Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin

Chris is here to jam out on Friday with a review of the first half of the phenomenal Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin 5 disc set.

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I’ve been asked, “What’s your fa­vorite RPG, Chris?” and my an­swer is usu­al­ly Final Fantasy VI. The thing is a knock-out, a 10/10, “grandma’s cook­ing when you’re hun­gover,” the whole ten yards, the anti-thesis to Kotaku’s writ­ers, and for a damn good rea­son; It was made by Square at its pin­na­cle, and with Square comes the almighty Nobuo Uematsu, a self-taught, ab­solute jug­ger­naut of mu­si­cal ge­nius. Orchestral, pro­gres­sive met­al, con­tem­po­rary jazz, tech­no, Celtic and Irish tunes, he’s done it all, sis­ter, and there ain’t no get­tin’ off of this train he’s on!

Here’s a fan­tas­tic lit­tle ques­tion, though; What hap­pens when a bunch of mad men get a hold of his com­po­si­tions and run wild with them? Gals and ghouls, let me have the plea­sure of show­ing you this ti­tan of a soundtrack.

Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin is a five disc set brought to­geth­er by a high­ly suc­cess­ful Kickstarter. It is a mas­sive 74 tracks, made by 74 artists! I’ll give you a mo­ment to re­cov­er from that. This thing is huge, made by the fans, for the fans, and a tes­ta­ment to both the in­ge­nu­ity, cre­ativ­i­ty and dri­ve of the OC ReMix com­mu­ni­ty, and the leg­endary con­tri­bu­tions Uematsu has made to the gam­ing world­wide, and I have to say, I’m real ex­cit­ed to write this mon­stros­i­ty up for your read­ing plea­sure. Now, with­out fur­ther adieu, let’s begin.

Disc 1

Shhhhh, lis­ten. Hear that? That’s the sub­tle, then thun­der­ous roar of our first open­ing track, ap­pro­pri­ate­ly ti­tled “Prologue (Opening Theme),” and — oh my stars and garders — is it ever good. So good in fact, that I would com­pare it’s qual­i­ty and com­po­si­tion to the 25th Anniversary “Legend of Zelda” sound­track. It’s beau­ti­ful, sub­tle in tran­si­tion, and pow­er­ful when it needs to be, which seems to be a com­mon theme on this disc, with ex­am­ples like “Castles in the Sand (Edgar & Sabin),” a very bo­da­cious take on the song — if I do say so my­self (and I do), or the in­fa­mous track “Ascension of a Madman (Kefka),” which sounds like some­thing straight out of a Tim Burton movie. How ap­pro­pri­ate for our Clown Prince of……Crime? No, that’s taken.

Crown Prince of Genocide and Apocalyptic Proportions?”

Yes, that’ll do nice, and speak­ing of nice, do I smell a bit of Zircon’s work? That I do. “A Fistful of Nickels (Shadow)” is eas­i­ly be­com­ing a fa­vorite of mine. It’s got such a Spaghetti Western/pacing or­ches­tral feel to it, it’s hard to not like. Other tracks on this disc in­clude a funky, hip hop beat­down “Stone Drum (Cyan)” ded­i­cat­ed to our fa­vorite swordsman’s theme. I have to say, it re­al­ly grew on me, a re­al­ly good clash of tra­di­tion­al hip hop and ori­en­tal sounds. Thou art clever, my friend. The ex­cel­lent “Now Is the Winter (The Mines of Narshe)” a faith­ful and in­no­v­a­tive piece that high­lights this disc. That’s a hard thing to achieve, these days. Really re­minds me of the jazz-feel of Final Fantasy VII.

Let’s see what kind of trea­sures we can dig up on Disc 2 & 3, eh? Hopefully no div­ing hel­mets this time.

Disc 2 & 3

Both of these discs of­fer up some top-tier stuff, that’s for sure. Hell, the start­ing track “Wild Child Ballad (Gau)” proves that right out of the gate. It has such a calm, whim­si­cal feel to it, the ac­cor­dion odd­ly fit­ting amongst the string sec­tions. You ex­pect it to feel out of place, but it doesn’t. “Bad Octopus (Save Them!, Grand Finale)” is the same. It has such an odd structure/choice of in­stru­ments, yet it works so well. When you’ve played mu­sic for as long as I have, heard crap­py pro­gres­sive band af­ter an­oth­er, over and over, you start to re­al­ize that achiev­ing this is a rar­i­ty and some­thing to be trea­sured. Speaking of nice arrange­ments, “Terra’s Resolve (Terra)”  is an­oth­er great piece. It doesn’t de­tract from the orig­i­nal in a way where it — ex­cuse me — bas­tardizes the com­po­si­tion, yet strikes out on it’s own as some­thing unique. Don’t we all love that? Faithful but fun. “A Simple Flip Can Change Fate (Coin Song)” is also a good ex­am­ple of that, and my god is it beau­ti­ful, the rich acoustic gui­tar tones al­ways im­press me.

What’s re­al­ly im­pres­sive, though? “The Impresario (Opera Sequence).” Imagine — if you will — Queen or a sub­tle Dream Theatre in­stru­men­tal, with the vo­cals of Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo in a fun and su­perbly done opera. This track is eas­i­ly one of my fa­vorites in this set.

Let’s end this with not a bang, but with a brief whis­per. I’d like to say that the most sub­tle re­ac­tions are al­ways the strongest. You’re al­ways forced to pay close, rapt at­ten­tion, so as to not miss a sin­gle thing. “Gestahlian Sonata (The Empire ‘Gestahl’)” is pow­er­ful in it’s lack of vol­ume, of­ten the signs of a good pi­ano piece, and a per­fect ex­am­ple of what I’m talk­ing about. “A Tranquil Rest (Rest in Peace)” and “Elegy for a Ruined World (Dark World),” em­pha­sise this as well. They’re both just such good string pieces, so sooth­ing and beau­ti­ful, they paint a pic­ture with sounds, tell a sto­ry by pulling at your heart strings and en­chant you by ap­peal­ing to your imag­i­na­tion. I think that’s a good sign that you’re writ­ing or remix­ing some fan­tas­tic stuff. Create a sto­ry with sounds, and the lis­ten­er will imag­ine the rest.

And sad­ly, so ends the first part of this be­he­moth of a re­view. Check back next Friday, where we go over Discs 4 & 5 in the same fash­ion. Tah Tah!

Cue the fan­fare, guys!


(You can find Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin for free stream­ing on YouTube or down­load it in its en­tire­ty at OC ReMix.)

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I yell at stu­pid peo­ple on the YouTube. Enjoy my pain, be­cause some­body has to.

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