Monday, July 01, 2013
Songs of Final Fantasy: Top 10 Battle Themes
Here's a shocker: I'm a huge fan of Final Fantasy. I absolutely love the series, and I've been a fan since Clinton was in office. I've played every title in the series several times, and the one thing that always sticks with me is the music. The various themes in each game come to define that particular game. Most of it is owed to the mastery of musical genius Nobuo Uematsu, but other composers have produced some memorable themes as well.
In this top ten list, I'm going to be ranking the best battle themes in the Final Fantasy series. Battle themes are usually the most memorable and definitive songs in the games, along with the overworld themes. Therefore, I think it's only proper to do them some justice. I'll be including all of the main series titles and all related spin-offs. As usual, these are just my opinions so feel free to disagree and share your own thoughts in the comments. Now then...
10. Otherworld (FFX)
This theme is incredibly unusual for a Final Fantasy theme given that it's...well...metal. Like really fucking metal. However, if you could just drop your bias for a second, you'll realize just how much this theme rocks. I think it works so well because it fits Jecht's personality (he's a jerk). A nice, orchestral theme would not have been able to achieve the same effect in Final Fantasy X's final (true) boss battle. As Jecht falls off a platform, everything goes silent. Then all of a sudden, a monstrous arm slams down from below and electric guitars start blasting. Those goosebumps you feel? Yeah, that's the music.
9. Battle Theme (FF Mystic Quest)
"Mystic Quest? How dare you mention Mystic Quest?" I know the reputation this game has, and I admit that it is pretty bad. However, it had one thing going for it: the music. The music was surprisingly good for a game of such low quality. Just listen to the battle theme. That's honestly one of the best battle themes I've heard from any RPG. It's SNES-hardware rock at its best. Now, if only this theme wasn't wasted on Mystic Quest; it would have gotten the recognition it deserves.
8. The Decisive Battle (Exdeath's Battle Theme) (FFV)
The best word to describe Exdeath's battle theme is sinister. It does a better job than any other theme of sounding like absolute evil. In this regard, it fits Exdeath's character perfectly, as Exdeath has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The song starts with the signature organ sounds that define Exdeath's regular theme, then it begins to pick up. Go to 0:50 of the clip above. That's the part that gives me goosebumps. It goes from being a sinister theme, to being one the most unique and fitting boss battles in Final Fantasy.
7. The Extreme (FFVIII)
'The Extreme' starts very slowly. You hear ominous piano playing, and some eerie chanting. Then, rather abruptly, you'll hear the familiar tune that began every Final Fantasy battle theme up until VII. That's where it starts. As it turns out, The Extreme is one of the most exciting and epic final boss themes in the series. I think a lot of its effect is owed to its slow start-up. The fast-paced song that follows afterwards is soul tingling, to say the least. As weird as the final boss was, this theme made it all worthwhile.
6. Blinded by Light (FFXIII)
When I first saw the trailer for Final Fantasy XIII, it wasn't the exciting new battle system or pretty graphics that got me pumped up. It was the amazing song playing in the background. Seriously, my ears were floored at how new and beautifully orchestrated this theme was. It's definitely unlike anything Final Fantasy has used before, and that's part of what makes it so exciting. At times, I was intentionally doing nothing during battles just so I could hear the song kick in. So say what you want about the game, Blinded by Light is one of the best regular battle themes in the series.
5. Boss Battle (FFIV)
This is a personal favorite of mine, and for good reason too. As far as classic Final Fantasy goes, this theme does an amazing job of making you feel the pressure of fighting a dangerous foe. It mixes that sinister feel with an upbeat tempo that makes it feel like time is against you. The boss is slowly pressing down on you, and the only way to survive is to push back with twice the amount of force. To me, this theme is sort of the ideal boss battle theme. It doesn't break new ground or experiment with unusual sounds. It's just exciting and sinister in a straightforward way...and that's totally okay.
4. The Decisive Battle (FFVI)
And here's where things took a giant leap forward. While FFIV's boss theme makes it feel like the boss is looking down at you, FFVI's 'Decisive Battle' makes it feel like you're rushing into battle with the assurance that you'll win no matter what the cost. I imagine myself with swords swinging and fists flying without a care to stop and see if I'm bleeding.
Now, I say "leap forward" because, like I said, this theme has a different feel to it. It's upbeat and, for lack of a better word, rocking. It's an absolute favorite of mine, and I can confidently say that it's probably the best boss battle theme in the main series. It's part of what makes FFVI so great.
3. Clash on the Big Bride (FFV)
Clash on the Big Bridge is a classic. It may even be the best thing to come out of FFV. I'm not saying FFV isn't a great game (it is); this theme is just that memorable. Gilgamesh has since made cameo appearances in a number of sequels, and this theme has always been there to accompany him. Sometimes I feel like the song even overshadows the character at times. But I digress.
There's just something so distinct and catchy about this song; it's hard to describe with words. Just play the song and wait for the trumpets to kick in. It's almost impossible not to enjoy that unusual tune. I'll leave you with that, so just play the clip above. You won't regret it.
2. One Winged Angel (FFVII)
Ah, the famous 'One Winged Angel'. Even if you're not a fan of Final Fantasy, chances are you're familiar with this song. It's the signature theme of Sephiroth, FFVII's main villain. One Winged Angel is so amazingly befitting of Sephiroth because its main purpose is to glorify Sephiroth like a god. Sephiroth himself is a megalomaniac with a serious god-complex, so you can see how this would relate. The beginning of the theme invokes the feeling of a godlike entity descending from the sky, and indeed, that's how Safer Sephiroth makes his entrance in FFVII's final battle.
The song itself is incredibly well orchestrated and often awe-inspiring. It's not exciting or epic like the other themes on this list. The way it mixes purely orchestral sounds with Gregorian chants is just...enthralling. I can not think of a more fitting final boss theme for the incredible villain that is Sephiroth.
1. Dancing Mad (FFVI)
And at number one...it's Dancing Mad, the final boss theme from Final Fantasy VI. I can honestly say that Dancing Mad is a masterpiece, not just as a battle theme, but as a piece of music in general. It captures the enormity of the battle in stellar form, and it's separated into four different 'movements' to fit in with the four tiers of the massive final boss. The final phase is Kefka himself, and that's where it picks up even further. The final phase is easily the best part of Dancing Mad; it shifts into a frantic tempo in order to signify the urgency of the battle commencing.
Its sophistication and utter quality easily put it here as the best battle theme, or possibly just the greatest theme in Final Fantasy. The video I've posted above is the Black Mages version of the song, but it's faithful to the original with enhanced quality so no need to worry about the original not being represented.