Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lost in the Music: Final Fantasy IX

     Final Fantasy. These days, you mention the series and more often then not, people will either spit upon hearing the name, or mock and deride it, just for being Final Fantasy. While I cannot necessarily disagree with them, as I only pay attention to the games that predate the Ps2, I will defend Final Fantasy IX to my dying breath, as it is, in my opinion, the greatest of the series on the original Playstation. Which is difficult to do because of the endless Final Fantasy 7 and 8 fanboys who bash on the game for its simplified look and cliche ridden story. However, I am not here to attack the games or do any fan-baiting, I am here to discuss the games soundtrack.

     Unlike previous lists, I am unable to prioritize the music and cut it down to five. The songs on this album are incredible. It makes the world feel alive and vibrant. Unlike the sterile feeling that of the previous game. So instead, I will be doing a introspective on certain songs. So let's travel the Mist Continent and get lost in the music of Final Fantasy IX.

Classics Made Current:

     Let's start off the article with some classical music and I don't mean the works by Beethoven, Mozart or Led Zepplin. I am refer to some of the classics from past Final Fantasies. Now it is well known that there is a main theme to the game. It is commonly called Prologue and has been featured on nearly every game. It is an iconic piece that even the most distant fan can't help but wax nostalgia when hearing it. However, Final Fantasy didn't just use Prologue/Main Theme. It also grabbed a few themes from past games.

     The first theme you hear that was borrowed from the past is Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony from Final Fantasy VII. When I first played this game back in 2000 and I came across this scene, I was flabbergasted. For the longest time I wondered why, of all tracks available, did they choose that one. However, looking back, considering who was performing the song it makes sense. It is a goofy song and fitting for a theatre troupe to play it.

     Final Fantasy VII wasn't the only game the developers grabbed music from. They also grabbed Gulug Volcano, now renamed to GurugVolcano remixing it using modern instruments. It is a solid theme and gives it a rather interesting motif. Like it's NES counterpart, it feels like I am exploring ancient ruins underneath a mountain. There is a sense of danger to it as well as intrigue. All version's of the song are solid and enjoyable.

     Finally we come to the last song on the classics list which is Doga and Unne which is more of an Easter Egg then anything. You have to purchase a couple of key items from Treno in order to hear the song. The song, like Gurgu Volcano, has been re-worked. Like the original, the song is more meloncholy. Where the original plays when Unne dies, the remake plays when one of the background characters discusses some rather adult themes such as mortality and what happens after death. It is a very deep scene accented by beautiful music.

     I would go into detail about the Mogri/Mognet theme but that part is more of a one off theme and nothing too major. It is a cutesy theme meant to evoke feelings of fun and whimsy, the same emotions you felt when you first played Final Fantasy when you were just a child.

Jesters of the Moon:

     I have a confession to make. I am 26 years old and am afraid of clowns. I have been afraid of clowns for years, ever since my cousin read to me a chapter of It when I was only six years old. Since then Clowns have always creep me out. So why is it that I like villainous clowns so much? I have no explanation for that.

     So why am I talking about villainous clowns in an article about video game music? Well, when one is discussing the insane jester twins of Zorn and Thorn.

     One cannot really call these two a major antagonists in the game. They are always playing the main henchman to the villain; first Queen Brahne then Kuja. They exist as a means to the end to assist their boss in their nefarious schemes. On top of it all, they take some perverse pleasure in doing their job, be it letting loose a weapon of magical destruction to kill the heroes to forcibly removing eidolons from the female summoners, which can be symbolic of so many wrong things which I will not get into because this is a family blog.

     These two seem to take lessons from Kefka in their overall design. Beneath the rather clownish and eccentric behaviour lies a twisted monster. And their theme song perfectly exemplify this. Beneath the goofy piano work lies a more sinister drum beat that picks up the pace longer into the song. Much like the twins themselves. The longer you know them, the more sick and depraved they become.

Protecting MyDevotion and Rose of May

     One of the more important themes in Final Fantasy IX aside from home and family is love and honour and these two songs are the perfect examples of said theme. The latter song, the Rose of May signifies Beatrix hesitation to follow the queens orders. She is a knight sworn to the duty of her homeland. She places her kingdom and her queen's orders above all. But behind that is a woman who finds it wrong to attack the defenceless.

     There is an OCRemiX artist who goes by the name Erutan (aka katethegreat19) who I was introduced to a while back through Paw Dugan's Top 9 Music Moments in Gaming (New School Edition). She is an excellent vocalist who has penned lyrics to various songs including Final Fantasy IX. Amongst them is Rose of May. In the song, she portrays Beatrix as not just a soldier, but as a human being.

     "In the lyrics. I used the term Rose of May as a metaphor for innocence. Even the great General Beatrix was once an innocent child who'd never seen the horrors of war. I really tried to put her character into the lyrics; her blind loyalty and sense of duty, her guilt over the many deaths she caused in the name of fealty, and her eventual love for Steiner" ~ Kate Covington

     Even without the lyrics, the song conveys the emotions of a woman torn between duty and honour. Before the scene, she is presented as a cold and unfeeling warrior. A trained attack dog who goes to where her master orders. But after the destruction of Cleyra, who by the way had no defences to fight against the Alexandria forces, she herself starts to question what is more important, Duty or honour.

