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As a fanfiction/amateur writer in my spare time, I find a very helpful tool is to have some music playing while I’m writing. I can do pretty well with a bit of DDR, Daft Punk, hard rock, or my Encounter CD (put out by DC Talk, same guys who put out “Jesus Freaks”). However, I try often to match up my song with the mood of what I’m writing. If the song can put me in the mood of the setting or the characters, it often works as a sort of “score” for me. And for this, nothing beats some Nobuo (as in Nobuo Uematsu). In my opinion, here are the best songs if you need some creative juices.

Honorable Mention: “Burmecian Kingdom” from Final Fantasy IX – Grim, gothic, sad and powerful, one can almost see themselves walking through an old cathedral as the rain pours against the roof as this song plays. A good song for when heroes are intruding somewhere dark and foreboding…like they know something horrible will happen but fate is making them continue anyway. However, it doesn’t make the top ten due to not really having anything “outstanding” in it. It’s mostly just a rolling “chant”.

10. “Battle, Scene II” from Final Fantasy II – This song isn’t too incredible in its original version, and it’s one of the few remixes the Black Mages have done that’s even worse than the original. However, its more recent remixes, especially ones that really “blast it out”, are pretty good. The original impact of the song is enhanced by it being the first final boss theme (or even boss theme) in a Final Fantasy game, even if it was against a rather bland Big Bad. If you can get it on a loop (because, like most Famicom/NES songs, it’s short), it’s good for an “intermediate Big Bad” fight.

9. “This is the Final Battle” from Final Fantasy III – This is one of my least favorite Final Fantasies, it’s to a blah villain with even less personality than Emperor Mateus, and this song itself has way too long of an intro…but this is definitely the best song in the game. It’s not necessarily “intimidating” and “fearsome” like other final boss themes, but it is fun and engaging. It’s good to build up some excitement. The Black Mages version is also quite good too.

8. “Forever Rachel” from Final Fantasy VI – “Aerith’s Theme” still brings tears to my eyes if I’m in the right frame of mind…but I cannot play through Final Fantasy VI without crying over Locke and Rachel’s story. Having this history in the background makes the Locke/Celes relationship one of the most strained and ultimately satisfying ones in the series, yet still keeps it far more “believable” than ones in other games. Case in point…as Squall is far too moody, disinterested, and self-centered, not to mention he thinks she’s annoying every five minutes, I never believed his relationship with Rinoa. People tend to think Tidus and Yuna are beautiful but…both of them seem too annoying to me and the relationship appears forced. Anyway…a great song for a sad moment.

7. “Battle with the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV – I still remember the first time I heard this song bust through the speakers on my first playthough of Final Fantasy IV, and one thought ran through my young brain: “…I am going to have the *bleep* kicked out of me.” Actually, I didn’t… The time where this song would play AND I would get ripped a new one would be the “Battle Royale” against all Four Fiends of the Elements in the Giant of Bab-Il…unless, of course, we’re talking about the FFIV DS version, in which case everything just kind of gang beats you for the entire game…but moving on. Both fearsome and nightmare-inducing plus a good clip to keep things moving, because you don’t want these to go too slow or they lose the effect. (Great case in point…”Castle Pandemonium” is fantastic in the original Final Fantasy II, but Final Fantasy IX slowed down the remix so much you want to go to sleep.)

6. “Battle on the Big Bridge” from Final Fantasy V – Also known as “Fight with Gilgamesh”, and one of the most redone songs in the series aside from the “Main Theme”, the “Prelude”, and the “Chocobo Theme”. There’s many versions of this and some are better than others, but my favorite is a toss up between the original and the DISSIDIA version, as that one kind of gives it an organ vibe like it’s one of those 70s musicians going to town. Exciting and invigorating, it’s a good minor battle song. Pretty fun to play on piano too.

