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Choose Your Party: Ranking the Characters of ‘Final Fantasy VII’

Undoubtedly one of the key elements of the Final Fantasy series and its success as a franchise is found in the strength of its characters.

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Undoubtedly one of the key elements of the Final Fantasy series and its success as a franchise is found in the strength of its characters. If you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time with these people as your main driving force for going through a 40+ hour journey, you had better be interested in them.

Perhaps this is a central reason as to why Final Fantasy VII still holds such an enduring place in gaming culture. Sure, there are a bevy of other reasons why FFVII has remained so iconic and everlasting for RPG fans (not the least of which is that it finally made them seem sort of cool) but when most people talk about what they love about this game, it usually has to do with the spectacular cast of characters and the journey of self-discovery they undertake in their quest to stop a certain androgynous test tube baby.

With that in mind, if a fellow were to, say, rank the characters from a whole bunch of Final Fantasy games, this would almost certainly be the game to start with right?

9) Yuffie Kisagari


Yes, Final Fantasy VII in general has a very strong cast of characters but obviously someone had to come out at the bottom of this list. That person is Yuffie Kisagari.

Despite the fact that many a young man has obsessed to an absurd level about this fictional woman (more on that as this list develops), Yuffie is easily the weakest of your main party members in terms of characterization.

Essentially her entire character boils down to a one note joke: she wants that materia! Even when the end of the game looms, and every other character delivers a heartfelt speech about what this clash with ultimate evil means to them, Yuffie is still just obsessing with all of the materia she might be able to take home with her.

Being a character that has little, if any, significant growth throughout the game, Yuffie is the clear party member to put at the bottom rung of this ladder.

8) Cait Sith


Though Cait Sith is given a bit more relevance in the adventure once his true identity is revealed as Reeve, an undercover Shinra operative, that doesn’t change the fact that this character still spends much of the journey as little more than an after thought to the overall plot.

Cait-Sith does force the player to re-examine some of the things they’ve been party to over the course of their adventure, including the opening reactor bombings, but even that relevance is more or less canceled out by the awful character design and truly odd lineage of the Cait-Sith robots.

How exactly is a megaphone a weapon? Isn’t Reeve controlling the whole works anyway? Someone should’ve reined Nomura in on this one.

7) Barret Wallace


Barret is the first of the nine Final Fantasy VII party members that the player meets and, as such, tends to occupy a pretty strong place in a lot of folks’ hearts.

However, underneath the pretense of an eco-terrorist/surrogate father figure is some of the most offensive writing of a character in RPG history. Much of Barret’s dialogue translation reads like a white guy’s reinterpretation of the sort of jive talk that was often featured in the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.

Unfortunately this isn’t just a PC police situation as the increasingly silly dialogue the character is given robs Barret of much of his emotional gravitas, even during his most pivotal moments.

“Dyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyne!!!”

6) Cid Highwind


The gruff, curmudgeonly Cid of Final Fantasy VII may be the most popular iteration of the character in Final Fantasy history.

While Cid Highwind is a truly memorable character with one of the best back story’s in the game, his truly awful treatment of his underling, Shera, has never really sat all that well with this writer.

Still, one would be remiss not to point out the importance of having an older, more seasoned warrior as part of the group, and a chainsmoking sea captain type is certainly a unique archetype for the series to draw from in establishing this character.

5) Aeris Gainsborough


That’s right, I still call her Aeris, and I ain’t changin’ it now. Her name was Aeris in the game I played and, to me, Aerith just sounds like I’m saying her name with a lisp.

Though she is probably best remembered for her untimely demise at the end of Final Fantasy VII‘s first disc, Aeris is also a fairly rich and well-developed character in the grand scheme of the game’s narrative.

As one of two possible love interests for Cloud, and a hefty lynch pin on which much of the plot hangs, Aeris is given plenty of screen time to build into a memorable member of your party, and her memory lingers in the minds of players long after she has found herself on the wrong end of Sephiroth’s sword.

4) Vincent Valentine


Now we’re on to the really cool, and totally ridiculous, characters of Final Fantasy VII. Vincent Valentine sleeps in a coffin in a haunted mansion. He also has the ability to turn into JRPG versions of the classic Universal monsters of yore. All of that nonsense aside, he’s also got a very cool outfit.

