Celebrating the tracks that created a gamer…
One of the things I love most in this world aside from the video games industry is music. For about eleven years of my life, I wanted nothing more than to be a professional musician. I spent a lot of that time growing up learning to play some of my favorite video game tracks on guitar. Mostly self taught, I enjoyed playing tracks from games that my family was unaware of. Usually delighted by the new melodies, I explained that the world of video game soundtracks was a rich and delightful one to journey through. Today, I want to walk you all through some of the tracks that made me into the gamer I am today. We’re starting from my very beginning – the original PlayStation era. Let me say, it was such an incredible joy to revisit this music and to write this for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did putting it together.
“J-E-N-O-V-A” – Final Fantasy VII – Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy VII is the first title I ever experienced. Coming out in 1997, I was six years old when I first met this mysterious “thing” known as Jenova. I was far too young at the time to really appreciate all that was happening within the story. My father purchased the game on a whim, as it was boasted to be the greatest game of all time upon release. While he did not find satisfaction in the title, I was immersed with the idea of fantasy and turn-based fighting. I needed no other game in my life. I played VII over and over without ever tiring of it. As all fans of the game know, Jenova is a frequent story boss, and her battle theme is something I’ve known note for note for my entire life.
“Save Room” – Resident Evil 2 – Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Syun Nishigaki
Granted, I never actually played Resident Evil 2 until I was much older. I would watch my brother and father play through the franchise, the original Resident Evil through Nemesis. Still that very young boy I mentioned previously, I possessed a morbid fascination with this gory, horrifying game that gave me nightmares. Again, I was too young to appreciate the finer nuances of the game, but I knew that hiding in a save room was the only respite we could find from all the intensity. Unless you forgot your ink ribbon. I guess you’re kind of screwed then.
“Zephyr” – Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage – Stewart Copeland
While I certainly played Crash Bandicoot to death, memories of running around ramming Spyro’s horns into the wall run far more prevalent. Even though I was tackling deep RPG’s like FFVII, I found Spyro 2 to be my first experience that was infuriatingly difficult. Your first memories of rage quitting are always fond ones, aren’t they? I would go on to play Year of the Dragon, but never involved myself with future titles, as Naughty Dog would ultimately prevail with Jak and Daxter.
“Liberi Fatali” – Final Fantasy VIII – Nobuo Uematsu
Remember when I said Final Fantasy VII was the only game I ever needed? So the whole number seven in front of the game didn’t indicate to my young mind that this was part of a greater series. Much to my amazement, a visit to a relative’s house sometime later would portray a young me watching this game that looked a lot like the game I loved, but beared a totally different aesthetic that I was fascinated by. That relative said: “Well this IS Final Fantasy, you dolt. Final Fantasy VIII. When he was finished, I relaunched the game so that I could see what it was about from the beginning. I was greeted by one of the greatest opening sequences and musical tracks EVER made, and I will stand by that forever. I’ve seen Distant Worlds perform this song three times, and each and every time it brings both chills and tears to my eyes. An absolute masterpiece by Uematsu.
“Encounter” – Metal Gear Solid – Konami Computer Entertainment, Sound Team Japan
A huge departure for me as far as video game tastes, another relative introduces me to the world of tactical espionage action. Having never played a true action game that required shooting and stealth, this track played constantly through my television. Little did I know that I would be hypnotized forever by one of the greatest video game franchises ever created. Between playing this and achieving 100% on Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, this franchise dominated a great part of my life.
“Rupture Farms” – Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – Ellen Meijers-Gabriel, Josh Gabriel
“Hello.” “Hi!” “Follow me.” “Okay!” While not a soundtrack I’ve ever gone running to listen to, Oddworld is probably, to this day, one of the more unique experiences I’ve ever had. Lorne Lanning’s world is absolutely fascinating. It was one of the first games I played which featured no combat, and lots of hiding and tension. Also, farting on command to make other inhabits angry or laugh never gets old, because I’m forever a child.
“Dreams of the Shore Bordering Another World” – Chrono Cross – Yasunori Mitsuda
My first RPG outside of the Final Fantasy franchise, and what an experience it was. You can check out my upcoming review of the title soon, but for now, please experience this masterful world map track composed by the incomparable Yasunori Mitsuda. The biggest crime this piece commits is forcing the player to spend hours on the world map making no progress, because it is too enchanting not to listen to. The Chrono Cross soundtrack is arguably my favorite of all time, and it is a gaming experience I can never forget.
“Battle #1” – The Legend of Dragoon – Dennis Martin, Takeo Miratsu
Tired of RPG’s yet? Too bad, they’re not going anywhere. While by no means a perfect game, The Legend of Dragoon beared such a unique sense of style and personality that I couldn’t help but be intrigued by it. It turned a lot of the customs I became familiar with in Final Fantasy on their head. I believe it’s a crying shame that nothing more was ever done with this franchise, because it is a seriously underrated game with a cracking soundtrack that boasts a huge variety of melodies. Go play this game if you haven’t yet.
“Frontier Village Dali” – Final Fantasy IX – Nobuo Uematsu
Another Final Fantasy title? Yes, I had to do it. I will make no secret that Final Fantasy is my most beloved franchise, and it’s okay if you hate me for it. Particularly, I consider VII, VIII, and IX to be the trifecta that shaped my love for role-playing games. This particular track always pulls on my heartstrings, as I remember first arriving in Dali as a kid. Spoiler alert (the game has been out for over fifteen years), this is where you come face to face with Vivi’s struggle with identity. I remember this being one of the first times I felt so emotionally connected with a character. It’s such a beautiful melody, but has become synonymous with the pain Vivi felt throughout the game.
“Awakening” – Xenogears – Yasunori Mitsuda
Rounding off the list, and coming some time after the previous tracks, Xenogears came into my life by storm and forever shaped my understanding of what a video game could achieve narratively. To this day, I find it to be one of the more complex and profound examples of story and character writing I’ve ever seen. Whenever I hear an outsider to the gaming world say something like “Games actually have stories?” I think back to titles like this and am dumbfounded. One of the saddest things to ever occur was the failure to truly complete this title. The game suffers dramatically on disc two as the narrative is smashed together after a full first disc of quality plot development. This is one of my favorite boss themes ever put into a game.
There you have it, these are some of the most memorable pieces from my early years of gaming. It was a great joy to share these pieces with you, as well as to celebrate some of the best composers in the business. If you enjoyed this, comment below and let me know. I look forward to sharing more!