Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Final Fantasy IV : Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption

OCR has pumped out quite a few fan arranged albums - fourteen albums in total, to date, in fact. While I hold a great deal of appreciation and respect for many of these albums, none have made such an impact on me as the latest release, Final Fantasy IV : Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption, has. I attribute this to the fact that as a child and even as an adult, FF IV is still one of my favorite games to date. I've played through it so many times and cherished the music, the story, the characters - everything about it. As a kid, I would use my tape recorder to record the music off the tv and listen to it even when I wasn't playing the game.

And years after the fact, I still listen to the original music. So it should go without saying that I'm a huge fan of the soundtrack.

The first day I had heard about this project was last year, on April 1st. Given the unfortunate timing, I wrote it off as a cruel joke. Some time after that, I caught sight of signatures on the OCR forums advertising the project. Since then, I had been waiting on pins and needles. After the teaser was released? I'm sure I annoyed quite a few people with my continued obsession...

I had really, really high hopes for this album after the teaser. So high, in fact, I kind of worried I was setting myself up for some disappointment. However, this album exceeded any expectation I had.

Spanning over three discs, EoBLoR boasts 46 tracks (and 8 bonus!), and a variety of style - rock opera, electronic, orchestra - there's something for everyone to enjoy.

The first disc, or Act, Betrayal, is the one I feel is the strongest. It opens with Nutritious' Full of Courage, an orchestral rendition of the iconic Red Wings theme. Appropriate, given that's exactly how FF4 opens up. I really felt he did this piece justice and kept it interesting. To me, it's not entirely different from the opening to a movie. A beautiful opening, really. Audio fidelity's rendition of the Baron theme, The Might of Baron, was nothing short of epic in my opinion. The guitar playing was fantastic and there's so much detail to be appreciated in this song (best heard on headphones!). The marching sound and the tone of the song really captured the militaristic feel of Baron for me.

Though it might be sacrilege, I have to admit that I only think the prolouge theme of Final Fantasy is okay. Sometimes I'm into it, and sometimes I'm just not. Most times when I hear an arrangement of it, I'm not really blown away. It's just been done to death. So admittedly, I wasn't expecting to be particularly wowed by Ana(pro)louge by Another Soundscape. However (!) I was pleased upon hearing it the first time, and since then it's only grown on me. I found it to be a very different take on Prolouge than I'm used to, and very groovy and uplifting. I've only recently got the tune out of my head! And what would the album be without the main theme of FFIV? It's my favorite FF Theme of the series, so I worried what would be done to it. Lucky for me, John Revoredo didn't disappoint with The Flying Machine. I like the dramatic opening of it. I liked the bits of urgency in the song. It captures the feel of the game. It's not a picnic in the park the heroes are on, it's urgent, serious business. And this song *gets that*.

Mazedude. That should almost suffice on it's own, right there. Haha. But in all seriousness, I'm a fan of his and have been for some time now. I wouldn't have expected him to cover the town theme the way he did, but, well, he did. Read the Sine captures a very melancholic element I feel is in the original, but does this without sounding too close to the original. So kudos, there. Anyone who has ever played FFIV, and even many who haven't, are familiar with Rydia's Theme. It's a theme that's been done a bit, so I feel iffy when people cover it. Cyril the Wolf's Emerald Beauty is a beauty indeed. It's very smooth and melodic and the sax really gives it this sort of... sophistication I really enjoy. I hear a lot of Rydia themes and they're done to depict Rydia the child. So I was happy to hear something that depicts Rydia the grown up.

Of Fiend and Man by Tweek is a sort of interesting take on Battle 1. I enjoy it, and it's growing on me, but as of this time I'm not sure what to say about it. I wish I had heard the source just a little more in it, but that's more my opinion than saying artistic interpretation is bad. I do like the interpretation, and I enjoy the feel of it overall. Damcyan's theme is one I often feel is under appreciated, so I was very excited about it getting coverage. One of my favorites on this album, The Skies Hold No Angels for Us, is nothing short of amazing. Level 99 and audio fidelity really deliver here. The guitar playing is really catchy, and I like the elements of... I guess hopefulness in the song, combined with the quieter parts. It kind of captures Damcyan, I think - being destroyed but there being hope in it being rebuilt.

