I know I'm late to the party but I've recently been playing Final Fantasy 13 a lot. Yes, it's linear and no, I don't care. I'm loving every second of it. There's one thing I do care about though. Where's the freaking music? What are all these laid jazzy tunes doing in an epic game like this? Heck, even when I'm fighting a horrifying monster it still sounds like I'm waiting for someone to serve me a whiskey on the rocks. For a game series that has orchestras traveling the world playing nothing but its soundtrack, this is a MAJOR letdown. That's why today, River City Retro is taking some time to remember what Final Fantasy used
to sound like.
The real beauty about music is that there are so many ways to interpret it. What I offer you here in this blog are my own personal interpretations of some of my favourite Final Fantasy music of all time. Also on a side note, I already wrote a whole feature
about Final Fantasy 6 quite some time ago so today, we're going to be looking somewhere else. That's right, no opera scene. If that's what you were looking for then please stop reading and go watch this video over here.
Final Fantasy 9: Vamo Alla Flamenco
Final Fantasy 7 was the first one to ever get released in Europe so at this point, I had never even seen parts 1 to 6. Basically what I expected from an FF game was a cool but quiet and anti-social main character. But then number 9 came. No more spiky hair and hearts made of ice. This time we are a witty thief. Street smart and having a way with the ladies. You are hit in the face with this as the opening scene immediately features you and your band performing a play for none other than the queen herself.
The curtain raises and the music starts. First a few subtle chords of flamenco guitars. Hands begin to rhythmically clap and you perform the play's iconic fight scene. Like a beautiful dance you follow your partner's lead. Left! Right! Swing low! Jump! Backflip! Loud cheers tear through the hall each time your makeshift blades clash with a loud bang. You leave the stage and the crowd chants for an encore. I'm still awestruck every time I start this masterpiece of a game and play through this scene. Thank you so much for making this, Square! :)
Final Fantasy 9: Court Jesters
Let's stay with Final Fantasy 9 for a while. Who remembers the court jesters Zorn and Thorn? I believe these characters have the potential to be very annoying in a new Final Fantasy. They would probably be given a really stupid voice and the acting would make their jokes fall flat on their face. Yet they aren't annoying. In fact I'm delighted every time I see these two clowns take the stage. Why is that?
First of all, FF9 is plain text and this is actually a plus. I get to imagine their voices and their possible quirks myself, much like I'd be reading a comic book. For this type of characters I just think that works much better. Then there's the beautiful music that accompanies them. It's perfect.
It sounds kind of silly and clumsy but has a feeling of urgency to it. Exactly what Zorn and Thorn are like. They're two relatively clumsy clowns but they're not just there to entertain the nobles. No, they're on a mission and they're a force to be reckoned with.
Final Fantasy 9: Boss Battle
One more from number 9. This is actually my main qualm with Final Fantasy 13 as I said before. I don't want to hear cozy jazz while fighting a boss. A boss fight is an overwhelming battle against all odds. I'm not sitting in my sofa swatting a little fly. This monster is out to kill me! I'm going to freaking die! The music accompanying these battles needs to make me piss my pants! Hamauzu-san would do good to go back and listen to how Uematsu-san used to make them sound.
Final Fantasy 10: Boss Battle
Just another quick entry to add to this point. Final Fantasy 10 was plagued by horrible English voice acting. So much that it completely killed the game for me. I have recently been replaying the original Japanese version though. Tidus is still annoying but other than that, the game is literally music to my ears.
Again the boss theme fits the world so well. Spira as FF10's world is called, feels a lot like a summer resort. It's a generally hot place and cities are built on beaches. The national sport is a version of rugby taking place inside a giant water sphere and it's the only game in the series to have underwater battles. Upon hearing this song I really see my characters fighting horrible sea monsters on a wet ship's deck and most of all... It totally makes me piss my pants!
Final Fantasy 7: Mako Reactor
One Winged Angel. Don't lie. This is what you were thinking the moment you saw Final Fantasy 7. You're still expecting to see it later down this post aren't you? Well, I forgive you. OWA is one badass song no matter how many times it gets mentioned. This time however we're looking at one of many overlooked themes from FF7. Heck, this isn't even on the Reunion Tracks that I bought in Akihabara 2 years ago. For shame!
I'm talking about the mako reactors. Remember those? Giant plants that literally suck out the planet's blood to produce power. Heavy doors open as you walk through the first sections of the reactor. You see grand halls with the shiny mass of mako flowing steadily below. The song goes slow and starts out very mechanically. Then adds those stroking sounds with an echo to them, encompassing the stream below being so overwhelming larger than yourself. It's the very blood of the planet. Again the music starts sounding like heavy machines. The stream is being sucked up. Processed. The planet is dying, Cloud!
Final Fantasy 8: Shuffle Or Boogie
An essential part of Final Fantasy or any RPG for that matter is to offer the play a chance to lay back and enjoy himself some time. After all we're not just trying to blast through waves and waves of enemies. We're trying to present a believable world for the player to take part in. Final Fantasy 8 pulled this off beautifully by the addition of a simple card game. Although perhaps I shouldn't be saying simple. This game, called Triple Triad went very deep and had numerous different rule sets that were different for every cultural region in the game. Several players actually liked the game so much that there's a whole website dedicated to playing multiplayer Triple Triad over the internet. Check them out some time. http://www.ttadvance.ca/
Triple Triad added a new dimension to NPCs. You could talk to them normally and hear them repeat the same lines over and over, or you could challenge them to a game. If they accept suddenly the background music stops and shifts into a catchy baseline. The world literally disappears and all that's left are two people and their cards. Hands clap as the players dish out their decks and the game begins accompanied by a catchy laid back tune.
FF9 also had a card game btw. I might have cared about that one if it had music half as good as this one.
Final Fantasy 4: The Dreadful Fight
Since this whole feature was inspired by the need for proper boss music, this is exactly the way I'm going to end it. This piece of work from Final Fantasy 4 is as far as I am concerned the pinnacle of all boss themes in the series.
My name is Cecil. I am a knight of Baron. My country has started a war and my king as ordered me to cold bloodedly slay even unresisting citizens. These orders I have obeyed. By my hand cities have burned and children have lost their mothers. I have done much wrong. I do not expect the souls of those fallen by my hand to forgive me. My only chance for redemption is to turn on this land that I love. I will find out the truth behind my king's actions and the one responsible will die by my sword.
This has been Metallion and thank you for reading River City Retro.
Previous entries in the series