Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a nice treat for fans of the series, and while the first soundtrack volume was fairly straightforward, there’s a little more depth to this release. Spanning two discs and including massive medleys, there’s certainly a lot of music to dig into.
The album opens with a grand and regal version of the Final Fantasy fanfare worked into the main theme, which is a refreshing take on both tracks. There’s a frightening “Kefka’s Theme” including sound effects and bombastic orchestra, a beautiful “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” with bells and a capella vocals that offers up a lullaby-esque spin on the track includes some Christmas cheer with “Joy to the World” worked in. There’s synth rock with rock organ and a unique upbeat reference to Aerith’s theme in “Still More Fighting,” and a wonderful overworld medley with an alternative rock version of Final Fantasy IV, a sweet pop version of Final Fantasy IX, and the rarely covered “Unknown Lands” from Final Fantasy V which I greatly appreciated. “Eiko’s Theme” from Final Fantasy IX gets a bouncy electronic remix, “UTAKATA” from Type-0 is a mix of flamenco and female vocal pop, and “Contest of Aeons” is a creative blend of boss music and the hymn from Final Fantasy X. “The Crystal Tower” from Final Fantasy III gets an adventurous arrangement that is intense and emotional, whereas “Etro’s Champion” is an ethereal and cool medley from Final Fantasy XIII. “Hammerhead” from Final Fantasy XV gets a dancey synth/chip version, and “Chaos Temple” also goes electronic with bumpin’ bass and classy piano. There’s an 18-minute-long battle medley with a rock/orchestral spin on battle themes from each game in the series, an epic 25-minute-long 30th anniversary melody that includes lovely guitar on “Rebel Army” from Final Fantasy II, a folksy take on “Searching for Friends” from Final Fantasy VI, an explosive Hollywood action version of “Man with the Machine Gun” from Final Fantasy VIII, and a nice woodwind version of “You Are Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX. The closer is a track from the Square Enix internal jazz band, Nanaa Mihgo, titled “Journey of Memory,” a funky and upbeat jazz pop track.
In all, this is a much stronger collection of music than was offered with the first volume, and contains a lot of material that fans of the series will want to hear. You can grab it on CD Japan.
That’s some great use of alliteration! When it comes to the chocobo theme, Final Fantasy fans know there are too many versions to count out there, but did anyone know that “Battle on the Big Bridge” was so widely covered that it’d fill an entire album? Well, now we do, and there’s actually a decent selection of arrangments to choose from.
You might opt for the classic SNES version, or go with Hitoshi Sakimoto’s live orchestral version from Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. There was a wonderful “Oriental Mix” version from Final Fantasy XIII-2 that worked in traditional Japanese instruments, and a large number of versions to rock out to with rock organ and metal guitars. I particularly enjoyed the variation Mitsuto Suzuki snuck into the mix with his Record Keeper versions and the spacey electronic one Masashi Hamauzu whipped up for World of Final Fantasy. On the sillier end (Gilgamesh is comic relief, after all), you get a kazoo version and electronic silliness with marimbas in another.
In all, here’s the “Battle on the Big Bridge” compilation you never knew you wanted. It was an event exclusive at Tokyo Game Show this year, so it might not be widely available, but keep an eye out at used CD shops!
Square Enix launched a neat album series at Tokyo Game Show 2015 called Life Style. It started off with volumes to accompany driving and and relaxing (which fits in well with what we’re doing with Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies), and 2016’s event saw “cry” and “up” editions added to the series. I really love the concept of game music for daily living, as I have various playlists set up for this exact thing, and Square Enix has quite a catalog to pull from when it comes to compiling music for this purpose, as evidenced by the fact that I can’t source most of the tracks on this album.
This volume is intended to contain “sad” themes, of which there are many in Square Enix’s catalog. Starting from the top is the aptly titled “Drowning in Despair” with strings and piano, followed by a new arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme” with twangy acoustic guitar, strings, and bells. I can’t say it’s very suitable for crying, as it’s more beautiful than anything, but perhaps the source material may make somebody cry. The same follows for the healing “Now I’m Near the Best,” the sinister “A Son’s Loss,” the lullaby-esque “Sleeper’s Wake,” the contemplative “Lament,” and the mysterious “Movement in Green” (from Final Fantasy X). Getting into more cry-appropriate material, however, “Casualties of War” works in low tones with harp and male choir, “Ashes of Dreams” (from NieR) is a melancholy ballad sung by Emi Evans, and “Noel’s Theme -Final Journey-” is reflective with its female vocals about loneliness and regret. The closing track, “The Girl Who Stole the Stars” (from Chrono Cross) is a fitting closer with its somber strings and female vocals.
It would appear as though Square Enix stuck to modern releases, which I suppose is best for a “life style” album that you will play wherever it suits you. 8-bit and 16-bit tracks may not always go over well in all locales.
What drew me to this series outside of the concept was the artwork. Each volume sports vibrant colors and blown up pixel art on a thick cardboard folding sleeve. There really isn’t much else going on with the packaging, but the design is quite pleasing to the eye. The albums have unfortunately been sold exclusively at events, and are not available online. Keep an eye out on used markets where they can be picked up for cheap if you’re interested, though!