Edward sucks. He's the one bad thing in FFIV, but he does have a theme I've always enjoyed. Abadoss and James George deliver a beautiful string rendition of his theme in Edward's Dream Quartet. I really enjoy how it starts slow and builds up, and has enough variation in such a simple theme to keep it interesting throughout the entire seven minutes. No easy task, I'm sure! (I particularly enjoy the upbeat end of the track) Golbez's theme is one I've heard covered a couple times, and it's generally done the same way. Big spooky bad guy gets some kinda spooky music. It fits. Never, ever, would I in my wildest dreams, think someone would turn Golbez's Theme into an upbeat electronic piece. Leave it to bLiNd, though... In one of his three contributions to the album, Golbez 'N Goblins (love the title!) he does just that. This is another one of my favorites from the album, and my favorite bLiNd song ever so far. I don't know much about electronic or techno or whatnot, aside from that I generally think of it as 'okay'. So while this song is a genre I don't usually go for, that's not the case for the song itself. I can't speak on anything technical about it, really. All I can say is that when I hear it, I feel an almost desperate need to dance and groove. It's so upbeat, and the boom tsh boom tsh isn't generic at all.

The end of Betrayal is just as strong as the beginning. Fighting for Tomorrow is a very ambitious rendition of the Fabul Theme, made possible by OA, Nutritious, and The Fabul's Men Choir. Said choir consists of quite a few people, though I can't remember a specific number at the moment. I think it's twelve? Thereabouts. Anyways, OA got together quite a few people for this arrangement to sing the Latin lyrics, allowing many people to collaborate on this piece. Not only that, but the vocals are all meshed together in a way that it sounds very good. To me, this piece is just flawless. I love it. Ad alta, ad astra!

The second Act, Strife, opens on a somewhat different note than its predecessor. Covering the Mysidia theme with Mystic Variations, AeroZ delivers the theme in a less quirky manner than the original was presented to us so many years ago. Not my favorite work of theirs, but interesting nonetheless. And of course, what would Mysidia be without Porom and Palom? Cyril the Wolf, Lil' Wolfie, and OA collaborate on Metal Mage, an interesting take on the duo's theme. The beginning is actually done with sounds from Mario Paint, before going into the metal parts. Lil' Wolfie, Cyril's brother, does a great job with the voices, imo. It really strikes me as Palom. Demanding his metal and throwing up the horns and all. And the guitar solo really is awesome.

A Long Way to Go is probably the piece from the game I'm least familiar with. It's just kind of... there. And not terribly interesting to me. But it got love too, just as all the other tracks did. Long Time Gone from the prophet of mephisto is a pretty catchy track, but I have trouble relating it to FFIV. It's not through any fault of theirs or anything, just my own personal unfamiliarity with the source. Sorry! There's not much I can really say about Rhymes with Elixir. A rap piece of the chocobo theme by The Scuba Divers, it's intro'd by Liontamer. Rap isn't really my forte, and the first time I heard this, I was kinda eh about it. The more I listen to it, the more it grows on me though. It's very humorous. Tonberry and Cactaur's parts are my favorite!

Blue Planet in Mode 7 (Like that title, btw!) by Nathan Rich is an arrangement of the airship theme. It's admittedly not one of the tracks that *really* stands out to me, but it's still enjoyable and makes for some pretty chill background music. Wiesty, audio fidelity, and OA collab together on Cid's Theme. The original is something I've always enjoyed for its upbeat nature. Their rendition, however, Goodbye Cid... isn't particularly upbeat. Which isn't unsurprising, given the title. It's not so much sad as it is melancholic, to me, which deviates from the feel of the original greatly. Still, I think they really made it work.

Somewhere to Hide is an arrangement of Somewhere in the World by Hy Bound, and vocals by Loka LaFevre. I don't really know what to say about it except that it's just plain *catchy* and I think Loka did a fantastic job with the vocals. Now, while I didn't think Mystic Variations was AeroZ's high point, I definitely think Fallen Dragoon is. An arrangement of Suspicion, the overall feel of this piece perfectly captures the betrayal of Kain. The strings sound absolutely wonderful and don't clash with the chiptune elements at all. It's a strange duo, but AeroZ really makes it work, and in a very emotional way. One of my favorites, definitely.

Children of the Monkey Machine arranged the Tower of Zot in his signature ambient, moody way. Which is definitely awesome. What I like about Fallen Ascent the most is the foreboding nature of the entire track. It really fits in with that part of the game as well, since the heroes are pretty much walking blind into the bad guy's trap. Survival Instinct by Audix is an arrangement of the Battle 2 theme. While it doesn't have the same kind of urgency that the original has, I feel it's interesting in its own right. Definitely a catchy tune.

