Last week during Zelda Tribute Week, I discovered that I have passed a mile stone and have reached 50 articles. So to celebrate, I am taking a look at the music from my favourite Final Fantasy.
My first foray into the series was Final Fantasy IV when it was localized as 2 back in the early 90's. While the original Dragon Warrior introduced me to the RPG genre, it wasn't until Final Fantasy that I got hooked. I enjoyed the adventures of Cecil and party until I visited my cousin Paul and he showed me Final Fantasy III on the SNES. I remember him scaling Kefka's tower and battling the various monstrosities he had unleashed on the world. So he let me borrow the game and needless to say, I fell in love with the series.
Over the years I would go out of my way to try and find copies of the games and even played the wretched PC version of Final Fantasy VII and although I lost interest after IX, I still was fond of the pre PS2 games. The current Square Enix doesn't entice me as they did 10 years ago, but that doesn't mean my opinions of their past games have changed.
Before Final Fantasy IX, I believe Final Fantasy VI had the greatest selection of music in the series. With beautiful and varied dungeons themes, inspirational tracks depicting hope in a torn world and over a dozen character tracks, this game had the most diverse listing of tracks in the series. Obviously I can't talk about all the songs as it would take up far too much time. So instead I will be listing off my top 10 tracks from the game, as well as the various fan remixes from such places like OCRemiX and k-murdock.
Number 10: Where the Wild Things Are ~ k-murdock. Featured on Hero Muzik
Back in April I briefly touched on this song when I was my Mac at PAX East rreport and upon further listening, I really should have put this higher on the list. Gau has always been a favorite of mine as he is one of the saddest characters in the game, having his father abandon him on the Veldt when he was only a few days old. Instead of being angst-ridden about it, he is happy with his life. He shows no ill will towards his father and is willing to protect him, knowing his dad is very sick. He was raised by wolves but has the heart and tenderness of a human.
K-murdock took that element from Gau and made it define him in his song. Gau's theme has always been softer, but what he did was showcase that the wild boy was still human. He was capable of caring for people and becoming connect to those who would treat him with kindness and not as an animal. As I said back in April, Gau is like Mowgli from the Jungle Book. A boy raised in the wild, but wise beyond his years, and Where the Wild Things Are has shows that as good, if not better then the original.
Number 9: The Ending Theme ~ Nobuo Uematsu
At just over 11 minutes, this song maybe one of the longest song Nobuo Uematsu has ever composed for the series. He incorporated every characters song to an extent in this track. It is a celebration. Victory over the self made god. This song is not one of hope, but jubilation.
Each character theme get a moment to shine, from Sabin and Edgar, to Cyan's Theme to even Shadow, which is by far and away one of the most depressing parts in the ending. Just like in any fight, not every hero gets to come home to loved ones.
However my favourite part by far and away would have to be Locke and Celes portion. In the actual scene it is cheesy as well, but you can't help but smile. The music is what sells the scene.
Number 8: Aria de Mezzo Carattere ~ Nobuo Uetmastu.
I know only a couple of weeks ago I featured this as a Crowning Music of Awesome, but this song is great. Having an opera in the middle of a fantasy epic was a stroke of genius and instead of making it a cutscene, they had you the player control Celes being the singer. It was one of the strangest parts in any game, but it works.
Why the song is awesome is not because of the tunes itself, but the fact they attempted actual lyrics itself. Yeah it is heavily digitized, but it is still recognisable to an extent.
This was also a defining moment for both Locke and Celes as well as showcased Locke developing feelings for Celes and for Celes, she discovers that not every battle is fought with a blade, but with logic, wits, and an aria.
Number 7: A Day in the Life of a Gambler ~ JigginJonT. From OCRemiX
When I was younger, Setzer was one of my favourite characters. How many other characters could use Die, Cards and Pub Darts as a weapon. His theme was almost an anthem to hedonism. He was a man who favoured a life of gambling, imbibing in narcotics and bedding women and snubbed his nose to those who would think down on him while he flew in the skies.
So what did JigginJonT do? He turned his song into the morning after. It is far more reserved then the original song and I could almost visualize Setzer standing on a balcony outside his stateroom with his latest conquest asleep, as his ship floated high in the sky, away from judgemental eyes. It is a great way to take an alternate view on the gambler.
Number VI: Ruined Skies ~ Orkybash. From OCRemiX
The world has been torn apart by the awesome might of statues and Kefka, who has become the God of Magic, sits on his throne overlooking the world ruling it with fear. The world is decaying and the skies in perpetual twilight. All seems lost. Where are the heroes to save us?
In the ruins of a tomb are 4 heroes about open up Pandora's Box and reclaim the light.
