There was a brief moment when I felt as though my actions in and exploration of Fantasy Life's Reveria were becoming a little bit of a rinse and repeat. This wavering of faith was quickly overshadowed when I found a large fish cutting waves just beneath the surface of a lava lake.
What sort of fish will I catch? Why is there even a fish here?
This simple excitement of finding that new area and investigating what every musty, colourful, or dangerous corner has to offer is enough to stave off any boredom. Having spent the better part of 52 hours taking on the world with a fishing rod, sword, terrorizing trees and ore, and marveling at my dog's zest for a fight—Fantasy Life has a lot going for it. But it's not the visuals alone that help fight off any would be predicaments of sameness. There's also that soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu.
It really is perfect for adventuring and discovery but it's also extraordinarily hilarious when it needs to be.
As my float hit the surface of the lake, the music that accompanied my lonely dank cave exploration quieted some. I didn't particularly miss it as I was focusing and waiting for that moment when the fish would sink the hook, but I also knew there would be a fish battle to follow. Not just another battle for the fish's life, but one signaled by clown music. Yes. Clown music with bells, whistles, loops and unashamed antics.
The seamless weaving of music moments are pleasant surprises, often unexpected and occasionally bizarre. They're a perfect representation of what Fantasy Life is and its soundtrack is a reminder of just how astounding Uematsu's compositions are...not that we needed reminding. Here are a few of my favourites in the game so far:
Night on the Great Plains
Night Themes usually have that quiet, relaxed sort of sleepy feel to them. It's become sort of an obvious descriptor given the decreased activity generally. Great themes though will give a little nod to the eerie feel that accompanies the night blanketing an area—with daytime dwellers settling down and lovers of the dark moving around freely. In this theme, it's a long night on the plains. The animals lay in the grass to get comfy before entering slumber. Bandits undertake shady business opportunities. Spookies are compelled to go haunting their favourite spots near and in the forests.
Forest Theme - The Deeper Elderwoods
Then things get even more bizarre in the deep, dark forests. They're a thing in JRPGs. They're a thing in real life too but they're without the creeping sounds that crawl the blood and have you looking over your shoulder. Mostly due to the fact they sort have their own silent ways of doing things to give you those feelings regardless. Here in Fantasy Life, there's a bit of an intensity that peppers that feeling that you're being watched and you should always be on the move. First with cautious steps turning into picking up the pace and then into that full sprint.
Mount Snowpeak's Summit
Mount Snowpeak's Summit could not have a more apt song to guide you through its land of snow-covered firs and frozen ice patches. As your character travels along glistening blue fractured ice surfaces their footsteps ping on contact. In the background, a calm, wistful yet perplexing cheerful Winter's afternoon theme plays. It reminds me a bit of the snowy village in Final Fantasy VII in its serenity where it feels as though nothing could go wrong.
The Pirate Ship
The easy breezy life of Port Puerto seaside paradise extends to the pirates that frequent their waters. The Pirate Ship theme is one that's both smooth sailing in its jazz influenced relaxed sounds as it is stately.
Desert Ruins... heck, deserts. They're not always my favourite areas to explore. There's always that feeling of things being way too scorching and depressingly stifling. Fantasy Life's Al-Maajik desert town has a little bit of that "It's too hot to do anything" sort of vibe but it's got a lot of something else too. Its name lends to the sort of atmosphere that embodies the true characteristics of the town—curious, a little bit strange and definitely magical. Though its the Ancient Ruins in the desert proper that does it one better. It begins with chords of a forlorn, weathered song. Distinct, sort of sad, sort of wise. It then transforms into a little bit hopeful while giving that sense of hiding some well-kept secrets.
Bonus: Mastering a Life
Two nights ago, I finally mastered both my Angler and Paladin classes. I was not expecting what happened. I won't post any spoilers here but it was absolutely jaw-dropping and surreal. The soundtrack left a huge surprise for that moment and it is the perfect way that the game keeps its weird, playful persona going.
Despite the knowledge of the ace talent that went into the creation of this game namely Level-5, Yoshitaka Amano and Nobuo Uematsu; I was still skeptical as to what to expect. Luckily the clever writing has me forgiving the sometimes rudeness of the townspeople's attitudes in quest requests. The art style is gorgeous and I could get lost in Reveria's splendor for hours at a time. And of course, the music… it's difficult to describe just how brilliant a role it plays in Fantasy Life. It's everything you would expect but not. It can seem unassuming at times yet incredibly captivating...
...That's an understatement, really.
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