After checking out the cry volume of Square Enix’s Life Style series, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the other albums. Fortunately Up! brings in some more familiar tunes and actually does what it sets out to do, which is lift your mood!
The opening “Fanfare” comes from Dissidia, and is bouncy and upbeat, while “Siren Song” from Final Fantasy XIV is a bossa nova track that actually comes from Nanashi no Geemu, which Soken also composed. “Battle Theme 1” from Unlimited Saga is energetic and funky, while “Girls, We Have to Win!” from Crystal Chronicles offers playful surfer rock. There’s silly hip hop-infused rock from The World Ends With You, exotic flamenco from Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, chill out from Final Fantasy XIII-2, and joyous and infectious with an SQ Chips remix from Chrono Trigger. The Distant Worlds version of “Man With the Machine Gun” is an interesting pick for sure, but it’s back on track with the bubbly and bumping “Mysidia Sky Garden” from Chocobo Racing, smooth jazz with “South Yokohama” from Racing Lagoon, and swing with “Crystal Bearers Ramble.”
Overall, this volume is way more on point with the theme. Unfortunately they’re event exclusives and hard to come by, but if you’re at a used CD shop in Japan, pick this one up!
I rather enjoyed the first Final Fantasy XIV arrangement album, From Astral to Umbral, so I was pleased to see them give it another go with the amazing music from Heavensward available to draw from. It’s once again an even split between a piano collections album featuring Keiko and a rock set by THE PRIMALS.
The album opens with the piano half, starting with “Imagination,” a slow and measured track that will gently sway you to sleep. “Painted Foothills” is contemplative and sparse, featuring some lovely piano runs, while “Borderless” takes turns between subdued and more energetic sections, sporting some wonderful piano playing. “Ominous Prognostiks” is ominous as the title would suggest, with slow and more mysterious sections follows by tense explosions of sound. Both “Heroes” and “Night in the Brume” include some of my favorite thematic material from Heavensward, with the former coming as epic and the latter as tender and sweet.
The band portion begins with “Unbreakable,” complete with wailing electric guitars and a badass vibe. “Revenge Twofold” is a new track that hasn’t been released yet and is more adventurous and upbeat, while “Ubending Steel” provides classic rock stylings with guttural male vocals in a silly but effective manner. “Imagination” appears again with lots of reverb and heavy metal thunder, “Fiend” (another new track) comes as an alternative rock track with dark vocals, and “Heroes” getting some great guitar work and male choir. “Locus” features dancing piano, electronics, and male and female vocaloid, while “Oblivion (Never Let it Go Version)” comes as a surprise with acoustic guitar, glassy pads, a small string ensemble, and bag pipes. I’d love to hear an entire album in this style!
Not only are there wonderful arrangements in both piano and rock styles here, but there are new tracks not released on a dedicated soundtrack album yet. Pick the album up on CD Japan if you’re interested!
Another Tokyo Game Show, another Square Enix Music sampler CD. This is the eleventh (see volumes 9 and 10), given to customers who made purchases over a certain threshold. The discs have evolved over the years to include full tracks from recently-released and upcoming albums from Square Enix Music’s label, and they had a lot to show this year.
The sampler begins with “Nox Aeterna (E3 2013 Trailer)” from Final Fantasy XV, a tragic and somber affair. The music that has been performed from this game is fantastic, and I wonder if this trailer track will appear on the final soundtrack release. From there, “No Turning Back” is a tense Hollywood action cue from Kingslaive (which I rather enjoyed), “Blazing Heart of Justice” is pure metal from Justice Monsters Five, and two tracks–a Japanese pop vocal piece and a pumping battle track with Masashi Hamauzu’s signature piano and strings–from World of Final Fantasy that have me excited for this soundtrack in particular. SaGa Scarlet Grace offers beautiful sweeping orchestra, Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Age introduces a gorgeous orchestral sound to “Ozmone Plains,” and NieR Music Concert & Talk Live offers a live vocal rendition from NieR that I can’t wait to hear and watch. Some new games are included, such as a synthy Celtic track from Celestial Aruls, some great synth music from Naoshi Mizuta from both Akashic Re:cords and Guardian Codex, an RPG town theme from Pop-Up Story: Mahono Moto to Seiju no Gakuen, a folksy vocal theme from Kamitsuri, and two unreleased tracks from Mobius Final Fantasy: one that offers mellow male vocals and synth work similar in style to Mitsuto Suzuki’s solo albums, and another that is sweeping and epic, working in the Final Fantasy main theme.
In all, this is a strong sampler that shows a lot of great music in the works. There’s the usual stuff to be excited about, including Final Fantasy XV, NieR, and SaGa Scarlet Grace, but some of the lesser-known titles now have my interest.
Stay tuned for our reviews of these albums in the coming months. Unfortunately the sampler will be difficult to find with TGS being long over.
Final Fantasy XIV has enjoyed several soundtrack releases up to this point (A Realm Reborn, From Astral to Umbral, Before the Fall), but I’ve been hearing for months that the music from Heavensward is the best yet. While Square Enix has trickled out digital EPs over the past year, they’ve released all 60 new tracks on Blu-ray disc. Masayoshi Soken again handles most of the composition, and I’d agree that the music is pretty fantastic.
Immediately out of the gate is “Heavensward,” a subdued vocal theme, followed by a chilling version of the series prelude theme titled “A Cold Wind.” One of my favorite tracks on the album follows, the epic 13:22-long “Solid,” which acts as a defiant anthem for the entire score and is weaved throughout. A defiant and extremely catchy melody is followed by ominous organ and brass stabs that then venture into uncertainty and majestic portions of the song. It’s a masterpiece as used here.
