Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin
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.
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!