As many fans of the Final Fantasy series are aware, much of the music of the main series that most people have fallen in love with has been composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Since his departure, a couple of composers have tried to fill the void left in his wake. Final Fantasy XII, the creation of Matsuno, was composed by Matsuno's go-to composer for his games, Hitoshi Sakimoto. With the help of Hayato Matsuo and Masaharu Iwata, Sakimoto was successful in creating a soundtrack that went well with the various environs of the expanded world of Ivalice. Interestingly enough, it's also my favorite Sakimoto score. The next in the main series, Final Fantasy XIII, was helmed by lead composer Masashi Hamauzu, with some arrangement help by Junya Nakano, Mitsuto Suzuki, and Ryo Yamazaki. Hamauzu, also someone with whom I am not particularly enamored when it comes to game music, attempts to make the music of Final Fantasy his own. Does he succeed in winning me over, like Sakimoto before him? There's only one way to find out...
The album opens in a cinematic manner with "Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII". It slowly builds up in an ethereal yet militaristic manner, as the opening cinematic contrasts the beautiful colours of the world Pulse with the incoming flying machinery. Though initially subtle, the composition soon unveils a fantastical primary theme of the game at the 1:30, before returning to ambience. Hamauzu subsequently offers a more impacting theme with "Defiers of Fate", previously featured in the trailers for the game. A combination of electronic, rock, and orchestral elements, it's the product of a collaboration between Mitsuto Suzuki, Ryo Yamazaki, and, of course, Hamauzu. It actually opens and ends with electronic elements, yet the meat of the theme is orchestral in nature with some gritty bass backing. The orchestral theme carries the motif of the main theme, "The Promise," that is reprised throughout the soundtrack. Though a marvelous creation, I'm quite sad that the extended mix — featured extensively in the game — did not feature on the official soundtrack.
Although the main theme is featured as a motif in much of the cinematic and area theme music, there are four distinctive pieces in which it is featured. The first, "Final Fantasy XIII ~ The Promise," was featured on the website. It's a wandering piano, woodwind, and violin performance that shows the delicate and beautiful soundscapes that Hamauzu is able to create. "Final Fantasy XIII ~ Miracles" is a slightly more orchestrated and elaborated version of the theme, yet it is also filled with sadness and hope. "Fabula Nova Crystallis" is an even more densely orchestrated version of "Final Fantasy XIII ~ The Promise" that stunningly showcases the melody with a gorgeous web of instruments. The most impressive version, however, is found in "Ending Credits", providing the thematic culmination of the soundtrack. While Hamauzu doesn't offer many new elements to the melody itself during the direction of the soundtrack, each time the theme "restarts" it becomes more grandiose in nature. The effect is absolutely exquisite and truly realizes the full potential of the main theme of the game, both in and out of context.
Compared with other Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XIII is quite cinematic overall. There are a number of striking orchestral cues, including some performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, as well a range of more subtle entries. "Ragnarok", for instance, is a chorale that is both haunting and angelic in nature. Despite being simplistic in construction, the harmonies between the various choral parts are expertly executed and beautifully synchronised in context. "Promised Eternity", meanwhile, provides my much-desired dose of piano and string interplay. These instruments often appeal to me and, thanks to the exquisite arrangement, their use is especially poignant here. I can't get enough of it really. Also of note, "Setting You Free" provides an ambient accompaniment to a key scene in the game. The bell tolls help give an ominous nature to the composition and combine well with the more industrial and electronic elements elsewhere. Like the opener, it's one that takes time to build and can be a bit off putting at first, but as it progresses, it definitely redeems itself.
