Final Fantasy is 30 years old! Square Enix celebrated the year in style with a number of Final Fantasy soundtrack releases, but one of the promotional items they put out was this composer’s selection disc featuring picks from Final Fantasy composers past and present. The greatest thing about this release is that the commentary from each composer is provided in both English and Japanese, which is a nice touch.
Nobuo Uematsu leads the way with his sweeping piano and string ballad from Final Fantasy X, “Zanarkand.” Junya Nakano picks one of my favorite tracks from Final Fantasy X, the lullaby-esque “Yuna’s Decision.” Naoshi Mizuta is a hero among men for picking my favorite Final Fantasy composition, the whimsical “Troian Beauty” from Final Fantasy IV. Kumi Tanioka goes with the adventurous main theme from Final Fantasy IV, and has a nice story about watching her siblings play through the game to go with it. Hitoshi Sakimoto goes for the original “Final Fantasy” theme that started it all, and from the original Final Fantasy, no less. Masashi Hamauzu’s pick is the dreamy and healing “Sulyaa Springs” from Final Fantasy XIII, one of my personal favorites as well. Masayoshi Soken picks the epic “Torn from the Heavens” from Final Fantasy XIV, which incorporates the series prelude in a clever way. Finally, Yoko Shimomura offers up “APOCALYPSIS NOCTIS,” the bombastic orchestral battle theme from Final Fantasy XV.
I love this album solely to get a sense of the musical tastes of each of these composers who I’ve enjoyed so much over the years. The commentary is the star, here, though, so if you can get your hands on one of these discs, go for it!
We’ve written extensively about the Brass de Bravo series here, and they’ve always come as unexpected surprises. Featuring the Siena Wind Orchestra, these compilations offer orchestral arrangements of tracks that often haven’t received their moment in the spotlight, and this volume is no different.
After an upbeat and energetic “Main Theme” from Final Fantasy V with lots of lovely flourishes, it’s on to the sweet and mellow “Elia, The Maiden of Water” from Final Fantasy III, the regal and decisive “Mt. Gulg” from the original Final Fantasy, and a slow and contemplative take on “Terra’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI. The gentle sway and bell tolls of “Ami” from Final Fantasy VIII are a real treat, as are the oft-forgotten “Crazy Motorcycle” from Final Fantasy VII with its creative arrangement full of bells and chimes and “Force Your Way” from Final Fantasy VIII which was originally an electronic song and is wonderful with a live orchestra. The swinging jazz version of “Dear Friends” from Final Fantasy V is also a great addition. The album closes with straightforward versions of the regal “Rebel Army” from Final Fantasy II, the stirring “Aerith’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VII, and the folksy “A Place I’ll Return to Someday” from Final Fantasy IX.
The album comes packed in with a sticker, and there’s also an accompanying disc that was distributed at concerts with the original soundtrack versions of each song along with a 15-minute-long discussion about the show with the talent involved.
The album is available on CD Japan if you’re interested.
This is a short-but-sweet treat from Square Enix. We’ve reviewed nearly all of the Final Fantasy XIV soundtracks here, and can attest to the fact that the music is excellent. It would be seemingly ripe for an orchestral arrangement album, and given the 30th anniversary of the franchise, they’ve made that so!
The album opens with big choir and bombastic brass and strings in the epic “Ultima.” It’s then on to the sweetly angelic “Serenity” with a tinge of mystery, the tense and dramatic “Calamity Unbound,” the unsettling male vocals of “Rise of the White Raven,” and the desperation of “Revenge Twofold.” The album closes out with the sweeping and emotional “Painted Foothills,” the dangerous and explosive “Ominous Prognosticks” (which works in some great Final Fantasy references), and the dynamic “Heroes” which opens with a beautiful spin on the Heavensward theme before powerful piano and string stabs take over.
In all, it’s easy to enjoy this album as the source material is so strong. I’d love to hear another volume (or two!) of this kind of thing. Pick up a physical copy on CD Japan if you’re so inclined!
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!
Every year Square Enix has a massive music shop set up at Tokyo Game Show. For customers who spend over a certain amount, they typically hand out a music sampler featuring recent and upcoming releases. These discs often play the key role of announcing upcoming music releases, so they’re important for fans to take note of, and this year is no different.