In truth though, what makes Vincent such an effective character isn’t all of the theatrical elements, it’s his more human struggles. As we learn through his various side quests, Vincent once worked for Shinra where he was betrayed and murdered by Shinra’s resident creep in chief: Hojo. His love interest, who would eventually commit suicide, gave birth to Sephiroth in a laboratory.

The shame and regret that Vincent holds onto, for all of his unwitting parts in the terrible state of affairs the world currently finds itself, leads to the coffin bound exile he is in when you first find him. The strength and resolve he finds in himself to get out of that coffin and finally do something about it is what makes him a great character.

3) Tifa Lockhart


Remember when I said we’d get back to the internet nerds overly obsessing with a fictional woman? Well look no further than Tifa Lockhart. As a simple Google image search will plainly show there are, ahem, a couple of key “character” elements that people tend to focus on when it comes to this ridiculously endowed heroine.

Move away from that though and you have one of the most compelling and well-developed (no pun intended) heroines in the entire Final Fantasy series. As one of the only survivors of the Nibelheim disaster, Tifa was well aware of the horrors of the world from a very young age, and instead of resting on her laurels, she decided to do something about it.

With her fierce yet compassionate demeanor, only Tifa can see Cloud through the mental breakdown and identity crisis he suffers in the second half of the game, and her steadfast loyalty to him is shown time and time again, even if she does play second fiddle to Aeris depending on your choices.

2) Cloud Strife


As we’ve seen time and time again in this series, Final Fantasy protagonists tend to come with a whole lot of baggage. Cloud Strife takes the cake in this regard.

It would take several paragraphs to tell his entire back story so let’s settle for the short version, shall we? Cloud told Tifa he would leave their home town of Nibelheim and become an elite soldier when they were both kids… only he failed. After the traumatic events that followed he adopted the persona of his friend, Zack Fair, who had actually been the elite member of SOLDIER that Cloud aspired to be.

This disparity leads to the mental breakdown Cloud suffers during the second half of the adventure. But far from taking away from Cloud’s characterization, these plot twists only add to the depth and scope of his character. Essentially Cloud fully embodies a dozen heroic archetypes when we first meet him, and as they are slowly stripped away one by one we begin to see the real man hiding beneath.

What is eventually revealed is the true essence of a hero: a man who faces his demons down, and comes out on the other side stronger than ever.

1) Red XIII


At last we come to the end. I’m not sure everyone else is quite as enamored with Red XIII as I am. In fact he may be my favorite character in the entire series.

So what makes him so special? Well maybe it’s the fact that I, like many others, grew up with a faithful family dog. As such I tend to attach strongly to pet-like characters quite a bit.

Still the coolness of Red XIII fully supersedes whatever complex I might have in regard to animal characters in JRPGs. For starters he’s a wolf crossed with a lion, which pretty much makes him the gnarliest animal in the history of the world. Also, like Cloud, he’s motivated by a back story that turns out to be mostly false.

Red XIII was told from a young age that his father, Seto, was a coward who abandoned their tribe when it was attacked by a neighboring tribe. As it turns out it’s just the opposite: not only did Seto give his life to protect the tribe, his body still stands vigil there today, petrified atop a cliff by poisonous arrows.

The scene in which Red XIII learns of this truth might be the most powerful moment in the game, as he howls out his grief for a father he despised. As the small, sparkling tears appear to fall from his dead father’s statue, you’d have to have a heart of stone yourself not to squeeze out a tear or two of your own.

Even the FFVII team itself must have known what a strong creation they had in Red XIII as when the final moments of the adventure come to a close after the credits, it is a 550 year old Red XIII that we follow to the final revelation of the 60 hour journey.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. guy you censored

    June 23, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    i’ll just use dissenter nvm agenda censoring

    • Mike Worby

      June 24, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      Also, we use a spam filter you clod, and important though you might think your little bit of internet criticism is, no one is going to rule over in bed at night just to make sure it goes up post-haste, within 2 minutes of you writing it. Good luck with the rest of your life, if these comments are any indication, I’m sure it will be a life well-lived.

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Quality as Good As the Paper It’s Printed On: ‘Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door’ Retrospective

A retrospective on ‘Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door’ 15 years later
and the influence it had on the video game industry.