Cry in Sorrow/Sorrow and Loss is one of my favorite tracks from the original sound track. Any cover I've heard of it has been sorrowful. It's kind of the point of the theme. While I don't feel Rozavian captured the real sorrow essence of the theme, and instead did something else entirely with it, I still respect what was done. It's pretty. It's catchy. But I get an impression more of the main theme of FFIV than I do of Cry in Sorrow specifically. Closing out Strife is Pot Hocket's Theme of Love for Guitar Duet. The title, I feel, is pretty self explanatory. It's a very soft, gentle take on the original, and a good way to end the disc, imo.

The final disc and Act is Redemption, and opening with that is Long Dao with their take of the Land of Dwarves, Tundra of Dwarves. What I find interesting about that is the fact that the Dwarven land is volcanic. It's hot. There's magma everywhere. The original music reflects this well, I think, so to hear that song created in a way to depict the opposite makes me... I'm not sure. It's hard for me to associate the song with the original, in a way, I guess because it's so engrained in my head that it's X way, not Y way. Overall though, this is actually a very pretty piece. Not something I'd go out of my way to listen to all the time, but it makes for great background music, as it's not too jolting.

Ilp0's rendition of Giott, King of the Dwarves had me worried the first time I heard it. Admittedly, I'm not that big of a fan of the beginning of In the Land of Dwarves but when the guitar hit, I was hooked. It's pretty catchy, which is good because the original is catchy and I'd have to see that messed up! I'm not savvy with guitar and music lingo, but I like all the... stuff done in this song, particularly towards that last minute. Kidd Cabbage did a rawk arrangement of The Battle With the Four Fiends, Treason. Battle With the Four Fiends is one of my favorite battle themes of any game ever, so I had high hopes and standards for this one. While Kidd certainly rocked it out, I really wanted to hear more of the source tune in this one. At least the main melody of it. As is, it kind of just... wandered for me. So to speak very honestly, while it's not bad, of all the tracks on the album, this one was probably the most disappointing for me.

One of the strongest tracks on album and disc alike is A Savior Ascends by Vampire Hunter Dan. Over six minutes long, this is a gorgeous orchestral arrangement of the Lunar Whale theme. Nothing seems out of place, and every little note seems to serve a purpose. How people create pieces like this is beyond me.

Eminence Grise is one of the closing tracks to Redemption, and is an arrangement of Another Moon. With vocals! OA and DragonAvenger collaborate for this one. The instrumentals are really good here and capture the elements of the original. The darkness of it. The strange sort of hope of it. DragonAvenger on vocals had me a little iffy, as I've never been a *huge* fan of them. But she really impressed me here! Some of the best vocals I've heard from her, and perfectly suited for this song.

Genesis of Destruction is another arrangement with vocals. Many vocals. Female. Chorus. Death metal vocals. It's a rock opera, essentially. A lot of people worked together on this particular piece. At the beginning of it, the "Zeromus! Zeromus!" parts make me think of "Sephiroth! Sephiroth!". Not in a bad way, though, as One Winged Angel wasn't a terrible piece or anything. Anyways, this particular piece isn't so bad. I like the instrumentals. The choir wasn't bad. But I'm not a fan of death metal kind of singing, and the female who sings this, lisabela, doesn't have the kind of voice I really like in a female singer, though I admit to being *very* picky when it comes to female singers. Rather than this track, I'd have liked to see the bonus track Phantom of the Zeromus on the album, as I preferred it to this one. (And I really enjoyed Nutritious' singing on it.)

Responsible for the Epilouge theme, Fishy covers that with their arrangement, Facing. It's a good way to start bringing things to a close. I really enjoy the guitar in this one. It's not a spectacular track, but it's definitely good and worth time to listen to and appreciation. I'm confused as to why the final track is a repeat of Rydia's theme, but I can't complain as I am a fan of Rydia and her theme. Kind of Green (Haha @ title) by Abadoss, audio fidelity, bustatunes, and theultravisitor doesn't stand out as one of the more spectacular tracks either, imo, but it's very relaxing and the perfect kind of song to play in the background while working or whatever. And I can definitely get a kind of feeling of goodbye in this song, which makes sense, since that's the end of the album.

But then there's 8 more bonus tracks... I'm not going over those, however. You'll just have to download it for yourself.

Overall, I found this to be a fantastic album. It relates to the original game, and everyone involved really brought in their A game. I love the attention to detail, not just for the music either. The album art itself is really great and designed well. The site is just gorgeous - I love the blue and the black and the flash animations. OA did superb with the designing of all that. I'm totally jealous of his design skills!

But yeah, you can tell a lot of love went into the creation of Final Fantasy IV : Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption. It shows. It really does. And I want to congratulate and thank everyone involved for producing such a masterpiece!

I highly recommend that people go pick up the album.

