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Final Fantasy V – “Death Battle at the Big Bridge” (Nobuo Uematsu)

September 26, 2010

Final Fantasy V brought to the forefront of the Final Fantasy series one of the most memorable characters, Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is based loosely on the hero from the Babylonian epic of the same name and is characterized as a polite, sword-greedy warrior who pops out at the most inopportune moments to challenge you for some item. In later games, he can be obtained as an ally. His first major appearance in Final Fantasy V is on a level called the Big Bridge, which is just that – a giant bridge over the ocean separating two continents. Gilgamesh serves as one of the guards, but later shows up numerous other places to challenge you to battle. The theme that plays on this level – “Death Battle at the Big Bridge” is sometimes known as “Big Bridge”, “Clash on Big Bridge” or “Battle with Gilgamesh” as it appears in several other battles with him.

“Death Battle at the Big Bridge” is characterized by trumpets and slide piano/organ and Nobuo Uematsu’s trademark drumset. The track opens with the slide piano and some excellent drum and cymbal synths for pounding, clanging armor, followed by a nice cymbal break at 0:32 – I can imagine Mr. Uematsu smiling as he composed that part. The main theme is full-on rolling trumpet with slide piano support that’s straight out of swordsman footwork. The trumpet and drums together give the piece a slight samurai western feel, which probably relates to the epic duel and Gilgamesh’s antique armor and his haughty airs, all of which are captured in the theme. At the end, the track begins to fade out as in a haze, but quickly rebounds to the main melody and action. With such a memorable melody, this is by far one of the best Final Fantasy tunes and one of the best on the SNES; classic oldschool Uematsu.

There have been several arranges of this theme, but the best seems to be the one by – surprise, surprise – the Black Mages. I prefer the version from The Black Mages over the live recording.  Another excellent arrange – in slower pace – is “Down to Big Bridge” by Japanese rock arranger Crow’s Claw (aka Taka). He’s done two different versions of this piece, the first (2004) being slower rock and the second being faster-paced metal (2005). I prefer the second, though it comes off as a little too intense! There was also a more traditional rock arrange on Dissidia: Final Fantasy, a fighting game that brought together characters across the series.

As for fan mixes, MV did an amazing chip arrange of this theme on VGMix 2.0 called “Battle with GilgaNES“. There’s another interesting arrange from there as well that’s not as good (heavy MIDI synths) but is an interesting orchestral take on the track. The arrange is by Shoryuken from VGMix 2.0 and has a well-thought out composition that is a departure from the mainly metal arranges this track has seen.

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