Liquid Footprints

Dancing Mad

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This time I am not writing about anything spiritual or enlightening.  It’s time to give one of the most influential things on my thinking its due: Final Fantasy VI.

The game dates way back from the mid 90’s. It is one of the absolute best games ever made. It follows the stories of two women, Terra Branford and Celes Chere. Terra is a child of a human and a magical creature called and Esper. She is captured by a man, Gestahl, and is used as a weapon to forge a world-wide empire. Celes Chere is a general of that empire but falls out of favor when she resists the planned destruction of a town.  The two join a resistance group called the Returners and seek to stop the Empire’s efforts to expand their power. Gestahl’s right hand man, Kefka, quickly becomes the main foe. Kefka is a nihlistic lunatic. He poisons entire cities, kills randomly, and mid way through the game, challenges the gods of magic themselves.

Kefka eventually attains godhood by draining the gods of their powers and on a whim, rearranges and tortures the entire planet:

“What do you think you’ve found?

Here…in this dying world?

Why do you build, knowing destruction is inevitable?

Why do you yearn to live, knowing everything must die?”

Kefka is true evil incarnate. He doesn’t seek power for power’s sake. He isn’t angry or self-righteous. He is out of his freaking mind.  He kills just to kill, and he doesn’t kill when he can just to screw with people. When he attains godhood he creates the Light of Judgment to randomly smite people from his tower of debris and machines gathered from the devastation. He just wants to destroy.

Final Fantasy VI has a huge cast of characters, each with their own struggles and issues in their lives. After the world ends, Celes finds her adoptive grandfather dead on a small, lonely island and attempts to commit suicide. She becomes part of an odd love triangle between Locke Cole, a treasure hunter, and his long dead love Rachel.  The monarch of a small kingdom, Edgar Figaro, shoulders the burden of rulership so his twin brother may live the life he wants to live. Terra is tormented by her sins as a weapon and her lack of full humanity.  The gambler, Setzer Gabbiani, buries his love and fellow airship pilot with her believed airship. The game has opera, wars, and split storylines. Yes, I said opera.

In the final confrontation with Kefka, you have to fight through Dante’s Divine Comedy. You fight through a twisted, tormented mass of humanity in Kefka’s hell all the way through the divine corridors of heaven. Finally, you must kill the insane god at the apex of heaven.  The orchestrated version of this battle, Dancing Mad, combines fugue like melodies from  pipe organs with chanting, electric guitar, and teeth grating sounds of madness. Take a listen (running time: 10 minutes) .

Final Fantasy VI has shaped how I view villains and stories. If a fantasy doesn’t have a firm grounding in opera, insanity, life and death, hope and nihilism, classical and chant, it just doesn’t hold my attention. The game tackles very deep themes and examines the hopelessness of nihilism.  I have run into people who hold a similar mentality to Kefka; although they are not completely out of their minds. Nihilism is quite a sad situation. Certainly the above quote from Kefka is true. Everything must die. Everything must end, but that ending is what allows us to appreciate life. If life was endless, as Kefka’s became when he achieved godhood, we would lose our appreciation for it. Ending is what gives us meaning.

For just being a 10-year-old game, it has profound messages the 16-bit graphics belie. It still remains the most powerful Final Fantasy.

You can find piano sequences of the various character themes, orchestrated concert editions, and even the operatic piece, Darkness and Starlight. I highly recommend you play the game and listen to the performed versions of the music.

Author: Chris

Wanders the world of Japanese culture and library nerdiness.

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