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Video Game Music at the Olympics

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     So, the Opening Ceremonies for the Tokyo Olympics aired this morning (in my region) and is about to be repeated.  If you hadn't heard, the "Parade of Nations" sections where all the athletes enter the stadium in groups behind their respective flags, was entirely underscored with (arranged) video game music.

     At first I recognized Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in N.A.), Final Fantasy, and two tunes from Chrono Trigger, and two others that sounded familiar but I wasn't sure where they came from.  I thought they had worked some video game tunes in with other music.

     But, later I was able to read that all the music in this section was from video games (all by Japanese composers, of course).  The two I couldn't place turned out to be from more recent games, Monster Hunter (which admittedly does have a nice theme) and Kingdom Hearts.  I haven't played those but I must have heard the music somewhere.

     The Japanese seem to have responded very positively to this.  Japanese twitter was full of people declaring that the main Dragon Quest theme is Japan's "Second National Anthem." 

     This isn't surprising: when Enix first started to make Dragon Quest, they hired mostly young up-and-coming professionals (like character designer Akira Toriyama whose "Dragon Ball" manga had only been in publication for about a year when he was hired by Enix). But the composer, Sugiyama Kouichi, was already considered an elder statesman of commercial music and was well-known for television music in Japan.  Getting an older, established name attached to this project in a new media by a new company of mostly young people was quite a coup for Enix.  The popularity of the DQ theme in Japan went on to far surpass any of his previous works.

     For me personally, hearing video game music in general, and some of these compositions specifically, as a kid was a big part of what inspired me to become a musician.  I felt like video games were still 'nerd culture' back then and that my friends and I who spent hours playing them were living in a different world from the other kids who were involved in sports.  So, hearing these tunes at a sporting event (the Olympics) actually felt really good; our worlds of interest are relevant to each other. 

     It's also just nice to see Japan recognize that their video games are an important part of their cultural identity and of the way they present themselves to the world.

     This link has a list of all the game used (in Japanese): hochi news

And, here's my best, quick attempt at a translation of the list. However, there are some character names I don't know, from the games I haven't played.

Dragon Quest [Dragon Warrior]: Loto's [Erdrick's] theme 
Final Fantasy: Victory Fanfare
"Tales of..." series: Sorey's theme
Monster Hunter: "Mark of the Hero"
Kingdom Hearts: Olympus Coliseum
Chrono Trigger: Frog's Theme
Ace Combat: First Flight
"Tales of..." Series: The Royal Capital
Monster Hunter: "Wind of Departure"
Chrono Trigger: Robo's Theme
Sonic the Hedgehog: Starlight Zone
Winning Eleven: eFootball Walk-on theme
Final Fantasy: Main Theme
Phantasy Star Universe: "Guardians"
Kingdom Hearts: "Hero's Fanfare"
Gradius Nemesis: Act I-1
NieR: Song of Initiation[?]
"SaGa" series: "Song of the Demon Bard" [??] (SaGa series medley, 2016 Orchestral arrangement)
Soul Caliber: "The Brave New Stage of History"


EDIT: Notice, none of the games included were made by Nintendo (though some were for Nintendo systems).  So my prediction is, there will probably be a Nintendo-themed segment in the closing ceremonies.

Edited by John Chow Seymour
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The closing ceremonies just concluded.  In my area, they'll be rebroadcast again tonight.

On 7/23/2021 at 8:45 PM, John Chow Seymour said:

Notice, none of the games included were made by Nintendo (though some were for Nintendo systems).  So my prediction is, there will probably be a Nintendo-themed segment in the closing ceremonies.

Nope, I was wrong.  I guess we got the Nintendo references out of the way five years ago at the closing ceremonies in Rio, when Japan got to do a short presentation as the next host (then-PM Abe came out of a green pipe wearing a Mario cap, etc.).

No more video game music in the closing ceremonies, but fans of electronic music history might have recognized Isao Tomita's 1974 electronic arrangement of Debussy's Clair de Lune (1905), played while the torch was being extinguished.  "Pre-chiptune" electronic music like this has a special place in my heart, for entirely different reasons than video game tunes do!

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