5. “Fight with Seymour” from Final Fantasy X – I can literally count on one hand how many songs from Final Fantasy X I even like/remember, and that’s from a guy who owns the entire soundtrack. The various Seymour Themes are just the same song over and over again with slightly different intros. This is one, though. I find Seymour to be one of the most annoying villains in Final Fantasy history for more than one reason, and his effeminate tone and foppish way of conducting himself and dressing makes me just want to stab out his eyes with sewing needles every time he comes on screen…but, I have to admit, he’s a pretty powerful antagonist with an original motivation compared to other Final Fantasy villains, he’s clearly bat-spit crazy as opposed to other villains who might just be straight up jerks (although he’s one of those too…), and a lot of his lines are memorable. “So, you too seek freedom from this painful life?” The “techno” beat makes this an interesting slice of flavor for lots of scenes.

4. “You’re Not Alone!” from Final Fantasy IX – The original song is good but not enough to quite make the list. However, the remix I have on Project Majestic Mix really emphasizes the guitar and really captures the whole essence. Even the sound of the artist playing gives the feeling of someone bloody, bruised and broken slowly dragging themselves to their feet and forcing themselves to keep going. That song is fantastic. Good for a scene where someone is steeling their resolve.

3. “Those Who Fight Further” from Final Fantasy VII – The problem with putting a Final Fantasy VII song on this list, or including it in any list for any category, to be honest, is that it’s been so overdone that it’s lost its effect. There was a time I thought “A One Winged Angel” was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I’ve heard it so many times I actually like “Jenova Absolute” better than it now. It’s hard to pick my favorite song now as there’s a number of good ones and, depending on the remixes (“Opening Theme/Bombing Mission” at the Distant Worlds concert is EPIC) they’re even better. I’ll pick this one because even the remixes of it change very little. This song is just energetic and exciting any way you look at it.

2. “The Extreme” from Final Fantasy VIII – I’ll admit, I lost a lot of respect for Final Fantasy VIII’s music for a long time. And, to be honest, I don’t think this song fits in very well with the final battle where you hear it. But as a stand-alone song, it’s pretty good and intense. It curries feelings both of something big and monstrous coming as well as desperation to win…in other words, things that are “extreme”. Works for a lot of big fight sequences.

Well…I managed to hit every one of the first ten games (when the music was still good…) except the first one. (I got ones I like from that too, by the way, just not enough to make the top ten.) Picking my favorite is pretty hard…and, in reality, a lot of these top ten songs are interchangeable. A lot more could have made this list if not for subtle nuances (such as “Suteki da ne”[“Isn’t it lovely?”] and “Dancing Mad”[I have to admit…after starting out big it gets progressively more mundane through the second and third movements…and only somewhat comes back in the fourth and fifth]). Still others have one fantastic version but otherwise aren’t terribly great in all other incarnations (The “Final Fantasy: Pray” album does a rendition of “Tina(Terra)’s Theme” that makes me feel like I’m crossing Middle-Earth on an adventure, and “Spreading Great Wings” from Final Fantasy V is magic.) But, in the end, for number one, I choose…

1. “Memoro de la Stono” from Final Fantasy XI – Oho, an upset! I’m a sucker for opera-like songs. Actually, I’m a sucker for Latin, but even though this is Esperanzo (sp?), it’s great. Although it’s short, it’s really powerful and moving. The vocals are what sell it better than any instrumentation. Even if you can’t understand the words, the music itself tells you everything you need to know…a song of despair, defeat, death, and depression…but also one of hope, how there’s still a light somewhere in the darkness that will one day dispel the time of gloom. It’s like a song or opera version of that line from “The Dark Knight” by Harvey Dent: “It’s always darkest before the dawn…and the dawn is coming.” If you look for this online, I suggest the Distant Worlds version…but skip the actual second part of the song, because it’s actually a fusion of “Memoro de la Stono” and “Distant Worlds” itself. No offense…but I think the singer for the “Distant Worlds” concerts is a tad too shrill and “nasal”.