The sampler opens with the “Blinded by Light” track from the SQUARE ENIX JAZZ -FINAL FANTASY- album that we reviewed last week. From there, we get a mash up of Mog’s theme and the chocobo theme from Final Fantasy XV Plus, which is an interesting combination that works surprisingly well, your typical orchestral and rock from a Romancing SaGa arrange album, and a sweeping rendition of the Legend of Mana theme followed by a decisive and powerful “Painted Cavern” (my favorite track from that game) from a Seiken Densetsu 25th anniversary concert album. We get a taste of MoNACA’s SINoALICE which is dramatic and sports female choir, sounding similar to NieR, electronic pop from VenusRumble, dreamy electronics from Mobius Final Fantasy, and bombastic orchestral from Final Fantasy Explorers Force. We get a taste of Lost Sphere with a heartbreaking strings and piano track, gritty rock from Final Fantasy XIV: The Far Edge of Fate, and a pumping electronic anime track from Schoolgirl Strikers 3rd Anniversary (a great original soundtrack). The sampler closes with Nanaa Mihgo’s wonderful electronic-infused jazz from Final Fantasy Record Keeper Vol. 2.
As usual, there’s a lot to look forward to from Square Enix. I wouldn’t be worried about procuring a copy of the sampler, as many of these releases are already out or will be soon. Keep an eye out for them and our reviews here.
I’m a huge fan of jazz music in videogames. Brink of Time, the Chrono Trigger jazz arrange album, is still on heavy rotation in my household, and is a must own in any game music fan’s collection. That’s why I’m so excited about this album and, even more, the title of this album. Will this be a series? I think it just might, and given that Square Enix has provided all the text in the booklet in both Japanese and English, I’m guessing they’re looking to make this an international favorite as well.
But how’s the music? Simply put, it’s everything I wanted it to be. You may have heard the “Blinded by Light” (from Final Fantasy XIII) track on the Tokyo Game Show sampler, but in case you didn’t, it’s both spunky and funky with a fresh big band sound, starting things off right. Over the course of the next 11 tracks, you’ll hear everything from soothing to upbeat, vocal to sound effect solo, and the entire array of jazz instrumentation with flute, drum, and saxophone solos. There’s smooth and laid back with Final Fantasy III’s “Eternal Wind,” which gets xylophone and electric guitar, urgent with Final Fantasy IV’s “Battle with the Four Fiends,” which sports a lovely flute breakdown and a killer sax solo, and swanky with Final Fantasy’s II “Revel Army,” which would be right home in a jazz lounge. The loose take on “Big Bridge” also is home to what I’m calling an extremely quirky “sound effect solo,” which is a series of sound effects dueling it out, while the contemplative “Sarah’s Theme” from Final Fantasy XIII, the lively “Searching Friends” from Final Fantasy VI, and the swingin’ “You Are Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX are my absolute favorites. Rounding out the album are the exotic and flamenco-flavored “Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X, the extremely elegant piano-laiden “Love Grows” from Final Fantasy VIII, and the uplifting and Christmas-like Final Fantasy “Main Theme” with its twinkling piano work.
SQUARE ENIX JAZZ -FINAL FANTASY- is a fantastic album, and should have all of us wondering which Square Enix franchise will be next. The album is out on November 22 in Japan, and can be pre-ordered from CD Japan if you want to get your hands on a physical copy out of the gate. It’s not currently listed on the North America merchandise store, but I have a feeling it’ll end up there as well as on iTunes international.
Square Enix really went all out with Final Fantasy XV between the various games, anime, and this feature film. I caught it in theaters, and while it was a bit hard to follow, it got me excited for the game. The score is primarily by John Graham, although many of Shimomura’s themes from the game are featured. The album clocks in at two discs with mainly bombastic orchestral themes to highlight the action.
“Prologue” offers somber piano and strings in a melancholy and ominous opener, while “Under Siege” brings in rock influences with explosive percussion and string stabs. “Diamond Weapon” is appropriately terrifying for the deadly monstrosity that wrecks havoc on the Kingsglaive, while “The Chancellor/A Modest Proposal” gets a nice injection of electronics with some nice sweeps. There’s the exotic “Calling for Rain” with its clapping and male vocals, the droning and crystalline “Ill Tidings,” the tender and longing “LUNA,” the tragic and tainted “In the line of Duty,” the regal and memorable “Somnus” (a key theme in the game), and a regal brass-heavy march version of the Final Fantasy main theme. There’s a lot of build up and tension leading into one of my favorite tracks, “Treaty Signing,” which accents the uncertainty and danger before exploding into a flurry of string stabs and brass swells, while another favorite, “No Turning Back,” goes for a more sinister approach. “Kings of Lucis” is tragic yet regal, ascending into a more comforting space, while “Battle for the Crown City” is hopeful and determined. The ending is full of excitement and melancholy, but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it.
The album is available from CD Japan as well as the Square Enix North America merch store if you’re interested.
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!
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!
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!