Final Fantasy Friday: Final Fantasy VI – Part 4 Music and Conclusion

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<–Part 3


Final Fantasy VI has one of the best soundtracks of not only any Final Fantasy, but it  also easily tops the video game music charts.  It’s what got me into VG music and had me making separate save files before certain scenes so I could listen to Nobuo-san’s masterpieces over and over again.  This was decades before game music was readily available (I’m dating myself…and why wouldn’t I?  I’m awesome!), and even when they started publishing it on CDs, they were still hard to come by as imports and also very expensive.

FFVI was my introduction to the concept of the leitmotif, which is a  short, recurring musical phrase associated with a particular person, place, or idea.  It’s usually credited to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, but he’s not its originator nor did he himself use those terms (also Wagner was a proto-Nazi i.e. would’ve been a Nazi if Nazis had existed, so I kind of put him in the same wheelhouse as H. P. Lovecraft in terms of shitty but sadly relevant, but I digress), and Nobuo-san (who is delightful) used such a concept masterfully to not only give each character in the game a theme, but also tied certain themes, like Locke’s and Celes’, together.

Let’s start with the beginning “Omen,” though, which is the piece that plays as the game loads.  It serves as a nice bookend to “Dancing Mad,” the final boss music, and both songs are reminiscent of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” (and I’m talking about more than just the famous opening) with that Gothic church music motif.

Lots of YouTube links incoming:


“Dancing Mad”

Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”

Squeenix has loved that low, ominous bell since they were Squaresoft, because the one in the beginning of “Omen” is the exact same toll in  FFVII’s “Those Chosen By the Planet/Shinra Mansion Theme” and “One Winged Angel.”

“Shinra Mansion Theme”

(Not that I can be too mad at them for that…there’s a line in my first novel inspired by that dark bell lol.)

Before you even press a button Final Fantasy VI is giving you a taste of the amount of work and creativity went into making its characters, world, and ethos.  There is a decided and appropriate regality in “Figaro Castle (Edgar and Sabin’s Theme) with its brass (or brass adjacent midi) that is often used for royalty (thank you Sideways for your videos on the same).

“Figaro Castle”

But this is the thing about Final Fantasy music…you can’t just talk about one song or one theme, because Nobuo-san understand the assignment and what leitmotifs are supposed to do.  Even though the above isn’t one of my favorites by any means, it still accomplishes its goal, and the composer reuses the musical theme in other pieces in order to convey a certain emotional mood i.e. the “Coin Song,” which plays at particular moments one of which is Sabin’s flashback, which is fitting for a melody slow and forlorn.

“Coin Song”

Every character has their own theme and how it’s used tells a story all its own.  For example the fact that “Terra’s Theme” is also the overworld theme in the World of Balance is a major reason she’s seen as the MC of the game.

“Terra’s Theme/Overworld”

Her theme is literally the journey, and the melody reflects a sense of forlorn but ever reaching grasp.  Someone who has lost much, but will keep going as a symbol of hope in the face of despair.

Despite my proclamations above about Terra and Celes being dichotomous characters, the overworld themes don’t reflect that, nor should it.  The World of Ruin’s music is not Celes’ or anyone’s leitmotif, which I think was the proper choice.  It wouldn’t fit any of them to have it that way, not even Celes who is whom you control at that outset.  Having “Terra’s Theme” be the same as the WOB’s overworld carries a subtext about her character’s importance in setting things right.  She’s initially seen as a lynchpin for the Returners, a tool to turn the tide of war, which sadly isn’t that different from the Empire.  Granted, they were technically offering her a choice, but then circumstances take a great deal of agency out of her hands when Imperial troops find the  hideout and force a hasty escape.  The events that follow only serve to solidify the fact that she really had no say in the matter, which makes her decision to remain in Mobliz with the children all the more understandable.  It is the first time in Terra’s life she’s actually had a choice.  While she does eventually rejoin her friends after Phunbaba’s final attack, it’s for a reason she obtained all on her own: to make a better world for the children (and I’ve already discussed above why this, too, is problematic, but it is what it is).

“Kids Run Through the City” is probably my favorite town music of any Final Fantasy game.  It always reminded me of the ideas of home and Christmas, which I now realize is probably because it invokes a sense of nostalgia.  I don’t know how Nobuo-san does it, but he knows how to do it.

“Kids Run Through the City Square” Orchestral Remix

This isn’t an original version, but it’s one of my favorite renditions of it.

Shadow’s “wild west” like theme always amused me.  It thematically fits his character since he is a wildcard who will leave your group at the drop of a pin.  Then there’s Cyan’s, which has a more distinctive Eastern sound to it, though why wouldn’t it?  He’s a bit of a cross between a samurai and a more Western type medieval knight, though his Sword Tech is called Bushido in other versions of the game.  His FF Archetype is along the lines of FFIV’s Yang of Fabul, though Sabin also has a similar vibe.  The Doma knight takes out a general single-handedly.  Not a man to be trifled with.

This is my favorite rendition of his song.  I just like the slower, (even) sadder versions.

TPR’s “Cyan’s Theme”

Even though he’s probably my least favorite character, Gau’s leitmotif is gorgeous.  That deep cello is heartbreaking, and it has a similar cadence (if different tempo) to the score of Watership Down.

“Gau’s Theme”

I listen to “Serpent Trench” on repeat quite often.  It has a “grand adventure” epicness about it.  Here’s an orchestral version of it.

“Serpent’s Trench” Orchestrated

“Forever Rachel” was one of the songs that made me create a separate save file so I could go back and listen to it over and over again.  The very definition of “forlorn.”