The entire score is great, but other standouts include deep and mysterious “Descent” with its ethereal bell tones, two slowed down and sleepier versions of the “Solid” theme titled “Nobility Sleeps” (probably my favorite track) and “Nobility Obliges,” the exotic “Coming Home” by Yukiko Takada with various woodwinds and even a bagpipe, the very strange gurgling English Western vocal track, “Unbending Steel” Uematsu’s emotional “Contention,” a world music-meets-DNB version of the “Solid” theme titled “Woe that is Madness,” the decisive “Order Yet Undeciphered” with organ, timpani, and a killer bass pad that lends a cool electronic edge to the track, the explosive rock-electronic “Unbreakable” with some awesome rock organ, and finally Uematsu’s closing vocal theme, “Dragonsong,” featuring the ever-lovely Susan Calloway on vocals and coming as a shorter and more emotional theme compared to “Answers.”
You can pick up the album on CD Japan, and I highly recommend doing so! I’d agree with many others in saying this may be some of the best Final Fantasy XIV music yet, particularly with the incredibly strong theme featured throughout.
It’s that time of year again. Square Enix put out their annual sampler from Tokyo Game Show featuring goodies from their upcoming albums. They usually use these samplers as a vehicle to announce new albums and show off impending ones, but this year’s sampler features mainly material that we’ve known is coming. Also of note is the fact that the samples are all full-length tracks instead of the snippets that we’ve sometimes received in the past.
The disc opens with the ten-minute-long “Thunder Falls” from the Final Fantasy XIV: Before the Fall OST. It’s out now, and I highly recommend it (review here). There’s a lovely battle medley from Final Symphony II, featuring “Fierce Engagement” from Final Fantasy VI and a tease of “One-Winged Angel.” Imperial SaGa features Kenji Ito back in his orchestral element after so many rock excursions (Million Arthur, SaGa Battle). It’s fantastic and features a nice variation of the SaGa theme. We also get a taste of the upcoming Legend of Mana arrange album in the form of a wonderful jazz arrangement that is playful at times and beautiful at others. An arrangement from the highly-anticipated Chrono arrange album, “Dimension Break,” has been released before, but sounds as lovely as ever, there’s a new folky tune from Final Fantasy XI, an explosive orchestral/rock hybrid from Alice Order, Mitsuto Suzuki doing his thing on Mobius Final Fantasy that sounds reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII, a live band track featuring Motoi Sakuraba with great solos, and a rock track of his from Star Ocean V that’s nice to hear after Sakuraba’s focus on styles other than synth rock in recent years.
In all, while there aren’t any surprises, this is a solid sampler that should have give fans a lot to look forward to. There’s something for everyone with Mana and Chrono arranges, a Final Fantasy spin-off, and a serious classical album coming soon. Stay tuned!
Square Enix has released another massive collection of music from Final Fantasy XIV, this time from several recent content updates. Fans were impressed with the initial soundtrack offering some months back, so it’s a bit of a surprise to get another collection totaling over four hours of music so soon. But who can complain when the new music composed mostly by Masayoshi Soken is so good!
There isn’t as diverse of a range presented on this album: it’s mainly darker and more ominous than the previous album release, but there’s a lot to love. Many of my favorites include the rock tracks that were performed by The Primals on their From Astral to Umbral arrange album, including the contemplative “Thunder Rolls” and the grungy rock “Oblivion.” Other favorites include the melancholy choir piece, “A Light in the Storm,” the exotic and ambient “The Edge,” the atmospheric and dreamy “The Warrens,” a dark organ and choir version of the vocal theme “Answers,” and the explosive orchestral track “Hamartomania,” which sounds like something out of Metal Gear Solid. That’s in addition to several references to classic Final Fantasy tunes that fans of the series will enjoy.
My favorite thing about this soundtrack, which is presented on Blu-ray disc, is that it hosts some bonus content, including live performances of piano and The Primals sets from this year’s Final Fantasy XIV festival in Japan. The footage is quite substantial, and includes some interesting moments, including Soken himself creating makeshift percussion out of cardboard boxes while he plays a track on piano and performing a duo on one piano for another.
Final Fantasy XIV fans will want to check this out. There is over four hours of music to enjoy in addition to the fantastic concert footage. Pick it up on CD Japan if you’re interested.
Distant Worlds has always been exceptional, from the live concerts to the album recordings. I figured after the first two albums and the live Blu-ray concert recordings, however, that we wouldn’t be seeing more from the series. Then came along Distant Worlds III with a mixture of new arrangements and old ones that have been hard to come by.
Can Distant Worlds do it a third time? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Distant Worlds III: more music from Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has garnered a lot of praise as a reboot of what–according to soundtrack nomenclature–is called the Before Meteor version of Eorzea. The Before Meteor soundtrack was good, but having heard great things about the new A Realm Reborn material, I was excited to dig in.
Then I realized that the Blu-ray disc that houses the soundtrack contains over eight hours of music. So I thought to myself, why not review this eight-plus hours of music, and review the piano and rock arrangement album at the same time? What’s another hour of music at that point?
Does the new music live up to expectations? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn & From Astral to Umbral
Each year for the past several years, Square Enix has released a sampler CD at their Tokyo Game Show, given to customers who make large purchases. This sampler has been used to preview upcoming releases, and more excitingly, announce albums that had not previously been announced. This year was no different, as Square Enix released their ninth such sampler.
This year’s sampler may be one of the best yet. So let’s dig right in to see what Square Enix Music is cooking! Continue reading Review: Square Enix Music Sampler CD Vol. 9