Ruined Skies is Orkybash's take on Searching for Friends and in my own opinion, it completely trumps the original. While Searching For Friends got you inspired to reclaim the world from Kefka, Ruined Skies paints a far bleaker image of the world. It showcases what not only you have lost but what everyone else. In Mobliz, the decisions on how to survive and take care of village of children fall to a couple of seventeen year old's (one of which is pregnant, and I still can't believe that NOA censors didn't catch that).
The low beat coupled with soft piano work is what sells this song. Not only are you searching for friends, you are taking to the skies in hope you can put an end to Kefka's tyrannical rule.
Number 5: Cyan/Cayenne ~ Hyadain
"A noble warrior of a foreign land. A faithful retainer to his lord and master, he fears not even death..."
Cyan is an awesome character. Unless dealing machines or those who killed his family, he is a quiet and reserved man and his theme is reflective of that. As good as Nobuo did on this song, Hyadain dialled it up to 11.
This version of Cyan's Theme is a wonderful remix and given the haunting lyrics of the song, it reflects Cyan's tormented soul during his year of seclusion after the land was torn asunder. His failure to save his kingdom, and the loss of the family are all weigh down on him. He is a man on the brink of suicide, yet he is brave enough to step back from that precipice and battle his demons, whether they are false gods or ones who haunt his soul.
Number 4: Whistles in the Wind ~ k-murdock. Featured on Hero Muzik.
At number 4 is Whistles in the Wind from Hero Muzik. I had a recent interview with k-murdock and during it. we discussed this song I asked if my original statement of the beat reflecting on Shadow's status within the party was intentional and he had said that he was trying to emulate Uematsu's original and it was after listening to my thoughts he had seen this track the way I have.
I still maintain my earlier statement about this song. It is reflective of his status within the party and in doing so, that gives the song many layers of depth. It is a great track and you should pick up Hero Muzik for more great tracks.
Number III: Kefka's Theme ~ Nobuo Uematsu
A villains theme is supposed to be intimidating. The moment you hear it, you should prepare for the worse. Their theme song is what sets them as the big bad. It is supposed to inspire terror in the characters and the player. Golbez's theme is fantastic. Sephirtoh's theme in genuinely terrifying and let us not forget how cold and menacing Magus' theme is. A villains theme should not be clownish and goofy. If it is, then you have failed at making a good villain.
Then why the hell do I have Kefka's Theme so damn high on the list? It is because Kefka is truly terrifying as a villain. Yeah his track is goofy and clownish, but that is what makes it work.
I have said this before my thoughts on Kefka's theme so I may be repeating myself here.
Kefka's clownish song belies his true tendencies. When you see him prior to Doma, he is nothing more then an insane clown with power. Yet after the poisoning of the kingdom the facade is gone. Beneath that gaudy clown makeup and the various baubles and feathers in his hair lies a frightening madness. He is a nihilist bent on not just taking over the world, but turning it into nothing. He has no care, no worries and scoffs and mocks the heroes for their compassion.
Number 2: Terra in Black ~ Ailsean. From OCRemiX
This was one of the first OCRemiX I have ever listened to. I still remember finding it and through that, finding the entire OCRemiX website. I had found my Shang'ri'la and solidified my love for VG Music.
It may be nostalgia for me, but even after these years it still holds up. Ailsean did a fantastic job. It perfectly showcases Terra's feelings of desolation and identity issues before building up into an epic guitar piece. Terra is alone. She has no one to help her. She is being used by the Gestahlian Empire, but within there is a fire burning. She will be free of these shackles and will bring down a mighty vengeance to those who would enslave her.
However, in the end, these are just a dream deep within her subconscious. She is right now a simple weapon of destruction to strike fear into her enemies, and she doesn't even know it.
Number 1: Dancing Mad ~ Nobuo Uematsu
Did anyone else think that I'd choose anything else to be number one? Dancing Mad, by far and away, topples One Winged Angel in terms of final villain theme. This song is epic. With. Within the song are three tiers, not including Kefka's final part, the next playing as you ascend to battle the mad god.
I rarely use the word epic in my writings as I feel the word has been watered down as people think anything can be epic. I try to reserve my usage of the word so when songs like this come around, I can use it, and this song deserves the title of epic. It draws you in and makes you feel as if you are fighting alongside the heroes.
Unlike One Winged Angel, which feels like a church choir from Renaissance Rome (while not bad), does not capture that feeling of epicness like Dancing Mad did. Kefka reached Godhood and tore apart the planet just for kicks. This is a proper villain song.
Since Final Fantasy VI debuted back in 1994, many different artists have tried to capture that magic. People have made fan stories, fan art, tribute songs, remixes and at one point there was a fan game set during the War of the Magi. There are dozens of great songs from this album on the Internet and I barely scratched the surface. There are many great songs waiting out there.
This is Daimo Mac and I am lost in the music.