As already indicated, Final Fantasy XIII has a very colourful and warm soundtrack, and this is particularly reflected by the themes for the locales. While there aren't any towns in this game, amazingly enough, there are quite a few area themes. "The Vestige" showcases Hamauzu's strengths at composing exquisite area themes and is immediately reminiscent of "Besaid Island" from Final Fantasy X. The combination of ethereal vocals, beautiful piano wanderings, and tranquil electronic accompaniment ensures a simply magical soundscape. I thought "Besaid Island" was good, but nothing great, yet this one really impressed me. "Lake Bresha" inspires imagery of a frozen lake, thanks to a combination of Masashi Hamauzu's icy soundscaping and Keiji Kawamori's expert synthesis, while "The Gapra Whitewood" creates an ethereal and exotic glow in the forest with its unusual blend of vocal, organic, and electronic elements. There is just something absolutely stunning about both of these compositions.
Interestingly, the main theme for the game is also reprised in several of the area themes. The theme for the major area of Pulse, "The Archylte Steppe," is one of the most lavishly constructed tracks from the soundtrack. Appropriately, it maintains the use of rich orchestrations and uplifting electronica featured elsewhere in te soundtrack. However, it differentiates itself with a focus on Celtic woodwinds that seem to capture the image of grasslands. In the end, this is one of those amazing themes that I was absolutely stunned upon first listen. "Sulyya Springs" creates a calming waterscape with its fluid combination of strings, piano, vocals, and electronics. While a compositional delight, it's perhaps an even more stunning achievement in streaming technology. But perhaps most shocking of all is "The Sunleth Waterscape," which complements more watery sounds with an awesome dance beat and some vocals. It's an extremely fun piece and one that I was in love with from the moment I first heard it.
There are also a number of character themes throughout the soundtrack. "Lightning's Theme" reflects the delicate inner feelings of the female protagonist, principally through harmonising piano and strings, and contrasts with her hardass exterior. As the theme progresses, it gets more peppy, as if to demonstrate a potential playful side of the character. Hamauzu returns back to basics on "Vanille's Theme" with a standard 'melody plus chordal accompaniment' piano solo. As anyone who has listened to his piano arrangements will know, however, Hamauzu is capable of capturing listeners even in his most simple works with his affecting chord changes and emotional performances. When it comes to "Snow's Theme", though, the only word that comes to mind is "Wow." To put it bluntly, I never expected Hamauzu to be capable of rock music, at least independently of Yamazaki. Though melodically sparse, the distorted features and grisly harmonies really give this one an edge. Hamauzu really blew me away with his foray into the rock genre. It's a shame it's the only particularly rock-focused track on the soundtrack.
"Fang's Theme" is easily my favorite character theme in the game thanks to its intricate orchestration. While there is definitely some militaristic influences in the piece, I find the piano to really steal the show. It adds this nice delicacy to the overall heroic aspect of the theme. In the end, I could listen to this one all day. "Hope's Theme" meanwhile is an acoustic guitar theme that demonstrates the sadness going on inside of Hope due to events near the beginning of the game. It's such a beautiful and touching theme with a very memorable melody. "Cavalry Theme" serves as the theme for Cid, one of the members of the Holy Government, and is appropriately written in the style of a march. Finally, the villainous "Primarch Dysley" is a very dark and atmospheric piece thanks to its dark soundscaping. Yet compared to past villain themes in the series, this one lacks in terms of memorability and individuality. It's not bad, just nothing special.
It's also interesting how the character themes take a central thematic role in the soundtrack. For instance, "Sustained by Hate" is a chamber arrangement of "Hope's Theme" that really accentuates her inner turmoil, while "Memories of Happier Days" offers a nostalgic and bittersweet interpretation of the once-bouncy "Vanille's Theme". A further surprise is the transformation of "Snow's Theme" into the resistance theme "The Warpath Home". Even more interestingly, "The Promise" is reprised in "Serah's Theme" as a vocal arrangement. Though brief, Frances Maya's vocals bring so much to the theme and the instrumentals at 0:31 and 1:06 offer defining moments in the entire soundtrack. Perhaps the most substantial reprises, however, are of "Lightning's Theme" in "Blinded by Light". Arranged by Ryo Yamazaki, this track actually serves as the normal battle theme of the game and is far-from-delicate. It's a powerful and energetic theme dominated by thrashing guitars and dense percussion work. However, Hijiri Kuwano's solo violin performance still ensures an underlying beauty still radiates through the action. It's a shame it's so short before the loop, but considering how quick the battles can be, I can see why the decision to keep the final version rather short.
