The man who was responsible for the soundtrack of our youth, Nobuo Uematsu, turns 53 years old today. In 1985, Uematsu was an amateur musician working in a Tokyo instrument-rental shop in when an employee with the video-game company Square asked him if he would be interested in composing some songs for a new game they were working on.
Considering it a good way to make money on the side, Uematsu accepted the position. Little did he know that the game he was working on... would be a completely forgettable piece of crap no one has ever heard of called Genesis.
Still, Square liked his work and he continued to compose for a round of pornographic computer adventures for the struggling company. With Square struggling, they put all their money and talent into one last game, a revolutionary RPG called Final Fantasy.
Since then, Uematsu has gone on to score countless titles, especially in the Final Fantasy series. His work has been so brilliant and prolific that he's considered the John Williams of video games, and has long been one of the prime examples in the argument for video games as art.
Not bad for a guy who was clerking in a music store and dreaming of being a professional wrestler.
Picking five favorite Uematsu tunes was impossible. Instead, we opted to narrow it down to the Top 5 final boss themes. These are the songs that when you heard them you knew that this was it, it was you between the world of light and the world of darkness!
5. The Last Story, "The One Ruling Everything": No longer just Square's pocket music magician, Uematsu is out there exploring all kinds of new settings. Last Story is still a grand epic, but as you can tell from the linked tune it he's been spending a lot of time listening to prog metal lately. That track is just a few wailed choruses away from being a damn Dragonforce song.
4. Chrono Trigger, "Last Battle": Hopefully in the future, "Last Battle" will be as accepted a musical style as a rondo or a waltz. A game spanning different millenniums has to have a summation song that draws from the primal of the prehistoric to the sophistication of the future. Plus, for a 16-bit-era release that it has an incredibly lush and deep recording.
3. Final Fantasy VII, "One-Winged Angel": We're probably going to get some comments for leaving this iconic tune in the middle of the list instead of at the top, but we honestly do feel it's slightly over-rated and is coasting on the strength of Sephiroth himself as a character. That being said, the updated recording that appears on the Advent Children soundtrack does indeed bring a lot of balls to the work.
2. Lord of Vermillion, "The Final Enemy": Not released in this country, Lord of Vermillion was an interesting hybrid of combat card games and computer games. Uematsu composed the score for the first entry, and considering how closely the series has tied in with Final Fantasy, including many character cameo appearances, it seems like a perfect match. We're a big fan of "Final Enemy" because to us it answers the question, "What would Frankie Goes to Hollywood have sounded like if it were founded in Japan?"
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1. Final Fantasy VI, "Dancing Mad": For our money "Dancing Mad" is not only Uematsu's greatest boss theme, it's his greatest composition ever. It's grand, but the shattered structure perfectly suits the insane Kefka, whose infusion with magic power leads to the permanent loss of mind.
Bent on a nihilistic quest to end the world and thereby come to grips with his own deformed psyche, he is basically Joker if Joker were also a wizard. Getting to hear Distant Worlds do a full-on orchestral version of the song was almost too awesome to bear.