Square Enix has remastered Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. That means a new generation of fans get to hear Kumi Tanioka’s lovely Celtic-flavored score that enchanted fans on the GameCube. Much of the music is remastered and re-recorded by a Celtic music ensemble with some new tracks by Hidenori Iwasaki and the main theme performed in English by Donna Burke (known for her work on Metal Gear Solid).
The album opens with dreamy bells that transport you to another dimension before the upbeat and adventurous “Morning Sky” comes in with vocals by Yae (the English version featuring Donna Burke) and a bagpipe solo. There’s the charming sweetness of “Today Comes to be Tomorrow,” the jovial “The Village Where it Began,” and the guitar-laden “Caravan Crossroad” to start things off. “Setting Forth” is both ominous and adventurous all at once, “Dust in a Dream World” gets a bit of mystery, and “With Three of Us…” sounds much like a children’s song. The siren-like singing of “Oaths are Forever,” the lovely waltzy folk tune in “My Maggie, My Everything,” and the all-new reflective and somber “Until That Time Comes” are all standouts. There’s rolling percussion in the epic march, “Enemy Stronghold,” the beloved moogle theme in Celtic style in “I’m a Moogle,” searing and guttural synth bass in “Burning in my Heart,” otherworldly bells and triangles in “Mag Mell,” angelic and ethereal choir pads in “Light and Shadow” and “To the Keepers of the Crystal,” and a vocal lullaby again in both Japanese and English with the gorgeous “Moonless Starry Night” are just a taste of what this soundtrack has to offer. It’s all very well done and makes for a wonderful listening experience.
It appears to have been quite an undertaking breathing new life into this already-amazing score, but Square Enix has done it. New recordings with live players, new English-language vocal themes, new compositions, and if you pick up the first-press edition, you also get a bonus disc with the original versions of all the remastered tracks. The album is available on the Square Enix North America store for those who are interested.
Noriyasu Agematsu returns with the most excellent music from FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS. The original score was a standout and even earned Agematsu the opportunity to collaborate with Ariana Grande on the game. Vol. 2 brings two more discs of orchestral RPG goodness featuring some of his teammates at Elements Garden as well.
The album begins with the super hero theme song, “Parallel Star,” which feels like a pop song without vocals. From there, we get the tragic “Point of No Return,” the spooky “Misgivings” and the militaristic “Under His Banner.” There’s a lot of variety, but it’s all amazingly well produced. There’s the uplifting orchestral theme, “Another Tale to Tale,” the beautiful and whimsical “Wisdom of Ages,” and the traditional Japanese flavors found in “MUSASABI.” Final Fantasy fans will enjoy the melancholy take on “The Prelude” with Agematsu’s “Dawn.” The bombastic “A Cinematic Clash” and the explosive rock/orchestral theme “Banish the Darkness” with strong Final Fantasy vibes and references are also standouts. “Over the Rain Clouds” is uplifting and triumphant and “The Sky’s The Limit!” sports lightning fast guitar shredding while “Allure of the Unknown” gets a crystalline carvenous sound with hints of “The Prelude.” There are Celtic influences in “Unfettered Waltz,” mystery and intrigue in the exotic “The Order of Pi,” and playful rock organ in “Chill Out.” The sweet solo piano in “Forgiveness” takes us into the final stretch with the ominous and unsettling “Split in Two,” the dance floor stylings of “The Zenith,” and epic orchestra and choir in the very awesome “I, and I Alone” closing things out. A bonus at the comes in the way of “DUEL!! (Band Exvius Version) which is a live rock performance with violin and rock organ and is a nice touch.
Overall, Agematsu follows up his original soundtrack with more amazing music. This one is actually not available on the Square Enix North America store, but can be found on Apple Music and the two-disc CD can be imported from CD Japan.
Square Enix has held many NieR concerts over the years but one of the first was The Memories of Puppets tour in Japan, which I had the good fortunate to attend. It featured piano, guitar, a string quartet, and vocals by Emi Evans, J’Nique Nicole, and others. I’d previously enjoyed the Blu-ray recording, but this Tokyo Game Show-exclusive CD is the audio version of the concert featuring its intimate acoustic sound with electronic elements programmed in.
