Interview with Eric Pavey, Cinematic Artist from Final Fantasy IX

Hey, Y’all!

Sorry it’s been a while – I’ve been spending the last few weeks preparing for a Pathfinder campaign that I’m about to begin GMing (and, admittedly, watching a TON of Yu Yu Hakusho, which I just finished up last week.  It’s my favorite TV show, by the way.  Highly recommended.  I’ll be doing a post about its similarities with FFIX at some point, I’m sure, as I feel I love both pieces of media for the same reasons).

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Eric Pavey, who worked on Final Fantasy IX back in the day.  I asked him about the game design industry, the Final Fantasy series, and assorted tips and tricks for you graphic-designers-in-training out there.  (Also, he told me that he had some cool exclusive FFIX-related content, and I’ve been trying to get in touch with Squeenix’s legal department, and they have not returned any of my calls.  Annoying).  Here we go!

FFIXBlog –  Do you play video games?  If so, did you play FFIX?  What did you think of it?
EP – I’ve played games my whole life (starting with the arcades in the late 70’s early 80’s).  I did play FFIX.  Honestly I wasn’t a huge fan of the series at the time:  I’d played quite a bit of FFVII, and some of VIII, but having to wait for the spell sequences over and over got really tiring for me 😛  While working on FFIX, I actually convinced the designers that the “American consumer didn’t want to see the same pre-rendered sequence over and over”, so they actually let you skip them after the first watch.  I was pretty proud of that 🙂
FFIXBlog –  I’ve witnessed that there’s still a thriving community of FFIX fans out there – why do you think that is?  What’s so special about it?
EP – Personally it seemed much more ‘fantastical’ than other others, that seemed more futuristic:  The whole look (more stylized\cartoony) and setting (fantasy world) was more approachable to me.
FFIXBlog –  How long have you been working with video games/video game art?
EP – I started professionally in 1995, so that means this is year 18.
FFIXBlog –  How did you break into the industry?
EP – I got my degree in Graphic Design, but grew up playing video-games, and had dabbled in CG for a while.  When I finally figured out people actually get paid to make video-games I went back to school to be an ‘animator’, and never looked back.
FFIXBlog –  On MobyGames, where I found the credits, it says that you were part of the “Field Map Graphics” team.  What exactly does that entail?
EP – I actually have no idea 🙂  I was part of the cinematics department:  We worked on all the pre-rendered sequences in the game.  Specifically I did a lot of the intro movies, and worked on one of the big climax movies.
FFIXBlog –  What programs/languages did you use to do your work?
EP – At the time, Alias PowerAnimator, v7 StudioPaint, and Maya v1, all SGI machines.
FFIXBlog –  I know that much of the work on FFIX was done in Hawaii.  Was that where you were?  Regardless, what was working with Square like?
EP – Downtown Honolulu, across from the Aloha Tower Marketplace, at the top of a beautiful skyscraper.  The whole game team was there, along with the film team working on “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”.  Working at square was an amazing experience:  90% of the team was from Japan, and to be immersed in that culture was a big enjoyable eye-opener.  Plus, to be paid good money to work in Hawaii was a deal of a lifetime.
FFIXBlog –  Any advice for aspiring video game artists?
EP – There is so munch competition, you need to love this line of work.  You need to do it all, day, every day.  Find who is better than you, strive for that level of quality, and then crush it.
FFIXBlog –  Do you still have any art/anything from that era that you would like to (or have the rights to) release via FinalFantasyIX (dot) com?
EP – I do, but I have no idea about the legality of releasing it 🙁
Many thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions!  If y’all have any questions for him, I could definitely get in touch with him again 🙂
See y’all soon!

FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 5

Howdy y’all, and welcome to the review of the LAST DISC of “Balance and Ruin”.  I’m super excited;  this is a bonus disc, so it’s basically just other remixes of some of the songs that have already been done.  Since I think we went through the entire soundtrack.  Which is effin’ boss.

Anyway, on to the music!  We’ll be using a rating scale of 1-5 Sabins.

Track 1 – Omen: I. Black Dawn (Opening Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Have you ever heard of the word “lugubrious”?  It’s one of my favorite words.  “Lugubrious”, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, means “exaggeratedly or affectively mournful”.  That’s basically how I feel about this first track, and not in a very good way.

The song takes its sweet time getting started, and I feel like it’s playing up its own importance.  This is the first time these guys have done a track since Disc 1, and I feel much the same way towards this one that I did their first effort – it just seems like they’re trying way too hard to make something a dark, glorious epic.  Like, it was okay, pretty badass, I guess, but it was just way too slow-moving for me.

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Track 2 – Omen: II. Terror March (Opening Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Impressive!  It’s like they heard me and took my advice or something!  :p

But seriously, this song has a different energy from the start.  It kicks right off and rocks on out throughout.  The song goes through many different movements throughout the 8 minutes, getting increasingly intense and double-bass-y as it progresses.

Towards the end (about 7:30), I started to lose it – it didn’t sound too terribly much besides anything but a jam-session, which was kind of annoying, but it worked out overall.  The last 10 seconds were great, transitioning into the next track.

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Track 3 – Omen: III. Daydream (Opening Theme, Battle Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Oh God, we’re right back to the lugubriousness again.  Look, I’m sorry, I understand what they’re trying to do, and yes, the original music is epic as fuck.  HOWEVER, you don’t make something MORE epic by simply slowing it down an absurd amount and using a guitar and double bass.  That’s just not how epic works.  I think the opening theme just ended, almost 6 minutes into this track.  Which means I’ve been listening to the opening theme for about 26, 27 minutes.  NO.

