Music of the ORBS: Introduction

A deep dive into the work of one of my favorite video game composers

This is the first in an ongoing series covering the music of the Final Fantasy series of video games, particularly that written by original series composer Nobuo Uematsu. These games are near and dear to my heart, and many of the tunes Uematsu penned are instantly recognizable to me and perhaps millions of others around the world.

As a student of music, I also think it is an interesting opportunity to see how a single composer grew as an artist over time, as well as how he adapted his compositions to the technology he had available. Unlike some other early video game music composers (such as Super Mario maestro Koji Kondo), Uematsu doesn't strike me as naturally an electronic artist, but as someone who wrote compositions that he then had to adapt to the electronic setting. From the very beginning, his compositions were ambitious and asked a lot out of the limited sound hardware.

My intention at first is to discuss the music as music – what it sounds like, what it means, what I feel about it. I've never done something quite like this before, so to start I'm going to lean towards systematic accumulation of information, which is how I begin most projects. In this case, that means I'm planning to listen to and discuss the soundtracks of each game. I'm going to start off with a track-by-track review for the game that started it all, 1987's Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System (Famicom). This approach will not be feasible for the entire series, as the soundtracks quickly expand, but the first three games include nearly every recurring theme used in the series. I'll course-correct as I go.

In the longer term, I would really like to apply some of the "platform studies" analysis found in a book I'm currently reading, I Am Error. This means a more detailed analysis of how the technical limitations of the platform (as well as knowledge how to use it) affected the music. More on this later, hopefully. It will require me to learn a lot more than I currently know about the music hardware.