Another year, another set of holidays for me to use and abuse for playlist themes, and first up comes the sappiest of them all, Valentine’s Day (or if you’re a naysayer, the most cynical). Love is one of the most common narrative elements used in all forms of media and video games are no exception; starting with the very basic but heavily used damsels in distress, and eventually evolving into something more akin to an actual story between two characters. With these advances in story comes advances in musical technique and the idea of romance has become much easier and more enjoyable to convey through the game’s soundtracks.
I’m not sure there’s a better place to start proceedings than with the Final Fantasy Series. Love has been such a key story element throughout the franchises history, with attention starting to be properly paid to it in the 4th installment, along with which came the first in a long line of excellent romantic pieces from Nobuo Uematsu. While there’s no denying the importance and quality of the Theme of Love, I’ve skipped through to Love Grows from Final Fantasy VIII and the series’ first proper attempt at making ‘love’ the centrepoint of the plot. This piece really shows off the development of the theme of love (lowercase this time) throughout the game, with a soft yet rich flow while also being able to tell its own story away from the accompanying visuals. The same goes for Final Fantasy X’s Suteki Da Ne which conveys the relationship between Tidus and Yuna with an excellent vocal performance (if something that may not be to everyone’s tastes)
The music of romance is used to tell the story between the characters while also playing with the story arc and themes within the game; a great example of this comes in the form of Manny and Meche, a careful Tango layered with a tinge of tragedy and unease which manages to mimic the search and near-misses that Manny encounters in his search to put Meche on the correct path out of the underworld. Elsewhere, there’s the more minimalistic Gone Home score by Chris Remo which adeptly backs the story of a teenager’s self-discovery, and in a significant plot point, the indecision and confusion which has been built up in a tense atmospheric soundtrack is released with a gentle piece with a much happier tone.
And sometimes musical themes can just sound romantic and these come in all shapes and sizes; the best Bond song that never was in the theme from Snake Eater, the theme which plays as you’re allowed to freely roam the world of Earthbound following its final boss and the serenade received by Glados’ turrets as you’re sent up in an elevator to freedom. All of these magnificent pieces have romantic undertones to them, either in story beats or just the feel of the music which manage to stir up the emotion – for example Cara Mia Addio was used as my friend’s ‘wedding aisle’ song which worked very well given the tone of the people involved and the setting.
There are many great romantic pieces but of course I couldn’t choose them all. What piece would you have included? Let me know in the comments and enjoy the playlist!