To make things worse, I’m almost a full minute into the “Battle Theme”, and literally the sound has changed once.  Is this supposed to build anticipation or bore me to death?

I’m sick of it.  One and one-half Sabins, just because I am, amazingly, still listening.

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Track 4 – Omen: IV. Polemos (Battle Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Great.  I’ve got a 10-and-a-half minute battle theme to listen to.  I’ll try to be objective.  Taking a deep breath…  Okay.  Here we go.

Okay.  Two minutes in, and it still sounds pretty badass.  It’s the “Battle Theme” we all know and love, with, of course, a bit of a metal twist.

Four minutes in, aaaaand I’m kind of losing it.  Oops, they brought it back at around 4:30, doing a little keyboard-y breakdown that isn’t bad, I guess.  I am wondering if all of this is necessary, however.  Especially after looking at the track list for the rest of the album (the next-longest song after these four is less than six minutes long…  Maybe they should take note of that?).

At around six minutes, it gets all right again.  I can tell where we are in the “Battle Theme”, at least.  Not much to comment on.

It sounded like it was about to stop abruptly around 8 minutes.  Excitedly, I look over, thinking that somehow, the full 10.5 minutes had passed.  I was wrong, and they just started “breakin’ it down” again.  Which I did not appreciate.

Long story short, if all of the songs above were less than five minutes, maybe I wouldn’t have a problem.  But they were all super long and pretty boring. Ick.  This one was…  better than the last one, but not my much.

Track 4 Rating:

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Rating as a cohesive piece, Tracks 1-4:

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Track 5 – Following Forgotten (The Mines of Narshe) by Patrick Burns

(NOTE:  I didn’t find this in my FLAC folder…  Is anyone else missing this track?  Anyway, it was in the MP3 folder, so I played that instead :D)

Sounds nice.  Peaceful and foreboding…  Yeah, I dunno, I think this one’s pretty weird.  I also think my speakers suck.

Anyway, I like the piano work.  However, I’m not sure if it was a super appropriate choice of style.  I know it’s “The Mines of Narshe”, but…  Again, too slow-moving for me.

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Track 6 – Royal Blood, Fraternal Love (Edgar & Sabin) by pu_freak

As a piece of music, I think this remix is great.  I mean, I think that about most of the tracks on this album, but anyway.

Even though I called the previous song “too slow”, I really like the pacing of this remix.  I don’t think it captured the same regal essence as the original, but overall it was pretty legit.  I also always love beautiful piano.

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Track 7 – Bass of the Returners (The Returners) by bLiNd

Worrrrrrrd.  I actually knew which song this was a remix of, as opposed to the previous “Returners” remix on Disc 1.  It sounds way different from anything else on this album so far, which really is a godsend.

It sounds like bLiNd had some fun creating this remix;  it shows in his music.  Wonderfully done.

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Track 8 – Dark Blue Substance (Cyan) by Mattias Häggström Gerdt

Ooooh…  Once you get halfway through the song, it starts getting very peaceful, techno-y, and awesome.  I love what he did with the original theme at that point.  However, for much of the rest of the song, I’m left wondering what’s going on.  The little breakdown in the middle is easily the best part, and that part is great.  Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of what it’s sandwiched by.

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Track 9 – Savage Dance (Wild West) by McVaffe

Word, this one is pretty sweet – not deviating too much from the original, giving it just enough so that it has its own voice.  About halfway through it stops being quite so flat, a heavier beat giving needed texture to a pretty good song overall.

AND HEY, GUESS WHAT!?! IT’S LESS THAN 8 MINUTES LONG.  Take note, SnappleMan.

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Track 10 – The 6th Kingdom (Terra) by Jovette Rivera

ROCK THE BASS BASS ROCK THE BASS BASS
bass
bass
BASS

Yeah, this song was pretty fun.  It was very ridiculous.  Very, very insane.  But you know what?  I enjoyed it.  It was about two and a half minutes too long, but eh, at this point, whatever.

ROCK THE BASS BASS ROCK ROCK THE BASS BASS

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Track 11 – Slam Shufflin’ (Slam Shuffle) by bLiNd

Oooh, a super-danceable “Slam Shuffle” remix.  Pretty ballllllerrrrr, yo.

Again, I think it could be shorter, it seems pretty repetitive, but it’s more fun to listen to than anything else so far, at least.

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Track 12 – Jidoorian Rhapsody (The Wedding) by sphexic

Very impressive piano work, for sure.  Not really sure what else to say…  It was fun?  I guess?  There really wasn’t much to it, but the piano really was great.  I think it would’ve been better if it were accompanied with something – then again, I kinda like the whole solo-piano thing.  Better than average, regardless.

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Track 13 – Strange World (Another World of Beasts) by WillRock

Ooh, I very much enjoyed this one.  Nice pacing, nice buildup, nice ambience. Foreboding, dark, delicious.

Halfway through, it takes a turn for the SUPER intense.  With almost no warning, the sound exploded out of my speakers into a crazy mess of awesome.  Just as I was getting ready to yell at this song for being too long, too.  Very well done, WillRock.

