Tag Archives: Video Game Orchestra

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: KINGDOM HEARTS -HD 2.5 ReMIX- Original Soundtrack

Having never explored the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks with their initial release, I’ve relished being able to experience them for the first time in this beautiful ReMIX version. I dug into the 1.5 ReMIX soundtrack a few weeks back, but I have to say that 2.5 ReMIX is even better. It’s much darker and heavier than 1.5, and it features recorded parts with the super talented Video Game Orchestra based out of Boston.

There’s so much music here to love, starting with a slower and more contemplative “Dearly Beloved” that sets the tone for the album. The vocal theme, “Passion,” gets a catchy ethereal version to start and end the game, but also a big orchestral version. It’s a fantastic track that will be stuck in your head for weeks. From there, “Lazy Afternoons” is simply gorgeous with its orchestral instrumentation, “Sinister Sundown” impresses with its decisive strings and marching snare, and “Tension Rising” brings big brass and ominous organ and some neat scale runs. “Kairi” gets a healing version this time around, while “Roxas” sports a rather tragic quality. “Magical Mystery” is unsettling with its out of tune piano and off-time bell tolls, while “*Organization XIII’ is ominous with its droning pads and choir. “Gearing Up” combines a playful toy-like vibe with rocking electric guitar, “Shipmeister’s Shanty” adds electronic elements to the same concept, and “Asteroid Attack” teases “Dearly Beloved” with its spacey pads and synth bass. “Waltz of the Damned” sports a nice swaying rhythm and references other themes form the game, “Dance of the Daring” is an upbeat folky tune with harpsichord, “Beauty and the Beast” gets a pop-oriented arrangement, and “The Home of Dragons” goes for majestic with a strong Chinese vibe.

Then there’s all the wonderful Disney music that you can’t help but smile while listening to. I’m looking at you, “Winnie the Pooh.” I have to admit it’s strangely satisfying hearing Disney classics sung in Japanese. Particularly “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. Donald and Goofy are also amazing in Japanese.

I love a lot of music heading into the end of the album, but to call out a few, the lightning fast metal in “Hazardous Highway,” the ambient “Cavern of Remembrance,” the foreboding and exotic “Sacred Moon,” the lovely “The Other Promise,” and the triumphant yet melancholy “Fantasia alla marcia” all provide a wonderful closing to the album.

I’ve gone on quite long enough, but this is some of Yoko Shimomura’s best work of all time. I highly recommend picking it up on CD Japan.