The CD kicks off with more slow and measured versions of “City Ruins” featuring J’Nique Nicole’s powerful vocals and “Amusement Park” featuring Emi Evans. “Memories of Dust” places emphasis on the guitar, giving it a strong Western film vibe, while guitar and piano team up with Emi Evans for “Peaceful Sleep,” the beautiful town theme with lovely string harmonies. “Vague Hope,” one of my favorite themes from NieR: Automata, is a piano and guitar duo with Emi’s original vocals, and is a high point on the album. “Song of the Ancients – Atonement” is a duo between Emi and J’Nique that featured lots of programmed elements in the way of drums whereas “Pascal” included a child singer and had the audience clapping along with the cheerful tune and fancy guitar work. “The Sound of the End” gets a minimalistic arrangement that is almost soothing, while “Alien Manifestation” features J’Nique Nicole, who was not the original singer, making for a nice alternate take on the theme. The string quartet shines on it own in “Mourning” while a solo piano before a foray into the original NieR Gestalt/Replicant territory stirring performances of both “Kaine” and “Ashes of Dreams.” The album closes with “Weight of the World / The End of YoRHa,” a full arrangement with programmed synths and Emi starting off before the entire audience joins in. Everyone in the room was crying by the end of it, but fortunately the audience’s wails didn’t make it onto the album.
Having attended the show and loved the Blu-ray recording, I always wanted a CD recording. Unfortunately it was an event exclusive, but the Square Enix North America store has the Blu-ray for sale and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Look for the glint of glasses on the top balcony when it shows the audience and you might just see me!
Square Enix continues its most excellent jazz album series with a volume dedicated to Final Fantasy VII, which came just in time for the remake. It’s a classy way to relive many of the original’s most memorable melodies. The album starts with an uplifting “Opening” before a swanky and… explosive “Bombing Mission” kicks in with guitar and sax and plenty of solos. “Shinra Inc.” gets cool piano chords and bass, gritty distorted guitars, and a flurry of flute solos, while the sweet and smooth “Aerith” gets some contemplative sax across a poppy arrangement. There’s the swaying “On Our Way,” the bouncy “The Chase” with its dance-y piano work, and big brass and organ in the playful “Cait Sith.” Fan-favorite “Fight On” is piano heavy with funky bass, side sticks, and big brass, and obligatory guitar solo, while “Tifa’s Theme” is appropriately whimsical and floaty with beautiful interplay between saxophone and trumpet. The “JENOVA” arrangement is a bit of a surprise with its sweet piano work, “Cosmo Canyon” sports wailing electric guitar and gets its funk on with some unexpected excursions, and “One-Winged Angel” gets a faithful-yet-fun version with walking bass and extensive brass work. The final track, “Main Theme of FINFAL FANTASY VII” offers a smooth and warm ending to an excellent album, complete with many parting solos.
In addition to the excellent arrangements, the album comes housed in a thick cardboard jacket that opens just like a vinyl, and the CD is event printed to look like a vinyl. The booklet is thick with commentary in both English and Japanese explaining the arrangers’ takes and discussions about jazz, which is a real treat. I actually owned this album digitally before reviewing the physical edition, but I must say the physical edition has a lot to offer. While the Square Enix North America store doesn’t offer this particular version of the album, they do have the live recording released in September, and I recommend checking it out. If you want the original release that I’ve described, you can import it on CD Japan.
Square Enix released an interesting album on vinyl dedicated to Final Fantasy III with the subtitle Four Souls. It features four new arrangements from the game and their original sound version counterparts on an A and B side, respectively, exclusively on vinyl. Fortunately the vinyl comes with an MP3 download as well. The four tracks include a lovely acoustic pop version of the overworld theme, “Eternal Wind,” with harmonica, xylophone, and acoustic guitar, a beautiful solo harp arrangement of “Elia, The Maiden of Water,” a spunky acoustic take on “Battle 2” which is really well done, and a grandiose piano arrangement of “The Crystal Tower.” It’s a nice collection of remixes of four key themes from the game. Find an unboxing video below after the jump.
