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Thread: Eyes on Final Fantasy Soundtracks - Location Themes

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    Tangled Site Contributor Aulayna's Avatar
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    Default Eyes on Final Fantasy Soundtracks - Location Themes


    Throughout it's 25 year history the Final Fantasy series has presented us with memorable and emotional pieces of music that timelessly transcend the medium of video games. From simple 8-bit melodies to awe inspiring orchestral performances, we've been lucky enough to have it all!

    Fans of the series have their own opinions on which game may be the best but one topic that nearly always reaches an unanimous verdict is that the soundtracks are nearly always stellar.


    ~*~
    - February 2013 -
    swish-l-small.gif Location Themes swish-r-small.gif


    February is here! The days are getting slightly longer and the mornings gradually brighter. Last month we looked at World Map themes as a fitting way of encapsulating a journey as a whole. This month some of our new years resolutions may already be waning so it's time to focus on the smaller details. What better way to do this than by looking at the themes of the various locations we visit throughout the Final Fantasy series.

    From Alexandria to Zanarkand the journey we take in a Final Fantasy game sends us through a veritable array of towns, mountains, caves, forests and cities. Each location has a memorable theme that aptly captures the zeitgeist of that particular patch of pixels be it happy, sad or in turmoil.

    On that note let's listen to the first of the tracks of this month. Fittingly it also heralds from the first game in the series:

    I know this isn't the original version but to me it feels the most complete and conveys what the original couldn't due to technical limitations. However take a listen to the original and you'll see that even with the limitations this was still a great track. Such a simple and catchy melody but from the first time you hear this track you know that this location is going to a prominent one in the overall story - what is broken can be fixed! It was even remixed for the final Chaos fight in Theatrhythm!

    So fixing broken timelines gives a bit of a nice entry into another game that focused heavily on the theme of time.
    Everyone needs a break to kick back and relax - even from saving the world or time itself! For me this is one of my favourite mini-game emporium themes. Yes it's not the popular Gold Saucer theme but just sit back and listen to that sax at 1:09 and the rocking out on the piano from 2:16 leading into ever more sax at 2:53. This a track that oozes sass and class and if a Final Fantasy themed casino were real this would be the ideal music for it. I can already see all our favourite characters suited and booted or dressed to the nines, cigars in hand, around the blackjack table.

    Of course, every high flying location has its rundown counterpart filled with the less desirables of the world. Zozo!? Never heard of it! This track reeks of seediness and I already feel like checking my pockets to make sure none of my personal belongings have gone on an unexpected vacation. Speaking of which, do you have the time?

    Just kidding! There's no time to waste. Let's take a listen to our next theme.This is such a beautiful and nostalgic piece. YouTube user Wyldephang accurately sums up why this piece touches so many hearts:

    This song receives the most touching nostalgic responses, and that's only appropriate given the history of this town. The mayor of Fisherman's Horizon clings onto his traditions and principles, hoping against hope that his town will always remain a peaceful, charming hamlet. Then out of the blue, Balamb Garden crashes into the seaport and Galbadia's cronies show up. It's a rather fitting analogy for our lives as we're removed from our childhood securities and thrust into the dangerous world.
    Keeping with the relaxing theme it's time to peek into the often forgotten world of Crystal Chronicles.This is the sound of a town going through the motions. But it's not a daily monotony; these residents are happy and enjoy their somewhat quaint quality of life. From the upbeat windpipes to the simple guitar rhythm this has somewhat of a country vibe to it.

    Not all towns and cities are like that though.Lindblum, being the giant it is, obviously has quite a sizeable population. The variances in this theme captures city life so obscurely, but so accurate at the same time. There is monotony hinted at in the undertones, a feeling or worthlessness - but at the same time it suddenly picks up into an upbeat melody of hope and aspiration. A city is full of many people, each with their own stories to tell. This theme captures that so well.

    As we're here in Lindblum we might as well pay some respect to Cid.Arguably a character theme - but I've included it as wandering around Lindblum Castle with this in the background is certainly an experience. The regal militarism shines through in this track. It's so structured and has an almost industrial drumming as the beat. This is a city that has staked its claim on the world and with its airships the world is its oyster.

