Eternal Shrine Maiden: This is the first thing you hear when you start playing HRtP and it’s really rather good. The instruments in HRtP aren’t the best but even so this is still a defining theme. The first in Touhou, in fact, and a good one at that. A lot of people wonder what the main theme of the series might be, and this is a good candidate in my opinion.
Now, Until The Moment You Die: This was the second best theme in the original soundtrack, even if it wasn’t the easiest song on the ears. But it’s the MS remake that does this one justice, as it just sounds plain awesome in all cases. It’s one of the first three final boss themes and set the benchmark very nicely.
Hakurei ~ Eastern Wind: This is the first song you hear playing Touhou as we know it, and boy is it a cracker. It’s a very strong start, and as epic as Stage 1 themes would get for a long time. ZUN went for drama right from the off for SoEW and this set the tone very well. And that’s just the start of SoEW’s good stuff.
End of Daylight: Pretty much the game’s best song, one of the best of the era today. Even today most Touhou songs don’t come quite as atmospheric as this one does. The intro is really quite something, and the eventual drop that comes is just plain awesome. And this is a Stage 2 theme!
Power of Darkness: Even among all the pretty good boss themes in SoEW this is a standout, again because of that buildup and the action-packedness of the drop and the rest of the song. This is also another demonstration of just how abstract, yet satisfying, the instrumentation is in SoEW.
Love-Coloured Magic: Mostly here due to its historical significance. This was the theme that brought about a classic song for Touhou, but the very first version of Marisa’s theme is often forgotten next to her IN piece. Either way, this is still a strong song.
Complete Darkness: Not the very best final boss song, but it just so happens to be the origin of a lot of common themes with songs at this stage of the games even today. Also, the main ‘chorus’ of the song if you like is a very good one and the instrumentation here is strong once again.
Selection: PoDD is a game with a ton of really very good music, and you can tell this before a bullet has even been fired because the character select screen, of all things, has this music. I mean, how can such an awesome song still be so good on something so mundane? It’s a good preview to most of the game’s other songs, in all honesty.
Mystic Oriental Love Consultation: This is Reimu’s first proper theme, and a song that captures the essence of what makes a lot of PoDD’s songs so great. Action-packed non-stop, this is an absolute rave of a song, and a tune that fits PoDD’s action so well. This is properly good stuff.
Reincarnation: A theme entirely befitting of Mima, this is a long rollercoaster of a song. With three distinct parts repeated twice each, in different notes, every little stage of this song is just so good. This is another theme that just feels so right with all that goes on in PoDD.
Vanishing Dream ~ Lost Dream: I think this is one of the finest songs in all PC-98, my personal favourite from PoDD. It builds up all so, so perfectly and it just sounds so right in every way. The melancholy tones of the song are just utterly bewitching, yet the beat of the song still fits PoDD’s style to a T.
Magic Battle ~ Fight It Out!: Now this is just plain cool in every way. It perfectly captures what Round 7 is all about in PoDD. It’s a tune that screams fighting in so many ways and sounds really rather good while doing it. Absolutely epic.
Maple Dream…: A rare inclusion here of an ending theme, partly because this one is actually rather good and partly because it’s of genuine historic relevance. If you thought IN’s ending theme was the first version of itself, think again…
You Win…: Yes, I’m literally including the victory theme in this. Because it really is genuinely stupidly good for what it is. I imagine it playing in real life whenever I succeed in getting away with something. Anything. Have you heard a victory theme as suspicious as this? And as good?
Selene’s Light: LLS provided the only instance of a stage’s music differing by the character, and Stage 1’s theme battle is clearly won by Marisa and Selene’s Light. It’s a wonderful starting theme to a game like LLS and it speaks more as an intro to Marisa’s continued brilliance than the stage itself.
Bad Apple!!: The theme everybody knows about. But hey, the music for that AMV had to come from somewhere, and the original is pretty damn good too. It’s actually remarkably fast paced, and the instrumentation in this one is rather excellent too. Always a great theme to hear when playing through LLS.
Alice Maestra: Fun fact – when I first heard this song it was on a lower audio setting, which made those instruments in the first main part of the song sound like 8-bit ones. Even with that, this sounded good, and at full flow this is a top-quality song. It’s fitting for the occasion and is long enough to go with the stage it’s paired with.
Vessel of Stars ~ Casket of Star: If you play as Marisa you get Selene’s Light, but if you play as Reimu you get this…a theme that might not be as close to Marisa as Love-Coloured Magic, but which sounds a hell of a lot more dramatic. This is, simply put, a properly well-done song.
Cute Devil ~ Innocence: It’s the intro that sells this one most of all. That’s the first impression you get of Gengetsu and just what she can do to you. The rest of the song is mostly standard affair, but it’s in the upper tier of PC-98 standards, so this stands as the first great Extra theme.
Dimension of Reverie: Now this is an absolute cracker of a song. MS starts off very well in the music stakes but this really comes at you with action and a fast tempo. And this is only in stage 2! Hardly any stage 2 songs since have come at you with this much epicness as this one does.
Maple Wise: Even though this song slows it down compared to what’s come before it, by itself it’s still a magnificent piece. It builds up very well to the epic main section of the song, which is a really fun bit of music to listen to no matter what. And such is the way with this stage you actually get to hear it twice!
Forbidden Magic: This theme seems to mix in a lot of elements from other previous PC-98 songs and mixes them together into something really rather good. Both halves of this song are pretty great in their own right and this combined theme beats both Yuki and Mai’s solo theme in my view.
The Last Judgement: Another good theme in many different places. The opening of the song is a very strong start, and when the rhythm picks up the song gets even better and adds a real element of action to the entire stage. In many ways this defines the stage, and goes very well with it.
Doll of Misery: Easily my favourite song from the PC-98 era. Do you hear those opening chords, man?! So completely spooky and awesome. And the rest of the song is one awesome battle theme for Yumeko. And then when the chords kick in you know the whole thing is coming at you again and it’s just so incredible to listen to. Never mind PC-98 – this is one of the best songs in all Touhou. And it’s 19 years old…
Hakurei Shrine Grounds: The eventual Stage 1 theme in SoEW was pretty great, but if this had been kept in as intended this too would have been well and truly fitting of the opening stage of Touhou as we know it. This is closer to the rest of SoEW, in that it has a great buildup to a big explosion into the main part of the song. When it comes, it feels special.