It’s been awhile since Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Basicape Records put out some music. The tail end of 2016 saw the release of the soundtrack to the PC game Oh! Samurai Girls! A Music Collection with the return of composer Azusa Chiba and Yoshimi Kudo to follow up 2012’s “S” collection. You’re in for an eclectic winter-flavored soundtrack with strong Japanese influences.
From the sweet and magical opener to the mix of upbeat and playful to funky and cool tracks that follow, there’s something here for everyone. There’s epic orchestra, tender ballads, swaggering jazz, ninja rock, and even an appearance by J.S. Bach with a Christmas version of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” There are breakbeats, lullabies, and crashing metal along with traditional Japanese instruments, exotic desert music, and even folk. The album closes it with a series of heavy metal tracks complete with chugging bass and wailing guitars.
The two-disc album can be picked up on CD Japan if you’re interested.
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.