The other battle themes are also major highlights here. The normal boss music "Saber's Edge" is classic Hamauzu through-and-through. It has a very heroic nature to it thanks to the bright nationalistic orchestration. However, the dissonant descending piano clusters and edgy militaristic percussion rhythms continue to give the theme a sense of underlying danger. The ominous section prior to the loop is also expertly implemented. "Eidolons" meanwhile is the battle theme playing during the encounters with summons. The percussion in the theme is extremely powerful and, when combined with the electrorock elements of the bass line, serves to accentuate the urgency of the battle; this is especially effective in context, given there is a time limit — and not a particularly forgiving one — in these battles. Although it's not melodically focused, this theme really manages to capture the dire situation the characters are faced with. Among the other noteworthy action themes include "Feast of Betrayal", with its perplexing contrasts of playful, heroic, and tense elements, as well as "Test of the L'Cie" with its impressive layering, subtle vocal samples, and various electronic elements.
Interestingly, Junya Nakano also returns as an arranger of two of the most tense tracks on the soundtrack. The first, "Tension in the Air," is an ambient theme that features a blend of industrial and tribal percussion elements. As the name implies the theme is quite tense in nature, mainly due to the sustained strings that are quite reminiscent of Final Fantasy X's "Ominous". However, what makes it so special compared to his formulaic tension themes is the slow evolution of the timbres. I find it a bit hard to listen to on a standalone basis, but I'm sure it is quite effective in-game. The second arrangement, "Desperate Struggle," is one of the boss battle themes in the game. It is again very reminiscent to Final Fantasy X in style, particularly "Enemy Attack". The furious strings work, combined with the ambient atmosphere that is created by brass and strings accents, gives it a very frenetic pace. The percussion elements in this battle theme are quite powerful as well, when they are featured, and just accentuates the dissonant chords above. The "Battle Results" and "Game Over" tracks are rather short compositions, as per Final Fantasy tradition. However, Mitsuto Suzuki still does them justice with his electro-acoustic soundscaping, contrasting heroism with tragedy.
Those growing up with Final Fantasy know that you can't have Final Fantasy without chocobos. Sadly, the Chocobo theme is the only Uematsu crafted Final Fantasy theme to make it into the game. That's right. There's no arrangement of the Prelude, original victory theme, or the Final Fantasy main theme is found on the soundtrack. It's a real shame, given Sakimoto arranged some of these themes for Final Fantasy XII, though at least enables Hamauzu to assert his identity. The first, "Chocobos of Cocoon ~ Chasing Dreams," is actually arranged by Ryo Yamazaki. Unfortunately, I'm not the biggest fan of this one; it fits very well with the technologically advanced Cocoon and does feature some interesting electronic elements, though the autotuned vocals added on the second loop provide a novel yet disruptive feature. The second theme, "Chocobos of Pulse," was handled by Masashi Hamauzu and it is much more to my liking — in fact, it's the best version of the Chocobo theme to date, in my opinion. It's a jazz fusion piece that manages to both fit the organic nature of Pulse quite well yet be a bundle of fun too. I had the chance to show this to Nobuo Uematsu-san while I was in Chicago for Distant Worlds and he approved of the arrangement. Did I mention there is an awesome percussion solo near the end? Yeah, there is and it is excellent.
There are a few other welcome dashes of jazz elsewhere on the soundtrack. "Sazh's Theme" is another awesome jazz theme that one again brings a playful element to this soundtrack. It's probably representative of Sazh's character and, given he has a baby Chocobo in his hair, I see this fitting him even more, given the tie-in with "Pulse de Chocobo". This one no doubt also inspired the particularly funky "Can't Catch a Break". The percussion is top notch, the acoustic guitar gives some great personality, and the piano work is absolutely to die for. This is one of those themes that is great to listen to in order to get cheered up. I hear it's a bit mismatched for the scene in which it plays, but I can't confirm at this time. Another fantastic and surprising theme for me was "The Yaschas Massif." If I was given a blind listening test and was told to guess the composer, the first person in my mind would have been Norihiko Hibino given its bossa-nova rhythms and flute focus. It's an awesome theme with a bit of a bossa-nova flair to it. Fantastic job Hamauzu-san!
