Number 12: Final Fantasy VI
There are impressive soundtracks out there, and then there are impressive soundtracks. What's the difference? The former can be anyone who manages to create an exceptional piece of music. The latter is someone like Nobuo Uematsu, who's ever impressive works throughout over twenty years of compositional work are finally beginning to receive the interest and recognition they deserve, complete with orchestral concerts around the globe performing his works. Such as the Distant Worlds series of concerts, which this November is taking place in the Royal Albert Hall in London, and is performed by none other then the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Including amongst the impressive array of songs composed by Uematsu that they will be performing are several songs from Final Fantasy VI, undoubtedly the pinnacle of the series for many fans.
Final Fantasy VI is without a doubt a soundtrack that will forever live on in gaming history. Much like young film students sit down in a lecture hall to watch clips of Chaplin and Buster Keaton, it's hard to envision a young game composer in the future who won't be familiar with Uematsu's work, much less a college course of video games that won't require these young students to listen to his compositions. Uematsu's work on Final Fantasy VI is ground breaking.
Even at it's most simple, Final Fantasy VI is surprisingly complex. Massive use of leitmotifs, dozens of character themes and melodies. All intermingle in one of the most stunning game compositions of all time, an impressive feat considering that it was all done using a 16-bit sound chip. It only helps the magnitude of the composition reach home when you realize that despite it's humble 16-bit origins, Final Fantasy VI's soundtrack has been performed by many high class symphony and concert orchestra's around the world.
It's easy to hear what they see in it. The music of Final Fantasy VI is as grand as it is humble, capturing the emotions and events of dozens of characters as they journey on an adventure stretching dozens of hours. An adventure that dealt with complex characters and situations, everything from questions of purpose and loss or abandonment, to sacrifice and love, to the ramblings of a mad god. Final Fantasy VI contains more themes, characters, and events than any movie to come out of Hollywood. When you consider the amount of work that goes into those soundtracks, you can get a glimpse of the amount of ground Final Fantasy VI's soundtrack had to cover.
But cover it Uematsu did. From the somber melody of the games beginning to the wind-swept dirge of a fallen world, the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VI covers it all. Final Fantasy VI was the series at it's height, so much so that many of the themes and melodies that Uematsu composed for VI continue to be used as staples of the Final Fantasy series to this day. Even the finale of the games ending theme became a staple for all the Final Fantasy games following it, each ending with the same fanfare.
There isn't a single moment when Final Fantasy VI falls a bit flat. Every piece it has is vital in some way, every song in it aspires to be and then reaches its own peak. Almost no other place could you have a soundtrack with such a vast array of styles, motifs and genres all come together and work, yet VI performs admirably.
And the final boss theme. Wow....just...wow. Totaling in at 18 minutes long (the longest boss tune ever composed for the series) with four distinct movements, each representative of a different era and style of musical history, and has even been compared to Bach's "Preludes and Fugues" as well as Handel's "Messiah" due to its use of similar religious musical themes and movements. That's right, Uematsu has been, for his work on Final Fantasy VI, been compared to Bach. Which is only fair, after all, Bach does appear in this years top 25 list.
With all that said, it may be surprising to some that Final Fantasy VI isn't sitting happy on top of this list, and to that well, I have to say that just because it's an incredible soundtrack doesn't mean it's perfect, and it definitely does not mean that everyone will enjoy it, just that many well. And just because some of it's compositions are held up there with some of the greatest composers of all time doesn't mean that they all do, but then even those composers had songs that almost no one remembers today. If yesterday's winner was tasty cotton candy, today's is a full fledged pork roast feast, a different feel entirely. Final Fantasy VI scores impressively high all around, and even snatches up both bonus points (which in the case of this soundtrack, should really be worth two instead of one).
Final Fantasy VI
Stand Alone Quality: 4
Emotional Reaction: 4.25
Game Representation: 4.25
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Final Fantasy VI is easily one of the most famous and well regarded soundtracks of all time. Whether you're exploring the world of gaming music for the first time or looking for new pieces to listen to, Final Fantasy Vi's position in 12th on this list should be more then enough of a reason to look it up and hear it immediately.
Number 12--Final Fantasy VI by Nobuo Uematsu