Review: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster OST

I admit that I never gave the Final Fantasy X soundtrack much of a chance back when it was released. I played through the game, and to this day, it’s one of my least favorite games in the series, so it makes sense that I didn’t come back to the soundtrack very often. However, the re-release of the soundtrack in an upgraded “remaster” version to celebrate the game’s HD re-release has given me the opportunity to really dig into the music and appreciate it as a stand-alone product, and I must say that I actually like it a lot after listening.

Hit the jump for full impressions.

First things first: this album is actually housed on a Blu-ray disc, as many other recent Square Enix music releases have been. This means the price is a bit steep, but if you have Blu-ray player, you can enjoy visuals while you listen. Aside from that, there are new bonus tracks from Final Fantasy X, preview tracks of the also recently re-released Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack, and over 60 new arrangements/recordings of the material from Final Fantasy X.

On the topic of the “remaster” versions, chances are, if you liked the original soundtrack version, you’ll probably like the new version presented here, although I can imagine some purists being irked by this. Some are augmented with live instruments, while others get synth upgrades. It doesn’t always work out for a best (I kind of miss the synth-driven sound of the battle theme and the warmer guitars in “Spiran Scenery,” for example), but I’m impressed that they took the time.

Jumping right in, I love the addition of organic elements to spruce up the atmospheric “Besaid,” the cleaner pop-oriented productions of “Oui Are Al Bhed,” “Yuna’s Theme,” and “Rikku’s Theme,” and the Asian-flavored vibe in the string section of “Sprouting.” “Luca” gets the addition of some nice brass flourishes that add a jazzy flavor, while “Auron’s Theme” has its wonky synths replaced with staccato jazz organ notes, which are an improvement. “Mi’hen Highroad” feels more balanced with less emphasis on twangy guitars and more attention paid to the acoustic bass, woodwinds, and sax. “Jecht’s Theme” gets the live treatment, while “The Pursuers” gets a big Hollywood sound upgrade. Rounding out the set, “Yuna’s Decision” gets synths upgraded to live piano, creating a stunningly beautiful version of one of my favorite themes from the game, “People of the Far North” gets lovely string work, and “Seymour Battle” emphasizes rocking guitar work over synths in what I personally feel is an improvement.

The bonus tracks are quite nice, with a minimalistic tune from Junya Nakano and an easy-going “Wakka’s Theme” from Uematsu. There are a number of bonus tracks from Final Fantasy X-2 as mentioned, but I’ll be covering that separately later.

In the meantime, fans of Final Fantasy X will want to check this out. Some of the arrangements will probably disappoint some longtime fans, but overall, I think this album represents a much more enjoyable listening experience with the addition of live performances and higher production values.

Interestingly, it’s available from Square Enix’s North America store for $59.99.

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