Despite the refreshing feel of the overall soundtrack, Final Fantasy XIII features a fair share of darker areas too. "The Pompa Sancta" reverts back to the orchestral focus of the soundtrack. It's also quite militaristic in nature and even gives a Star Wars vibe at times. However, it's a very menacing piece overall, given this serves as the dungeon theme leading up to a crucial battle. Another Hamauzu-Suzuki collaboration, "The Vile Peaks" sounds even more malevolent. The bass line is quite foreboding and there is some spoken word excerpts during the introduction. The strings work really helps create a fantastic mood for the entire piece and also combines well with the more electronic aspects of the theme and the woodwind sections. The use of ominous choir also adds to the overall atmosphere of the theme. Though not a major highlight, "Taejin's Tower" is rather interesting as well with its use of subtle vocal excerpts and springy sound effects. A little odd, but it still adds to the diversity of the soundtrack.
Moving to the climax of the score, "Dust to Dust" is actually my favorite area theme. Between Hamauzu's conventional orchestration, Mitsuto Suzuki offers an exquisite mix of atmospheric Kajiuran-style vocals and ethnic percussion samples. While the timbres are beautiful, what makes this one particularly meaningful is the way it reprises "Fang's Theme". "Start Your Engines" gets the emotions rousing in preparation for the climactic battles. It seems to bring the action component of the soundtrack round full circle with it blend of epic orchestration and electro-rock accompaniment. A sense of urgency is created through the use of the frenetic strings, but there is a transient sense of heroism at times when the melody kicks in. The final dungeon theme, "The Cradle Will Fall", is quite experimental. It opens rather bizarrely with disjointed electronic sounds and no melody at all. As it progresses, some electronic melody fragments are introduced and a gothic element is created by the dabs of chorus use. Once it gets going, the melody is absolutely gorgeous and the creepy organ climax is also remarkable. This great theme certainly emphasises both the organic and technological aspects of the world of Final Fantasy XIII.
The final battle suite consists of three themes. The first theme, "Fighting Fate," first plays during a crucial battle earlier in the game and is dominated by choral work. The piece is quite epic, relying on strong percussion and brass to demonstrate a feeling of utter hopelessness. As expected given Hamauzu's expertise in the area, the chorus is very powerful and really accentuates the feeling of despair. The second theme, "Born Anew," continues the epic nature of the final battle suite and is even more impacting than "Fighting Fate." This time, powerful percussion and strings provide the focus instead of chorus, but the valiant orchestration and performance ensures this is in no way underwhelming. The theme even ends with a solo male operatic passage that just screams "despair." It's a shame the voice is not featured more in the theme, though.
That brings us to the final battle theme, "Nascent Requiem." When it comes to Final Fantasy and Hamauzu's final battle themes, I am usually torn. For example, I find "Decisive Battle" from Final Fantasy X to be quite an exquisite composition, but I really didn't find it fitting as a final battle theme. "Chaotic End," from Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, was a bit better, but I didn't find it fitting for the final battle theme either. So, Hamauzu's track record when it comes to final battle themes isn't exactly thrilling in my eyes despite the undeniable musical creativity lying behind the compositions. So, what is this final battle theme like? Well, for one, it's like an evolved "Decisive Battle." The various elements, such as the chaotic piano, fluttering woodwind passages, tstrong brass accents, gliding strings, and, of course, pounding percussion really combine well. The development is also comprehensive and, near the end of the theme, there is a very calming and beautiful interlude that serves to ease the tension a bit before it loops. My final verdict: I think he finally nailed it!
