This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite RPGs, that I definitely need to replay sometime. And no being stuck at home with little work for 12 weeks, there is no better time to replay Final Fantasy XIII! The cue is ‘Blinded by Light’, composed by Masashi Hamauzu, who is one of my favourite living composers.
I can usually waffle on for many paragraphs about the synopsis of every game I discuss in these musical blogs, but it has been over 10 years since I first played the game, and my memory of it is incredibly hazy. Three things standout in my mind though whenever I think of the game.
- How Lightning (one of the main protagonists) is so precious and how I must protect my waifu.
- How incredibly long it was. I want to say that it well over 70hrs in length before you reach the midway point and are able to explore the open world in its fullest, but again, my memory fails me there.
- How fantastic the score is.
Being a Final Fantasy game, the game’s combat is similar to that of FFVII, where it is not quite live but not quite turn-taking either. Blinded by Light is what you will hear through most of your playthrough when you are battling monsters and PSICOM troops, who are the main antagonists. The combat always feels fun and engaging, mostly because of this powerful and exhilarating cue.
What a lot of fans of Masashi Hamauzu’s work may overlook is the amount of fusion prevalent in his pieces, with Blinded by Light being an excellent example. The strings perform what I call ‘The JRPG Rhythm’, with those sharp, stabbing syncopated parts, flirting with the keys Em, Bm & F#m, with the horns singing a very sad melody, but in the context of everything else, almost sounds like a mournful battle-cry. So far, this is fairly traditional stuff, but then a drum kit and distorted electric guitars enter, adding support to the strings.
A bit out there still, but thing become more harmonically interesting when we reach the ‘chorus’, where the infamous solo violin is practically screaming this fantastic melody over the top everything else, giving the listener goosebumps as a result. Beneath all of this, the drummer begins to lose his marbles at this point urging the player to push on, you’ve got this, you’ve almost got the fight. The chorus reaches its end, fading into a link section (so that the cue can loop around again) with some rather crazy mini-modulations, littered with add9 and Major 7th chords, traditional staples of Masashi Hamauzu’s writing style.
So in this 1:17sec cue, you have a piece that rises and falls in tension and excitement very quickly, with a unique bland combination of orchestration, smashing jazz, orchestral writing tropes and rock together to create something incredibly unique. My love for JRPG soundtracks has exceeded many western approaches for the longest time, for the urge to just create great music often exceeds the need for making scores interactive for the player. Whilst I do enjoy a good interactive score, such as Journey and NieR: Automata, the emotions trying to be delivered has to come first. So if you have a score that is relatively simple to implement in the game score but moves the listener/player to tears whenever they are beating the living daylights out of enemies, not because of a guilty conscience, but through the music, them I say that is a remarkable talent of any composer. That is what composers for games should strive for, not what kickass things can I do in Fmod/Wwise to enhance the player experience.