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The Seven: most appropriate character themes

by April 5, 2015 0 comments
Vincent Valentine
Simple but effective: The Nightmare Begins

This is the fourth entry in an ongoing series of articles on The Lifestream called The Seven, in which we turn the spotlight on seven of the best (or worst) aspects of the Final Fantasy series. Previously in this series, we have looked at the best lines of dialogue in Final Fantasy VII, the best FMVs in the Final Fantasy series, and most recently, the most difficult boss fights in the series. The selections are made with the help of our community.

For this article, we focused on the series’ characters and the music that represents them. Specifically, our forum members were asked to pick the songs that manage to describe (usually without lyrics) their characters’ personalities, actions, or both. They could nominate any track from any Final Fantasy game’s soundtrack, provided they could justify why they thought it was a character theme and not, for example, the theme of a particular in-game location. As a result, not all of the pieces on this list are called “X’s Theme”. They were not limited to playable characters: antagonists and even NPCs could be nominated, providing they had their own themes.

These themes are presented in chronological order from the games they featured in. The list contains some plot details of Final Fantasy VI and IX as well as spoilers for Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VI: Terra’s Theme

Despite being called Terra’s Theme, this piece is often thought of as the main theme of Final Fantasy VI, which lends weight to the argument that Terra is the game’s main character, at least in the World of Balance. While that debate might not have a conclusive answer, JasonTandro gave this as his justification:

The progression of the world is mirrored in the story of Terra. In the opening phases she is a mysterious girl trapped in a situation with little understanding of who she is or why she has her abilities. When she discovers the “monster” that lies beneath her surface, she flees in terror. It is only by embracing both her light and darkness that the world can exist. So it goes with her melody, a piece that exists in a minor key and begins haunting yet eerily soothing but ends with a dramatic and triumphant fanfare.

Final Fantasy VI: Cyan’s Theme

Moustache man Cyan is one of the most memorable characters in Final Fantasy VI’s large cast, and his bold, dramatic theme is undoubtedly part of the reason he stands out. The melody reflects his noble and often tragic history, while the military-style percussion section is indicative of his status as a fierce samurai, duty-bound to protect his birthplace, Doma. Here’s what Doran Martell had to say about it:

If you’re talking great themes that can’t be mistaken as anything other then that character’s theme, this has gotta be up there. It very much evokes a sense of forgotten old-fashioned chivalry and loyalty to me.

Final Fantasy VII: Aerith’s Theme

Aerith’s Theme plays just three times in Final Fantasy VII: during Elmyra’s story of how she came to adopt a young Aerith, immediately after her death, and for a few moments at the end of the game’s second disc, just before the party descends into the Northern Cave. Its soaring strings make every one of them just a little more moving, as Ghost X explained:

I think it conveys elements of her kind nature, her struggles in life, the sense of hope she brings, as well as foreshadowing her death, and the tragic nature and effects of it. Every time it is played in the game it fits perfectly with all the sub-plots Aerith is involved in. A real multi-dimensional well-composed song.

Final Fantasy VII: Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII (Cloud)

This theme, which plays on the world map for the first half of Final Fantasy VII, is highly regarded for its intricacy and combination of major and minor elements. In addition to being the main theme of the game, its leitmotif appears in about a dozen other tracks on the game’s soundtrack. The reason it is often considered Cloud’s theme comes down to its inclusion in arguably the critical moment in his character development, towards the end of the “Lifestream sequence” on disc two. Our Site Director Lex made this comment:

I think the music in this segment [starting at 03:48 in the embedded video] perfectly reflects the scene it represents and the journey of Cloud’s character. It starts light as though a weight has been lifted, builds in a kind of ominous pride that fits perfectly with the realisation of the part Cloud actually played in the past then segues back to the theme of the world the player spent the first disc listening to. This is my number one moment in all of Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy VII: The Nightmare Begins (Vincent)

The simplest piece of music on this list, Vincent’s de facto theme has just two parts: an acoustic guitar playing arpeggiated chords and an eerie high-pitched synth sound which fades in and out. One could easily imagine falling asleep to the song, which might well have been the point. Granny Weatherwax drew an interesting comparison:

It’s like a warped version of the song from Sleeping Beauty (Once Upon a Dream) which is disturbingly appropriate when you think about it (“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…”). The first time I heard it, it made the hairs on my neck stand on end. It’s a great piece of music and given Vincent’s history and connection with the experiments being undertaken in the basement, he’s the first character to come to mind when I hear it.

Final Fantasy VII: One-Winged Angel (Sephiroth)

While Those Chosen by the Planet may have been intended as Sephiroth’s theme in the original release of Final Fantasy VII, it is the song that plays during the penultimate battle against him which really captured fans’ imaginations. It has since risen to iconic status and is one of Nobuo Uematsu’s most widely-known compositions. Square Enix have reinforced the idea that One-Winged Angel is Sephiroth’s theme by including it in Advent Children, Crisis Core, Dissidia, Theatrhythm and even Ehrgeiz. The track was rearranged for some of those releases, as The Engineer mentioned:

One-Winged Angel is a beautifully developed theme, especially when it’s listened to in the chronological order of the games. It’s pretty interesting how as the series goes on the theme has more and more fragmented as music styles get mashed into it, kinda like how as the series goes on Sephiroth psyche becomes more and more fragmented. Crisis Core’s version is only orchestra and choir and is the shortest version, the original game version has started branching out into other music styles even though it’s still based on a traditional orchestra and the Advent Children Complete version brings in elements of heavy metal with it.

Final Fantasy IX: Freya’s Theme

“To be forgotten is a fate worse than death”, exclaims Freya in her signature quote. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy IX’s developers did seem to forget about her somewhat after her heavy involvement in the part of the game between Lindblum and Cleyra. As a result, her theme is heard in just one location, Gizamaluke’s Grotto. It’s a beautiful piece of music and arguably deserved better. Here’s Ghost X again:

Freya’s theme I always associated with her character really easily. I think it suits her tragic story of longing for Fratley, who has no recollection of her, and the fate of her hometown, Burmecia. However, I think there is a hint of optimism in it, which expresses her perseverance despite all these losses.

Honourable mentions

There were 15 additional themes nominated, and it was difficult to choose between them. Setzer (Final Fantasy VI), Steiner’s Theme and Quina’s Theme (both Final Fantasy IX) almost made the cut. You can view all the nominations, and the reasons behind them, in the relevant forum thread.

Which themes have we missed? Let us know in the comments below or on our forum!

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