Vince and I have been playing around with the Final Fantasy 13-3 demo that we downloaded a few nights ago. The new game looks awesome, and any follower of the blog knows how much I love the FF series. In another case of nostalgia-- just after my Campbell's Soup memory lane trip yesterday-- I'm really floored by this Square Enix video. It's a retrospective on Final Fantasy 13 and 13-2 made to look as if it's from the SNES era.
While Vince and I watched this, one of the things he said immediately was that the sounds were not as good as they could have been from the SNES. Some of the sound effects are, of course, exactly the same as FF VI, but considering the musical sounds, I feel he may be right. Why does the sound quality feel even more primitive than FF IV or VI did?
Why might the designers of this video take this direction with the music? Why would the creators of this video choose to go with such a primitive sound quality? Does it create even more feeling of "age" for the old game? Or perhaps music composed for modern systems is created in a way that makes it difficult to translate back into 16 bit sounds? I do think that the use of various voices actually does give a cool build up to the themes. Also, it's a little mind blowing to think of this music in that old 16 bit style. It was a Dali inspired moment when I heard this.
I want to write that I have no problem with old school game audio transitioning to live orchestra, and thus am wondering why this re-imagination in the reverse direction (orchestrated to 16-bit) is less successful for me. However, now that I think about it, I don't love game audio when it's orchestrated. Sometimes it's very successful; for instance, I think Zelda's Gerudo valley theme is orchestrated and performed well. But other times, I feel orchestrated arrangements don't really do the original composition justice, changing rhythms or adding tacky tags/ intros (here, Matoya's cave theme, at 2:40... the change in melodic rhythm is not to my liking at all).
Perhaps, then, this FF 13 music is just another case of a transition across mediums that I didn't think worked as skillfully as it could have. Yet, I suspect there were more deliberate choices in terms of voicing and sounds that are trying to make these SNES sounds seem even older than they were, telescoping it to an even earlier era. It's another nostalgic reach out to folks around my age who know and love these old games. Seeing this video does make me think about how far game audio has come and its progression through time. I think FF 13 has some of the greatest music I know. In terms of interactivity, the game designers use of it is not cutting edge-- simple fades in and out are most of the "interactivity" with the audio. And yet, because the music is brilliantly composed, orchestrated, and performed, that doesn't matter too much.
Considering all this, I suppose I should enjoy that this video gave me reflection on the progress of game audio. Yet, I wish the look back 20 years didn't sound quite so exaggerated...
Note: follow the link to the YouTube video and notice that the quality of the audio is actually a topic of conversation in the video comments as well! Nice to know that others had the same reaction!