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Track 14 – Umaro’s New Groove (Umaro) by Archangel

Overall, an enjoyable track.  Umaro is a super fun character with a fun, bouncy theme, so I feel like it’s necessary to keep all that bounciness intact in any remixes.  Archangel did a great job with that, and it wrapped this album up well.

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Overall

Well, here we are.  Five days and five discs later, I have to say that I’m extremely impressed by the quality of the songs that have come off this remix album.  I think it’s great that OCRemix has such a diverse community, submitting all sorts of different music to these albums.  This is their 40th album since their inception, and although I’ve only heard bits and pieces of others (their Donkey Kong Country 2 album is amazing, too), it seems like what they’ve got going is quite impressive indeed.

This disc picked up towards the end, which is good, since I was afraid it’d be a flop.  It turned out okay, and the album itself turned out incredibly.  Great job, OCRemixers!

Disc 5 Rating:

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Overall Album Rating:

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 4

Track 1 – A Glimmer of Hope (Searching for Friends) by Joshua Morse feat. Jeff Ball, Laura Intravia

This is a beautiful song.  Not one of my favorites, but there’s definitely nothing wrong with it.  Beautiful piano at the beginning reminds me of Mushi-Shi, which is one of my favorite anime.  Some strings and wind instruments pick up a nice, peaceful beat to make this song more than solid.

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Track 2 – Go-Go Gadget Gonkulator (Gogo) by XPRTNovice

After the first minute, this song really picks up.  XPRTNovice does a great job capturing the heart of Gogo in the song, I think – Always shifting and moving, never knowing quite what’s going on.  Very interesting.  Lots of movements – in the middle, it turns into a plodding, thunderous beat, very reminiscent of Steiner’s theme.  It takes a bit of a break, then goes right back to it at around 3:25.  Lots of fun.

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Track 3 – Katabasis (Epitaph) by Forrest Powell feat. Laura Intravia

Around two minutes, this song takes a turn for the epic with some great, gospel-y vocals and elegant strings.  It sounds solemn, yet not in a depressing way, and transcendent at the same time, a great balance for a song to strike.

It kind of clashes with the previous song, but I’ll allow it.  They’re both great.

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Track 4 – 13th Floor Demonstration (The Magic House) by Flexstyle

Whew!  Extremely intense song.  It’s a lot of fun, driving beats, but again, I think it clashes with the song before it – I mean, I know they’re doing it in the order to which you listen to them in the game, basically, but I’m sure they can be switched around a bit.

Then again, if their FFIX remix album were out yet, I’d probably say they should do it in the order which you find the music.   Ah well, I guess they can’t win.  Regardless, this song is sweet.

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Track 5 – The Narshemellow (Umaro) by XPRTNovice

XPRTNovice, I’m gonna be real with you right now – you can do no wrong in my book.  Every song that I’ve heard on this album by you, I have thoroughly enjoyed. You took another song, made it your own, but kept it close enough to the original.  You are really good at this.

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Track 6 – The Endless Stair (Fanatics) by Argle

Very creepy, very forboding.  Reminds me of Nine Inch Nails a bit, which makes my high-school self very happy.

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Track 7 – Trauermarsch (Last Dungeon) by Derek Oren, Jeremy Robson

I feel like this song tried too hard – again, the music itself was great, but it wasn’t very listenable to me.  I found it to get a bit boring;  I feel like it was rather similar throughout, which I couldn’t pay attention to for the full twelve minutes.  If it were shorter, it could definitely get a higher grade.

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Track 8 – Demon, Fiend & Goddess (Dancing Mad) by zircon, Sixto Sounds

… UUUUUGH.  Sweet LORD, was this good.  God, I swear, any song that has to do with Kefka has been remixed SO well throughout this album.

This was everything I could have hoped for in a remix.  Sixto Sounds and zircon treated this song perfectly.  Didn’t change the pace, didn’t try to do too much, but gave the song the perfect sound to fit in this album and make an amazing, amazing remix.

I’m extremely impressed.  It was gonna be hard to live up to my expectations for such a renowned song, but…  Six. Terras.

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Track 9 – Ending Suite (Ending Theme) by Shnabubula, Gabe Terracciano

I love strings, man.  I really do.  The violin in this suite was beautiful, graceful, and all-around awesome.  A great interpretation of the ending theme.  Reminds me of when I beat FFVI for the first time, and nostalgia is always a plus.

The piano picks it up very well and keeps it interesting and light.  Around the 8 minute mark, things start getting quite intense, and the mixture of the strings and piano is rather glorious, if I do say so myself.

… Which I do.

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Track 10 – Humble Beginnings, Great Expectations (The Prelude) by Disco Dan

I’m so happy that this one was done incredibly well.  One of the most popular tracks of the franchise, and it was done beautifully on this album.  Wraps up everything (except the bonus disc, of course) with a beautiful song.  Disco Dan, you haven’t done any tracks up ’til now, but very, very well done.

Overall:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s the best disc on the album so far.  Great consistency mix with some pretty mindblowing works to make this the favorite.

I may not be able to finish up with disc 5 tomorrow – one of my buddies is getting married, and his bachelor party is tomorrow 🙂  rest assured that, if not tomorrow, the final installment of this review will be out on Sunday!

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 3

Disc 3?  Already?  Wow.  Word.  Awesome.  Let’s do this!

This Disc will be rated on a scale of 1-5 Mogs.  One of my favorite characters in both FFVI  and FFIX.

