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.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a nice treat for fans of the series, and while the first soundtrack volume was fairly straightforward, there’s a little more depth to this release. Spanning two discs and including massive medleys, there’s certainly a lot of music to dig into.
The album opens with a grand and regal version of the Final Fantasy fanfare worked into the main theme, which is a refreshing take on both tracks. There’s a frightening “Kefka’s Theme” including sound effects and bombastic orchestra, a beautiful “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” with bells and a capella vocals that offers up a lullaby-esque spin on the track includes some Christmas cheer with “Joy to the World” worked in. There’s synth rock with rock organ and a unique upbeat reference to Aerith’s theme in “Still More Fighting,” and a wonderful overworld medley with an alternative rock version of Final Fantasy IV, a sweet pop version of Final Fantasy IX, and the rarely covered “Unknown Lands” from Final Fantasy V which I greatly appreciated. “Eiko’s Theme” from Final Fantasy IX gets a bouncy electronic remix, “UTAKATA” from Type-0 is a mix of flamenco and female vocal pop, and “Contest of Aeons” is a creative blend of boss music and the hymn from Final Fantasy X. “The Crystal Tower” from Final Fantasy III gets an adventurous arrangement that is intense and emotional, whereas “Etro’s Champion” is an ethereal and cool medley from Final Fantasy XIII. “Hammerhead” from Final Fantasy XV gets a dancey synth/chip version, and “Chaos Temple” also goes electronic with bumpin’ bass and classy piano. There’s an 18-minute-long battle medley with a rock/orchestral spin on battle themes from each game in the series, an epic 25-minute-long 30th anniversary melody that includes lovely guitar on “Rebel Army” from Final Fantasy II, a folksy take on “Searching for Friends” from Final Fantasy VI, an explosive Hollywood action version of “Man with the Machine Gun” from Final Fantasy VIII, and a nice woodwind version of “You Are Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX. The closer is a track from the Square Enix internal jazz band, Nanaa Mihgo, titled “Journey of Memory,” a funky and upbeat jazz pop track.
In all, this is a much stronger collection of music than was offered with the first volume, and contains a lot of material that fans of the series will want to hear. You can grab it on CD Japan.
Square Enix launched a neat album series at Tokyo Game Show 2015 called Life Style. It started off with volumes to accompany driving and and relaxing (which fits in well with what we’re doing with Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies), and 2016’s event saw “cry” and “up” editions added to the series. I really love the concept of game music for daily living, as I have various playlists set up for this exact thing, and Square Enix has quite a catalog to pull from when it comes to compiling music for this purpose, as evidenced by the fact that I can’t source most of the tracks on this album.
This volume is intended to contain “sad” themes, of which there are many in Square Enix’s catalog. Starting from the top is the aptly titled “Drowning in Despair” with strings and piano, followed by a new arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme” with twangy acoustic guitar, strings, and bells. I can’t say it’s very suitable for crying, as it’s more beautiful than anything, but perhaps the source material may make somebody cry. The same follows for the healing “Now I’m Near the Best,” the sinister “A Son’s Loss,” the lullaby-esque “Sleeper’s Wake,” the contemplative “Lament,” and the mysterious “Movement in Green” (from Final Fantasy X). Getting into more cry-appropriate material, however, “Casualties of War” works in low tones with harp and male choir, “Ashes of Dreams” (from NieR) is a melancholy ballad sung by Emi Evans, and “Noel’s Theme -Final Journey-” is reflective with its female vocals about loneliness and regret. The closing track, “The Girl Who Stole the Stars” (from Chrono Cross) is a fitting closer with its somber strings and female vocals.
It would appear as though Square Enix stuck to modern releases, which I suppose is best for a “life style” album that you will play wherever it suits you. 8-bit and 16-bit tracks may not always go over well in all locales.
What drew me to this series outside of the concept was the artwork. Each volume sports vibrant colors and blown up pixel art on a thick cardboard folding sleeve. There really isn’t much else going on with the packaging, but the design is quite pleasing to the eye. The albums have unfortunately been sold exclusively at events, and are not available online. Keep an eye out on used markets where they can be picked up for cheap if you’re interested, though!
A lot of people had fun messing around with FINAL FANTASY Record Keeper, and I’m sure more than a few dug the arrangements featured throughout and wanted to get their hands on them. Well, Square Enix has you covered with this compilation album featuring a variety of talent mostly from outside Square Enix, who you can learn about on VGMdb.
The arrangements are fairly straightforward, with little twists to fit special holidays or combined into tidy medleys. “Mystic Mysidia -Halloween-,” for example, gives the mischievous tune some mysterious bells and defiant strings in A Nightmare Before Christmas fashion, while jingle bells join the Final Fantasy VII main theme and “Gold Saucer,” making for a jolly Christmas arrangement. “Eyes on Me,” “Celes,” and of course, “Theme of Love” combine for a perfect Valentine’s Day medley, and a lovely sleep-inducing Tanbata (Star Festival) medley features lots of harp and bells to capture that celestial atmosphere.
