I was listening to some of the classic orchestral soundtracks from the Final Fantasy series, pre-7, and if I had to sum ’em it up in one word, it would be Majestic. Not all the songs, but some of them are, and those are majestic in an unmatched way.
I’m sure the effect is different for everyone, but I draw a lot of my imagination from fantasy literature and the time I spent studying music in a concert band. When I say majestic, I mean something really regal. I hear it and I can imagine: the tapestries; the chandeliers; the feasts; the lamplight reflecting off bugles and cymbals; the bearded kings and knights; and of course, the dresses and suits and ties and ruffles and all the trimmings at the ends. The smiles at in the ballroom are implied in the songs– a curtsey, a bow, a light touch of fingertips on starched cotton weaves need not be shown, nor the cascade of the room as it waltzes it’s way across the polished marble in the old ways now all but forgotten– it wasn’t even possible back with 8-bit technology to show any of that– but somehow, through oldschool MIDI and one-liner NPCs, it was all invoked.
And when you set up that sense of kingdom, when you really feel at home in that castle of music, that’s why you play through the game when the adversary arrives– because the majesty of that kingdom is at stake, that perfect fantasy, and you’ll be damned if you let anyone mar it with evil. /Fuck that shit./ Your only choice: to bring back the truth to that sort of song is to fight your way across the ends of the earth, and steal it back from the growing darkness.
It all comes as part of a package of a storytelling genre unlike anything that I can see in modern cinema. Things take a bit of a turn with FFXII, but everything up until then, I can say with the certainty of my personal preferences, stuck to a formula that worked to framework the mythos about them that I haven’t seen in any other serieses… every installment had an order of knights of some sort, a damsel in distress, dragons, and treasure.
It’s something to watch a movie and see a dragon rendered in CG– it’s another thing to have to fight one, even if only in 8-bit, that makes you respect them above all other creatures. In a movie, you might see something really big and dirty and breathing fire and maybe it’s got a really bass voice– but you are wow-ed, when really, you should be saying “I’m so fucked.” The fact that it comes from a game means that your experience with the story is first person, not third person.
Above all, Final Fantasy stories to me have always been about growth. There have always been twists of fate that turn even the most staunch paragon into a doubter, or doubters into heroes, but either way, there’s some sort of catharsis that comes about through the travelling of the world with companions unlikely, which at some point brings you to a conclusion: that the world needs saving, and that it’s not going to save itself. As step up with wands, staves, and swords, you and other partisans of the music of simpler times scrape your way to to get it all back.
By the end though, the music isn’t the same. Because something’s changed, and it’s not just cracks on the kingdom ramparts. It’s the comrades you met and lost along the way. All that changes the way that you look at that world so that by the end even when you return to the same places where it all began, the tune is a bit different.
It’s not majestic anymore. It’s become something less regal and pompous, it’s become something more … epic. Majesty becomes less important because it becomes apaprent that there are kings, and then there are Kings, and they are determined by the stories. Because in retrospect, you’ve come a damn far way.
I think that naturally, anything that is fiction exists because of some amazing piece of non-fiction. You could take something like science fiction and sure, it’s true that a lot of that stuff doesn’t exist, nor will it ever, but the human conditions within them, of love and loss and happiness and hate, those things are all real and literature throughout the ages serves to chronicle those feelings in authors. None of those feelings are made up– for in order for them to be cast out, they must be experienced first.
And I think that’s why I’m such a hopeful person, despite many things that I see which tell me at times that it’s all just futility. I grew up among comic books and video games. Some of them had happy endings, some didn’t– but they gave me hints, perhaps not of real events, but of the way I would feel when things in real life hit me.
The difference between life and a game or a story that you read is that life always goes on, until you die. A game or a book can end on a high note or a low note, but at every one of life’s chapters, you kind of need to find something new. In that way, it’s sometimes difficult– you think for a moment that you know it all, that everything makes sense, and then even the happiest of conclusions turns out not to simply stay that way.
When you look at it, you can immortalize someone with a story, but that doesn’t change the fact that unless someone finds a way to come to terms with a peak of existence, that even something you work really hard to get to won’t last. Take the actors, olympians, presidents, generals and musicians of yesteryears– acheivements they may have, but what happens at a certain point when time goes on and you can no longer ride on that momentum?
Then, you need to find the next thing to do. It’s kinda desperate– we’re forced to press forward or fade.
If there was ever something I wished for, it would be the scenario.
Scenarios I’ve found are the things that make life interesting. It’s not always enough to decide “I’m going to do something different.” We can’t always afford to make drastic changes in our lives, we have responsibilities to others.
The whole stint in Asia for example was about as drastic a change as I’ve ever made in my life– but I can’t do that all the time. Why not? I don’t know. It’d just be too much to build a new home all the time. I would get tired of running all the time.
I guess, I’d just be too tired of starting over at zero again. It was good to do at least once so that I could see if I could reinvent myself, but I don’t think I’d want to do it again.
Yet as I settle into a less nomadic life in Montreal now, I’ve found that I’m looking for something that isn’t right under my nose– the next big adventure. It’s not necessarily wanderlust– I just want something to hit me and shake things up. I want the responsibility of challenge to be out of my hands. Throw it at me and I’ll do it– but make me chose? Ah, but how Freedom is such a burden!