Saturday, January 29, 2011

Conor - This Post Actually Happened

Nicholas Dietrich I am a man of my word, eventually.

Everyone's seen Inception, right? Even if you haven't, listen to this. This is the ending theme to Christopher Nolan's Inception, and it's a powerful, powerful theme. Without giving away the details to the plot of the movie (the summary would probably get pretty longwinded and hard to follow anyway), the ending is emotional. It's triumphant, but there's a sadness underneath it all. There's ambiguity there, and the pain all of the characters have gone through is evident through this song. Hans Zimmer is incredible and I love this song, but movies are terribly finite things. The song starts, and 3 or 4 minutes later it's gone. It comes, it goes, and that's all we get. It captures the moment perfectly, but the moment is much too short. 

That's the beauty of Nobou Uematsu's work. He is the man who is responsible for probably like 99.9% of the music in the first ten Final Fantasy's. Nobou Uematsu's primary line of work does not involve capturing a scene, although when asked he does that quite skillfully. No. Nobou captures characters, towns, and entire worlds through his songs, and I love him for it.

Take Aerith's theme, for example. Or maybe her name is Aeris. Squaresoft sortof fucked up on that one. Aerith is the light of hope in Final Fantasy VII. She's a tragic character, but she never falls or breaks down to the sadness around her. She's unrelentingly positive, and not in an annoying way. Despite her outlook she can't prevent her death at the hands of Sephiroth, a girly looking badass, but she dies smiling. She's stabbed through the chest with a giant katana and she's like, smiling. This song perfectly communicates all of this. At least to me it does. Aerith's death scene is iconic, but I think it's the events immediately following that really blew me away the second time I played through the game. After Aerith totally dies and stuff the play her theme, and even as you fight this huge mutated beast, her theme continues to play, reminding us of why we're fighting and what we've lost. Ask Brian and Eliot, I didn't shut up about how cool I found that shit. 

Combat in Final Fantasy takes on 2 different forms. 1) Battles that are relevant to the story, i.e., fights with central antagonists, confrontational battles that push the plot forward. 2) Random fights that are irrelevant and extraneous, but necessary, because, well, it's a video game. Random fights comprise the vast, vaaaast majority and there's such variety in these battles that Nobou has to make upbeat, energetic, dramatic music that won't become obnoxious when listened to for the 300th time. He's damn good at it, too. FF VII and X have particularly good ones. But it's in the specific, story related fights that the epicness truly kicks it into high gear. With these specific tunes Nobou gets to personalize his themes. The final boss of FF VII is classic. Basically, the aforementioned pretty boy Sephiroth has turned into a shirtless angel 6 wings making up his lower body and a huge dark halo surrounding him. He has become a god, and his first new law as God is that he's going to destroy everything. A bold move that I think politicians should mimic. The music is apocalyptic and chaotic, the chorus sings "SEPHIROTH" and the world feels like it's falling apart. Awesome. Awesome.

I'm worried that I'm asking too much of you guys, so one last song. Check it out, Ami, from Final Fantasy VIII. This is the theme of the one place the main characters call home in the game. It's the only place they really belong, and as the game goes on they're forced to consider their home in a critical light and question it, but they never truly forsake it. While walking through the place, this is the song that plays, and by the end of the game you've probably heard this music dozens of times, for literally hours, but it never becomes grating. It always feels welcoming, familiar and warm. Whenever I walk back into Balamb Garden it's there. It's infinite.

The length of Final Fantasy games contributes to the music. Games take 40+ hours to beat. If it's one of the better Final Fantasy's, by the end you know the world and characters pretty damn well. Imagine if someone you were really attached to had a theme song. Imagine that your house, or some other place you truly love, had a song that embodied everything you liked about it. That's what Nobou gives to us. That's what he deals in.