     Protecting my Devotion picks up where Rose of May left off. Instead of being a sombre tune, it is more uplifting, fitting for a battle couple such as Steiner and Beatrix. Infact, Protecting my Devotion is a remix of Rose of May, making it more upbeat, more positive. Beatrix learned to fight for her country, even if she had to rebel against the current regime. Alexandria may have lost it's honour, there was no need for her to lose it. In fighting against the system, she picked up two unlikely allies, one who would later become her partner both in defending the nation she loves and in the man she loves.

     Protecting my Devotion is not strictly Beatrix's theme however. It is also the theme of one Adelbert Steiner. The previous theme's of said knight feature him a bit more of a bumbling oaf. The song is not very flattering for a proud knight of Alexandria. However, much like Beatrix, he himself begins to doubt the queen. He may not be as great as Beatrix, but he is still loyal. He even deludes himself, believing it to be a trick to deceive him. He was loyal to the kingdom and above all else, the princess and when the latter was endangered by the former, he realized that Alexandria was not the same country. Behind the title there are two meanings. To the knights, they are devoted to the country and are willing to go to great lengths to protect it.

Melodies of Life/ Crossing Those HillsYou're Not Alone

     At it's heart, Final Fantasy IX is a love story. A love of family and of course, the love between two people. I've already touched on the beta couple of the game, so it is time to discuss the main couple. Zidane and Garnet are by far, the best couple in this series. Their characters play off each other perfectly. Zidane, is a cross between the chivalrous pervert and charming rogue and Garnet is the rebellious, badass princess.

     The theme of the world map, also called Crossing those hills, is a remix of Melodies of life. Instead of a deep metaphorical song about love and memories from a past life, this song is more joyful. It feels like something out of an old Disney animated film. A sense of whimsey and joy. Infact, the moment you first hear the song, you have the typical RPG line up; the courageous, if stubborn fighter, the spunky thief, slightly introverted and naive black mage and the princess who tries really hard at being rebellious. When Square made the game a throwback to it's roots, it went beyond the original Final Fantasy. It went all the way back to the first Dungeon and Dragon's campaign.

     Melodies of Life is a love song, sung by Garnet. At first, the song's origins is mysterious. The only clues pertain to Garnet's childhood but nothing else. Slowly, that song grew from one of comfort to one of love specifically for Zidane. Whenever she sang that song, Zidane would always be around to catch her, be it metaphorically or realistically. The song gains importance for Zidane as well as he calls it our song. He had used that song to focus on getting back to Garnet. That was the impact Melodies of Life..

      You're Not Alone is the antithesis of a love song. By this point in the game, Zidane has found his home, only to be told that everything he has ever valued was a lie. His “father” turns on him and declares him unfit to be of use and throws him into the trash, damaging his will to live. When his friends come to save him, he rejects their help and more depressingly, he rejects their friendship. Throughout all of this, his fellow adventurers, even the two who at one time would sooner run him through with a blade, stand beside him. They consider him a valued friend, reinforcing the lessons that he had been an example of.

     Erutan's cover of You're Not Alone exemplify's this perfectly. The Lyrics are sung from Garnet's perspective, expressing how that right now Zidane feels alone, but his friends and loved ones would never stray from his side. It is hauntingly beautiful soundtrack and I will go into greater detail in my next article.

      Fun fact. According to the Final Fantasy Wiki, Melodies of Life is Nobuo Uematsu's favourite track on the album.

The Place I'll Return to Someday/ Oelivert/ A Transient Past/ Ipsen's Castle/ The Four Medallions/ Terra

     Finally we get to the main song of Final Fantasy IX. It is the first song you hear in the game and has inspired countless tracks within the game itself. It's a song that is a symbol of the central theme of the game itself. I said earlier that Memories of Life is both Zidane's and Garnet's theme and while that is true, The Place I'll Return to Someday is Zidane's theme. During one scene in the Black Mage Village, Zidane acknowledges that he belongs somewhere else. While this song does not play during the scene, it does symbolize that there is a home which Zidane wants to return to someday. It gets ironic considering later in that disk, he does find his home, only for it not to be what he expected.

     All the songs here share the same motif. They share the same notes but have different inflections in the songs. While The Place I'll Return to Someday is a more somber, more hopeful tune, the Four Medallions has a more adventurous theme to it. It is a tune that signifies that Zidane returning to his home, even if he doesn't know it.

      Of all the songs of this small list, Terra is the only one that is truly different. While these songs are more upbeat, Terra is down right sterile and depressing, perfectly reflecting the soulless society of the Genomes on Terra.

     Terra is also unique in a sense that both it and Ipsen's Heritage share some elements. Both songs depict the original song as something more alien. Given the designs of Ipsen's Castle, it does foreshadow that this place is otherworldly. Given that it is using a variation of the original theme and it can be argued that it is Zidane's theme, it heavily foreshadows his origins as well.


     Final Fantasy IX was released in 2000 and twelve years later, the soundtrack still holds up as a pinnacle of excellence. When you compare it to the other PSX Final Fantasies, it stands above the competition. The soundtrack at one part is incredibly upbeat and happy then the next part it is melancholy. It works on so many levels. Comparing it to the other numbered Final Fantasies on the Playstation, it stands above Final Fantasy VIII's mediocre and bland music and Final Fantasy VII's good but dated soundtrack. It is a real gem and worth every penny. If you want purchase the soundtrack, you can purchase it at Ebay, Play Asia or Amazon. If you are interested in the cover's by katethegreat19, you can find her Youtube account here.

      This has been Daimo Mac, and I am lost in the music.

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