Moving to the conclusion of the soundtrack, listeners are given a succession of superb orchestral performances to wrap up the soundtrack. The aforementioned reprises of the main theme in "Fabula Nova Crystallis" and "Ending Credits" are definitive highlights. It's also wonderful how the fantastical theme exposed in "Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII" is recapitulated in the relieving fantasy-inspired orchestration "Final Fantasy - Miracles", alongside the main theme for the game. Although "Ending Credits" is more definitive overall, dare I suggest that "Miracles" is the finest orchestral performance on the entire soundtrack? Unfortunately, the pop vocal ballad "Kimi ga Irukara" is not particularly special. Sayuri Suguwara's vocals are quite mature for an unknown and the melody is also quite richly shaped; however, it's still not as memorable as the offerings of Nobuo Uematsu on previous Final Fantasy soundtrack. Furthermore, the arrangement the arrangement is clearly more the work of pop producer Sin than Masashi Hamauzu, even if there are a few highlight violin solos. A decent track, but the unlicensed vocal tracks used in the area themes are far better.
As I stated before, I wasn't the biggest fan of Hamauzu in general before listening to this soundtrack. By the end of this soundtrack, however, Hamauzu has managed to win me over and make me a major fan of at least one of his scores. There are plenty of extremely exquisite themes here, particularly among the area and character tracks, both electro-acoustic and orchestral. Hamauzu dabbles in styles that I was shocked to hear, such as rock, jazz, and dance music, while also relying on his existing strengths as a classical musician and choral singer. His collaborations with electronica star Mitsuto Suzuki and ambient soundscaper Junya Nakano just add to the diversity. Since Hamauzu left Square Enix, it's hard to say where he will turn up next, but if he can keep up this caliber, he may just convert me into a full-fledged fan. This is Hamauzu's magnum opus and will serve as a great portfolio for his future as a freelance composer. I highly recommend everyone purchases this soundtrack. It shouldn't disappoint!
It's been almost four years since Final Fantasy XIII was announced at E3 '06. And you know what? I still haven't played the game yet. The wait is painful. But fortunately, I'm at least able to enjoy the aspect of the game where I was most looking forward to: the original soundtrack, composed by ex-Square-Enix employee Masashi Hamauzu. I have always been a big fan of him since I discovered his work on Final Fantasy X and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, but since the former was also composed by series' veteran Nobuo Uematsu and the latter was merely an unsuccesful spin-off, he has never really stood in the spotlight. Thankfully, Final Fantasy XIII is his well-deserved chance to do that after all.
The game's production values are extremely high and, in fact, are the highest of any Square-Enix game I can think of. And you know that's good for Hamauzu. Almost all orchestral tracks have some kind of live performance in them; sometimes they're solo, but there are even orchestral sections recorded. But there's more than that: vocals, jazz bands and, on top of that, Square Enix arranged recordings with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir for about nine tracks. How could it ever go wrong? Well, without proper composition. Fortunately, I can say that Hamauzu has delivered.
I'll just start from the beginning. The soundtrack's first two tracks already introduces us to the most important themes of the game: "Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII" and "FINAL FANTASY XIII - The Promise." The former starts with mysterious, impressionistic chords on the piano and a synth pad. It keeps repeating the same thing all over again, but around 0:40 snare drums, brass and strings are added from where it builds up to a climax. What follows is simply one of the greatest melodies Hamauzu has written. The live strings add extra emotion and beauty to the track, and I was absolutely blown away when I first heard it. It may not have the same impact as Uematsu's "Liberi Fatali" or Sakimoto's "Opening Movie", but it opens the soundtrack with a bang. The second opening theme, "Defiers of Fate" is a powerful mix of electronic and orchestral elements, arranged by Ryo Yamazaki and Mitsuto Suzuki. It is an arrangement of "Lightning's Theme", one of the most important themes in the game. Sadly, the extended mix by Mitsuto Suzuki isn't featured on this soundtrack.