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Paper Mario Thousand Year Door

As a young child, I often spent quite a bit of time watching video games being played rather than playing them myself. My father and I would often crowd around one of the CRT televisions that we had spread throughout our house and play into the wee hours of the morning on weekends. One of those games was Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for the Nintendo GameCube, and I will always love it. The game, with its classic humor, interesting locales, and fascinating characters is one of the trademarks of my childhood. I spent many hours playing the first three Paper Mario games, and they contributed greatly to my love for story-focused games.

Before I played The Thousand-Year Door, the games that I played were mainly immersive or non-story focused games. Games like Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue, Super Mario Sunshine, and Metroid Prime were the sort of games which interested me as a child. Before I picked up The Thousand-Year Door, I separated narrative and gameplay as separate entities in my mind. I was excited about what was going to happen next in a game, but I never anticipated or thought deeply about what was to come next in the game. I simply rolled with the punches.

Paper Mario Thousand Year Door Hooktail

The Thousand-Year Door changed that and it is to it that I owe my deep love for story-focused games. Without the Mario RPGs, I would not have the same appreciation that I do today for the role, no pun intended, of a story in games. Today, I love story-focused games, from Professor Layton to Xenoblade Chronicles, because of their ability to keep me engaged while I am not playing. No matter how spectacularly the meta-game flourishes in Super Smash Bros. nor how interesting raid mechanics in Final Fantasy XIV become, I will rarely think about them in-depth while not in the game. The story, on the other hand, is something that I will turn over in my mind throughout the day, constantly trying to discern what will happen next. Often, games that fail to register a good story fall out of my interest and my memory fast.

Objectively, the story in The Thousand-Year Door is oftentimes shallow, linear, and predictable in ways that a lot of the Mario RPGs often suffer from. To my adolescent mind, however, the game was a treasure trove, full to the brim with mystery and intrigue. Even as a voracious reader whilst a youngster, I was shocked by how deep the world of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door seemed to go. So many different people gathered in the little town of Rogueport from all over the Mushroom Kingdom. The game’s story was no amazing feat of narrative expression, but I felt the world was truly alive.

BogglyWoods

Thinking back, one of the best memories that I have of the game is the Excess Express in Chapter 6. Without spoiling, the thrill of going through the train, finding out its secrets, and solving them at the end of the chapter was one of the most thrilling experiences that I had ever seen in a game. The entire train ride was a mystery waiting to be unraveled and the game did an excellent job of guiding me along while giving clues regarding the state of affairs.

Gameplay was another way in which The Thousand-Year Door influenced my tastes for years to come. The turn-based RPG system in The Thousand-Year Door was simple, clean, and intuitive. In other words, the game is the perfect starter RPG. From there, I began to branch out to other RPGs, such as Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, Xenoblade Chronicles, and eventually the Final Fantasy series. The game’s simple mechanics, coupled with a serviceable party system and the game’s own version of limit breaks make it perfect for RPG novices. To further that end, the game supplants the staple systems of most RPGs with easier to understand alternatives.

The writing is on point, too. Trading in the traditional JRPG approach of word salad with a side of exposition, The Thousand-Year Door relies instead upon the series’ now trademark humor to explain the plot while reducing the need for rampant exposition. Even as a child, I found the humor as engaging as I do today, with many pop-culture references sprinkled in amongst a sea of truly diverse and engaging characters. Professor Frankly is certainly as boring as many a college professor I have sat under and Sir Grodus’ fourth-wall-breaking discussions are as hilarious today as they were in 2006. The game parodies everything from the WWE to The Godfather, and even income inequality with a localization that is as great as anything that we had seen, or have seen since from Nintendo of America.

Paper Mario Thousand Year DoorCastle

The titular paper aesthetic is done well. In fact, when the game is run in HD, as one will often see in “Let’s Plays” on YouTube, it compares to most modern Wii U games. Even in compressed 480i, the native resolution of most GameCube games, and when the game is blown up at four times its native resolution, the game still looks great. It may appear muddy, full of artifacts, and hampered by the immense progress in televisions, but it still looks great. This is easily one of the best looking GameCube games, and it would be a great candidate for either a future rerelease on a yet-to-be-announced GCN Virtual Console (come on Nintendo!) or as an HD remake for the NX.

