Tag Archives: Final Fantasy

FINAL FANTASY VIII VINYL [Limited Edition] + Unboxing Video

Square Enix has released a selection of Final Fantasy VIII music on two picture vinyls. They’re quite gorgeous, so we thought it would be great to show them to you. While the two vinyls don’t contain the soundtrack in its entirety, most key tracks are here, including the whimsical overworld theme, “Blue Fields,” the energetic battle theme, “Don’t Be Afraid” (one of my personal favorites of the entire series), the electronic-tinged boss battle theme, “Force Your Way,” the soothing guitar track, “Breezy,” the Triple Triad theme, “Shuffle or Boogie,” Laguna’s battle theme, “The Man With The Machine Gun,” the ominous “Premonition,” what I consider to be one of Uematsu’s finest compositions, “Fisherman’s Horizon,” and the final battle theme, “The Extreme,” among others.

I thought it would be nice to include a taste of the elusive Final Fantasy VIII Chips album from 2012, which you can hear in the background.

The vinyls are available directly from the Square Enix shop in Japan and Europe, but can be imported from CD Japan from outside of those regions.

Review: FINAL FANTASY XI Priceless Remembrance

Final Fantasy XI has enjoyed quite a run! It launched in 2002, and it was only this year that Square Enix issued the final major update. This Blu-ray release includes the final pieces of music written for the game as well as a few other surprises. The video content in particular adds a lot as it relates to the title of this release, offering a lengthy series of video footage from the many areas of Vana’diel with musical accompaniment. As somebody who didn’t get very far in Final Fantasy XI, it was nice to see some of the world of Vana’diel and listen to the corresponding music, finally lending the themes some context. A breakdown of what’s featured throughout the seven videos can be found on VGMdb.

In terms of new music, there are 16 tracks total. “Forever Today” is a sweet vocal ballad presented in three different forms, including the opening instrumental that takes a sweet and slow approach, an EP version with Rhodes piano and female vocals, and the original version with a more traditional orchestral backing. From there, “Worlds Away” offers ethereal bells and piano, “Monstrosity” presents upbeat electronic rock reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII, and “Clouds Over Ulbuka” is a tense orchestral piece. “The Price” is determined and decisive, while “The Serpentine Labyrinth” is dark and foreboding with string stabs, droning pads, and distant percussion. “The Divine” is also somewhat foreboding with its droning pads and metallic percussive hits in the background, conjuring up a ghostly atmosphere. “Distant Worlds” gets a lovely instrumental version, while “Iroha” sports dreamy bell tones that are sleep-inducing and lovely, “The Boundless Black” is ominous with its dissonant pads and industrial percussion, “Isle of the Gods” is majestic yet terrifying, and “Wail of the Void” is contemplative and enveloping with thick strings and beautiful piano melody. The final track, the powerful ballad “Rhapsodies of Vana’diel,” is presented twice, once with more Rhodes and female vocals and another that features a choir comprised voices of players of Final Fantasy XI. The track is intended to be tender and reflective of all the experiences that have been enjoyed by players over the years, wrapping things up with heavy references to the opening “Vana’diel March” and giving fans some closure.

In all, this is a well thought out release. I love the grandeur of the final pieces added to the game, and the various versions of the vocal themes are different enough to warrant their release. The video footage is also a nice touch, and will likely be treasured by longtime residents of the world of Vana’diel.

You can pick up the Blu-ray release at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY THE JOURNEY OF 100

Wow, I can’t believe Distant Worlds has hit 100! I caught one of the first few shows, and I’ve never been disappointed with a performance since. Their album recordings have also been fantastic, and in recent years, they’ve ventured into video. It’s great that they’ve made available their 100th show on Blu-ray for long-time fans and attendees like myself and those who haven’t been able to make it out to a show.