As I said, "FINAL FANTASY XIII - The Promise" is also one of the recurring themes in the game and also one which most of you already know. After all, it has been playing on the official site since 2008. It features a beautiful, memorable melody by the piano, harp and strings. And as any Hamauzu fan knows, he likes to reuse his melodies quite a bit. So he does in Final Fantasy XIII. But unlike SaGa Frontier II, he actually does something with it. "In the Sky of that Night" is a playful arrangement with piccolo, glockenspiel and piano. While it's rather short, it's certainly enjoyable. At first, I was quite shocked by "The Sunleth Waterscape", a dance/J-Pop arrangement, since it features English vocals. However, I found it eventually a welcome inclusion to the diverse palette of the soundtrack. Given that Hamauzu doesn't have the greatest track record of writing vocal themes, I was pleasantly surprised that there are a lot of vocal tracks, aside from the regular theme songs (which I'll discuss later).
As you may have noticed, none of the introduction tracks feature the classic "Prelude". Neither does the soundtrack feature the victory fanfare or the Final Fantasy main theme. The reason behind this remains unknown for now, although I could understand that Hamauzu wanted to shine without being attached to Uematsu's legacy. But come one, he should have at least made sure he had proper replacements for these tracks! "Glory's Fanfare" is a rather uninspired five second violin jingle, but fortunately it's short, so I can live with it. "Battle Results", the track that immediately follows, is a nice piece with piano, Mitsuto Suzuki's electronica and vocals. However, "Game Over" is mere a collection of... well, ambient noise. There's very little "music" in there, and it's even arranged by Suzuki, so I don't get what Hamauzu's involvement in this track actually is. He could've used the classic "Prelude" instead, and I'm slightly disappointed he didn't.
Does that mean that Final Fantasy XIII doesn't feature any melodies of Nobuo Uematsu at all? Well, certainly not. Hamauzu delivered two Chocobo themes, and one of them, "Chocobos of Pulse", is probably my favourite in the series so far. It's a long jazzy arrangement, with lots of brass, piano, acoustic guitar,and a kick-ass drum solo. I'm especially impressed how he completely transformed everything while still maintaining that classic melody. "Chocobos of Cocoon" is a heavy techno arrangement with vocoder, and honestly, it's almost scary, just like Takeharu Ishimoto's work on The World Ends With You. However, it becomes catchier every time I listen to it...
Battle themes have always been the strength of the Final Fantasy series and XIII is no exception. "Blinded by Light" is for me, to put it simple, the greatest normal battle theme in the series so far, and even one of the finest normal battle themes ever created. The theme has been playing in trailers since the game was announced, but I'm still not tired of it. The catchy string motif, the guitar riffs, the French horns, and especially the (almost legendaric) violin solo is just to die for. The boss theme, "Saber's Edge" is equally brilliant. It's very militaristic in nature, but the piece develops greatly and there's even place for some semi-virtuoso piano work.
Another boss theme is featured in "Eidolons". It's a little repetitive, but the combination of orchestra, drums and electric guitar works well here. "Test of the l'Cie" meanwhile is a great techno battle theme. It doesn't really have any melody, but it's certainly adrenaline-pumping. "No Way to Live" is also rather interesting. It features a heavy guitar-riff, a melody on the French horns (which is actually "Snow's Theme") and accompanying brass and strings. Certainly something that Hamauzu hasn't done before, although I'm a bit disappointed that it doesn't develop more. In a way, it reminds me of Keiki Kobayashi's work on the Ace Combat series.