Still, it is truly baffling that this game has not been re-released by Nintendo yet, as this game is one of the few true RPGs on the GameCube and one of the best Mario RPGs to date. I poured dozens of hours of my childhood into this game and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was the game that cemented gaming as a viable storytelling medium in my mind. It was the game which set me on the path to discovering RPGs and the amazing worlds which they create.  Even though I hadn’t played through it in years, when I sold off most of my GameCube collection, it was one of three titles that I kept, not only because of how much it means to me but because it is truly one of the GameCube’s best games.

I will admit to nostalgia having a significant effect on how I perceive the game; after all, the game is not perfect. However, even as one of the most basic, simply prepared, and utilitarian RPGs out there, this game is a true masterpiece. It is a game that an 8-year-old child can watch his Dad play, or that a seasoned veteran of RPGs can plow through. The game is quintessentially Nintendo; it is made to bring people and their families together to craft experiences that will last a lifetime.

Thousand Year Door

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Nintendo Weekly Roundup

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Southwest Airlines hands out free Nintendo Switch consoles

Those departing to San Diego from Dallas on July 17 were treated to a surprise, as those taking the trip on a connecting flight ended up receiving a Nintendo Switch with a copy of Super Mario Maker 2.

Southwest Airlines, in conjunction with Nintendo, decided to give out Nintendo Switch consoles to lucky customers on Wednesday when they were handed redemption tickets for them. Twitter user Juan Jose Anchante posted a picture of the ticket, which can be seen below.

Nintendo and Southwest have collaborated in the past. In 2013, for example, Wii U consoles were given to lucky passengers going from New Orleans to Dallas, along with New Super Mario Bros. U. Similarly, in 2016, free Nintendo 3DS XL’s were given to passengers heading to Los Angeles from Dallas.

Presumably, this was a sort of promotion for San Diego Comic-Con, given the timing and the flight’s city of arrival. All these events seem to be fairly spontaneous, though it appears that, should you want a free Nintendo item like this in this fashion, taking a flight to/from Dallas with Southwest seems to be the best option.

Nintendo E3 Predictions

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 characters discovered in datamine

After years of waiting, gamers finally have their hands on the third installment in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series on their Nintendo Switch consoles. Moreover, a recent datamine tells us what characters may be coming to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 via DLC.

According to Nintendo Life, one dataminer was able to find out that the game’s code has 49 DLC character slots. There were four playable characters discovered in the datamine. Allegedly, these characters are the following:

  • Black Bolt
  • Medusa
  • Vision
  • Valkyrie

As such, this seems to just be a mere taste of what Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 owners will be getting soon enough.

New Nintendo Switch may be on its way

While Nintendo recently revealed the Nintendo Switch Lite to fans everywhere, it turns out another model may be heading to consumers soon. While not necessarily the rumored upgraded version, this model’s primary improvement is that of its battery life.

On Nintendo’s Japanese website, some information has emerged regarding the upcoming Switch model. Most notably, there are details regarding the battery life available on the website. Forbes has translated the information below.

The numbers on the right reflect the battery life for the Switch Lite. As indicated, however, the battery life for the updated model will supposedly be substantially longer. Bringing the low end from 2.5 to 4.5 hours is nothing to scoff at and being able to play Breath of the Wild for 5.5 hours in handheld mode instead of 3 is a massive improvement.

According to Forbes, this rendition of the Switch may be hitting Japan as early as August and could be coming to the West as early as September.

Nintendo Switch New Joy-Cons
Via Kotaku

Nintendo announces new Joy-Con colors

Starting out with the gray option, as well as the blue and red option, the Joy-Cons took a while to expand their color palette. Now, two new Joy-Con sets are coming to Switch owners from Nintendo with very distinctive and bright colors.

The first, pictured on the left, is a Purple/Neon Orange combo. The second, pictured on the right, is a Blue/Neon Yellow combo.

The first pair of Joy-Cons appears to display very complementary palettes, with purple and orange meshing together incredibly well. Blue and Neon Yellow, while more distinctive and attractive than the standard gray Joy-Cons.

For fans looking for more diverse Joy-Cons, this should be good news. There are other colors out now, and there are decals that can spruce up existing Joy-Cons. However, if you were looking for a Joy-Con with a great shade of purple, you can look no further.

