Tonight I went to see “Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy” in Toronto. It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience for reasons that go well beyond the music and performance itself. Final Fantasy and its music hold a very important place in my heart and have a great deal of sentimental value to me.
I previously mentioned that Final Fantasy VII sparked my love for Japanese RPGs. The game’s music was an integral part of that experience. I was so moved by the soundtrack that although I hadn’t been a fan of much music at all up to that point, I absolutely had to have a copy of it. I still own a copy of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack and Reunion tracks, which were imported from Japan at considerable cost. I even decided at that time that I wanted to become a composer of video game music, to create something just as beautiful. I neither compose music nor develop video games; I’ve carved a much different path for myself. But that does not at all diminish the feelings that Final Fantasy’s music invokes for me.
Being a fan of video game music was a much weirder concept about 10 years ago, when I first fell in love with it. Video game music was just nonsensical bleeps and bloops to most people, which is ironic because some of the most memorable songs of our generation come from video games. Music from Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda is immediately recognizable. The director of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is rumoured to have written directly to Nintendo to ask permission to use Zelda music and sound effects in the film, calling them “the lullaby of our generation.”
And now there is a concert. Actually, not just a concert, a tour across the world. The Sony Centre was packed with people who, just like me, wanted to fully appreciate the music from this excellent series. The programme for tonight’s show featured songs across the entirety of Final Fantasy, from the very first game for NES all the way up to the latest online RPG, Final Fantasy XIV. Final Fantasy VI and VII, fan favourites, were very well represented but Final Fantasy VIII, IX, and X also got some deserved nods (including a very well-executed arrangement of “To Zanarkand”). For a final special surprise, Nobuo Uematsu himself (who had been in attendance) was asked to join the choir to perform One-Winged Angel, the intense theme of the final battle with Sephiroth in FF VII. It was worth every dollar I paid for the ticket and worth every dollar I paid for the concert merchandise: two CDs and a poster (there was a T-shirt but I decided I didn’t really need one).
If I had to absolutely identify one bad point about the concert, it would be that Final Fantasy XII was left out completely. I can see why that might be the case: the soundtrack for FF XII is already very much orchestral, so there isn’t as much value in arranging it for live performance. I do hope that the game gets a couple of nods during other parts of the tour, though. Hitoshi Sakimoto did some excellent work there — coincidentally, he worked on Valkyria Chronicles as well.
And it isn’t just Final Fantasy’s music that has gotten broad enough appeal to warrant orchestra performances. Video Games Live is another tour featuring music from many other video games and will be in Toronto summer of next year (which I think will be their second or third time). Video game music has definitely come to be much more appreciated, just one more aspect of the shift in our society that has in many ways turned “geek” into “chic”.