Tag Archives: Orchestral

FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE Original Soundtrack [Limited Edition] (SQEX-20035~6)

Final Fantasy XII didn’t get a fair shake when it was first released. Yes, the development was quite an ordeal and the game took a few hits as a result, but Final Fantasy XII was a pioneer in many ways, including with its grandiose orchestral soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto. With the HD remake, dubbed The Zodiac Age, the entire score was re-recorded with the Video Game Orchestra, bringing all the music to life with live performances in addition to new original tracks just for the re-release, totaling a massive 102 tracks and clocking in at nearly six hours.  Fans of Final Fantasy and especially Final Fantasy XII will want to give it a listen, and those who pick up the limited edition version also get an arrangement album by the team at Basiscape.

Those who’ve never heard the soundtrack before are in for a real treat right out of the gate with Sakimoto’s signature spin on the Final Fantasy theme, followed by the explosive “Boss Battle” theme and the sweeping fan-favorites “The Dalmasca Eastersand” and “Giza Plains.” “On the Riverbank” is adventurous yet sweet, “Eruyt Village” is soothing and full of mystery with its strings and woodwinds. There are other Sakimoto takes on Final Fantasy classicss such as the chocobo and Gilgamesh’s themes, exotic woodwinds in the desert-esque “The Stilshrine of Miriam,” and tribal percussion and beautiful piano and choir in “The Salikawood.” Rounding out some key themes that listeners will want to check out are “The Final Act” with its tense and decisive sound reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, “Struggle for Freedom,” a new piece that is absolutely terrifying, and “The Zodiac Age,” a lovely cinematic piece. And don’t forget the beautiful harp-laden “Game Over,” which you’ll be hearing a lot!

As mentioned, the limited edition comes with a CD of arrangements, which includes a music box/dance hybrid of “The Zodiac Age” by Sakimoto himself, exotic bagpipes and woodwinds on “The Dalmascan Eastersand,” and an excellent piano solo of “The Barheim Passage.”

The limited edition is still available on CD Japan and belongs in every Final Fantasy fan’s collection.

Review: Untempered: FINAL FANTASY XIV Primal Battle Themes

As a special treat for Tokyo Game Show last year, Square Enix released a collection of “primal battle” music. That is, the tracks that play when you battle the summoned monsters. The music has been released throughout the various soundtrack releases to date, although one of the tracks has yet to hit an official soundtrack album. In addition to the battle music, the two-disc set also features some lovely artwork on a sturdy slipcase that covers the DVD-sized packaging.

Lots of fan-favorite tracks are here, including the brooding “Fallen Angel,” the exotic and epic “Ultima,” and the grungy metal tracks “Through the Maelstrom” and “Oblivion.” There’s a version of “Battle on the Big Bridge” here, the iconic The Nightmare Before Christmas-flavored “Good King Moggle Mog XII,” and “Battle to the Death,” a killer arrangement of the Final Fantasy VI battle theme by the same name. “Thunder Rolls” is somber and dreamy with its female vocals, “Footsteps in the Snow” combined beautiful piano and choral work with desperate string stabs, and “Unbending Steel” sports gritty male vocals that would be right at home in a Western film. The memorable Heavensward themes are represented, along with the industrial “Fiend” that will have you thinking of Nine Inch Nails, the pop-flavored “Equilibrium,” and a new track, the majestic and adventure-filled “Beauty’s Wicked Wiles,” which I imagine will make it onto a soundtrack release in the future.

In all, this is a solid collection of music for people who don’t already own the various soundtrack releases. Those who do own them may be interested for the artwork and the in-game items that Square Enix is serving up for buying it. Grab it on CD Japan or the North America merchandise store if you’re interested.

Review: NieR Music Concert Blu-ray

The NieR soundtracks have been wildly popular, so it should come as no surprise that the music has enjoyed multiple tours throughout Japan and one-off performances as parts of other game music concerts. This Blu-ray features recorded performances from all seven shows from the 2017 Japan tour, and this is required viewing/listening for any NieR fan.

The performances feature vocalists Emi Evans, J’Nique Nicole, and Marina Kawano, but the unique voice of Nami Nakagawa is absent due to other obligations she had. That made the shows even more interesting thought as Evans and Nicole learned her songs and performed them with a different twist. Essentially every song with vocals was performed at the event, along with a hefty load of vocal drama read on-stage by the actual voice cast. The drama is presented in Japanese, and had members of the audience in tears by the end of it. Those looking only for the music will also be moved by the beautiful renditions of “Peaceful Sleep,” “Vague Hope,” and “Weight of the World,” where the audience is invited to join in. The duet version featuring Evans and Nicole on “Song of the Ancients – Atonement” is a real treat to see, and the child singer on “Pascal” is also super cute. To top it all off, they perform several tracks from the original NieR as an encore, which should leave any NieR fan completely satisfied.