Also, as soon as I get my physical copy of the album that I won in the trivia of the listening party (I don't profess such an undying love for the game for no reason) I'm taking pictures and posting them to gloat and for people to enjoy! :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Am Neglectful

I really am not good with keeping up with two blogs, apparently. Heh. I will try to keep up here better, but I won't make promises to that effect. Honestly, I don't have terribly much to write about in my life. Most of the crazy that is me is spewed off in IMs to friends.

It's really best that most of that isn't seen...

This is mostly a post to say, "Hi, I'm alive still!" to people in general, "Hi noob!" to a certain BFF, and to post the work in progress for something I'm tinkering with at the moment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christian Bale did what!?

I'm sure many of us have heard of what Christian Bale did. He got a bit irate with someone and yelled and cursed at them a lot. I won't link to the various audio or songs made of the incident, because it's easy to find and I like to try to keep this place somewhat clean. :P

I wasn't shocked and appalled by what Christian Bale did (I won't to into details. Just google it.), as so many others seem to be. I was amused by the audio, and I still giggle like a child when I hear the "WTF Is It With You!?" song, but do I think Christian Bale is a big huge jerkface for life? No. Do I think he's a saint? No.

The fact of the matter is I don't know the man on any kind of personal level, so I laugh when others presume that they do.

I've also lost my cool with people at times. Perhaps not to the extent that he did, but I have. Others have as well, and plenty others have lost it far worse (physical fights, anyone?). So I'm not sure why people want to play the "I R BETR THAN J00" game. Is it because he's well known? Maybe.

This whole incident reminds me of the Alec Baldwin incident, where he left a less than voicemail or some such for his daughter. There was cursing and ranting involved, and naturally the internet police jumped all over that and there were outcries of Alec Baldwin being a bad father and a bad person.


For those of you who have parents who have never snapped or yelled at you, I wanna know what kinda sugar coated candy land you're living in.

When we lose our cool, it's not a shining moment, no. But it should be remembered that everyone has their moments of anger, grr, and rage, so condemning people for very human things we're all susceptible to is just a tad hypocritical, no?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Believe it or not...

Believe it or not, not everyone on the internet is out to protect your best interests. True, there is a vast array of knowledge that can be found on the internet because of the vast amount of people there, and the little bits of knowledge they have combines into a force greater than even Captain Planet...

But not everyone uses powers and knowledge for good. It's why villains and such exist. Well.. in the comics and games at least.

What inspired me to say what I feel is very obvious is a trend I've noticed. Inevitably, you run across someone who isn't very good with computers, and somehow manages to accumulate all kinds of spyware/malware/etc. In fact, I'm one of those people. But this isn't about me! No, this is about something else I've noticed.

Poor Sap: I have Spyware, how does I remove?
Tech Pro: Time to reformat your hard drive.

Really? I've seen that response given for many computer problems, actually. Problems I sometimes have but end up fixing because most computer problems are usually, well, fixable.

I see formatting a hard drive and losing everything on over a minor problem as kind of like taking the dog out to the back yard and using a shot gun on it to put it out of its misery when it had some fleas. Why would you do that? Really.

But to sum up, my point is when people offer you advice on the internet, take that advice with caution. Especially if you're asking for computer advice on a video gaming or cooking site or what have you... Though if you have a problem with WoW or omelets, those kinds of sites would be great.

And sometimes Google is your friend, unless you know trusted persons to ask for advice. (Just be sure to do your homework properly and research and compare results~)

Art and Buttons. Buttons and Art.

So... I sell buttons now! Rather than me get into all the information about it, I'll just link thee to the information about it all in my DeviantArt Account: Here ya go~

So far, I've only got two designs. A cute, cartoony piggy, and a D20 button for fans of DnD or the phrase, "That's How I Roll". I have some vague ideas for other designs, but I figure I'll see if these sell or not before diving further into the button making business. I thought I could sell prints at one point, and that hasn't actually panned out for me. ^^;

As usual, alongside a commission I have about eleventy unfinished works in progress I'm working on. I usually accumulate too many WIPs solely because I'll start one and eventually forget I ever did, because of my horrible organizational system on my computer - which is the lack of organization. I always say I'll do better about it, but I never do. Every new file I create goes into "My Documents" and never gets sorted into its proper place. Therefore "My Documents" is filled with utter chaos.

Add onto this my lack of creativity or common sense when it comes to naming each file. I don't feel inspired to come up with anything unique, but I don't even go with the obvious. A portrait of a pretty lady for example could be named a plethora of things that don't require much thought. "Pretty lady" "Portrait" "Lady Portrait" "Lady" Yet I end up unable to find the file later because instead of choosing any of that, I decide to name it something like "dawsfdskl" because rubbing two brain cells together makes the wrong kind of fire in my mind.