There are several one-off arrangements, including rockin’ versions of “Battle at the Big Bridge” and “Decisive Battle” from Final Fantasy VI (which features a few other songs as well), a dreamy trance version of “The Man With the Machine Gun,” a bubbly techno-flavored “Vana’diel March,” a wedding organ-infused “Prelude,” and a pumping electronic/rock version of “Blinded by Light” (one of the more complex arrangements by Monster Hunter/Dragon’s Dogma composer Tadayoshi Makino).
While there isn’t a whole lot to sink your teeth into, if you played with the app and want the music, it’s available at CD Japan.
I remember when Dissidia was first announced. This was the fighting game Final Fantasy fans wanted (not Ergheiz!). The scores for the first two Dissidia games were fantastic, incorporating some lovely arrangements and original themes, so I was excited to get my hands on the soundtrack album accompanying the franchise’s first foray into arcades.
What you’ll find are pretty familiar sounds. Big, bombastic orchestral originals, and orchestral-rock hybrid arrangements of your favorite Final Fantasy battle themes. The opening theme takes a more melancholy approach with the series theme, but the glitchy “Prelude” will get the nostalgia and energy flowing pretty quickly. From there, the heavy metal flows, including a thunderous version of “The Rebel Army” from Final Fantasy II, which came as a surprise, a bombastic orchestral and synth version of the Final Fantasy IV final battle theme, the latter portion of “Dancing Mad” from Final Fantasy VI, and really cool spins on the main battle theme and “Fight With Seymour” from Final Fantasy X. “Flash of Steel” from Final Fantasy XII incorporates Hitoshi Sakimoto’s signature orchestral elements and adds in chugging bass and rock percussion on top, while *Eden Under Siege” from Final Fantasy XIII comes as a welcome addition, full of grit, wailing distorted guitars, rock percussion, and strings. “Antipyretic” from Final Fantasy Tactics also gets a slow and desperate arrangement with piano and sorrowful strings. The last track offers a remix of the Dissidia main theme, “Massive Explosion,” by SQ album series arranger Novoiski, bringing in synth sweeps, chiptune, and dub step elements.
There isn’t really anything groundbreaking here in terms of arrangements, but the rock-oriented takes on classic Final Fantasy tunes should please arcade-goers. Pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested.
I’ve listend to a lot of Emil Chronicle Online music over the years. Composer group ACE (known for their work on both Xenoblade Chronicles and Code of Princess) have written a massive score for the game over the close to a decade that its been around. What drew my attention to this album, however, was the involvement of G-Shine, GungHo’s internal band that originally formed to perform music from Ragnarok Online.
There are also arrangements and performances contributed by band Red Soul, which has been providing some music to the game as well, including the track “Arise” which appears on this album. With a track selection picked by fans of the game, is the album worth your time?
Read our review of the album below. Continue reading Review: EMIL CHRONICLE ONLINE METAL ARRANGE CD – ECOMETA!
Ridge Racer fans should take note of a recent release from SuperSweep celebrating 20 years of the series. Ridge Racer 20th Anniversary Remix is a two-disc collection featuring arrangements from across the franchise by several Bandai Namco sound team composers, both past and present. The second disc is dedicated to lengthy club mixes, and those who purchase the album on SuperSweep’s online store will also get a bonus disc with an hour-long club mix.
Electronic music fans will be right at home among the dance, house, and dubstep offerings. The hard-hitting “Disco Ball” from the original Ridge Racer, the epic choir in “Grip” from Ridge Racer 2, the jazzy “Quiet Curves” from Ridge Racer 4, the deep house experience “Sliding Beat” from Ridge Racer (VITA), and the vocal stylings of Takenobu Mitsuyoshi on “Ridge Racer” from Ridge Racer USA provide just a few of the memorable moments on this album.
Ridge Racer 20th Anniversary Remix is available from the SuperSweep shop and CD Japan.
Super Smash Bros. titles offer a rare treat for game music fans. While gamers get pumped to do battle with their favorite Nintendo (and guest) characters, this comes with musical arrangements that pay homage to all of these characters and their respective worlds.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii broke new ground by featuring arrangements from some of the top game music composers from Japan, and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS follows suit by including many of these arrangements along with new ones from the development team at Bandai Namco Games.
There’s a lot of music to hear (and even more will be featured in the Wii U version), so let’s take a look! Continue reading Review: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
Theatrhythm is one of the most exciting things to happen to Final Fantasy or rhythm games in the past several years. It was the sort of idea that I could imagine throwing around with friends and never expecting to be made, but here it is. I loved Theatrhythm, and even dabbled in some DLC on my mobile phone, so I was again surprised and excited to see that it had done well enough to warrant a sequel of sorts.
Curtain Call brings more of the same, or rather, a whole lot more. There are some great additions to the music roster, which boasts over 210 songs, and a lot more to see and do, so check out my brief review below. Continue reading Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call and Remix Selections
I think most people will agree that Yoko Shimomura’s drammatica album was fantastic, and Square Enix has hinted at wanting to create a follow-up. When memoria! was announced, I hadn’t actually realized this was that follow-up, instead thinking it was a best of collection. However, you’ll be pleased to know that the music gets the full treatment in terms of arrangement for orchestra, piano, and live band.
It’s an eclectic mix with something for everyone. Find out what’s inside below. Continue reading Review: memória! / The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura