Hall of Fame

Posted January 9, 2012 by Richard Plant in Editorial

Ladies and gentleman, brothers and sisters, welcome to a very special Musical Showcase. This time, we’re not just bringing you a sample of the beautiful music awaiting you in the archives of game composing, but we’re giving you a chance to boost the public stature of one of gaming’s greatest talents in a very public venue.

The Final Fantasy series is one of the games industry’s most reliable institutions, a behemoth that encompasses not only major console releases, but a wealth of handheld spin-offs, television anime and standalone movies, along with the ubiquitous range of action figures. That’s quite an impressive achievement for a game that started life as the last ditch attempt by designer Hironobu Sakaguchi to make a dent in the over-subscribed Japanese games market.

While the FF games share many of the clichés that characterise fellow JRPGs like Dragon Quest or Persona, somehow the team at Square continue to forge an identity for the games that is all their own, which is especially remarkable given the lack of direct sequels. Instead, each game is a wholly separate entity, existing in a thematically-linked chain that regularly delivers both moments of bliss and doldrums of extreme frustrations to legions of fans across the globe.

A big part of that encompassing identity that wraps the titles like a warm fuzzy blanket is the stirring themes, composed in the main by self-taught auteur Nobuo Uematsu. Serving until 2004 as Final Fantasy’s chief music composer, Uematsu was given an incredible amount of freedom to design scores that fit the world and characters, as well as bringing a new level of emotional depth to a script that at its worst consists mainly of bland exposition punctuated by moments of absurd melodrama.

Uematsu’s compositions, especially for the fondly remembered Final Fantasy 7, remain firm fan favourites, with sheet music published for many of the series’ iconic pieces. New arrangements often form the centrepiece of live performances of game music, such as the Dear Friends concert tours. Unlike much of the music chronicled in this column, Uematsu’s work is easy to pick up and play on piano, as well as remaining deeply affecting even when transplanted from its original context.

Aerith’s theme, as performed above by YouTube user nathanielpiano, is classic Uematsu; a clean, stripped down and yet somehow elegiac melody is given a melancholic edge by the counterpoint played in a minor key. For fans of FF7, that chord sequence sends a shiver down your spine and raises a lump in your throat as you remember the epic story of love and loss that got you to empathise with the character’s struggle and cheer for their eventual victory.

So it’s fitting then, that a new campaign seeks to accord Aerith’s theme the mainstream respectability that it so richly deserves. Classic FM, the UK radio station, has opened polling for readers to vote for their favourite pieces of music, and uppity gamers hope to push Uematsu over the line with a groundswell of public support. As well as a Facebook page and Twitter feed, the “Get Video Games Music into the Classic FM Hall of Fame” organisers are asking everyone to get on their social networks, and register their votes at Classic FM’s website.

They’ve got my vote, not just because it would be neat to get better representation of games in a conservative venue, but because the hard work and skill of the people behind the music we’ve all enjoyed since we were children deserves to be recognised.

About the Author

Richard Plant

Author, producer, dreamweaver… also actor. Willing to talk at length about JRPGs for food.