As to the arrangements, there’s a wonderful string quartet along with composer Keigo Hoashi on piano. They have guest guitarists and of course the beautiful vocals. Various electronic elements are played from a source rather than performed live, which is a bit of a bummer, but the performers who are on stage are all top-notch. Keiichi Okabe himself emcees, and is visibly moved by the audience reactions. Having been in the audience for the final show (the default performance when you press “play” on the Blu-ray), I can tell you the level of excitement was through the roof.

Go grab it on CD Japan. The slip case is especially cool as it reflects the game’s Chaos Language depending on how the light hits it, creating a really cool effect. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Review: THE FAR EDGE OF FATE: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack

We’ve covered a lot of Final Fantasy XIV music here over the years. Each release adds a mountain of new music to the game, and as always, it’s very high quality stuff courtesy of composer Masayoshi Soken. THE FAR EDGE OF FATE comes packed on a Blu-ray disc with tagged MP3 files of the album’s 50 new tracks included. There are also many references to unexpected pieces through Final Fantasy’s storied past that series fans will enjoy.

I can’t touch on all 50 tracks, but some of my favorites include “Down the Up Staircase” withs its sweet harpsichord and swaying strings, “Dancing Calcabrina” from Final Fantasy IV with deep acoustic bass and circus-like synth work, and “Metal – Brute Justice Mode” which comes as a super hero rock/orchestral track with big brass and robotic vocals. There’s the militaristic and decisive march, “Faith in her Fury,” a reprise of the Heavensward theme with the epic and huge “Revenge of the Horde,” and the dreamy trance track “Blackbosom.” The jingly-jangly “No Sound, No Scutter” adds metallic percussion and kazoo to the mix, “The Kiss” is playful with its toy percussion and sweet woodwinds and pizzicato strings, and “Starved” brings grunge rock with electronic whirs in a very cool combination. “The Ancient City” is a somber piano concerto, “Holy Consult” sounds channels its inner Western flick, and “Teardrops in the Rain” sports constant movement and mystery with Final Fantasy IX references. The throwbacks continue with the ominous organ track, “Promises” and “Shadow of the Body,” both of which draw from Final Fantasy IX, and “Battle tot he Death,” a new spin on the Atma weapon battle from Final Fantasy VI. “Rise” sounds like something out of The World Ends With You with its male rapping and hip hop sounds, while “Penultimania” features a dizzying rolling chip line with spacious strings. The album closes with the James Bond-esque “Scale and Steel” with big strings and brass and a heavy sense of intrigue.

In all, Soken does another wonderful job. I’ll be looking forward to his next release. THE FAR EDGE OF FATE available on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath- Album

Square Enix has taken the Kingdom Hearts series on tour, and this release represents the first collection of music made widely-available from said tour. A lot of fans have been greatly looking forward to this release, and as expected, they hit a lot of the highlights from across the series.

The album opens with “Destati” with its slow and intense buildup with lots of tension and energy in the brass and percussion sections. The beautiful “Dearly Beloved” gets a slow and measured version with doubled-up piano and harp and an offset xylophone that gives the arrangement a nice twinkle. “Traverse Town” is sleepy and slow, giving way to a nice jazz arrangement, while the rambunctious “Hand in Hand” features rolling snares and a marching band-esque approach. “Journey of KINGDOM HEARTS” offers a little of everything as a medley of locales that touches on tropical, jazz, and spooky. The slow sway of “Lazy Afternoons” is simply perfect, while “The Other Promise” is sometimes somber and other times foreboding, “Another Side” gets tense piano and woodwinds before rock percussion explodes onto the scene, and “Gearing Up” is made regal with big brass added to its playful and bouncy melody. “Destiny’s Union” is slow and dreamy with a doubled-up piano and harp and a flute lead, “The Unknown” is tense with low xylophone notes and steady brass stabs, “The Power of Darkness” gets big brass and percussion and cool triangle and chime work. Finally, “March Caprise for Piano & Strings” is a triumphant and bombastic march.