This Week’s Releases

As indicated previously, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order came out this week. At $59.99 USD, the game stands as a sequel that took 10 years to be released. Sporting a giant cast of Marvel superheroes, this is sure to be one of Nintendo’s biggest hits of this year.

Let’s Sing 2019 was also released on Nintendo Switch this week. For $39.99 USD, Switch owners can grab this title and pick from a variety of songs to sing when “training your voice solo” or at a “karaoke party.” This one is sure to be a hit at celebrations!

Puzzle game The Drama Queen Murder was also released this week for the Switch. At $9.99 USD, players take the role of private investigator and solve the murder of Dolores Molinero, “the Queen of Drama.” With a variety of investigative methods, this appears to be one of the more diverse mystery games to hit the Switch in a while.

As always, you can find these and more on the Nintendo Game Store.

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Stranger Things as an Anime is Even Cooler Than It Sounds

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Ever wondered what Stranger Things might look like in a vintage anime style? Well look no further than a recent fan made video by animation studio Humoring the Fates that does just that with the well-known Netflix show. The YouTube video is published by the channel Octopie and clocks in at just under two minutes, the perfect length to showcase some of the classic moments from the first two seasons of the show. In the parody film, the inhabitants of Hawkins are transformed into an anime style and we see cartoon remakes of epic scenes such as Eleven facing off against the Demogorgon as well as quieter moments like Hopper and Eleven sharing waffles.

Although some have commented that they believe the animation style is more aligned to 90’s cartoons rather that 80’s anime, it is still clear that the talented artists and creators at Humoring the Fates have managed to perfectly capture the feel of Stranger Things within an animated format here. It has certainly left fans now dreaming of one day having an animated series related to Stranger Things. Maybe a spin off? One day perhaps.

Have a look at the video below and for more on Stranger Things, check out some of our articles on season three here.

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Waiting for the ‘Resident Evil 3’ Remake? Here’s Something to Tide You Over

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Following the huge success of the official remakes of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, a Resident Evil 3: Nemesis remake is likely on the horizon. However, a talented modder has given us something to fawn over whilst we play the waiting game with Capcom.

The Resident Evil 3: Seamless HD Project was created by Mathieu Phillipe and is a modded version of the Gamecube title. The mod is free but will require both a PC and Dolphin GameCube emulator to play. The mod boasts an impressive improvement to the graphics, sound and textures. The official site lists features such as “restored integrated texts”, “upscaled 3D model textures” and “ improved visual effects” to name just a few.

The mod is available for free and you can find all the appropriate information from the talented modders on the RESDHP website linked here as well as the free download. Have a glance at the incredibly well detailed gameplay from the mod below and to have a read of some of our Resident Evil 2 articles, check out our review of the RE2 remake here or our article on the boss fights of RE2 here.

Now we wait for the official RE3 remake…

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The Best and the Most Disappointing Changes to the ‘Lion King’ Soundtrack

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Disney’s latest remake of the highly revered animated classic The Lion King has been receiving mixed reviews from critics, but it still has the opportunity to dazzle the general public worldwide. With the new Lion King soundtrack having recently released, there is a lot to dissect from it. Hans Zimmer’s remake of the classic score is the highlight for me personally, and whilst the film’s popular songs are clearly remade with love for the original, some of the musical numbers don’t reach the heights of the 1994 classics.

Whilst I can say that some of these songs are a bit of a disappointment, I wouldn’t say that I actively dislike them, so bear in mind I’m probably being a little finicky.

#3 Most Disappointing: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”

Before you all start attempting to track me down with pitchforks in tow, hear me out first: I do not dislike the 2019 version. The instrumentals are beautiful, Beyoncé is fierce, Donald Glover is perfect as Simba, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen are charming iterations of Timon and Pumbaa. That being said, I did feel somewhat disappointed with this version due to it feeling like a Beyoncé platform rather than the soulful duet between Simba and Nala that I was expecting. Glover is also completely overpowered by Beyoncé’s vocals; even in their solo moments, Simba seems quieter, whilst Nala’s voice is booming in every moment of the song. This is a real shame as Donald Glover has an incredible voice and he really should have been on level pegging with Beyoncé, despite her star power. After all, it’s not as if Glover is a modest actor and singer, as he has received global stardom under his artist pseudonym of Childish Gambino, as well as his acting work on Community and Solo: A Star Wars Story as a young Lando Calrissian.