“Forever Rachel”

And of course I can’t talk about the music of Final Fantasy VI without mentioning the opera.  There are so many phenomenal version versions of this, it’s honestly hard to pick one.  There’s the one with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and there’s this one with Jillian Aversa (both in Italian of course because the best operas are Italian don’t @ me), but I suppose I should go with the full one from the Distant Worlds’ concert, though I wish I could find the one from the concert I attended.  It was fucking transcendent.

“Opera ‘Maria and Draco'” from Distant Worlds

There is something to be said for the dedication in writing  an opera (or at the very least a full operatic piece) for a video game in the mid-90’s.  This was before video game music was recognized as a valid art form and certainly before games themselves were every even considered art.  Nobuo-san had only the sounds the SNES could generate to work with…and he did.

One of the many things I love about the opera is how it opens up this entire possible head canon for Celes, because you can’t just sing something like that that well without having some kind of talent and/or training.  So…was she moonlighting as a lounge singer in her general days?  Did she sing to herself to combat her loneliness?  I have so many ideas for stories that aren’t really farfetched.  Also…she’s a mezzo soprano, which brings joy to my now contralto, once mezzo (once soprano I), heart.  It is pretty rare to have a a non-soprano I heroine (which is why Frozen’s Elsa also makes me happy, though to be fair, she was planned to be a villain until “Let It Go”).  Though…I could be wrong about Maria being a mezzo.  I’ve always thought that was why the song was called what it was: because it was for a mezzo soprano, but it could just be the name of the song?  According to Google Translate, which I don’t entirely trust, Aria di Mezzo Caraterre means “Aria of Half Character.” I have no idea what the hell that’s supposed to mean so music WordPress help me out.  My ears tell me Maria is a mezzo or at the very least a soprano II, but it’s been a long time since I was entrenched in the music world.  In the game Draco and Ralse flip the script, too with the heroic Draco having a lower voice than the man Maria was almost forced to marry; however, in concert the players followed the normal voice part conventions though with the former being a heroic tenor and the latter a villainous baritone, which they normally are (i.e. Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar, also…Black, which is a whole other layer to unpack).  Draco shares his name with the dragon constellation, which is not only fitting for Maria’s “darkness and starlight” lyric, but Celes’ “celestial” moniker, as well.

“Relm’s Theme” gives you both the precocious child and artistic spirit in this piece.  Even though the vocal version I linked has a darker tone that sort of diminishes the fore mentioned (it’s not nearly as light as the original), I still enjoy it.

“Kami no Yurikago – Relm’s Theme”

You only hear the “Fierce Battle” music once: when you fight the Atma Weapon, and it fucking slaps.  I linked the music from the OST because it honestly doesn’t need any enhancements.

“The Fierce Battle”

FFVI’s OST is similar to FFIV’s in that nearly every song is phenomenal.  I can count on one hand how many albums I have where I like the majority of songs (October Project’s titular one, their Falling Farther In, and Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy are some examples), but to have a literal soundtrack of over fifty that nearly universally slaps is something only Nobuo-san and rare few others can accomplish.


What else can I possibly say about Final Fantasy VI that I one, haven’t said in excruciating detail above; and two, others haven’t said before me?  It is the game that introduced me to the world of Final Fantasy, a realm I remain caught in though not through quite the same conduit.  If I can impart one thing upon any readers still here (and it has been a long journey…this took me over a year and a half to write and we’re over two years now to account for editing) is that it’s possible to like something without denigrating something else.  I am not innocent of this either even if I was doing it as a response (e.g. one becomes a bully after one has been bullied.  It’s well known that the abused are more apt to become abusers, and trauma travels down generations…which is something I’ll delve deep into when I review FFVII), but in almost every single exchange I see about FFVI or FFVII there’s a comparison, and these are the main two where it happens.  This is not to say you aren’t allowed to like one over the other, nor is it to even say you can’t debate the merits of the same, but I do believe objectivity is a hard-caught creature if it exists at all (one of these days I’ll do a full blown deep dive/deconstruction of “objectivity,” because we need to talk about unconscious biases first, which means I need to pull out Jung, and I’m still studying him).  Everything doesn’t have to be a competition, and as I’ve said numerous times throughout this review all binaries are false.  

Final Fantasy VI, like its siblings, presents us with two prime examples (and many others) of dichotomies on the surface: Terra and Celes, balance and ruin, and the cosmos vs. chaos paradigm that permeates the series as a whole, but like with every binary, once we dig even a little bit below the surface, we discover how false they really are.  A slave and a general seem miles apart, yet both were used, young women trapped in situations not of their choosing.  FFVI reveals the rot beneath balance and the hope that can seed even a dead world.

This…this review took over a year to write and another two to edit.  I don’t even remember when I started it; probably some time in October of 2019 when I DNF’d the game.  Yes, I declared my very first Final Fantasy DNF not quite halfway through.  I’ve played and finished it before, so it’s more like I DNF’d the replay.  I just didn’t feel like going through the Floating Island and the World of Ruin.  I know the narrative like the back of my hand, and though I can’t say I didn’t get some fresh insights from the latest playthrough, it was just time to move on.  The funniest thing though is I’d actually planed to play the original port of FFVII on my Nintendo Switch prior to the Remake’s release in 2020, and now I’m cackling in 2021 because I was clearly drinking that dumb bitch juice (now of course it’s 2022 and the dumb bitch juice is still a-flowin’).  I did play and finish FFVIIR, but I still need to play the OG for my replay/review project.  

Anyway, if you’ve gotten all the way here, bless your eyes, heart, and fingers.  I hope you always find good parking and the perfect greeting card.

Until next review.

<–Part 3

<–Final Fantasy V                                                                                                           Final Fantasy VII–>

One thought on “Final Fantasy Friday: Final Fantasy VI – Part 4 Music and Conclusion

  1. Pingback: Final Fantasy Friday: Final Fantasy VI – Part 3 Story Analysis | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

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