Track 1 – Flava de Chocobo (Techno de Chocobo) by Joshua Morse

A very groovy interpretation of Techno de Chocobo by Joshua Morse, who is now infamous in my mind for making the all-too-awesome “softcore-esque” “Awakening” on Disc 1.  Without a doubt, if you brought this song to a 70’s disco, people would be dancin’ the night away.  I can see their afros, fu manchus, and chest hair now…

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Track 2 – Johnny’s Got That Funk (Johnny C Bad) by Anti-Syne

Daaaaaamn, Anti-Syne.  You stepped up your game on this track.  Johnny does indeed have that funk on this eclectic mixture of of old and new.  Anti-Syne wasn’t afraid to go out on a limb, and it paid off.  He successfully branded this remix as his own while keeping enough of the original to create a beautiful homage to its predecessor.  The breakdown with about 45 seconds to go brings it home.

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Track 3 – Gestahlian Sonata (The Empire ‘Gestahl’) by Rexy

I’ll say that I don’t know much about Classical sonatas.  I’ll also say, again, that I don’t have much experience in the classical music world.  However, one thing I do know is that this song sounds damn good.  It changes the tone, but is still dark, depressing, and foreboding as ever while bringing down the tempo.  Awesome work by Rexy, and a strong start to the third disc.

Oooooh, and right at the end, there’s a little piano riff of the Final Fantasy Prelude!  Wow.  I had this at 4.5…  But I’m kicking it up to full marks for that.

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Track 4 – The Megiddo Brigade (Devil’s Lab) by djpretzel

Another intense, solid track.  It keeps the listener interested with slight variation throughout while keeping both the theme and tone of the song similar to the original.

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Track 5 – There’s Nothing Like Flying (Blackjack) by DDRKirby(ISQ)

Anything that can capture the feeling of flying in music is pretty darn great in my book, and DDRKirby(ISQ) does a great job of it in this track.  The lilting, bouncy tones along with the driving beat combine for a sense of wonder and exhilaration that are required when creating a song like this.  I can picture myself up in the great blue sky, wind whipping my hair as I pilot my airship to lands unknown…

…  Then, I realize I’m in Vermont, and I haven’t seen the sun in months.  Ah well, it was a nice daydream.

FIVE MOGS.  SO GOOD.

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Track 6 – Mogstradamus (Mog) by Brandon Strader

Y’know, I never really was that down with Mog’s theme, as much as I loved the character himself…  I dunno.  I think it sounded just a little bit too…  I dunno, silly, maybe?

Regardless, this remix is awesome.  A few dubby-wubbies, mixing in the original theme well.  It turned out wonderfully.

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Track 7 – Aggressive Blue Magic (Strago) by halc

I LOVE 8-BIT SOUNDS IN ANY REMIX EVER.  THEY SOUND SO GOOD.  WHEN YOU HAVE THEM THROUGHOUT THE SONG/AS A MAIN PART OF THE SONG, IT PROBABLY MAKES ME THE MOST HAPPY.  THIS SONG DOES THAT, AND IT MAKES ME THE MOST HAPPY.

AM I GOING TO USE CAPS LOCK THIS ENTIRE TIME?!

Nope.  Well done, halc.

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Track 8 – Pure Essence (Relm) by José the Bronx Rican

Chill.  A soothing melody, light, bright, and listenable.  José did a nice job making the song his own.  Nothing too flashy or mind-boggling, but solid.

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Track 9 – Illusionary (Another World of Beasts) by Sole Signal

An appropriate name for this track, “Illusionary” is ethereal and a little creepy.  It starts getting a little dub-funky about two minutes in, and I’m not complaining.  Nice use of strings to create more ambient creepiness.  Again, not my favorite track, but still solid.

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Track 10 – Black Genesis (New Continent) by Rexy, Brandon Strader

I was excited to sink my teeth into Rexy’s next track after her previous 5-Mog performance, and while it was very different from “Gestahlian Sonata”, I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, it’s interesting – the ReMixer behind “Gestahlian Sonata” and the one behind “Mogstradamus” come together to create one of the more brutal, intense tracks on the album thus far.  Not really my style, but I can dig it.

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Track 11 – Meditations on an Apocalypse (Catastrophe) by zircon

Lovin’ the quick, staccatoed tones in the background.  Heavy beat with much lighter instrumental overtones.  Great mix of the two.  Solid.  No complaints.

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Track 12 – Evisceration (The Fierce Battle) by Flexstyle

This is certainly Fierce.  My brain felt like it was indeed being eviscerated by listening to this.  Gotta give it some props for being honest.

Nice use of dubs.  Better use of wubs.

I feel like if I listened to this too much, I might go a little crazy.  For now, though, I’m lovin’ it.

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Track 13 – A Tranquil Rest (Rest in Peace) by Forrest Powell

Aw.  This track made me sad.  Both because it sounds very depressing, the title is depressing, and because I don’t think it’s as tranquil as it should be, given the title.  There’s too much going on.  When I think “tranquil”, I think minimalist.

It’s just a difference of opinion, I guess, but I think it’s pretty average.

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Track 14 – Elegy for a Ruined World (Dark World) by Derek Oren, Jeremy Robson

Whoo.  Epic 10-minute song.  There’s never much of a pickup, and to be honest, I got a bit bored after the first five minutes or so.  I’m going to give it a bit of a better listen later.

Track 15 – Event Horizon (The Day After) by Palpable, OA

Great mixture of guitar and fun, Nightmare-Before-Christmasy tones make this tune quite awesome.  A fun, driving interpretation of the original.  Palpable for the win.

