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Final Fantasy VIII – “The Man with the Machine Gun” (Nobuo Uematsu)

September 25, 2010

My favorite piece from Final Fantasy VIII (1999) is “The Man with the Machine Gun,” the battle theme for Laguna who is, in short, some guy with a machine gun. Final Fantasy VIII has a very strange plot, part of which involves the characters in the present dreaming about events in the past where Laguna and his sidekicks Kiros (who had his hands replaced with swords) and Ward (who fights with a giant anchor(!)) are involved in an insurrection of some sort while he searches for his fiancee. Ultimately, Laguna was a lot more interesting for me than the other characters and that coupled with the abrupt jump to a brand new team was enough to make things interesting. While there are several songs in the game that are really better composed than “The Man with the Machine Gun” (such as “Fisherman’s Horizon”), this piece is the one I remember best.

As a synth/trance piece, “The Man with the Machine Gun” doesn’t really sound like the standard PlayStation fare, which tends to be more orchestral in presentation. The piece uses primarily synth lines with a nice electronica drumset and has a strong square wave at 0:52 that reminds me of the NES. Mr. Uematsu adds a trumpet at 1:05 for the end of the loop before transitioning into a variation of the track’s intro where an electric bass line is added along with some subtle choral support for a great loop back to the main melody. The song’s fast pace and roots with traditional game music make it a great battle theme, while the high notes of the main melody capture Laguna’s guerrilla style of warfare, dropping down into the staccato drumbeats that recall machine gun fire. Great track, and highly memorable.

“The Man with the Machine Gun” saw two official remixes. The first is from Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec: Final Fantasy VIII and is an orchestral remix heavy with strings, replacing the main synth line with a mellow trumpet. A break with new material has been added at 2:05, and the second loop begins more straightforward with a pop drum beat (2:40) that is more in line with the original. The second is a rock arrange recorded by The Black Mages, a band formed by Mr. Uematsu himself which performs music from the series. Mr. Uematsu plays keyboard. The synth player, Kenichiro Fukui, has a background with Konami’s MIDI Power pro series of albums. Guitarist Tusyoshi Sekito helped compose the new tracks for Chrono Trigger on the PlayStation and also has a background with Konami, composing Space Manbow for the MSX. Most of the fan arranges are done in trance/electronica form, which is admittedly a genre I dislike, so I can’t really recommend any specific one.

What’s really interesting is the soundtrack actually saw a US release in Final Fantasy VIII Music Collection, though the circumstances surrounding the release are foggy. These days, it can be picked up on iTunes.

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