Review Summary: O Muses, o high genius, aid me now!
O memory that noted what I saw,
Now shall your true nobility be seen!
Asked to write an essay on the themes in a movie, one would no doubt have movies and ideas springing to mind. The most powerful movies are often those which portray key ideas with insight and vitality. To be asked to write an essay on the themes in a game however would be immensely challenging. It is rare that games, even the best of games, ever delve into social issues surrounding society. More often than not, their aim is instant entertainment of the senses rather than thought-provoking messages regarding society.
It would be hard to argue that the Final Fantasy series does not aim to satisfy gamers with mind-blowing visuals, captivating characters and inspiring tales. Yet underneath each game in the series lies a wealth of thoroughly developed messages ranging from redemption, family, destiny and a myriad of other ideas pertinent in modern society. It may not have been the greatest Final Fantasy game ever, yet the 10th instalment in the main series dealt with an array of intricate ideas, showing confrontation between the old and the new, religion and science, purity and corruption.
If one were to give credit to the series’ music composer Nobuo Uematsu for anything, it would have to be that his music always reflected the games themselves. With Final Fantasy X, Uematsu certainly managed to accomplish this again. At the centre of game’s world, Spira, is the religion of Yevon. In the game, we see the tale of a young man from a time very detached from religious ideals. In the music we see this man's youthful vigour contrasted with a world far more docile and serene; at least on the surface that is.
, aside from highlighting Uematsu’s flexibility, brings an aspect of the modern world to the soundtrack. The heavily distorted guitars grind against grungy vocals with fury. Other songs such as Confrontation
continue on the use of modern instrumentation, focusing more upon distorted guitars and strong drumming than Uematsu’s typically inspiring piano and string melodies. It may confuse those with no knowledge of the game to find such contrasts in the album between delicate and harsh, modern and old. But those who have played the game will appreciate how closely the music matches the entities within the world of Spira.
Like the strong religious undertones within the game, the soundtrack has a number of beautiful church hymns composed by Uematsu. Numerous versions of the Song of Prayer
are found in the soundtrack, sung in different octaves ranging from bass to soprano. The lyrics, although sung not sung in English, when translated they show the serene hymn’s message:
Dream, Child of prayer
Forever and ever
Bring us peace
Uematsu is at his best when composing soft tranquil melodies such as Song of Prayer
. On every Final Fantasy soundtrack, there always seems to be one gentle piece that removes all fear, hate and negative emotion. In Final Fantasy X, People of the North-Pole
acts as that astoundingly beautiful piece. The slow strings embody sadness in every slow movement, with the off-beat drumming driving the song along slowly through the snow of the Northern Mountains. At its peak, the song reaches climaxes of emotion that are almost unparalleled. Path of Repentance
likewise paves its way into the hearts of listeners, brining sadness to the listener through its steady flowing piano. Uematsu clearly excels at simple melodies such as these, and songs like Spiran Scenery
, Macalania Forest
and Wandering Flame
all display Uematsu creating such emotion with only minimal movement. Within the game, these songs provide moments of peace amongst all the chaos and corruption. For listeners with no experience with the game, they provide similar moments in the real world. In a world that at times can be overbearing, Uematsu’s little moments of peace and acceptance bring an experience not often found in modern music.
But as previously mentioned, these peaceful melodies are but a moment. Conflict and chaos is at the heart of the game, with the religion of Yevon destroying the Spirian world through its corrupted nucleus. In the main party's pilgrimage to Zanarkand, their battles are embodied by the battle themes of the game. Songs such as Assault
, Seymour Battle
and Decisive Battle
thrust the soundtrack into action, their strong beats and high energy unrelenting. As epic as they are, these battle tunes do not offer much for those who have not played the game. Rather, Uematsu’s more accessible portrayal of this conflicting evil comes through slower pieces such as Tragedy
, Time of Judgement
, The Wedding
and the spine-tingling Deceased Laugh
. The rattling drums in Time of Judgement
give a sense of urgency, as the clock-like chimes go back and forth with the hurried string section. A strong horn section starts rapidly firing, before cutting out to long tense strings that seem to hold on to each note forever. The tension created in Time of Judgement
serves as one of many examples of Uematsu’s masterful sculpting of emotion and suspense.
As always, the 10th instalment of the Final Fantasy main series brings with it a wealth of musical genius from Nobuo Uematsu. His work on this soundtrack may not stand up with some of his other efforts, yet in capturing the essence of the game he has once again succeeded impeccably. The heavy religious undertones in the game shine through in Uematsu’s music, with beautiful hymn’s touching the hearts of listeners and gamers alike. In the characters perseverance through conflict and corruption, we see them come across few seldom moments to reflect and be at peace. It is in these moments that we see Uematsu’s delicate creations come to life, with an almost unparalleled minimalist beauty. As a soundtrack of contrasts, we see matchless beauty opposed by corruptive evil. It is through this contrast that Uematsu gives life to the game, and to its powerful and thought-provoking themes.