If you want to pick up Final Fantasy III -Four Souls-, Square Enix offers it for $39.99 on the North America store.
Continue reading Review: Final Fantasy III -Four Souls-
You’re probably like me and don’t know a whole lot about the JRPG series Heracles no Eikou (Glory of Heracles). That’s because the games never left Japan. However, when our colleagues at SuperSweep, in their undying quest to release classic game music to the masses, announced this six-CD set, we definitely wanted to check it out. The box set includes the soundtracks to all four numbered games in the series (the first two on Famicom and the second two on Super Famicom), a Game Boy spin-off, a disc featuring a remastered arrange album and unused music, and a disc of all-new arrangements created just for this set.
Having zero expectations, I found myself impressed with the catchiness of many of the melodies and was particularly drawn to the Glory of Heracles II and IV soundtracks as they have a strong classical flavor not too unlike Dragon Quest, which is fitting given that many note that Glory of Heracles seems heavily inspired by Dragon Quest. How often is it that you get to hear an authentic Famicom or Super Famicom RPG soundtrack for the first time these days? Be on the lookout for “Mountain of the Spiraling Wind” and “The Wings of Pegasus,” among many others. The arrangements, performed by the Data East house band, GAMADELIC include jazz fusion and vocal arrangements. They’re expertly done and left me wanting even more! The included booklet (in Japanese) also has composer breakdowns and commentary from the music and game development team, which is a nice touch.
Pick up the album on CD Japan if you’re interested in giving it a spin.
We recently had the pleasure of attending a stop of the A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY show and were impressed with the… intimate setting and very clever arrangements. Most of the games in the series get a moment in the spotlight, and Eric Roth, son of Arnie Roth, who many have come to know over the years, is a fantastic host, injecting plenty of humor into the evening. This past year saw the release of a second volume of music, and as such, we thought it would be a good time to give it a spin and share our thoughts.
The album begins with strings and woodwinds in a short arrangement of “A Place to Call Home” from Final Fantasy IX, perfect with its strong folk and fantasy vibes. Then next piece, “Chaos Shrine” from the original Final Fantasy, is a stunning take on the decisive dungeon piece with a slow build incorporating the entire ensemble that climaxes into a sweeping and beautiful take on the piece. Then it’s on to the wind-swept “Sarutabaruta” from Final Fantasy XI with swaying woodwinds and guitar, the playful and upbeat “Golden Saucer” from Final Fantasy VII with a solo piano arrangement, and a flamboyant “Lestallum” from Final Fantasy XV with lots of guitar and a strong carnival-like atmosphere. “Home, Sweet Home” from Final Fantasy V gets a determined and forceful performance, while two surprising pieces, the mysterious and tense “Tower of Magi” from Final Fantasy III and the mesmerizing “Danger in the Forest” from Final Fantasy IX come next. There’s more solo piano with “Final Battle” from Final Fantasy X, a sweeping medley of Final Fantasy XII themes titled “Ivalice Landscape” (one of the highlights at over eight minutes in length), and a solo guitar version of “Elia, Maiden of Water” from Final Fantasy III. There’s bossa nova with “The Yaschas Massif” from Final Fantasy XIII, the decisively swaying ballad, “Crimson Sunrise” from Final Fantasy XIV (an audience favorite at the concert), and a Celtic-tinged “Selbina” from Final Fantasy XI. The album closes out with the epic and desperate “Heroes” from Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward and the soothing “Save Haven” from Final Fantasy XV which is even more warm with the full ensemble.
In all, we highly recommend giving the second volume a whirl and checking out a show near you if you’re lucky enough to catch it. You won’t be disappointed!
Basiscape is finally wrapping up their eight-disc CARAVAN STORIES soundtrack series. While many of the earlier volumes focused on specific regions and races of the world, Volume 8 concludes with music from the game’s story. As such, this volume offers a more eclectic mix of music compared to past volumes, but that doesn’t mean the series doesn’t go out with a bang.
