It’s been quite some time (over 4 years, in fact), but I have finally happened across another RPG AMV of such high quality that I feel compelled to make a full-on rant about it! And it’s...about Final Fantasy 8.
Damn it all.
Nonetheless, the fact is that, personal tastes notwithstanding, Argol has created a damn fine music video that deserves exposure and praise. And today, we’re gonna check it out and appreciate the merits of Argol’s work.
Final Fantasy 8: Take My Hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gNiwAvlt20
Look. Look With Your Special Eyes: The visual quality here is quite high, which is nice, since most FF8 AMVs tend to be a bit grainy. Through no fault of the AMV creators, of course; it’s just a fact of graphics meant to be depicted by the Playstation 1. With the high-resolution rerelease of Final Fantasy 8 for the PC, however, music video editors have access to FMV clips of the highest quality now, and Argol is obviously using those here.
The visual effects in this AMV are used well, just flashy enough to grab attention and help convey ideas, without ever getting distracting and messy. Scenes and changes between them are well-paced to give the video a fast, restless sense of energy, even when using the slower footage, keeping in tune with the active pace of the song, and recalling the action and excitement that Final Fantasy 8...well, didn’t really possess, but did try to convince us it had.
Beyond that, Argol also overlays some scenes and objects over the changing scenes, which can help emphasize the ideas presented by the video and song. For example, you see such an effect at 0:58 through 1:04, in which the floating rings that symbolize Rinoa and Squall’s connection and faith in one another are skillfully overlayed over the scene of Rinoa finding Squall’s body and getting upset over his seeming death, right before the clouds are cleared away for the sunlight and the setting becomes a wildflower field in full bloom that couldn’t be more clumsily overt in screaming “resurrection” at the player if it was a scene of Jesus and Jack Harkness dual-juggling Dragon Balls. FF8 never is found lacking for ways to underestimate its audience. Anyway! The overlay of those symbolic rings creates the idea that their love and connection is powerful enough to overcome death, which, of course, connects perfectly to the music at the moment, which proclaims that “our love will never die.” Argol employs several such overlays throughout the video, many of which add or enhance a layer of meaning.
Of course, sometimes the overlays seem to just be simply for fun visual effect, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either, since it helps convey a sense of interest and enjoyment which is well suited for a tribute AMV. I like overlay effect at 2:50, for example, where we see Squall’s face faintly in the background as the feather comes to a rest, and the way Squall moves in the original scene seems to suggest that he suddenly notices the feather as it reaches the ground. It’s a small, but interesting visual trick, and those make their contribution to an AMV’s quality, too.
If Music be the Food of Love, Play On: The song used in this AMV is Take My Hand, by Simple Plan. I’ve heard it before, but I wouldn’t say I’m familiar with it, nor the group. Personally, I’m pretty ambivalent about the music...doesn’t do much for me, but I also have no objection to it. Which I guess is actually close to a thumbs-up from me, given how inordinately picky I am about music.
I think that the music is the most powerful factor of this video, although the visual component is obviously not left far behind. True, the AMV does come off like the music was selected based on what the video was intended to be and convey, so it could seem like a secondary force, but the fact is that the tempo, mood, lyrics, and volume of this song largely dictate the video’s pace and content. And in that regard, Argol does a terrific job of combining audio and visual together into a single, moving entity. When the song opens, the images and scene transitions used are fast-paced and active, as the music is, and this is true frequently throughout the video, keeping the pace with the quick and energized tune, while the slightly more drawn out moments of the song are given scenes that last a little longer and have less movement--although, as is appropriate for the song, it never really feels like it slows down. Likewise, the lyrics dictate the scenes that play, as appropriate video is matched to each line--you gotta love an AMV whose first lyrics, “Sometimes I feel like everybody’s got a problem,” are paired with a full-on shot of Seifer. Hard to think of a better song lyric to describe that dingus.
Worth noting is also that the lyrics-to-video match-up is sometimes intuitive rather than simply obvious, which is another plus. What I mean is, quite often, AMVs that match scene to lyrics tend to lean heavily on the literal--the lyrics talk about running, you show a scene of characters running, the lyrics talk about the singer’s heart flying, you show a scene of someone or other flying. And there is plenty of that here, to be sure (I’d never have realized just how often in FF8’s cinematics someone reaches their hand out or joins hands with another character, without the chorus of this song). But I like it when an AMV maker thinks creatively enough to take it a step forward, showing video clips that don’t literally visualize the lyrics, but require a quick (but simple) intuitive leap to connect them, and Argol does this. For an example, take 0:48, in which we see Squall driving at a breakneck pace down the road, to the lyrics “Let’s not think about tomorrow.” Not a literal representation of them, but it’s an easy logical step to connect the concept to a symbolic image of a lone driver traveling down the road, living in the moment, which seems portrayed by Squall in this scene. This kind of little moment of mental exercise not only keeps the video and music well-connected, but also keeps the watcher’s attention more active.
Guy, You Explain: I think the purpose that this AMV serves is as a tribute to Final Fantasy 8 as a whole. It’s not as focused and interesting a calling as exploring Yuna’s journey or analyzing the relationship between Shepard and the Illusive Man, I suppose, but as nice as it is when you can get an AMV that reaches for (and achieves) a deeper purpose, it’s not a requirement for a solid RPG music video. Sometimes, all an AMV really needs to be trying to do is to show its game off, to convey a great enthusiasm and appreciation for its subject matter and remind you of how great it was.* Plenty of my other favorite AMVs aspire to no higher purpose than glorifying their subject, after all.
And so, as a labor of love for Final Fantasy 8, I have to say, this is a pretty great AMV. It’s fun and exciting to watch, and uses FF8’s cutscenes expertly to portray the game as fast-paced, engaging, sincere, and even deep. The reality of SquareEnix’s plodding, pandering, pointless, preposterous fever dream could not be more different, of course, but even I found myself momentarily nostalgic for Final Fantasy 8 thanks to the great way this AMV presents the game. This is simply an excellently crafted send-up to FF8 that’s fun and worth spending a few minutes to watch.
* Or, in cases like this, less reminding you of its greatness, than deceiving you into thinking it was great at all.