Hello readers and welcome to November’s Top 5! After the success of May’s Top 5 – The Songs That Remind Me Of Games I have revisited the topic but with one difference – this time all the songs remind me of games from the Final Fantasy series. Get your headphones at the ready folks, you’re going to want to listen in on this one!
I was quite surprised at the positive feedback I got to my last music based post. I think the reason for my surprise stems from the fact that the list is entirely subjective. I mean, I guess all Top 5’s are subjective, but that one more so than most because I felt it would be difficult for others to share in the personal context behind my choices.
In the previous post I mentioned that I had deliberately excluded the Final Fantasy series as there were so many songs that remind me of it that it deserved its own post. Well, that post is now here so sit back, put your headphones on and enjoy!
Out on the Streets (by Battle Beast, 2013) – Final Fantasy XIII-2
“Still searching in dark city nights, unknown places – where should I start? I’m lost and alone in a future world”
All of the songs in this list could have been by Finnish metal band Battle Beast who clearly appreciate Japanese media, but I’ve gone for this one as it is the most evocative of a specific place and time from the Final Fantasy franchise. That place and time is Academia – 400 AF from FF XIII-2, also known (to me) as ‘Bad Academia’. If the song sonically evokes the dark, oppressive streets then the lyrics really complete the picture. The first line (quoted above) is exactly what happens when you shown up in Academia 400 AF – you are confronted by a dark city full of harsh, futuristic sights and sounds and you have no idea where to go or what do. The song continues “I carry an axe on my back, got no shelter when they attack”, and whilst I’m not sure either Noel or Serah use an Axe, the ‘no shelter’ bit is particularly poignant as you can’t escape battles in ‘Bad Academia’, the ghoulish Cie’th just keeping coming and coming and coming.
State of my Head (by Shinedown, 2015) – Final Fantasy XV
“Oh, our flag is tattered and our bones are shattered but it doesn’t matter cos’ we’re moving forward”
This one is a bit of a cheat because I’ve never actually played Final Fantasy XV, but having seen both the film Kingsglaive and the short anime series which accompanied the game, I have a strong impression of four friends fighting together until the end of their journey no matter what stands in their way. As I haven’t played it I don’t really know what they’re fighting for, but I think the determination in this powerful Shinedown song really fits with them (also, I like to imagine the FF XV boys singing it…). The determined, single-minded spirit of the song is summed up nicely by a line in the chorus which proclaims “The only way I’m leaving is dead”. Fighting talk indeed!
So Beneath You (by AFI, 2017) – Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns
I won’t kneel. I won’t bow. If you’re there now strike me down, strike me down, strike me down. Oh you’ve got nothing.
Ok, so I don’t really want to do I deep dive into religious representation in video games here. I don’t feel duly qualified to do so. However, the depiction of religion in Lightning Returns is very interesting and ties in with some of the themes in this fantastic song by AFI. As you can see from the quote above, the song depicts an individual rejecting God and the idea of divine power. They do not fear divine retribution as no God exists to carry it out. Whilst a God – Bhunivelze – clearly exists in Lightning Returns, Lightning’s journey from serving Bhunivelze to rejecting him and his power reminds me of the themes in the song.
Lightning initially follows Bhunivelze’s wishes as the God has promised that in return he will save her sister Serah. However as the game unfolds she begins to suspect that Bhunivelze is not able to deliver on his promise and that fulfilling his wishes will in fact destroy humanity. As she learns more Lightning has a choice to make – continue to serve Bhunivelze or reject him completely. Concluding that Bhunivelze is a malevolent God, she chooses to confront him. She isn’t scared of his divine power because the power she and her allies has is stronger. He is not needed by humanity and so they reject the idea of worshipping him as a God, just as the song rejects the existence of God.
A Million Miles Away (by Rory Gallagher, 1973) – Final Fantasy VIII
This hotel bar lost all its people. The piano man has caught the last bus home. The old bartender is asleep in the corner, so why must I still be here? I don’t know.
This is a funny one because the song has nothing to do with the story of the game except that they both feature a hotel bar complete with piano player. Sure, in the song the piano player is a man instead of being Julia Heartilly, and the context is pretty different, but that is one of the crucial things of this ‘songs that remind me of games’ thing. Our minds can be strange places, and despite these fairly major differences I still associate the song with the game. The main manifestation of this is that when I hear the song I picture the bar from the Galbadia Hotel with its grand piano and red paisley carpet every time. This association serves as a good example of how the game excels in creating a sense of place. Whilst I know that it is fictional, that hotel bar is a powerful enough idea that it lingers in my memory. I could imagine a hotel bar I’ve actually been to when I hear Rory Gallagher‘s song, but I don’t, and that speaks volumes for the creative impact of the game.
Reasons to Live (by DragonForce, 2008) – Nobuo Uematsu era Final Fantasy Games
We all face our fears in the world; we all hold our place in the universe…for eternity.
As in my previous musical post, not all of these songs are included because they have lyrical references to the games in question. This song makes the list instead because it sounds like a sonic tribute to the music of Nobuo Uematsu from various installments of the Final Fantasy series. It starts off like a normal DragonForce song (i.e. with drumming too fast to actually fathom) but after 2 minutes 50 seconds it transcends into an ode to Final Fantasy, referencing many pieces from the series and evoking that hard to describe ‘feeling’ of Final Fantasy. To me much of it is reminiscent of battle music, but not any one piece in particular, just in the general style – albeit in a more over-the-top kind of way (imagine the Black Mages but much faster). DragonForce themselves are quite open about the influence of video games on their music, and guitarist Herman Li can often be found on the internet discussing gaming. This song serves as a wonderful example of just how powerful and influential the music from the Final Fantasy series has been and will always conjure flashes from the games in my mind.
So what do you think? Do any songs remind you of the Final Fantasy series? What is it about the songs that makes you think about the game and what kind of feelings or memories do they evoke? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in comments!
Thanks for reading,