Beyoncé certainly goes all out on the vocal work, and she is sounding stellar as usual. However, as amazing as she sounds, you can’t help but feel like this is her song, and her song alone. She gets her own number in the new original song “Spirit,” where she has plenty of opportunity to display her talents, so I just feel that “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” was a chance to showcase Simba and Nala’s growing affection through a song that equally showed off the artists talents. However, the end result is mostly Beyonce, and very little of Glover.

#3 Best: “Hakuna Matata”

The critics who have released their reviews on The Lion King have mostly agreed on one thing: that Timon and Pumbaa steal the show and inject a much-needed burst of energy into the film’s proceedings. This is undoubtedly the case when listening to “Hakuna Matata,” one of the most famous Disney songs on the Lion Kingsoundtrack. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella brought a special partnership that warmed the audiences’ hearts to the characters and the song in the 1994 version, but Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen also manage to capture everything that was charming and dynamic about the meerkat and warthog duo, whilst introducing a playful originality to them. There is something hilariously endearing about hearing Seth Rogen’s attempts to hold a tune. Singing is clearly not one of his strengths, but he plays it well, and it somehow manages to fit Pumbaa’s character. Eichner, on the other hand, has a surprisingly fantastic set of pipes, which works amazing well with Rogen’s.

The funniest part of the song is the infamous line wherein Pumbaa discusses how he felt downhearted every time that he…passed wind. In the original film, Timon stops Pumbaa before he can use the phrase in front of the children (both baby Simba and the audience), but here Timon does not intervene, as Pumbaa announces his farting habits to the world. Pumbaa queries as to whether Timon is going to stop him, and Timon simply responds with, “No I’m not. You disgust me.” I must admit, I laughed out loud when I first heard it. Eichner’s delivery and his banter with Rogen is a great way to change up the song from the original. The audience has grown since the original film, and we are all now old enough to hear the word “fart” without having a meltdown. (Well, most of us are anyway.) JD McCrary and Donald Glover’s role as Simba in the song is also brilliant, as both of them are hugely talented singers who manage to capture the spirit of Simba perfectly, both younger and older.

#2 Most Disappointing: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

With that being said, the inclusion of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” sung by Eichner and Rogen, seems a little bit unnecessary to me. It is a funny scene in the original film, with the two wandering in the jungle singing the song to themselves, and it will probably make for amusing viewing in this remake too, but I don’t see why it had to be put in the Lion King soundtrack. Again, Eichner’s vocals are great, but Rogen does very little here. There are also hints of fart noises in the song as well, which makes it feel all the more obsolete.

There are some really amazing songs throughout the franchise, such as those from the Broadway show and the second movie, so I don’t see why one of those songs couldn’t have made it onto the soundtrack instead of this. “He Lives in You,” which was in both The Lion King 2 and the musical adaptation, managed to make its way onto the 2019 soundtrack, and it works incredibly well. I just wish that one of the other great songs could have been brought here instead. Like I said at the start, I’m being finicky about this, as well as a little bit mean, but it really does feel like an unnecessary addition to pad out the length of the soundtrack. With the wide range of possibilities for additional music, I can’t help but feel like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is one of the more superfluous songs on the album.

#2 Best: “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”

One of my all-time favourite Disney songs has to be “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” so I couldn’t help but scrutinise the 2019 version after I first heard it. I found myself pleasantly surprised. Jason Weaver and Laura Williams sang the original fantastically, managing to nail the song performance-wise, whilst also keeping in line with the characters of Simba and Nala, respectively. This was sure to be a difficult act to follow, but JD McCrary and Shahdi Wright-Joseph pay respect to their predecessors whilst bringing a fresh sound to the classic song. John Oliver doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to the dry British wit of Zazu as well as Rowan Atkinson did, but he does a great job nonetheless, and his inclusion is still a nice touch of humor.