It begins with the bombastic and spooky-yet-comical “Assault on Enigma” before launching into the mechanical and piston driven percussion of “Demon Transformation,” the whimsical strings and woodwinds of “Claw Knights,” and the seriously spooky “Guriam Borderland.” It’s then on to the alternating determined and chill “Philosopher’s Tower,” the desolate “Ancient Fortress” featuring sitar, and the playful “Slapstick Castanet” with accordion, marimba, and bassoon. There’s the dancey “Jillian’s on Stage,” the rapid-fire Celtic strings and brass stabs of “Duel,” and the regal and sinister “House of the Lord.” “Crescent Hot Spring Town” is contemplative and features swaying strings and toy percussion, “Rallying Man” is energetic and adventurous with a signature Sakimoto aesthetic, and “Trumbull Dominion” is slow and brooding and includes tinges of jazz. The closer, “The Snow Girl and the Three Santas,” sports a huge big band with brass, tambourine, bells, and an appropriately celebratory mood.
The final album in the series can be purchased physically on CD Japan and digitally on iTunes. Feel free to catch up on the rest of the albums in the series here.
We’re nearing the end with Basiscape’s massive CARAVAN STORIES soundtracks. This Japanese mobile/PC RPG’s soundtrack spans eight volumes, each dedicated to a different race from the game. Volume 7 is focused on the lizardmen, and is appropriately bleak and ominous. Composition duties are largely split between Basiscape’s Kazuki Higashihara and Yoshimi Kudo.
The album opens with the exotic and ominous percussion and tense strings of “Hugo’s Cauldron” before jumping into the pumping bass, epic bell tolls, and intense strings and woodwinds of “Bunwaii Desert” and it’s night variant with folksy guitar. The battle-like “Burning Blade” with its explosive percussion and ascending string stabs might remind you of Final Fantasy Tactics, while the electronic percussion, grandiose strings, bagpipes, and sense of tragedy in “Lloyd-Hann” is also a highlight. There’s the robot-like “Kinsfolk Fractured Zone,” marimba and bass synth in the comical yet frantic “Voracity of Chaos,” gurgling synths and pounding percussion in “Tyrant of Chaos,” intensely catchy synth lines in “Power Struggle -Inferiority-,” and an industrial sound with a wonderful chorus in “Battle with Head of Warrior.” Rounding out the album are the militaristic march, “Hero’s Trial,” a spooky waltz with a male operatic lead incorporating the main theme in “Caravan Trip -Festival of the Dead,” a broodier male vocal track with an auto-tuned backup choir in “Mansion from the Depths,” and a surprisingly serene and otherworldly version of the main theme titled “Caravan Trip -New Year-.”
There’s one volume remaining in the CARAVAN STORIES series. Watch out for that soon. In the meantime, Volume 7 can be purchased on CD Japan. It’s also available digitally on iTunes. Information on past volumes can be found here.
Basiscape is back with Volume 6 of their epic mobile RPG soundtrack to CARAVAN STORIES, with this volume dedicated to the oceanic Gessy folk. Expect beautiful waterscapes and a touch of the exotic. It all begins with angelic pads, woodwinds, and marimba in a serene opener before moving on to everything from dancing marimba and playful energy in “Temple of Pakama” and chaotic dancing accordion in “Laurara’s Dance” to watery crystalline bells and glassy pads in “Narupopo Fruit Garden -Nightscape-” and bubbly and uplifting in “Chaktek Great Rift Valley.”
The highlight of the album is easily the vocal theme, “Coraggioso! Coraggiosamente!,” a male operatic piece that is energetic and a lot of fun, giving “Maria and Draco” a run for its money. The album continues with the familiar “Iyarr’s Narrator” which is warm and full of mystery, a touch of the series main theme with whistling, twangy guitars, and bagpipes in “Caravan Trip -South-,” dangerous didgeridoo and exotic woodwinds in “A Wild Kid in a Great Island,” and intense ninja-flavored action with chugging shamisen and explosive percussion in “Sword Fight.”
CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol. 6 is another great addition to the series which will wrap up after Volume 8. Grab it on CD Japan if you want the physical edition or on iTunes from mostly anywhere.