With Final Fantasy XV’s release crawling closer just as slowly as it possibly can, I took a few moments to reflect on the many reasons I’m so excited for this game. And there are plenty of them. Any numbered Final Fantasy excites me in ways best left unwritten, but this one has revived hopes for what has, sadly, felt like a dying franchise for years. A return to the broody hero mold? Check. Genre defining graphics? Check. Magic and adventure on a massive, story-driven scale? Check. Airships? It’s a flying car, now, but check that friggin’ box and get out of my way, clouds!
But the first thing I thought of was the music. Even when I think back to the Final Fantasy days of yore, it’s not the things that I was doing that I remember the most vividly, but the melodies that accompanied the actions. Nobuo Uematsu, the composer for Final Fantasy up through FFXII, and the pieces he created have been reverberating in my head for close to twenty years at this point. For myself and many others his name is synonymous with the franchise. I don’t think it’s an understatement in the slightest to say that his hard work and musical talent helped drive the gaming industry forward and raised the bar on what was to be expected from the scores of games.
Here is a wonderful video from Red Bull Music highlighting Uematsu and his journey as a composer for the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s about fifteen minutes long, but well worth the investment for FF fans. (This is episode five in a series entitled Diggin’ In The Carts, which explores Japan’s influence on video game music. An absolute must watch!)
So, it should be pretty clear by this point that I’m a huge fan of this guy. Try to imagine my dismay when I learned that Yoko Shimomura was the composer and not Uematsu. I was disappointed for the first time in my Final Fantasy XV life.
But is that even fair? Nostalgia has a way of taking our memories and decorating them as something much more beautiful than they actually were. Like rocks that time spray painted gold. It’s still just a rock but it looks awesome now, right? Same sort of thing. I’m sure that Uematsu could eat a whole can of beans and record himself farting into a horn for four minutes and I would defend the artistic vision of a man that musically influenced me from childhood. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I know it. Such is the unholy power of nostalgia.
So who is this lady, Yoko? How dare she even think of intruding on the sanctity of Final Fantasy composing? Well, it turns out she’s got a pretty lengthy musical record, herself, and is by no means a stranger to the industry. Here’s an excellent list of her works to refer to right here.
Ever played Super Mario RPG? What about Legend of Mana? Maybe Kingdom Hearts? How about Street Fighter II? Then you’ve already heard her at work, and didn’t even know it. Or you did, in which case good for you, have a gold star. Here is a newly released video of Yoko briefly discussing the differences between working on the FFXV movie, Kingsglaive, and the actual game itself.
And just listen to this piece. It’s audibly stunning.
Yoko’s got the pedigree, she has absolutely earned the right to work on a huge project like FFXV. I mean when you have Chun-Li’s theme under your belt, you’re not really flying under the radar anymore. In every video I’ve seen of her, too, she acts so modestly it’s hard not to like her (and I tried, trust me). For example, check out episode three of Diggin’ In The Carts, in which Yoko is featured fairly prominently in the second half:
See? She’s just plain likable.
So here we are, Yoko. I didn’t want to accept that Nobuo wasn’t doing FFXV, but he’s not. I didn’t want to give you a chance, and that was dumb. Forgive my kneejerk disappointment. Rather than lament what I think he could have done, I should anticipate and laude what you CAN do. Nobuo’s always gonna have a place in my heart, but who’s to say a new composer can’t wiggle her way in there, too? Now’s the time! Show us all how great you can be. I can’t wait to hear it.