Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The History of Video Game Music: PlayStation Chorale

Welcome to another post in my History of Video Game Music series.  Today I talk about the music that came with the Playstation console.  A lot of fun stuff to listen to.  Today's post is a little short because there's a lot to cover.  I'll be covering the Nintendo 64 and rhythm games next week.  Last week we talked about the Remix Renaissance and cultural movement happening on the glorious interwebs.  We are now going to back track a little bit in history back to the mid to late 90s.

Voices on the PlayStation

Sony made a splash in the home game console market when they released the PlayStation in 1994.  Originally the Play Station was going to be an add on for the SNES to play CD-Rom games.  After a lengthy bureaucratic mess, Sony decided to make the idea a stand alone product and made the "Play Station" the "PlayStation" thereby cutting off Nintendo's legal right of involvement.

The CD format increased storage formats that appealed to a lot of developers such as Squaresoft and Enix.  (Which is now one company called Square Enix.)  This meant more room for higher quality graphics and higher quality music.

Here's the thing, a lot of developers still used synths instead of recording actual instruments.  (That did come later though!)  That said, these were some high quality synths and it did open up some other new possibilities: voices and singing.

When Nobuo Uematsu worked on Final Fantasy VII he decided to create a very special theme for the video game's main bad guy, Sephiroth.  Sephiroth had the long silver hair, insane teal eyes, and impossibly long sword.  So bad and so cool.  So what does Nobuo do?  He gives the guy his own personal choir and calls the song "One Winged Angel."
What?!  Video game music has human voices now?!  This marked a transition in the storytelling aspect of video games.  Now they were becoming more like movies--only a movie you interacted with.

Nobuo used a choir again in Final Fantasy VIII.  I actually like this one better then One Winged Angel.  Just to give you an idea of how influential a song from a video game can be, this song was played during the women's synchronized swimming in Athens in the 2004 Summer Olympics.  

Nobuo used singing in songs for future games as well.  I can't say I'm a fan of all of them.  Some of them sound pretty sappy or cheesy.  But others are quite nice.  Here's a cheesy one called "Eyes on Me."
*Yawn.*  Yeah, I'm a bigger fan of the choral arrangements.  Still, I appreciate Nobuo stretching himself by trying different genres out.  It shows his talent as an artist and composer.

The Cinematic Experience

As I mentioned before games at this time had a stronger cinematic experience then before.  The talent behind this hasn't really been recognized by the general public until today.  (More on that in the final post.)  Just to help give you an idea of this, here's a clip from Chrono Cross--music composed by Yasunori Mitsuda.

This cinematic experience, in some ways, caused developers to shoot themselves in the foot.  Take the game Chrono Cross for example.  The Marketing suggested a different game then what most consumers expected.  They were thinking of something closer to Uncharted then the RPG that they bought.  Because of this, a lot of copies of Chrono Cross were returned and it hurt the sales big time.  It was a bit of a shame too because some of the best work Yasunori Mitsuda has ever done has been with Chrono Cross.

There is a lot more music here from the PlayStation that isn't shared here.  A LOT more.  I may revisit this again in a future post.  Until then, enjoy the music and do some exploring on your own.


  1. I'm a HUGE Final Fantasy 9 fan personally. I actually liked the music to it. :)

    1. I have the Original Soundtrack to that one actually. I'll have to let you borrow it sometime.