Arnie Roth conducts and hosts the show, recorded in front of a Japanese crowd. They play many of the classics, including the iconic “One-Winged Angel,” a lovely healing rendition of “The Prelude,” the rousing “Final Fantasy” theme, and the wondrous “Main Theme from Final Fantasy VII.” Some new arrangements come courtesy of Piano Opera Final Fantasy pianist Hiroyuki Nakayama, and are a real treat. “Balance is Restored” from Final Fantasy VI stands out in particular, visiting several of the game’s key themes, along with Susan Calloway’s rendition of Final Fantasy XII’s vocal theme, “Kiss Me Good-Bye,” “Roses of May” from Final Fantasy IX, an explosive “Torn from the Heavens” from Final Fantasy XIV (with Masayoshi Soken in attendance), singer Emiko Shiratori reprising her role as vocalist on Final Fantasy IX’s “Melodies of Life,” and an amazing battle medley covering Final Fantasy I – XIV which picks some often-missed tracks, including the final battle theme from Final Fantasy V and a jazzy rendition of the Final Fantasy VIII battle theme. The orchestra reacting to the fan reaction to “Swing de Chocobo” was cute, too, as well as the upright bass player really getting into the piece. Finally, the encore “J-E-N-O-V-A Complete” was also fantastic, really pushing the orchestra to adopt an aggressive battle sound.

My only criticism would be that the MP3s are not hosted on this Blu-ray disc! Still, I enjoyed watching it from start to finish. Given the recent Distant Worlds III album release didn’t feature many of these new arrangements, I’m hoping we’ll see yet another Distant Worlds CD release in the future with these new arrangements on them so I can listen on the go.

The Blu-ray is definitely worth your time. The booklet is stuffed full of comments from the creators, all in English as well as Japanese. Grab it from CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: SQUARE ENIX MUSiC SAMPLER CD Vol.10

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!

Review: BEFORE THE FALL: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack

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.

Review: Final Symphony music from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X

Final Symphony represents one of the most ambitious undertakings Thomas Boecker and Merregnon Studios have attempted to date. While their “Symphonic” series has been a smashing success, with productions dedicated to the works of Chris Huelsbeck (Symphonic Shades), Nobuo Uematsu (Symphonic Odysseys), Square Enix (Symphonic Fantasies), and others, Final Symphony brings together an assortment of Final Fantasy titles and presents them in a grand classical tradition. Prepare to hear your favorite “tunes” from the Final Fantasy series elevated to a new level with expert arrangements by the team at Merregnon Studios (Roger Wanamo and Jonne Valtonen) and by Masashi Hamauzu himself.

After an original playful opener, “A Circle Within a Circle Within a Circle,” the album launches into an epic 18-minute suite from Final Fantasy VI titled “Born with the Gift of Magic,” which opts for a narrative angle by telling the tale of Terra and her conflict with the empire, her past, and with the tyrant Kefka. There’s a lot of turmoil embedded in the music, and my favorite moment is the mysterious take on “Another World of Beasts.” There’s a piano concerto arranged by Hamauzu that masterfully combines various themes from the game into a coherent musical experience, and a three movement symphony dedicated to Final Fantasy VII that also adopts a narrative format, focusing on Sephiroth, Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and the epic showdown between them. A few pieces are shorter in length, including “Suteki da ne” from Final Fantasy X, “Continue?” from Final Fantasy VII, and a clever “Fight, Fight, Fight!” which sports battle themes from across all three titles presented in a unique way as they battle with one another to be heard.

The release comes housed on a Blu-ray disc which can be watched in a Blu-ray player, showing off photos from the recording sessions while you listen to the sometimes-beautiful, sometimes-intense performance by the London Symphony Orchestra. The MP3s are also housed on the disc, so you can take the music with you on the go. The included booklet is written in Japanese and English, and includes bios for all of the artists as well as a wonderfully-written listener’s guide that explains the creative decisions that went into the music, allowing the casual listener like myself to understand what’s being represented by the various musical passages.

I referred to the original scores as “tunes” at the start of this review because this presentation is so steeped in the classical tradition that it makes the source material sound almost like child’s play. That’s not to say it’s without merit, as nothing can top the nostalgia provided by the original sound source, but if you ever want to impress your classically-trained music friends with what game music can be as heard through the lens of true classical music, show them Final Symphony. It feels like the adult way to enjoy Final Fantasy music.

Final Symphony is out in September and can be pre-ordered from CD Japan.

Review: Compi de Chocobo

Square Enix put out a neat little compilation album of chocobo themes a few years ago at the Tokyo Game Show. Spanning two CDs, the album includes nearly every iteration of the chocobo theme from Final Fantasy II through XIV in addition to selections from Seiken Densetsu, Chocobo’s Dungeon, Final Fantasy spin-off titles, Final Fantasy remakes, and even a few from arrangement albums. Meant to serve mainly as a reference album to pick out your desired chocobo theme, I can’t say this album is so enjoyable when listening to it from start to finish, but I think most will be impressed with the breadth of chocobo arrangements that have been created over the years.

