by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
One of my favorite parts of my job is talking about video game music, and I figured today I would look back to one of my personal favorite video game albums, perhaps of all time. I first found Mega Ran on a track by The Megas, funny enough. It was a remix of Metal Dance (Metal Man), with Mega Ran guest-starring on the track, and it was an absolute banger. So I found myself looking up his work, found his Mega Man tracks next, then finally, Black Materia: Final Fantasy VII (with Lost Perception). Now, my favorite stuff he did was probably the WWE/Wrestling albums, but I’m such a giant fan of the wrestling business, so that won’t shock anyone that knows me. But Black Materia: Final Fantasy VII dropped back in 2011 and has a fascinating combination of tracks that feel like a loving tribute of a feeling in the game, paired with modern issues that also fit into the tone of the game. After all, the point of Final Fantasy VII is about a huge corporation destroying the planet thanks to undisguised greed, and a team of renegades out to stop them. Oh, and a Meteor, Sephiroth, and some magical stuff, I guess.
I am certainly not an authority on Hip-Hop, but I know what I like; and that’s the Wu-Tang Clan, Aesop Rock, and Mega Ran. His style and flow is second-to-none, and he has a true love of the content he develops. He’s also (as far as I’m aware) the first and only rapper that is authorized by Capcom to produce beats using their music, and frankly? That’s beautiful. So please, go listen to this on Spotify, go buy the album on his website, look at his Patreon, whatever you do. You can find more about him on his website. He’s a rapper, he’s a teacher, he’s a hero. I also want to say that Brent Black (Brentalfloss) as Don Corneo was absolute genius. It’s a brief cameo, but goodness, it was equal parts hilarious and creepy. Every song on this album is gold, but I’m going to pick a few highlights, so if you do listen, you need to hear these without a doubt. I think as far as flow, my favorite track is probably Absolute, but of course, I don’t have the time or space to cover every single track; these are just a few of my favorites.
Cosmo Canyon (Track 7): It’s sort of funny, Cosmo Canyon. Red XIII is my second-least used character (behind Cait Sith), and I honestly did not enjoy most of my time spent at Cosmo Canyon in Final Fantasy VII. However, that final scene with Red’s father turned to stone and the single tear that leaves his eye? That does it for me every. single. time. Without fail. Cosmo Canyon is also the shortest track on the album, clocking in at 1:39, but I won’t lie to you, friends. I have an emotional response every single time I listen to this song, which made writing this review much more difficult. The solid beat behind the Cosmo Canyon theme, and story of how Red XIII came to be and finding out that his father was actually a goddamn hero, who fought to the bitter end? Come on, how can you not love that kind of story? “And as I howled at the moon, he cried from petrified eyes!” come on, now. That’s gold.
Cid’s Theme (Track 13): I had to pick Cid’s theme. This is another one that always has an emotional response from me. Cid’s my favorite character in Final Fantasy VII and his story in the game strikes pretty true to me. I feel it in my bones, and Phil Harmonic captures the essence of the gritty, no-nonsense Cid Highwind. This is another pretty short track on the album, but the whole of Cid’s desperation to go to the stars is felt in the track. While I did not enjoy Cosmo Canyon, meeting Cid, returning and taking the rocket to space? One of my favorite moments in the whole game. Cid had a dream, but thanks to reasons that dream died. Well, as it turned out, the dream was only deferred, because thanks to Cloud, and the world coming to an end, his dream comes to life. The slow, steady beat of Rocket Town mixed with Phil Harmonic’s flow is absolute perfection. It’s hard to find words to describe some of these songs, but Cosmo Canyon and Cid’s theme probably hit the closest to home to me personally. It’s always fantastic to find music that you can feel in your bones.
Cry of the Planet (Track 14): Never has Cry of the Planet been more accurate. We have people in positions of overwhelming power that think our planet is not dying under our feet. This may have been dropped back in 2011, but it’s more relevant than ever. “Listen. You can hear the cries of the planet.” This is one of the songs I mentioned at the beginning, that while it does have a beat remixed from Final Fantasy VII, it does blend the despair of the source material, with current problems in the world. As it turns out, most of those problems are still here now, and we’re doing nothing to stop the cries of the planet. Cry of the Planet feels more like Mega Ran taking up the role of a teacher, trying to warn people that their actions have consequences, and while it might not be too late to save our home, it’s getting there. Just close your eyes and listen.
Tifa’s Theme (Track 3): Most of the Black Materia album deals with some pretty serious issues, the world ending, getting stronger, dealing with life-threatening destruction, but there are a pair of tracks that are, for a lack of a better term, love ballads. Tifa is Cloud’s best friend, probably his only real friend before he meets up with his squad. Mega Ran brings some genuine emotion to the tale of Cloud falling for Tifa early in his life and is probably the first love song I heard from Mega Ran. Plus, on top of that, Tifa’s theme is one of the best tracks in the damn game, and that’s not even a question. He hits all the high notes: Tifa almost dying because of foolish, young pride, Cloud gearing up to leave and be a SOLDIER, and of course, The Promise. But it leads to the modern-day when Cloud is back, and Tifa wants him to help out with some group named “Avalanche”. He’s not sure about it, but as long as the pay is good, he’s down. Mega Ran is so incredible at capturing life in his beats and lyrics, and this is the best example of it on the album.
I don’t care if you don’t listen to hip hop, go listen to this album anyway. You’ll thank me.