    If venturing out from a city into a world of adventure could be encapsulated in music this next piece would be a fine contender.
    Just close your eyes and listen to this. Imagine expanses of rolling green hills, forests and rivers stretching as far as the eyes can see. It reminds us that the journey is just as important as the destination and beauty can be found in even the little things. Be those Orcs waiting to be slain or rabbits. Yes, rabbits. You know killing cute and fluffy things indiscriminately is probably one of the less talked about traditions of Final Fantasy!

    Likewise sometimes a feverent beat can really set the tone.The heavy drumming that interludes into melodic violin and flute pieces. This word gets thrown around a lot but it certainly has en epic quality to it. This is headfirst adventure at it's best!

    Of course though one sometimes has to buck tradition.WARNING: This is an infectiously upbeat track with enough bass to make your ear drums explode if your volume is up loud. A complete change of pace from what we're used too from previous games but I think, along with a lot of the more upbeat XIII-2 tracks, it captures Serah's young optimism and determination so well.

    When it comes to history and tradition, though, one name always comes to mind.From the tribal drumming, to the simple strings melody laced with wind pipes this gives the feel of a location far detached from the technological concerns and problems of the rest of Gaia. It's almost a timeless place at one with the planet - a place of soul searching and meaning. I find this track quite calming and relaxing too and it has an almost fleeting feel to it which is fitting where a lot of the residents of the canyon are entering in their twilight years.

    For our next location we head from the desert canyons to the mountains.Like Cosmo Canyon we have the tribal drumming conveying the nature of the Ronso tribe. However unlike Cosmo Canyon the strings are far deeper, slower and lower pitched giving everything a far harsher feel. This is the cold edge of the Ronso tribe and the frigid wilderness they inhabit - one that often signals the penultimate step in a summoners pilgrimage. Just listening to it again, even after not having played Final Fantasy X for so many years, gives me the feeling of the mountain rising up against me with the cold winds blowing through the air.

    Music is a great way to convey the hostility of a location, especially through the use of more unnatural sounds.This is a very choking theme. The use of synthesizers alongside more traditional instruments creates a very eerie and unnatural feel - almost like a sort of electronic organ. Fitting considering the history of the Iifa Tree itself and the Mist it produces.

    However unnatural sounds aren't always needed.From the gothic undertones to the sudden change in pacing and fluidity. The optimistic start that cascades into a crescendo of full on organ. This place, as creepily elegant as it may appear, is definitely not welcoming. The overlapping melodies of the organ, piano and pipes that fade in and out of each other tell us there's something grander at play here. Then at 1:20 we get a frantic build up that climaxes in... the most bizarre change of pace into an almost clown like clockwork melody. Ultimecia's egomania is clearly alluded to in this - it verges on conveying Kefka levels of insanity.

    From extravagant hostility to a more pressing kind. The chase.Admittedly this track is used elsewhere in the game but the time you're exposed to it the most is right near the end - inside the belly of the beast. This track accurately captures that rather unique location. Yuna and her companions are on the verge of victory, but the deeper they go the harder things get and something as instinctual as Sin isn't obliging enough to simply let our band of adventurers get a free pass to their destination.

    Speaking of the end though. If you've made it this far you're probably getting a bit tired and may even be thinking "someday this article will end."This is without a doubt my favourite location theme in Final Fantasy. Yes it gets used in other places throughout Final Fantasy X but it'd be a disservice to not give this track a mention. The beautiful piano melody, the accompanying strings, the etherealness of it. Even though the original journey ended up being futile - this is a song of almost bittersweet hope, remembering the lost but pushing forward for a better tomorrow.
    This was just my own personal list. There are many locations in the worlds of Final Fantasy and I'm sure you all have your own personal favourites.

    Comment below and let me know! In the next edition we'll have a look back at the theme that's the most popular with some shout-outs to the best contributions.

