Release of the Summer: Balance & Ruin by OverClocked Remix (Old Timey Hedgehog Review)

(Check out my latest guest review for Old Timey Hedgehog, your source for geeky goodness. http://www.amazon.com/Hedgy-Times-Issue-Magazine-ebook/dp/B00D47CEDM This was a big one :D)

Balance & Ruin

I have been waiting for this remix project for probably close to 15 years. One of the first places I discovered new electronic music was www.overclockedremix.org, one of the perennially under-valued resources for video game and chiptune music online.

It made me so happy to realize there was a community of people all over the world who would blast a Mega Man 3, Super Mario World or Chrono Trigger remix for all to hear. Every once and a while someone would remix a Final Fantasy 6 (3 if you’ve never heard of the Japanese equivalent numbering system) tune and it would be rad. OC Remix kept doing remix projects, and I (like 2500 other people) kept hoping for a gigantic Final Fantasy VI rework, and I kept thinking “man, I’d totally pay for it too.”

To give you an idea of how popular this was, they needed 30k to produce the 5 CD compilation, and the first time they launched the kickstarter, it garnered the unfavorable attention of Square-Enix, who shut it down like woah. They relaunched it and still managed to raise 5x their required funds. And every penny was well spent it seems.

FF61

There are so many good remixes in the compilation that naming them all would bore you supremely so I’ll just note some of the better tunes on each disc. Right from the get go, bustatunez reminds us of the epic scale of the game that is apparent right from the opening scenes. The Prologue track is 5:35 of sweeping Zimmer-esque symphony that take us on a voyage of sound, bringing back wistful memories of starting a new game, wondering what the game had in store for me. The Locke theme by Jeff Ball (ft. Laura Intravia on soulful, operatic vocals) is stunning cover of the original with a breakbeat that just doesn’t quit, while the Edgar & Sabin theme is re-done properly by Nutritious. Other favorites on the first disc include the sassy Spanish guitar rework of the Mt. Koltz theme that seems supremely danceable, and character themes of two of my most favorite characters in video game history, Shadow and Cyan. It rounds out with some Bad ass work all around and the two-track combo done by like 10 OC Remixers working together captured the feel of riding that wacky Phantom Train all over again.

FF62The second cd starts with another one of my absolute favorite themes. Gau, the wild child who stole the powers of the enemy and added them to his roster was one of the most innovative and original character concepts in all of 16-bit era RPGs, being a joy to play. When you learned about his history and family, it was terribly, terribly sad, but that’s why you had 14 playable characters. That’s right. 14. And the evilest bad guy (arguably) in all of JRPG world. Kefka still brings chills to my spine when I think about the sheer magnitude of douche that guy was. FF63

Other dope tracks on the second disc include Courage, Failure, Rosebud, Bad Octopus (because that guy was so wacky), and my two personal favorites, the perky dancey Electro de Choco by Tepid, and Level 99’s interpretation of the coin flip song, which…was a heavy scene both in the game and in my memory when I heard it again. Also on the CD is the massive effort to recreate the Opera House scene. This part of the game is my (and probably thousands of others) favorite moment in 16bit RPG history. It’s been beautifully captured by zircon, Jillian Aversa, AeroZ, Tommy Pedrini, Jake Kaufman, and Laura Intravia. One of the things OC Remix never disappoints with is its ability to take something that felt EPIC back in the day, and make it feel even more epic right now as it helps you remember it. It’s hard to top my memory, but they do so wonderfully.FF64

The 3rd disc involves the point in the plot when my expectations of the game, much like my expectations of the remix project, are very neatly blown away. Rexy & DDRKirby help to prime the charges by reminding me of two of the more nuanced emotional triggers in the game, one being the freedom of flying in the airship after being stuck on the ground and the strange melancholy/regret that emanated from the Emperor as he slowly lost control of his empire to his mad general Kefka. The tracks progress through the world-ending battle that happens halfway through the game, with Flexstyle, zircon, Derek Oren & Jeremy Robson matching the pulse-pounding intensity of the climactic battle. The work is executed flawlessly & the tracks were panic-inducing , so kudos all around for getting me to sweat in my chair about making it out alive, all over again.

FF65

The contemplative nature of the Ruined world theme that haunts your ears as you search for your friends is perfectly captured by the first track of the 4th disc, A Glimmer of Hope by Joshua Morse, ft. Jeff Ball & Laura Intravia (Intravia’s vocals were critical to making some of the key tracks on this compilation stand out, so props to whoever brought her on board).  XPRTNovice adds some hilariously relevant Jewish & Eastern European folk influences to the Gogo theme, which goes over wonderfully. There’s a jovial side to the tune that makes you want to have it played at the next Bar Mitzvah or christening you have to attend. The rest of the cd is full of heavy hitter tracks reminding of some of the most dangerous and challenging parts of the game. From Flexstyle’s remix of The Magic House theme and  Argle’s Endless Stair cover that seems just as tense as the tower you heard the tune played in, to zircon & Sixto Sounds’ awesome rework of the final boss fight music, the soundtrack continues to expand, as the world did in the 2nd half of the game, while getting darker, more ominous and less friendly, mirroring the game again.FF66

You’d think after 4 discs, they’d be done, but just like a Billy Mays’ ad, THERE’S MORE! The last disc is frontloaded with a magnificent re-imagining of the opening/introductory prelude of the game, so massive, they split it into 4 parts. The second half of the disc has remixes of songs covered in alternative ways earlier in the compilation, but that needed to be included. Highlights include bLiNd’s trancey dance remix of The Returners’ theme, his wubby redone Mog’s theme, and WillRock’s ethereal vision of the world of Espers.

The compilation is available for free download, but for the cool people (such as myself) that contributed to the Kickstarter, we have physical discs being shipped to us. Considering how long I’ve been listening to the amazing work coming out of OverClocked Remix (which I recommend you start doing immediately if you haven’t, and have spent any time playing video games in the last 30 years), it’s the least I can do to contribute to one of the most undervalued high quality resource on the web. Download it, show the site some love, and don’t forget to buy extra health potions for your listening adventure.

http://ff6.ocremix.org/
http://ocremix.org/

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