In all, this might be the definitive way to enjoy the music of Kingdom Hearts! The packaging is also quite nice, coming in a glossy cardboard sleeve. Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Mobius Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack 2

If you enjoyed Mitsuto Suzuki’s Mobius Final Fantasy soundtrack, you should be ecstatic that Square Enix has released a massive second volume comprising three discs of all new music. Prepare yourself for more sweeping orchestral, abstract electronic wizardry, and killer vocal tunes with lots of Final Fantasy references tucked in for good measure.

I’ll start with the amazing “Capricious Cait Sith,” easily my favorite track on the album, which comes as a silly female vocal disco tune with a smooth and funky backing. Vocals are featured prominently throughout, including on the wonderful “Always There” with its ascending acoustic guitar, ethereal pads, and gentle male vocals and the cool RNB production, “Azure Memories,” which sports clean acoustic guitar and female vocals. Backing up, though, the album begins with the big orchestral sounds of “Ring of Braves” with rolling percussion and uplifting piano before diving in to the whimsical “Mogheim” with its lovely piano and Final Fantasy main theme references, the dance-y “Breaker’s Funk” with rhodes piano and funky bass synth, and “Meia’s Theme” with its cool blend of flamenco guitar and strings. There’s a beautiful Christmas version of “Sarah’s Theme” from Final Fantasy XIII-2, a Final Fantasy theme Christmas track titled “Hopebringer,” a rockin’ rendition of the Final Fantasy VII “Fanfare,” which is absolutely perfect, and the explosive metal “Bloodthirst” with powerful percussion and guitar shredding. “The Infinite Warrior” gives us upbeat rock in traditional Final Fantasy style with its bubbly approach and rock organ, and “Battle Princes,” a bumpin’ EDM track that transitions into uplifting piano and strings.

Spanning three discs, there’s a lot of music here to enjoy. I think I enjoyed Mobius Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack 2 even more than the original release. Grab it on CD Japan if you’re so inclined!

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

Ask, and you shall receive? When we reviewed the Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY THE JOURNEY OF 100 Blu-ray disc back in 2015, my only gripe was that the MP3 files weren’t housed on the disc. Well, this year, to celebrate 30 years of Final Fantasy, Square Enix released the music on CD.

I’ll simply quote our 2015 review here:

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.

Unfortunately this album was sold only at their Tokyo Game Show 2017 booth. While that means it’s not widely available at the moment, I’d suggest keeping an eye on their website to pick it up if you’re interested.

Review: Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album

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!

Review: KINGSGLAIVE FINAL FANTASY XV ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

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.

Review: Far Saa Far

As a huge fan of the abstract electronic duo IMERTUAT, comprised of Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, I was excited by the announcement of their third album, Far Saa Far. We covered their second album, Propelled Life, and it’s been way too long since we’ve been able to enjoy their unique blend of strings, piano, electronics, and vocals.

Far Saa Far offers up over thirty minutes of new music spread across 12 songs, most of which feature several live performances, starting with the trippy and fluttering “Far Saa Far,” which sports lovely string beds and an energetic chorus sections featuring Mina’s dreamy lyrics and electric guitar flare ups. “Pororororororo” is more sweet with emotional strings and piano and Mina’s repetitive “Pororororororo.” “Nomitaina” is easily my favorite track on the album with Mina’s constant singing of the track name with piano and abstract electronic backing. Some dancey piano and percussion join the mix, creating a funky and refreshing vibe. There’s some tension in “Flakes,” which contains lots of dissonance and heart-pounding synth and bass percussion. There’s the wintery “kilto kilto” with the sound of wind, bells, and chimes, the spunky “Satoyama Department Store” with its deep bass, repetitive acoustic guitar, and chilly pads, and the highly abstract “Quarter Tones” with its radio transmission-like sound samples, descending tones, and synth swells. The strange and oddly upbeat “I want to Assassinate!” features a blend of signature Hamauzu strings and chopped up and glitched out piano and synth work paired with English vocals, while “Le Fleur” is an incredibly beautiful strings, piano, and acoustic guitar ballad with gentle lullaby-esque vocals by Mina. The closing track, “Deep Green Field,” is a stunning piano and guitar reprise of “La Fleur,” providing a lovely closer to a wonderful listening experience.

The presentation of Far Saa Far is quite nice as well, coming in a jewel case with rounded corners and a thick booklet with all the lyrics. They’ve even produced a little magazine featuring more artwork and additional information about the tracks. Fans outside of Japan can grab the album from Wayô Records.

You can also click through below to see music videos for “La Fleur” and “Nomitaina.” Continue reading Review: Far Saa Far