    Speaking of which - the last edition was hotly contested with Terra's Theme (Final Fantasy VI) and Crossing those Hills (Final Fantasy IX) being fairly even in terms of popularity - but Crossing those Hills (Final Fantasy IX) ultimately came out as the most popular. Let's see what people had to say about it:

    Quote Originally Posted by Formalhaut View Post
    I really liked "Crossing Those Hills" as well from IX. It's more uplifting and joyful, which sort of reflects much of IX really. It's very gentle and slow, slowly picking up pace as the song goes on, before reaching a crescendo.
    Quote Originally Posted by Freya View Post
    I love it (Crossing Those Hills) because it's calming. Makes it seem like yeah we're going on an adventure, this is a fun relaxing thing, don't freak out, no just adventure!
    Quote Originally Posted by charliepanayi View Post
    My favourite is probably Over the Hill/Crossing Those Hills from FFIX, when I re-play the game one of my favourite moments is emerging from Evil Forest and hearing that piece for the first time.
    That's all for this month. Remember wherever you are music can inspire or drive you!

    Waiting for you at the next Inn,
    Last edited by Aulayna; 02-11-2013 at 01:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Newbie Administrator Loony BoB's Avatar
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    What!? No Balamb town mention!? Time for me to flip e-tables all over the internet. Also, good call on Giza Plains. I'm not sure which I loved more - Giza Plains or Dalmasca Estersand - but they both really gave me the adventurous, excited and thrilled feelings I can only imagine an explorer gets when he discovers new land. It's like... BOOM! Welcome to a massive, wide open world! Enjoy!

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    One month there should be NOTHING but the overworld theme music to each game.
    I did enjoy this article a lot.

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    'Just Friends' Formalhaut's Avatar
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    Ah! I'm glad to see these are back. I have to admit, I was wondering when these were back.


    I really like Cosmo Canyon. it really captures the feel of the sunset location, and a testament to days gone by. As for Ronfaure, I am simply addicted to the Distant Worlds version of it. AMAZING. It's so uplifting and happy, which for a Final Fantasy game can be hard to come by.

    However, I wern't feeling Serendipity. I own FFXIII-2, and maybe it's getting the lucky coin fragment and having to replay the slots over and over, but I'm sorry, that funky tune grates on me. It's not even the music itself: more the location it's played in which is a sad imitation of the Golden Saucer.

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    Newbie Administrator Loony BoB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Formalhaut View Post
    However, I wern't feeling Serendipity. I own FFXIII-2, and maybe it's getting the lucky coin fragment and having to replay the slots over and over, but I'm sorry, that funky tune grates on me. It's not even the music itself: more the location it's played in which is a sad imitation of the Golden Saucer.
    I agree with that. I can't remember my favourite XIII-2 location theme, although it may well have been the sunny option for the Archylte Steppe.
    Bow before the mighty Javoo!

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    Tangled Site Contributor Aulayna's Avatar
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    As an aside, what do people think of the length? Too many tracks? Not enough tracks? Am I talking too much trout in it? Do you want me to talk even more?

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    'Just Friends' Formalhaut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loony BoB View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Formalhaut View Post
    However, I wern't feeling Serendipity. I own FFXIII-2, and maybe it's getting the lucky coin fragment and having to replay the slots over and over, but I'm sorry, that funky tune grates on me. It's not even the music itself: more the location it's played in which is a sad imitation of the Golden Saucer.
    I agree with that. I can't remember my favourite XIII-2 ocation theme, although it may well have been the sunny option for the Archylte Steppe.
    I loved the sunny weather option for the Archlyte Steppe! Very good choice indeed.

    As for the length, and discussion, it's perfectly fine I think! It's good to get your initial opinions on the tracks without going hugely off topic. It's great Aulayna!


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    Gold is the new black Goldenboko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xannidel View Post
    One month there should be NOTHING but the overworld theme music to each game.
    I did enjoy this article a lot.
    This has actually already been done
    http://home.eyesonff.com/content/226...ap-themes.html

  9. #9

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    FUUUUUUU-
    Well you are all mind readers so my job is done
    *flies away on my magical flying cow*

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