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River City Retro: What Final Fantasy used to sound like


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.

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.

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About Metallionone of us since 4:11 AM on 10.14.2009

River City Retro

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Who am I you ask? Well I guess my story starts some time around the early eighties. As my apartment had strangely gotten a lot smaller over the last months, I thought it would be a good idea to redecorate it. I was leaning back in my sofa, going through the new Ikea catalog when I was suddenly hit by a massive earthquake. As much as I tried to hold my ground, I was propelled head first into that strange tunnel at my front door. I had been wondering where that leads but never had the courage to check it out.

After a long and bumpy ride, I finally stuck my head out the other end and saw daylight. Before I had a chance to adjust to my new environment, a big man wearing some kind of a lab coat and face mask grabbed hold of me. He was a despicable man really. Not only did he cut my food supply line, he also held me upside down in the air and slapped me right on the butt! What did I ever do to him?! Just when I was about to stick it to him, my attention was averted to this tired looking lady lying on a bed nearby.

It was very strange. Do you know that feeling when you meet somebody for the first time, yet you feel like you have known each other all along? I had this feeling when I saw her. That's when it occurred to me. This woman must be my landlady and I had been neglecting my rent for a few months after all. I could understand that she was upset but still... She had no right to turn me over to that sadistic bull in his white coat! I thought that me and her were going to have a long and personal conversation but right now, I just wanted to take a shower. That tunnel I had just been through wasn't all that clean after all.

Fortunately this other lady dressed in white was a lot nicer than her butt-slapping friend. She most kindly helped me clean myself and then handed me some warm, although not very fashionable garments. She carried me over to my landlady and I prepared to negotiate the rent but instead, my landlady threw me a warm smile and pressed me against her breast so lovingly that I melted like snow to the sun. She and her equally loving husband took me to their home where they had a room prepared with a bed in exactly my size and all kinds of lovely little things to play with. It's like they had been planning to take me in all along.

I didn't quite understand the strange language both of them spoke but yet I figured out that her name was Mom and crying meant "Food please", "Hug me" and "Clean me" all at the same time. The temperature wasn't as constant as my previous home but still, this was some service! Anyway, I would wander around this place for the time being while gradually learning to speak their language. It would take seven years before I really found out what my purpose here was.

One fine morning, Mom brought me to a supermarket and I saw a little mustached guy jumping around on a TV. That was my first encounter with the Nintendo Entertainment System! This thing blew my mind in so many ways! I had heard of princesses being kidnapped by dragons before but where's the prince to save her? No, there is no prince! This time it's a fat Italian plumber with a mustache who gets to be the hero! Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Power to the common man! Not only that but rather than simply hear his tale, I could actually help him in his quest. Though Mom seemed quite unimpressed, I knew I had witnessed a miracle and it would leave a mark on my life for years to come.

I'd often get into fights with Mom after that. She wanted me to go outside and play with my friends but what did she know? After all, all of my friends were living in similar warm nests, receiving the same service from two other persons who were somehow all named Mom and Dad. No, my purpose in life was bigger than that. As much fun as playing with my friends was, If I did that then who would save princess Peach, liberate the kingdom of Hyrule and smite the evil king Dedede? I just couldn't ignore the sorrow of the weak!

It wasn't until another seven years or so that I would see what a fool I had been. Up until now, I had been carrying the weight of the world on my own shoulders while completely ignoring the help others could have offered. I was determined to never close my eyes to the value of friendship again! Especially in these dark times. I was barely finished helping Dr. Freeman escape the resonance cascade alive when bands of terrorists attacked and dragged his scientist colleagues off to cs_assault. This was too much for just me to handle. This time I needed help!

Anyone who doesn't believe in the kindness of strangers is a moron. I mean sure, strangers aren't always nice. I've been told that I SuX0rz and have been called a n00b a million times but even then, it's worth it. As it so happens, it were these very strangers that padded me on the back and reassuringly shouted "Lock and Load!" before we stormed the big garage and got every single scientist out while making a fair buck in the process. Unfortunately our happiness was short lived as a new batch of terrorists arrived and we were right back where we started. Rather than sigh over the shortness of our victory, we bought ourselves a new pack of heavy guns and rushed in once more. No matter how many times the terrorists came back, we'd bring them to justice!

Time went on and the terrorists got more and more violent. Now they didn't only take hostages any more but also planted bombs and tried to assassinate seemingly random VIPs. Our combined efforts were no longer enough. We needed more coordination. We needed a plan! We had to Look at the map and devise a clever strategy. As much as I tried this, people were joining and leaving our counter-terrorist squad with every tick of the clock. Some of them even switched sides to join the terrorists. I engaged in conversation with several of the better fighters. We decided to join together regularly and learn how to fight as one. You could even go as far as to call us a counter-strike clan! For years we battled the forces of evil and shed much blood until I finally left the front as I heard of another land in need.

So many years ago I had liberated the town of Tristram from Diablo, the lord of terror. The hero I helped out at the time had drilled the dark lord's soul stone right into his own forehead. What an idiot! Needless to say, Diablo soon overpowered this weak excuse for a savior and continued to live on, inhabiting the former hero's body. "Man", I thought. "I've gone through all of this before, I'm not doing it again or at least... Not alone!" Fortunately my plea for help didn't leave me waiting as several friends showed up and we entered a new clan to smite that demon once and for all! After taking care of business in the chaos sanctuary, laying waste to Baal, the lord of destruction and even single handedly obliterating several acres of murderous cows, it was time to put my swords and bows to rest once more.

Since that time, my clan based activity has settled down and I remain to fight on the side of good with smaller bands of friends while every now and then fondly remembering those good old days. Most of all, I tend to leave the real action up to others as I watch from the sidelines. Especially a Korean man named Jaedong shows particular excellence in leading the Zerg to victory against the evil Protoss at general Bisu's command and admiral Flash' corrupted Terran whom I wish all to be infested for greater good.

I thank you for taking the time to read about my life. Perhaps our paths may once cross in the endless online battlefields and until then, luck be with you.