January 16, 2012

Music Monday: The Last Story - Toberu Mono (Instrumental)

Title: Toberu Mono (Instrumental)
Game: The Last Story (released 2011 in Japan, no North American release currently planned)
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu

For many, Nobuo Uematsu is synonymous with classic video game music. He penned the score for every Final Fantasy game from I to IX (and also contributed to X and XI), as well as popular favorite Chrono Trigger. In the heyday of the NES and SNES, video game soundtracks were severely limited by the hardware. Music wasn't just written, but programmed. There were no orchestras, nor live recordings, nor spoken dialogue. The system had to load and execute the music programming just like any other part of the game, and no more than a handful of digital "instruments" could be playing at any one time. It took a lot of creativity to get the most out of a system's sound chip, and the quality of a game's music hinged upon the composer's ability to craft an evocative and memorable melody which defied technological constrictions. Uematsu's work was widely regarded as some of the best that games had to offer -- and even among those who have long since given up on Final Fantasy, or RPGs in general, Uematsu's melodies still trigger feelings of nostalgia and reverence.

 As the video game industry grew into the monstrous entity it is today, demands for increased budgets and more cinematic approaches to music took over. While one can't really argue that this has been a bad thing overall, it has shifted emphasis away from that mother of invention who demanded stirring melodies above all else. A lot of modern soundtracks seek to lend background mood or atmosphere and tension to specific scenarios or dialogue scenes, when they aren't licensing popular music from outside of gaming entirely. As a result, some of today's music -- while enjoyable within the context of play -- may not leave a lasting impression once the game is shut off.

Toberu Mono, the main theme of Japanese RPG The Last Story, recalls the tradition of unforgettable melody. Hearing it is like being transported back to 1994 -- a sort of alternate-reality 1994 in which game composers had all the resources and sophistication they take for granted today. This piece would feel right at home in a 16-bit game like Final Fantasy VI. From the gentle winds of the opening moments to the brassy flourish of the triumphant anthem at its conclusion, it's clear that Uematsu hasn't lost sight of the magic which captivated a generation.

No comments:

Post a Comment