I’ll call out a few of my favorites, including the surfer rock “Electric de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy VII, the rockin’ “Mods de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy VIII, the soothing “Ukelele de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy IX, the big band “Brass de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy X, the smooth and funky “Circuit de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy XI, the Sakimoto-flavored orchestral chocobo themes from Final Fantasy XII,  the hardcore metal “Crazy Chocobo” from Final Fantasy XIII-2, the dreamy and laid back “Chocobo!” from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers, and the countless brilliant ways they’re able to work the theme into the various Chocobo games, with music box, Christmas, and even battle arrangements that are all fantastic. There’s also a hidden “wark!” sound effect at the end.

This is really a wonderful collection that shows off just how creative so many composers have been with reworking this iconic theme. The packaging is spot on, too, with some custom artwork and a nice color scheme throughout. It’s unfortunate that the collection will quickly become obsolete as new chocobo tunes are released, but it’s a great reference in any event!

Review: The Death March

The World Ends With You and Crisis Crisis: Final Fantasy VII composer Takeharu Ishimoto is back with his live band featuring female vocalist Stephanie and a standard rock ensemble. While the group has performed music from The World Ends With You in the past, this album revisits all sorts of Ishimoto material, including tracks form Final Fantasy Type-0, Dissidia Final Fantasy, The World Ends With You, and both Before Crisis and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII along with some original tracks.

There are excellent vocals throughout, with catchy chorus sections and some lovely orchestral-infused ’90s rock and grunge and ’80s-style synth work. There’s a nice aesthetic across the board, from the dark and moody opening track from Type-0 and the catchy guitar riffs and synth strings from Dissidia 012’s “God in Fire” to several tracks from The World Ends With You including “Revelation” with its ’80s atmosphere mixed with grunge vocals, two versions of “Hybrid” with glitchy grunge and Japanese acoustic takes, and a super-slow reverberating version of “Calling” which is my favorite version of the song yet.

The original tracks are also fantastic, with the haunting vocals of “DOO,” the dancey “MUSIC,” the industrial “Strange days” (my favorite track) with chugging pistons and aggressive layered guitars, the Nirvana-esque “Bubbles” with its weird and memorable lyrics, and several others.

Fans of ’90s alternative rock and grunge should appreciate this album. The arrangements of Ishimoto’s compositions are fantastic, and there’s lots to love from the originals as well. Stephanie is a very effective vocalist with a lot of range, and should provide adequate entertainment throughout.

Pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: FINAL FANTASY EXPLORERS Original Soundtrack

While we’ve grown accustomed to Naoshi Mizuta scoring many of the smaller spin-off Final Fantasy titles over the past several years, Final Fantasy Explorers opts instead for composer Tsuyoshi Sekito, who’s probably best known for his rock-oriented work on The Last Remnant and various contributions to many Square Enix titles.

He delivers a fairly impressive mix of sweeping orchestral themes with the JRPG-standard rock-flavored battle music, which plays to his strengths. The regal orchestral main theme is big and bombastic, and is worked throughout many of the tracms, and there are a few Final Fantasy series references featured throughout in addition to the battle themes from Final Fantasy IV through IX tucked away at the end of the album.

There are playful marches, adventurous suites, droning ambiance, flamenco, accordion-laden Western, and tense espionage themes. The rocking metal take on the chocobo’s theme is a lot of fun, and one of my favorite tracks comes as an exotic piece with an unusual oboe melody that stuck with me. The then there’s epic rock throughout, particularly in the final battle theme, that should please fans of the epic battle themes of yore.

In all, Sekito delivers a fairly fun and upbeat Final Fantasy score that should please JRPG enthusiasts. It’s been a while since we’ve heard an entire score from Tsuyoshi Sekito, so his fans will definitely want to check this out. It’s available on CD Japan.

Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO

I’m probably not the only person who thought this album was going to be a brass album. It’s called Brass de Bravo, after all. What you’re going to get, however, is more along the lines of a small ensemble with, yes, a fleshed out brass section, performing mainly orchestral arrangements. Apparently there was a live performance featuring a brass group in conjunction with the Siena Wind Orchestra, which explains this sound. Fortunately the fun selection of arrangements and suites make up for the confusing album title, so let’s dig in. Continue reading Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO