Thursday, August 14, 2008

Final Fantasy IV DS: Music

I purchased the Nintendo DS remake of Final Fantasy IV a few days ago, and have already put a few hours into it. Final Fantasy IV is a game that I have a lot of nostalgia for, which I hinted at in a relatively recent blog post. After only a few hours in to the game though, one of the first big things to jump out at me is FF IV's music. It may be the nostalgia talking, but I still think that Final Fantasy IV has some of the best songs and use of music in RPG history.

The reason I think FInal Fantasy IV's use of music is particularly good has to do with how the game uses music to match the changing mood of a scene. Nowadays, background music is often very subdued, or even completely silent, during important scenes, because most of the dialogue is voiced. Often, the background music is constant throughout most of a scene as well. However, Final Fantasy IV did not have voice-acting in its original release (or even much in the way of written dialogue), and so it often had to rely on music to carry the the emotional aspect of a dramatic scene. A good example is the early scene where King Baron strips Cecil of his rank. During the scene, the castle's background music fades away, and the game becomes completely silent, until the point where the King says that he is stripping away Cecil's command, at which time the game suddenly starts playing a very sad and forlorn song. Because the song starts playing the exact moment that Cecil says his line ("My liege!"), it does an amazing job of emphasizing Cecil's shock and sorrow at that moment, even without a voice-actor to actually say the line. Final Fantasy IV is full of such moments where music is used to impart such emotions into the character's lines.

Another reason that I really like the music from Final Fantasy IV and its SNES contemporaries is because of the simplicity of those old MIDI tunes. In short, the songs from Final Fantasy IV where both emotionally powerful and simple enough to hum. Because I ended up humming those songs, they got stuck in my head for years. Heck, I am humming Cecil's eerily sad theme song to myself right this moment. The melodies of these songs were strong and memorable. Too often, the melodies of such songs in more recent games become buried in too many technical complexities and the impact of the songs are thus lost.

I am really glad that the developers of the FF IV DS remake kept the game's original music and musical timing. The music of FInal Fantasy IV is a big part of my nostalgia for the game, and I would have been able to tell if there had been any changes to it. As it is, the my nostalgia factor for the game maxed out after only hearing some familiar tunes during the opening CG movie. I guess it goes to show that music and sound are vital elements of nostalgia.

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