles start to become too tedious, she can sing Escape Song to drive the enemy forces away. Luna's voice lets her keep herself and the rest of the party safe and healthy. Lunar has some difficult boss battles. Reliable healing courtesy of our number one songstress is a major benefit.
When I got the idea to write this list, I immediately knew who would be the number one songstress. I'm confident that others will agree that she's the most obvious and fitting choice.
Before concluding, here are a few honorable mentions.
Lauren Gambino - One of the coolest characters in Cosmic Star Heroine is a rock n' roll chick with the best character introduction.
Celes Cher - Due to some crazy circumstances, one of the protagonists in Final Fantasy VI gets a chance to perform an opera during one of the game's most famous moments.
Diva - The Diva class in Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal has the ability to sing two songs at once. I think that's pretty cool.
I had a blast writing this list. On an RPG themed list, it'd be too easy to talk about swords and sorcery. Instead, I decided to let the ladies with golden pipes get their time in the spotlight. Did I miss an entry? Is there an entry that you disagree with? Feel free to leave an anonymous comment pouring with your raging fanboyism below. But, most importantly, thanks for reading!
List by Kashell Triumph (02/19/2019)
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