Friday, May 11, 2012

Baptized in 8 Bit Music

At this moment, I'm listening to "Scene V: ~Prelude~ FFI - Main Theme / Kao's Shrine / Chaos' Temple" from Symphonic Suite: Final Fantasy, which you could say inspired me to write this.

My love of video game music came about sometime in 1991 while playing Final Fantasy on the NES.  I just came to the part where the King of Coneria builds a bridge to the adjacent continent and your characters cross.  That's when the screen flashes and you're greeted with a text-story moment and this music.  I must've sat there and listened to it until either the screen force-ably changed or I pressed "A" and progressed the game myself.  

I'd played quite a few games whose music I really liked by that point (Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, Mega Man II), but something about the "Theme" music from Final Fantasy did something for me that the music from video games had never done before.  Maybe it was that I recognized it as something that just wasn't being played in the background, but something that I could sit and listen to for hours on end.

The problem though at the time was that video game soundtracks were practically unheard of in the United States, or as far as I knew at the time, didn't exist at all.  The internet wasn't readily available, especially so on the Apple IIe computer that our family was using, and modems were things that regular households just didn't have; so finding import CD's was pretty much out of the question.  (I don't even think the Apple IIe was modem compatible, although I did convince my older sister that I'd hacked into the DMV and changed test answers on the drivers test).  Once I started going to Star Trek conventions (1992 or 93 I think), I began seeing anime soundtracks from Japan, albeit for anywhere between $25 - $70 a piece, which for a new teenager, was very much out of the question.  So at least I knew that music from Japanese products were out there.

When Final Fantasy II came out on the SNES (or more likely after I bought it), and there was the revamped "Final Fantasy Theme," and I knew what I had to do.  I took my sister's duel cassette tape deck (which had better recording capabilities than mine), propped it up on the two doors of our family's entertainment center and hit "Record" every time a new song came up.  I let the songs play through  2-3 times, depending on the length of the song.  I then did the same thing for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  I now had playable video game soundtracks, still unaware that legit soundtracks had already been released in Japan since 1986.  

In 1995, I bought Final Fantasy III for the SNES and it came with a brochure for various items you could buy from Squaresoft.  There was a Mog keychain, an FFIII shirt and the soundtracks to Final Fantasy III (Titled "Kefka's Domain") and The Secret of Mana.  My parents said that for my 9th grade graduation (Woodland still had Jr. High schools so moving to the actual "High School" seemed like a big deal) asked what I wanted.  Looking at this brochure, I knew that I really liked the music from both games, but Kefka's Domain came with 3 CD's.  Three whole CD's of music from a game that I loved.  I told my parent's that that was what I wanted, and bless them, without scoffing or questioning my request, that's what they bought me for my graduation present.

That's what started it all.  Soon after I bought the DK Jamz (Donkey Kong Country) CD from Nintendo Power and the Symphonic Suite: Final Fantasy CD, which had orchestrated video game music, something that I thought would never exist.  I won't list all the game soundtracks that I've acquired over the years, but recently I've been downloading "soundtracks" from NES games that never had official released soundtracks such as Jackal, Ikari Warriors, and Crystalis.  It's been a rebirth of being excited about NES music again even though I don't have the console hooked up.

Que the Orchestra

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