There's a reason random key mashing doesn't work for that, or other things. MMORPGs, IMs, Blogs, etc. People reading can't be expected to adfifdsffffffff when you tyoytisfdxc.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

La La LaTale

AdaDodd is cruel. She makes people fight each other with pickaxes and cheers them on until only one remains. Don't believe me? Here's proof:

In all seriousness, the only times I find myself really enjoying La Tale is when I'm playing with my friends. Sure, we don't play in a serious way and grind and level and try to get the best equips (Fashion is more important, doncha know?) but we have fun. It usually involves mining, or me leading certain people into dangerous situations. XD The joke's usually on me, however, since those certain people end up ditching me and leaving me to die.

I used to really enjoy playing La Tale alone. I'd play it alone most of the time, and level up and do quests and was all YAY about it. I mean, it's a good game, but I suppose the appeal is starting to wear off given the fact the people who operate the game can't.. do it right.

Ever since the beginning of the release, and supposedly even in beta, maaaany users suffer serious lag and latency issues with the game. Sometimes it's barely playable, if playable at all. That's one of those major issues, I think, that should have been addressed from the get go. Instead, the company releases other shiny features. The sad part is the majority of the populace seems to go for it and is totally appeased when a shiny comes out.

However, every time OGPlanet releases a shiny, at least 2 serious glitches to the game seems to come along with it. XD It's kinda funny really... but also disappointing. I really enjoy this game, but at the same time, if the lag problem gets much worse, I won't really be able to play it anymore. So right now, I just keep hoping that they fix the major issues so it's actually playable to people.

I figure eventually they'll pretty much have to fix the lag. I'm just not sure when that is. But I'm not above not being a serious player for a number of months as I wait for fixinz. XD

I know there's other really good, and even free, MMORPGs I could play, but I find that one MMORPG addiction is enough. I don't know how people juggle multiple MMORPGs. It'd drive me crazy, I think.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Video Games. Music. Communities. <3

I believe we're in a day and age where it's not really acceptable to say that video game music isn't good because it's just 'beeps and blips'. You don't have to like it, of course, but I'd like to see a more valid and true excuse than that.

Certainly, back in the 80s and early 90s music might have been classified as such (I still loved it~) but nowadays you have composers like Hitoshi Sakimoto known for the awesomeness they do that certainly cannot be classified as beep nor blip. Minuet by Masayoshi Yamazaki is also a far cry from a beep... I could probably go on for pages about the awesomeness of various composers, but... that likely wouldn't make for a good read. XD

Anyways, not too many years ago I was pleased to find various communities dedicated to the glorification of game music. Talented musicians pay tribute to their favorite composers by remixing and arranging their work - I think of it like the equivalent of fan art.

There's a bit more to it than that, with musicians and composers helping each other out, and sharing their own original works too. I remember people from a couple years back when they were just 'noobies' and I remember their music. And... I remember cringing at that music. And it's amazing to me, that I listen to something they did recently, and I really enjoy it because they've improved so much! Because they practice, and work hard, and other people in the same field offer their insight and advice. (Some people on these sites make music professionally) Positive communities can really make a positive difference in someone.

My main fix for music and socializing in this 'scene' used to be VGMix, but alas, it was taken down and currently still in the process of revivification. OverClocked Remix, however, is still up and running stronger than ever. I admit I haven't dived that deep into it, but with VGMix still in a limbo of sorts, I do hang around OCR more often these days.

I'm sure OCR has its sour grapes, as any community does, but I have to say that I believe the main contributers to the site are nothing short of awesome. Not necessarily for their music (which is awesome) but I believe this community is a fine example of what many (most?) online communities should aspire to be. One of the members became ill not long ago, so a lot of people got together to arrange music from one of their favorite games as a 'get well album' and showed an outpouring of support to him and his then-fiancee. (He's better now and they're married so happy endings yay!)

I pondered over other communities I've been a part of and wondered if they were capable of something similar to the above. And I... am uncertain. Human behavior is hard to predict.

I'm pretty sure I started this post to talk about video game music and totally deviated in about fifty different directions. Hurrah! Likely a result of me not really being deeply involved in any community right now, and mostly 'drifting'. I always enjoyed being a part of a community of some kind, so it's a bit strange to not be deeply involved anywhere anymore.

But yes. Game music. Awesome. <3
(One day I'll learn to make a blog post and keep to a single topic)