The song is slightly longer than the original as well, adding more of an interlude made up of tribal drums that lay out an adventurous beat that further enforces the idea of two mischievous lion cubs running through the pride lands. Nala gets more to do this time around too, as the song takes cues from the Broadway musical, which gave some of Simba’s singing lines to Nala and added in some riffing to jazz up her part in the song. This is great to hear, as it gives Shahdi Wright-Joseph the chance to bring some brightness to the character with her incredible singing talent. The 2019 version is cheerful, energetic, and brings the young talent of the film into the spotlight that they deserve, so I definitely consider it as one of the best on the Lion King soundtrack.

#1 Most Disappointing: “Be Prepared”

Many months ago, when The Lion King was still in development, rumors started coming to the fore that the fan-favourite song “Be Prepared” (featuring the film’s villain, Scar) would be cut from the remake. Closer to the release date, it was revealed that the song would indeed be in the movie, but the end result feels somewhat half baked. A good deal of the 2019’s “Be Prepared” involves talking from Scar and his hyena minions, but it slowly and uncertainly becomes more grandiose until it is a musical number. Regardless, it all just feels a bit low-energy, with little of the charisma and character from Jeremy Irons’ version from 1994.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Scar this time around, is not at fault here. In fact, his deep, booming, and intimidating voice is chilling, and gives the song a more sinister and villainous tone, with a hint of creepiness. What is irritating is that whilst the song does have positives (mainly Ejiofor’s performance and the haunting instrumentals) that could have made for a really interesting and original take on the classic song, it is so rushed that it doesn’t have much time to truly make an impact.  It’s two minutes long, but has a slow beat that doesn’t increase much throughout, so by the time the song finally starts to get going, it is already finishing.

It isn’t exactly clear what happened with this number, but it seems to me like Disney saw the backlash from the public when it was suggested that “Be Prepared” wasn’t going to be included, and therefore scrambled to put something together for Scar in the final film. Of course, I can’t say that this is what happened for sure, but if so, the final product is a hastily done piece that could have been so much better if given the same amount of creative input as some of the other songs on the Lion King soundtrack. Despite Ejiofor’s efforts and the promising framework that the song offers, the 2019 version of “Be Prepared” is incredibly disappointing. Not only does it not stand anywhere near the level of the original, but it wastes its potential. After the initial sinister tones of Ejiofor wore off, it left me feeling pretty unmoved. For such a well-known song from the remake of one of Disney’s best animated films, it simply isn’t up to the standard that it should be.

#1 Best: Stampede

It has to be one of Hans Zimmer’s interpretations of the old score that is the best of the 2019 Lion King soundtrack. Zimmer had a tough challenge ahead of him when he agreed to come back for the remake. He had to stay true to the original music (as it is one of the greatest scores from an animated movie to date), but also make sure that he added enough new material within the original score to create a refreshing update. I consider this song the most successful of the new soundtrack, despite all the star power behind the others. One of the most emotionally charged tracks has to be “Stampede,” which comes during the infamous stampede that leads to Mufasa’s death.

The original track (called “To Die For”) is incredibly intense before becoming harrowing, but Zimmer manages to up the emotion even more so in his 2019 take on the piece. It is slightly longer, and spends a bit more time ramping up in intensity, creating a heart-pumping piece that makes you feel the gravitas of the scene without even watching it. Once the music has reached its boiling point, Zimmer includes a sorrowful effect that sounds like a lion’s scream. This is new addition to the piece gives it an extra stab of pain, as we know that this is when Mufasa loses his life as young Simba watches on in horror. The music then moves onto the softer and hugely emotional moment of Simba finding his father’s body, then attempting to get him to wake up. As sad as this was on the original Lion King soundtrack, it is made all the more painful to listen to now, as Zimmer increases his orchestra and adds in some booming drum beats to emphasise the weighty effect that this event will have on Simba’s life, as well as the lives of all the lions in the pride. You can hear the cub’s life being ripped from underneath him, all within a few seconds of the score.

I felt myself tearing up just listening to this track, without even having watched the film yet. The last minute or so then gets a new, sinister theme for the hyenas, as they presumably chase Simba out of the pride lands. It has a more threatening tone than their original theme, but it still stays true to it. This element is also more frantic, to indicate Simba’s desperate attempt to escape the predators. “Stampede” is an incredible piece that highlights Zimmer’s attempts to rework his previous music into something with even more emotional power than it had originally.

The new Lion King soundtrack is out now, and the film releases this Friday, July 19th 2019.

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Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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Goomba Stomp | Sordid Cinema

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