Last week saw a little incident between nu-metal band Powerman 5000 and the game Final Fantasy XIV. Frontman Michael “Spider One” Cummings took to Facebook to claim the game’s music, particularly the theme played during the 2nd phase of the battle with big baddie Sephirot, was a direct ripoff of their popular hit “When Worlds Collide”, calling it unimaginative and balking at the idea that nobody would notice.
“I mean, this is When Worlds Collide! Using something as inspiration is one thing but a straight up rip off is another!
To clarify, this is music from the game. If it was a song made by a fan, we wouldn’t care.” – Spider One via Facebook
The game’s director Naoki Yoshida responded to the accusations, which can be read in entirety on Polygon.
“…I have been made aware of an allegation regarding similarities between an existing track and the track created for the 2nd phase of Containment Bay S1T7. However, track composer Masayoshi Soken, has also stated to me that he was unaware of the track in question while working on this FINAL FANTASY track.” – Naoko Yoshida
“When Worlds Collide” was a popular song back during the tail end of the ’90s and into the new millennia and has been featured in other games and movies of the past, including Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. How closely the Sephirot theme sticks to the song can be left to interpretation, but it does raise an interesting question about the overlap between game music and mainstream music.
This would be far from the first time game music has skirted a bit too close to popular culture music. There have been several instances brought up in the past, from the subtle to the blatant, that could be accursed of the same. Chrono Trigger‘s “Robo’s Theme” is a close-runner for Rick Astley’s infamous “Never Gonna Give Your up”. The C64 version of Turrican featured “Subsong 2” which was ridiculously similar to Vince DiCola’s “Escape” from Transformers: The Motion Picture. The comparisons go on through a lot of gaming history, and there’s always some degree of vagueness between what’s “homage” and what’s “ripoff”. Certainly, musicians have sampled each others works and integrated them into their own since forever, whether the original composer knew about it or not. The “Metal Gear Solid Main Theme” had to be taken out of any re-releases and sound collections past Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater due to accusations that it ran too close to classical Russian composer Georgy Sviridov’s “The Winter Road.”
The topic has come up several times in the past, and since the Powerman 5000/FF14 is a new example of the issue, I ask what the game and music communities think of the concept. At what point does a video game track stop being simply “inspired” by other mainstream music, and cross the line into “plagiarism”.
What are your thoughts? Are there any other examples you know of? Let us know what you think in the comments!