Listen Hear: Final Fantasy VII Fights!
Video games have tons of working parts that go into making them all so amazing. The story, the characters, the world, the graphics, the controls. But there is often an element that a lot of people overlook. An element that truly does bring to life a lot of the aforementioned list.
Music is an integral part of my life. Just as in films, the soundtrack can lift whatever game it’s in to an entirely new level. In this series, Listen Hear, I’m going to highlight some of video games’ finest musical pieces and explain why they mean so much to me. Hopefully you’ll find something here you enjoy and perhaps themes you never even noticed. Strap yourself in, we have a few decades to get through.
Final Fantasy as a whole has some extremely memorable tunes. Nobuo Uematsu, the composer for a large majority of the games in the series with a body of work in the industry that expands nearly forty years, has crafted some of the finest pieces in video game history. What I want to touch on this time, after all the joyful tunes of the forest, is the battle music from Final Fantasy VII. Battle music is a tough thing. It’s something you’re going to hear hundreds and hundreds of times, guaranteed, throughout your playtime. It has to be memorable, but not intrusive. A theme that isn’t annoying, but doesn’t become the forefront of the scene at hand. Take a listen to FFVII’s “Let the Battles Begin!” below.
Boom! It starts right away with a hard crash and some excellent digitized brass and strings to get your battle blood flowing. It’s just the right amount of epic in scope and makes you feel excited to take down enemies, even when you’re waiting for the game to load the goddamn screen for fifteen seconds of the song. It runs about one minute and ten seconds before a seamless loop occurs, which is perfect for most regular encounters in the game as you’ll likely not hear the song more than twice in any given fight. Around the 0:54 mark, the notes hit make you feel like a hero unsheathing his ridiculously long and insanely wide Buster Sword while standing atop a mountain, surveying a grand view as you prepare to destroy the enemies that are closing in quickly. And with that, the song prepares you to…let the battles begin…
Later on in the game, a new track appears for stronger enemies, such as bosses or mini bosses. Listen to how “Fight On!” ramps up the intensity with electric guitar, harder drums, and an overall more rock feel. God did I love hearing this as a kid.
Dat bass does not stop. Like the previous song, it ramps up right away and gives you a sense of urgency and badassery. The villain stands before you, and you must take him down! It also has quite a few changes, most notably an excellent little keyboard solo at the 0:40 mark. Then, at 1:03, everything turns dire. It feels as though the enemy has gained the upper hand for the last thirty seconds and Cloud as his crew have been wounded. The outcome is looking grim. But right before the loop happens, the score rises up again, lifting your spirits and will to continue with it. You must…fight on…
Lastly, there is “Jenova Complete”. Happening much later in the game during a pivotal confrontation, the song borrows from both “Let the Battles Begin” and “Fight On!” with its own unique twist.
Some of the beats from the other songs are there, but with far more extravagance and evil or darker sounding hits, such as around 1:19 with the strings striking some eerie chords. Uematsu does a wonderful job of reincorporating a piece we have heard quite a few times now and changing it up enough to feel even more pressing and more important than before. You are forced to…Jenova complete…
Nope, no, no, sorry, no.
Battle themes in an RPG are no easy task, but Final Fantasy VII delivers every time. Regardless of the enemy, big or small, I’m always ready to fight them head-on so I can twirl my sword victoriously once they’ve been vanquished. Pull me into your world, Cloud.