Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today we’re going to talk about Final Fantasy IX’s ending theme, an audio sponge that sucks up 40 hours of emotion-packed Japanese RPG and squeezes it out all over every time you listen.
Opening themes set the stage for a game, using audio cues to psyche the player up for the adventure to come. They’re the musical equivalent of “Let’s gooooooooo!” Ending themes, however, serve a much different purpose. They’re the summary at the end of a thesis paper, the highlight reel released after the big game. The burp after a really good meal? Maybe not that last one.
For a lengthy, emotionally involved fantasy role-playing game like Final Fantasy IX (playlist / longplay / VGMdb), the ending theme serves a more important role. “Melodies of Life”, composed by game music legend Nobuo Uematsu and performed in both English and Japanese by singer Emiko Shiratori, was more than just punctuation at the end of an adventure. It’s a song that neatly captures all the emotions that come at the conclusion of an epic gaming undertaking, including the bittersweet feeling that comes from reaching the finale. The result is a piece of music that brings all 40+ hours I spent playing the game rushing back to me every time I hear it.
The lyrics speak of memories and lost love, delivered sweetly and delicately by Shiratori. Over the years I’ve come to associate the singer’s voice with in-game character Garnet. I hear her in my head when Garnet speaks. If Square Enix ever does a Final Fantasy IX remake with full voice-acting, it’s going to totally mess me up.
But what really makes the vocal version of “Melodies of Life” such a nostalgic track for me is the way it incorporates other music from the game. The tune behind “Melodies of Life” is actually taken from “Over the Hill,” aka the game’s overworld theme. It’s the music that propels us along on our journey. Every dramatic beat, every powerful adversary, and every tear-jerking Vivi moment is closely followed by some of this:
Square Enix / CalcAzn (YouTube)
Because of the recycled melody, the end theme of Final Fantasy IX brings every step of the adventure rushing back. Not just the in-game moments, but where I was in life when I was playing. It takes me back to my smoke-filled bedroom in an apartment I shared with two roommates, sitting on a bed with no frame, drinking Mountain Dew right out of the two-litre bottle. A time when my only concern was getting to the end credits of Final Fantasy IX. Thanks to “Melodies of Life,” I’ll never forget getting there.
I’m not crying, you’re crying. Either that, or you’re discussing the song and its soundtrack in the comments. Or just chatting about anything. Go wild, while I rummage about for tissues.