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Track 16 – Blackjack’s breakup Bossa (Blackjack) by Calum Bowen feat. Xarnax42

Hahahaha.  I LOVE the vocals in the beginning of this song.  Normally, I’m not down with them (as you can see from my previous reviews), but this song doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is exactly what you need for this sort of hotel-lobby remix.  Gah, I think it’s great.  Not for everyone, but a lot of fun.

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Overall

I’ll be honest – I think that the second disc blew me out of the water more than this one did.  However, the second disc fell flat on its face with the Opera, and this one was much more consistent.

Because it didn’t blow me out of the water, I’m going to give it a 4.5 Mogs, just because its consistency was great – it was just missing the X-Factor that would bring it up to a 5.  Very, very well done.

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 2

Allllllllrighty then, it’s time for the review of disc 2!  Let’s get right to it!

This time, the scale will be 1-5 Lockes, everyone’s favorite thie- erm, “Treasure Hunter”.

Track 1 – Wild Child Ballad (Gau) by bustatunez

Let me tell you something, readers of this review.  This guy, bustatunez, knows how to remix a FFVI ditty and get these discs off to a great start.

Gau’s theme has always confused me a bit, just because Gau seems so much more…  energetic?  Frantic?  Than his theme is.  Regardless, bustatunez serves up another home-run of a remix.  Beautiful use of flutes and piano. Four Lockes.

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(Also, a quick grammatical note – all of the song titles and artists use the capitalization [or lack thereof] that appears on the album.  That’s why, for example, “bustatunez” is not “Bustatunez”, etc.)

Track 2 – river of sine waves (The Serpent Trench) by posu yan

A slower, gentler, jazzier take on “The Serpent Trench” that makes me feel like I’m in the best elevator ever.  A very old-school beginning leads to some nice guitar, and it stays consistent throughout.  A great, relaxing interpretation on the song, even when it picks up a bit toward the end.

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Track 3 – Idle City Street (Kids Run Through the City) by Pot Hocket

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Five-Locke song from the second disc.  Maybe “river of sine waves” got me ready for some relaxing music, because man, I almost fell asleep during this one (in the best of ways).  The tempo was amazing, the guitar was great, and I can’t see myself giving this song anything but full marks.  It’s really great.

On that note, I’ll be back.  Naptime.

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Track 4 – Courage, Failure, Rosebud (Under Martial Law) by DragonAvenger, OA

All right, I’m back from my nap.

Anyway, this song is definitely not nap-worthy.  It’s very intense.  Striking chimes collide with impressive synth work by DragonAvenger and OA to create a kaleidoscopic amalgam of old-school techno.  Good.  Stuff.

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Track 5 – Bad Octopus (Save Them!, Grand Finale) by Fishy feat. XPRTNovice

I tell ya, one of my favorite parts of Final Fantasy VI is fighting Ultros.  He’s hilarious.  Up there on my “Favorite ‘Bosses’ of All Time” list.  Freakin’ octopus, what’re you doing in the opera house?

Anyway.  You guessed it:  as usual, anything that XPRTNovice is associated with is awesome.  Super fun to listen to.  Love it.  Brings me back to Ultros-fighting days, and puts its own spin on it.

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Track 6 – Train Suplex (Decisive Battle) by Danny Baranowsky

I’ll be honest – I’ve been waiting for this one.  I saw it on the Track List and went wild with glee.  The comic that goes with this is hilarious:

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Y’know, I don’t think there’s much to be said, here.  This song was destined for a Five-Locke rating well before I pressed “Play”.  It actually being a really fun song to listen to only made it more clear.

Sometimes, if a cover is good enough, you can judge a book by it.

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Track 7 – There Will Be Blood (Metamorphosis) by Anti-Syne

I’ll say right off the bat that I’m normally not that into the sort of style that Anti-Syne employed in this song.  However, I’ll say that it was a lot of fun to listen to.  It was very fast-moving, and I liked the use of the lyrics in this one – they were simple, not over the top, and not in-your-face.  A very enjoyable listen, if you’re in the mood.

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Track 8 – Terra’s Resolve (Terra) by Chad Seiter

This is another one of those songs that is really, really hard to live up to.  It’s just got so much history behind it.  When you step up to the plate to one of these songs, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Fortunately, Chad Seiter did a great job.

It takes all the epic awesomeness of the original track, and gives it a push toward the epic.  Very, very well done.

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Track 9 – A Simple Flip Can Change Fate (Coin Song) by Level 99

The original is one of my favorite songs in all of FFVI.  Like what Chad Seiter did with “Terra”, Level 99 doesn’t try to fix what ain’t broke – the acoustic guitar strumming in the background complements the style of the song well, and this was another more-than-solid performance.  I liked this one even a bit more than I did “Terra’s Resolve”.  FIVE LOCKES.

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Track 10 – Electro de Choco (Techno de Chocobo) by Tepid

Anytime there’s the word “Chocobo” in a track, I get excited.  It’s up there with the battle themes in terms of memorability and epicness.

Unfortunately for remixers, that also means that expectations go up, too.  Then again, if they pull it off, it’s great.

Tepid pulled it off.  About 45 seconds in, it goes from calming electro-chill to fun, satisfying, just-energetic-enough dance techno.  A nice guitar breakdown around 2:45 is a welcome, not-over-the-top addition, and the dubbiness after that is just dubby-wubby enough to be fun and awesome.

