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Final Fantasy VIII was huge upon its release in 1998.
It wasn’t just Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) releasing another big RPG. But rather the game’s bold ambition helped drive video games into the “is it art?” conversation that critics and players still debate to this day.
Thankfully today’s generation of gamers have a chance to experience all the hubbub with Final Fantasy VIII since its remastered version is surely a masterpiece to behold.
And no matter what you think of FF8’s gameplay or mechanics, I think one thing is for certain: it wouldn’t have lasted so long in our culture’s collective consciousness if the music wasn’t just so goddamned boss.
Below is my rank for the 10 best OST music pieces from the Final Fantasy 8 soundtrack. Get ready to relive the epicness all over again!
10. SeeD Theme
FF8’s main protagonist, Squall Leonhart, is a military academy student in Balamb Garden.
He’s also part of a mercenary force for hire under the school’s watch. So it only makes sense that the military imagery is laid on thick with some of the game’s musical pieces.
The SeeD theme works better than most though. As the music that often plays during mission briefings, it builds up an atmosphere so tense that you just can’t wait to get out of the room and cut down fools with your Gunblade.
9. A Sacrifice
If there’s ever a game where I could point to how Squaresoft loved telling stories with way out-there plots (then again, that’s every Final Fantasy game?) then FF8 wins without a doubt.
At the very least, that’s the notion that I’m reminded of whenever ‘A Sacrifice’ plays.
Not only is the music creepy AF, but it’s also a reminder of how FF8 can come close to being Final Fantasy’s very own Twilight Zone.
Except it has more brooding teens.
8. Balamb Garden
What’s a JRPG without some relaxing hometown music?
Well ‘Balamb Garden’ is that and more, as long as you’re comfortable with the “hometown” being a military school.
The chiming melody at the theme’s intro is a nice touch too, since it sounds like it’s nudging you to go to your next class… but more gently and also in a virtual video game kinda way. I can’t be the only one picking up on that!
7. The Stage is Set
FF8’s themes are effective in setting up expectations for the player.
While ‘The Stage is Set’ works well as a battle theme, it really punctuates the “holy balls!” moment when players begin to realize that the chill Balamb Garden they’re hanging out in can be mobilized into a flying battleship.
Talk about epic.
6. Blue Fields
Ever thought about how you felt when playing your first roleplaying game?
If you’re like me then you’ve come across this point: just when you’re about bored of roaming the same town or dungeon for hours, you suddenly find yourself looking over the map and thinking, “Oh, I get it now”.
I imagine first-time JRPG players had this overwhelming feeling of awe as they got to “that” moment in FF8.
And it wouldn’t have had the same effect if ‘Blue Fields’ wasn’t playing in the background as the overworld music.
5. Don’t Be Afraid
Almost every Final Fantasy game boasts a memorable battle with a killer boss theme.
‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is just perfect for what it was, though.
Since Squaresoft made a point of emphasizing character animations in FF8 it really fit into the action.
The anticipatory notes of the battle theme right as Squall brandishes his gunblade or Quistis cracks her whip, this can all be enough to get you shaped up and ready to fight.
4. The Landing
When Squaresoft first released Final Fantasy VII (before FF8) that game’s legacy become solidified as Square’s first success at making a “cinematic” game.
So what else could they do but go bigger from there?
The attack on Dollet Town, which was the first mission in FF8, features an impressively directed (for its time) beachfront assault reminiscent of that one ‘Saving Private Ryan’ scene.
This gameplay sequence wouldn’t have worked half as well if ‘The Landing’ wasn’t setting the epic scope of the entire thing.
3. Waltz for the Moon
If you really want to know how different FF8 was compared to its peers, consider this: in an era where games mostly catered to teenaged boys, FF8 incorporated an honest-to-god love story deep in its plot.
And it’s a story that went out of its way to be charming, too!
‘Waltz for the Moon’ is the music that played out during Squall and Rinoa’s meet-cute.
And this music should be forever seared into gamer’s memories because of that sequence.
To this day I’ll never understand why Square-Enix didn’t commission for a FF8 anime adaptation. Think of all the ‘ships we missed out on!
2. Eyes on Me
You think a love story in a video game would have infuriated gamers back then?
Well try putting a ballad on top of that!
‘Eyes on Me’ set the leitmotif for many of FF8’s romantic sequences involving Squall and Rinoa (and dare I say, perfected years later with the Tidus-Yuna dynamic in Final Fantasy X).
Taken on its own this is a by-the-numbers pop song.
But boy did it work so well in FF8.
And because this game is really one of the more epic in the series, an orchestral version was also recorded for the game’s equally incredible ending.
If you’ve played through this game to the end then it’s time to admit it: you also teared up a little didn’t you?
1. Liberi Fatali
Final Fantasy 7’s ‘One-Winged Angel’ might be a standout track, but has it been played at an Olympic event before? Nuh-uh.
I recall the entire FMV opening of Final Fantasy VIII being played on a French music video show on cable too(don’t ask).
While the animation was produced to impress, it wouldn’t have made half its impact if not for the equally ridiculous ‘Liberi Fatali’ that accompanied in the backgroud.
The internet wasn’t massive enough to look this up back then so no one knew what the hell the choir was singing in Latin. But who cares?
The whole thing looked so sleek and over-the-top in ways that only Hollywood blockbusters could have only afforded. And this is all based on a song from a Final Fantasy video game, just keep that in mind!
If that doesn’t earn this the #1 spot then I don’t know what does.
And with that said, well there you have it. Some of the BGM songs that shaped the PlayStation era twenty years ago.
Will these songs have the same effect on today’s generation of gamers? Well until the remake really settles into the culture I think your guess is as good as mine!