On October 20th, 1994, one of the most influential role-playing games of the 16-bit era was released in North America: Final Fantasy 6 (originally released in the U.S. under the title Final Fantasy 3). To celebrate the anniversary of this momentous occasion, one fan has created the least likely memorial ever. And it is awesome.
Matt Hopkins is a composer and emcee from Lexington, Kentucky. He produces music under the name 2 Mello. His latest project, released today, is titled Final Fantasy - The 3-6 Chambers, a reference to Final Fantasy 6's dual names as well as 36 Chambers, the debut album of hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan.
Final Fantasy - The 3-6 Chambers is what's called a mashup album — something where an artist combines two separate pieces of music to create a strange, catchy hybrid. In this case, Hopkins has combined the in-game music of Final Fantasy 6 with tracks from Wu-Tang Clan, and they fit together shockingly well.
This isn't Hopkins' first game-influenced mashup. In early 2013 he released Chrono Jigga, which mixed music from Chrono Trigger with lyrics from Jay-Z. A follow-up project blended rapper Nas and the tunes of the Castlevania series. These projects proved incredibly successful; Hopkins calls the reaction from fans "unexpected and marvelous."
"My intention was just to see how many people would actually like these two things together," Hopkins told Polygon in an interview today. "I ended up hearing all kinds of stories, from a guy telling me that I helped him finally understand hip-hop through the perspective of games, to people saying that I brought their buried nostalgia for games out of the closet."
Hopkins noted that copyright issues surrounding mashups can be "very hazy."
"It's still a new idea, even though mashups have been going on for a while," he said. "They are usually released for free, which does not mean that mashup artists couldn't be prosecuted, but it is kind of a 'we'll overlook you' thing, like brownbagging with alcohol. Also they aren't keen to pay for a legal battle with someone who isn't making money."
Hopkins says he's run into a few sites pulling his mashups to "avoid copyright concerns," but otherwise he hasn't had any problems.
Despite the great success of these mashup projects, he plans to move on to something different next. Hopkins says The 3-6 Chambers is the conclusion of a trilogy, and it will be his last mashup work for a while.
"I'm definitely going to focus on original work," Hopkins said. "Everything I make will be somewhat tinged by my experience with game music, but I want to focus on pure hip-hop and more ambient work as well."
Hopkins' impressive mashups have also led to paying work. He's currently creating an original soundtrack for the upcoming Kickstarter-funded indie game Read Only Memories.
Whether you're a long-time fan of the Wu, a mashup enthusiast, or just a Final Fantasy 6 fan with no clue about music, you owe it to yourself to give a listen to The 3-6 Chambers. What a weird and wonderful birthday gift for a groundbreaking game.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified 2 Mello by the name "Matt Hawkins." His actual name is Matt Hopkins. The article has been updated to reflect this. We regret the error.