I know there are 7 tracks to go, but damn.  This disc has done extremely well so far.  Two Five-Locke songs in a row?  I never thought I’d see the day…

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Track 11 – Reverie of the Broken Phoenix (Forever Rachel) by McVaffe

Nobuo Uematsu is a legend.  His work on Final Fantasy VI is amazing.  Personally, I would say that it is, in terms of video game scores, second only to FFIX.  To be able to take one of his songs and make it your own is a very difficult task, and would be impossible for most

These OCRemix guys are good.  Like, really, really good.

McVaffe keeps the train rollin’ with another memorable remix of another memorable track.  I really am amazed.

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Track 12 – Slam Davis (Slam Shuffle) by Mazedude

Mazedude did a good job creating a creepy atmosphere for a creepy song.  Very ghostly, very ethereal, very dark.  Halfway through, it went into a little breakdown, then goes back to the creepy beats with renewed vigor.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of this song, but I think that’s just because I wasn’t feeling the “creepy” vibe when I listened, as opposed to there being anything wrong with the song itself.

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Track 13 – Fiddlesticks Rag (Spinach Rag) by diotrans

What a fantastic song.  The remix, with all the stringed melodic deliciousness, was great.  No complaints.  It’s very bouncy and fun, and reminds me of something that would be in a 1920’s silent comedy.

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Track 14 – The Nightmare Oath (Overture) by OA, Moonlapse, BardicKnowledge, Laura Intravia feat. DragonAvenger

The first pretty “meh” track on the disc.  Don’t get me wrong – the music was totally badass.  It reminds me of some of the more epic tracks of Nightwish or Within Temptation’s stuff.

My problem was twofold.  One, the vocalist, while much, much better than I am, didn’t sound ready to handle the epicness of the song.  You need to be an extremely talented and powerful singer (like the singer from Within Temptation, for example) to live up to that sort of epic, and I just don’t think he was ready.  Two, where did these lyrics come from?  They’re not from the game…  did someone just come up with them on a whim?  See my review from Disc 1 for “Tastes Like Victory”, and you’ll see my opinion on such lyrics.

The power of the music alone nets this song two Lockes.

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Track 15 – The Impresario (Opera Sequence) by Jake Kaufman, Tommy Pedrini

Ugh.  Okay, I’m calling it right now – if there’s one song to skip over this entire five-disc album, it’s this one.  I simply can’t think of a way that I could be more disappointed by a remix of the Opera.

I didn’t like the lyrics at all.  It sounds like a twelve-year-old was trying to sound like a badass (“I’ll kill them” is said about twelve times in a row over the course of thirty seconds.  “Gonna”, “wanna”, and other unprofessional words are used all over the place.  I’m not opposed to the use of these words normally, but seriously?  This is an opera.  The Opera Sequence from Final Fantasy VI.  Make it sound a little bit epic).  The vocals sounded like a mixture of Weird Al and Backstreet Boys melodies (for the record, I love both Weird Al and BSB…  again, just not when someone’s trying to remix the FFVI Opera).

The music itself sounded good.  Very similar to the music of the “Overture” above, which would make sense.  But here’s a tip:  The songs that have come before that have had lyrics, I’ve given them a chance, because at least they’re trying to add something.  The guys that remixed this song already had lyrics, and they removed them and replaced them with lyrics of their own.  Like, what?  No.  When you remove the lyrics of a song and provide your own, it becomes a different song.  Plus, the vocalists were definitely not opera singers.  I guess this was more of a rock-opera deal, but meh.

One-Quarter of One Locke, and that’s being generous.  It’s a Pity-Locke, mostly.  Such potential, and it fell flat on its face (in my opinion).  I’m very, very disappointed.

I have edited this, since it was definitely more insulting before, and I definitely don’t mean to insult anyone.  There are definitely people out there who love this track;  I’m just not one of them.

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Track 16 – Till We Meet Again (Aria de Mezzo Carattere) by zircon, Jillian Aversa, AeroZ

Word.  Okay, this was a little bit better.  The lyrics weren’t exactly the same, but it was definitely in the same vein, which was good.  The music and vocals were both beautiful. It was by no means anything great, but it was definitely passable.

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Track 17 – Full Speed Ahead (Setzer) by zircon

Ahhhh, nothin’ like some drum n’ bass to refresh a weary, cynical soul.  This got the end of this disc out of the funk that their failed Opera experiment caused, and left me with a pretty good feeling.  It was fun, it was fast, and I loved it.

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Overall

Whew.  Well, before the three Opera tracks happened, I thought this disc had a very good chance of getting a full Five-Locke rating.  It really is that good.  Disc 1 still has my favorite track of all in “Ascension of a Madman”, but this disc, on the whole, was consistently better.  Since it’s only three tracks on this disc that really bug me, I’ll give this disc two “Overall” ratings:

If you don’t listen to Tracks 14, 15, and 16:

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If you do:

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 1

In case you didn’t know, in addition to Final Fantasy IX, I’m also a huge fan of Final Fantasy VI.  In case you haven’t heard, OCRemix came out with a free-to-download remix album of Final Fantasy VI.  Comprised of five discs, It’s been in the works for months, and after a lot of Kickstarter drama, it was finally released yesterday.  I’ve been keeping my eye on this project, and now that it’s been released, I’m going to do a disc-by-disc, track-by-track review of the whole thing (don’t worry, Let’s Play fans – this won’t delay the editing process, and we are still on schedule to have the first episode released this weekend!).

