“Zanarkand” is the first song that plays upon booting Final Fantasy X. It also plays when players start a new game. It appears regularly throughout the game as well, in rearrangements and it its most iconic original form. While “Suteki da ne” is considered the game’s main theme by the composers, I can’t help but think of “Zanarkand” instead.
Final Fantasy X opens with the party gathered around a campfire, taking a breather before pushing ahead. Tidus, the game’s main character, walks away from the group and looks out into the distance. The ruins of Zanarkand lay before him. The true nature of this destroyed city becomes clear later in the story. He begins to narrate, bringing us back in time to learn how they got here.
Underneath it all, “Zanarkand” plays quietly. It’s a very simple scene but grabbed me nonetheless, especially when the game was new.
As the game progressed, the song took on new meanings. By the time I arrived at the scene from the opening, it was so much more than a song. It was the summation of all the things I had felt about the characters and the story. It was at that moment that I truly understood the song.
For me, “Zanarkand” is the most beautiful piece of gaming music I have ever heard. It grabbed me immediately upon playing the game and has stuck with me for the 10 years since I played it. It is a very simple song that contains no lyrics and only a piano but it manages to pack so much emotion into the notes. Every time I hear it, I can feel it.
The man who created such a masterpiece is a name many of you probably know – Nobuo Uematsu. He is a musical god who had his hands on such great games as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. It is only fitting that he was the one to come up with such a potent opening song for Final Fantasy X.
It is a song that I would gladly learn to play piano for, just so I could bust it out whenever I wanted. I’m not kidding; I’ve actually priced piano lessons in the past for this exact reason.
It is also the first game song that made me think of game music as something more than just playing in the background of a video game. It took me several years to track down a copy of the song, mostly because I didn’t have a computer in my household when I played it. It has been on every iPod I have ever owned since and never fails to bring a smile to my face. I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a month without hearing it.
The funniest part of all this love is that I’ve never actually finished Final Fantasy X. My original save file was lost due to a misplaced Memory Card. I didn’t have the heart to play through the game again. Through the Internet, I have learned what happens at the end of the game.
It always saddened me to have missed such a powerful ending, something that may have given “Zanarkand” even more emotional power. Even still, it is easily my favorite piece of video game music. Nothing else comes close to the feeling I get when I hear those first few notes.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!