I put them in the order of track number, followed by the title of the remixed song, the title of the original (in parentheses), and the artist’s name.  I’ve rated each song on a scale from one to five Kefkas.

Track 1 – Prologue (Opening Theme) by bustatunez

At the risk of every FFVI fan stopping reading right now, I have a confession to make:  I’ve never really liked the first half of the opening to FFVI – it’s too scary for me.  Too foreboding.  I mean, it’s a very intense game, but I feel like I’m about to start a Silent Hill or something.  That said, bustatunez did a great job;  it sounds amazing, especially when the music transitions about halfway through the song from the creepy-ish music to the more welcoming, epic, Final Fantasy-like introduction that I know and love.

Track 2 – Now is the Winter (The Mines of Narshe) by Mustin

This track reminds me of a mixture of Cowboy Bebop-esque jazz.  I’m a sucker for anything with a saxophone, so naturally, this track was for me.  This definitely had a different tone than the original version – the original version is much more…  Sullen.  This one’s more upbeat.  Definitely doesn’t carry the same message, but still great.  I love it.

Track 3 – Remember (Awakening) by Joshua Morse

Let me start by saying that this song deifnitely has a different tone than the original.

Y’know those softcore porno flicks that show up on HBO at ridiculous hours of the morning?  If not, let me describe them to you, as 15-year-old Casey (who had just gotten HBO) remembers them vividly:  they’re filled with terrible actors, terrible dialogue, terrible scene transitions, no character development, and some of the most over-the-top music during the sexy scenes that you will ever encounter.

Let me tell you that this track reminds me of those scenes.  It would totally fit.

Let me also tell you that I think that’s great.

It’s soft.  It’s soothing.  It’s lilting.  It brings me back to  younger, less complicated days.  Takes me away from the here and now and brings me to a totally foreign, yet welcoming, place.  That’s exactly what music is about for me, and this song does it perfectly.  Well done.

Track 4 – Smoke and Clouds (Locke) by Jeff Ball ft. Laura Intravia

WHOA.  Okay.  As soon as this song starts, you know it’s going in a different direction than the album has gone so far.  Lots of syncopated tones, melting into techno-y drum-and-bass-type stuff.  Jeff Ball’s really goin’ for it on this one.

One thing I don’t understand is the dipping tones, the slowing down of the music towards the end of certain measures.  It kinda makes my brain dizzy but AWWW SHIT!  It gets pretty awesome real quick.  Drum-and-Bass-and-chanting-woman-voice at its best.  There was some nice violin in there, and this track wound up being pretty sweet.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but the second half made up for a less-than-stellar first half.

Track 5 – Polemos (Battle Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Final Fantasy has been known for its battle themes since…  well, since I can remember, at least.  It’s always been a trademark in the series for me.  That said, this track needed to blow me out of the water to live up to expectations.

It didn’t blow me out of the water.

That’s not to say it wasn’t good – it was definitely good.  I just think it’s really hard to remix something like a FF battle theme and not have people compare it to the original.  Indeed, that’s half the fun of a remix album – you can listen to your favorite tracks and see how the remixed versions stack up.  It was a challenge from the start.  Add that to the fact that my metal days are years behind me and I’m not much a fan of 10-minute-jam-sessions (which is what this sounded like to me), and I was bound to be a little disappointed.  Looks like these guys have some more tracks coming up, though, so we’ll see how they do then.

Track 6 – Tastes Like Victory (Fanfare) by Leitbur

…  “Tastes Like Victory”?  Really?  Guess so.  Well, whatever.

Anyway, again, this track wasn’t bad – I think it’s just my adherence to the original, amazing, perfect “Fanfare” that probably gives me a bit of aversion to this one.  That, and I do think the voices/lyrics were over the top.  I really enjoyed the music itself, actually.  It was beautiful.  Take out the voice track, and I think this song’s stock goes up significantly.  Two Kefkas.

Track 7 – Castles in the Sand (Edgar & Sabin) by Nutritious

I enjoyed this.  It kept the epic regality of Edgar intact (uh…  if he ever had this.  The epic regality he liked to pretend he had, at least).  This, I think, was a great example of not trying to do too much, which I think is important when you’re remixing.  Actually, I think there are two ways of going about it – you can either simply enhance the already-existing sound and make it your own, or you can go in a completely different direction;  this followed the philosophy of the former.

Then again, I’m in no way musically inclined, so maybe that doesn’t make any sense.  Just goin’ by what I hear, what I’ve experienced, and that one Classical Music class I took in college.  3.5 Kefkas.

Track 8 – Ascension of a Madman (Kefka) by Steffan Andrews

There are some tracks up to this point that I’ve really enjoyed.  Some that I’ve thought were really, really good.

This track…  Was FUCKING.  AWESOME.

Brilliant.  Captures Kefka’s madness perfectly.  At a minute-thirty in, it really starts rockin’ and rollin’, and it doesn’t stop until the end.  Amazing.  Don’t read what I have to say about it any more – just go listen to it.  It’s that good.  Worth the download just for this track (although others are great, too).  This is the first track on the album to receive the coveted FIVE KEFKAS.

Y’know what?  I’ll give it six.  It’s that good.  Get over it.

Track 9 – La Montaña de los Caballos Jóvenes (Mt. Koltz) by XPRTNovice

Ooh, I loved this one.  Great guitar, great breakdown around 3-4 minutes in, building it back up to a rampant, festive finish at the end.  A nice stylization of this song, overall.  Still reeling from Ascension of a Madman, though.  Have you listened to it yet?  It’s pretty good, from what I hear.

Track 10 – On the Run (The Returners) by Leitbur

Another very solid musical offering by Leitbur.  It really does sound great, and I think the vocals in this one are much better used than they were in “Tastes Like Victory” (I still can’t get over that name).

However, this track has one fatal flaw…

I can’t see any relation to the original FFVI track.  At all.

Maybe I’m just deaf, but it sounds completely different, to the point where I had to look up the original just to make sure I had the title right.

Overall, was this a better song than “Tastes Like Victory”?  Yes.  However, this is a FFVI remix album, and I want to hear FFVI remixes.  I’ll give it an extra half-Kefka, just because I really did enjoy the song as a musical piece.

Eh, maybe just a quarter-Kefka.

Track 11 – A Fistful of Nickels (Shadow) by zircon, XPRTNovice, Jillian Aversa, Jeff Ball

I loved pretty much everything about this track.  The old-west feel, the whistling…  A great example of completely changing the theme of the music while keeping the soul intact.  This also reminds me that I need to watch more Clint Eastwood westerns.

Track 12 – Camp Kefka (Troops March On) by Joshua Morse

An interesting take on “Troops March On”.  The heartbeats at the beginning were a great stage-setter for the heaviness that came in later, and I think that the dubby-wubbyness towards the end added a bit of character to the track.  I’m not a fan of dubstep, but when its stylings are used with prudence and care, it can sound great.  This track was a success.

I still liked Joshua’s first offering (Awakening) better, but that’s only because of my penchant for HBO-softcore music, as I mentioned above.

Track 13 – Stone Drum (Cyan) by Radiowar

Great music in this track.  Very listenable. I love the heavy, marching beat.  I didn’t much enjoy the samples that were put into the middle of the song – they sounded random, didn’t flow, and didn’t jive with my perceived theme of the song.  Overall, good enough for an average rating of two-and-a-half Kefkas.

Track 14 – Toxic (The Unforgiven) by Beatdrop

This is the sort of “classic techno” I grew up listening to.  It reminds me a lot of the Mortal Kombat theme that I used to dance to in Dance Dance Revolution.

Anyway, I’m glad to see this sort of genre represented by this song.  It was great fun to listen to.  It’s different from the original, but at least I can see where this one is coming from.  A worthwhile interpretation.

Track 15 – De Nuit (The Phantom Forest) by mv feat. Jeff Ball

Another great, techno-y interpretation.  the xylophonic notes in the background are a great addition to the nicely layered strings and a drum line that doesn’t try to do too much.  FOUR WHOLE KEFKAS.

Track 16 – Gobble, Snarf, Snap (Phantom Train) by XPRTNovice

Nice whistling at the beginning, much like “Fistful of Nickels”.  I like how it slowly builds in intensity and eventually turns very ghostly, almost surreal with about a minute to go.  I feel like I’m in a creepy, ghostly version of a 1920’s nightclub when I listen to this.  Another impressive offering by XPRTNovice.

Track 17 – Savage Triumph (Wild West) by Flexstyle, OA, Nutritious

Wow.  These guys pulled out all the stops on this track.  It was fast, furious, and full of techno-dub-goodness.  It did a great job of retaining its roots while simultaneously branching out, making bold moves and doing well at every turn.  I’d say that this was the second-best track on the album, and a very strong end to the first disc.

Overall

I’ve been following this project for a while, and I was really hoping that it would come out well.  OCRemix has been doin’ their thing for quite some time now, and they have a thriving community of very talented artists.  These artists took on a huge challenge, and I definitely think they did quite well.  It’s an uphill battle when you’re trying to cover Final Fantasy songs, since Uematsu is, in my opinion (again, I’ve only taken one semester of Classical Music), one of the greatest composers of the past century, if not ever.  Those are mighty big shoes to fill, and I think the OCRemix crew did a more-than-admirable job.  I can’t wait to review the next disc!

Damn you, Yu Yu Hakusho Blu Ray. You are TOO good.

Hey Y’all,

I made some progress on the editing this weekend.  Admittedly, it wasn’t as much progress as I had hoped, but I should still be good for a release of the first episode of the LP this weekend!  😀

It would be much easier, however, if my roommate and I weren’t smack-dab in the middle of my favorite anime of all time (Yu Yu Hakusho [I’ll have to write something up comparing it to FFIX, since I believe they’re extremely similar philosophically and thematically]).  I picked up the Blu Rays for all the seasons, and damn, does it look good.  Here’s a link to a side-by-side comparison of the SD and 1080p remastered versions – they went frame-by-frame and made the entire thing look amazing.  Pump that video up to 1080p and enjoy.  Lemme tell ya, watching Yusuke absorb the Spirit Wave Orb in 1080p, blasting the volume…  It’s intense, man.  Soooooo good.  Highly recommended.  To anyone.  Ever.

Anyway, we’re in the final round of the Dark Tournament now, so after that I’ll probably stop obsessing as much as I have been recently and put my nose to the grindstone a bit more :p

If you’re interested in purchasing YYH (which you should be, if you have a soul [and a blu-ray player]), it’s only $21 per season or so.  It’s a great investment.

Yu Yu Hakusho Blu Ray:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4