Area themes are also a big part of Final Fantasy XIII's soundtrack. "The Vestige" and "The Gapra Whitewood" are both very ambiental, but have a delicate soundscape. I could listen to ithem all day. "The Hanged Edge", one of the earlier tracks that was revealed to the public, features piano chords, electronica, and a great string melody. A highlight of the track, there's even an awesome violin solo by Hijiri Kuwano. We also have another great arrangement of the "The Promise", "The Archylte Steppe". Hamauzu completely changes the melody, played by a flute, and the combination with strings and electronica works wonderfully. There are also some more unusual area themes. "The Yaschas Massif" was a big surprise; it has a bit of a bossa-nova feel, and it reminded me of Sims music for some reason. "Sulyya Springs" meanwhile is a beautiful ambient track with vocals, and beautiful cello and flute accompaniments. ,/p>
As you may have noticed, none of the themes I mentioned are town themes. That's right, the game actually doesn't have any towns. Well, one, kind of. "Nautilus" has the honour of being the only town-like theme in the game, and it's absolutely stunning. Fully performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the track has a great melody and many characterics, from the majestic and grand introduction to the impressionistic piano and strings part at the end. Overall, I can say I'm very impressed with the area themes. Very well done, Hamauzu! My favourite area theme has to be "Dust to Dust", though. It's a vocal theme, sung by his wife, Matsue Hamauzu. Her operatic voice is absolutely beautiful, and when combined with Mitsuto Suzuki's electronica, the result is divine. It certainly has the same power and emotion that "Someday the dream will end" from Final Fantasy X has.
Character themes have always been an integral part of the Final Fantasy series, and XIII has some of the best. "Lightning's Theme" is right up there with "The Promise" as most important theme in the game. While it's featured in the battle theme, opening movie, and many more cinematics, the original theme is a wonderful calm piece with piano and strings, reminiscent of Hamauzu's solo album "Vielen Dank". "Snow's theme" is the complete opposite: it's Hamauzu debut as a rock composer, but the result is fantastic. It took me a while to appreciate the track, but now I really like it. The theme is also featured in many more tracks, such as the militaristic "The Warpath Home" and the emotional "Atonement". "Vanille's theme" is a rather simple piano theme with a melody in the right hand and repeating chords in the left hand. It's nice, but there's a much better arrangement on disc four, "Memories of Happier Days". This nostalgic arrangement starts the same, but strings and acoustic guitar are added to create a truly beautiful piece. "Hope's Theme" is a nice acoustic guitar piece with a memorable melody, just like "Theme for Vent" from Unlimited: SaGa.
Just like "Snow's Theme", the three character themes I've left were big surprises for me. The character Serah doesn't actually get her own theme, since it's actually an arrangement of "The Promise". In fact, it's just exactly the same, except that the melody is sung by Frances Maya, and it has English text. It sounds just as beautiful as the original, but I'm still wondering why Hamauzu did this. Clearly, she must be an important character. "Sazh's Theme" is awesome. It's a jazzy track with a great melody and great instrumentation and performance. A track in the same vein as "Sazh's Theme", while not being a character theme, is "Can't Catch a Break". It doesn't have as much melody, but instead it focuses on a motif that develops greatly troughout the piece (which has a duration of more than five minutes). It's certainly catchy too, and also one of these new things that Hamauzu tried out with this soundtrack.
The last character track, "Fang's Theme", is probably the best of them all. It's the only character theme that is played by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. While being quite militaristic, it's still quite playful. I was impressed by the piano work and the heroic melody of the French horns. I have my doubts whether this fits with the actual character, but it's one heck of an awesome theme, that's for sure. A slower, synthesized version can be found on the end of disc 2, "The Pulse l'Cie". But that isn't all. There's still one left: the theme for Primarch Dysley, the main villain of the game. It's very much like other villain themes in the series: a brooding, mysterious and memorable melody, but it can be slightly boring out of context. The orchestration and variety of the track is nice though.
Of course, I can't mention all tracks of a four-disc album, but I'd still like to mention some pieces that I can't place in a certain catagory. "A Brief Respite" and "March of the Dreadnoughts" are again favorites of mine. They're both very playful, a style that Hamauzu is good at; especially "March of the Dreadnoughts", which just makes me happy everytime I listen to it. "Feast of Betrayal" sounds like it's a hurry theme. As many of you know, Nobuo Uematsu's hurry themes of previous installments were often mediocre. Fortunately, Hamauzu nailed it. While it sounds dangerous for the most part, there are even some humoristic parts with the snare drum, piccolo, and trombone glissandi. Finally, "Daddy's Got the Blues" is truly an unique track for Hamauzu, it's his first blues composition! I very much enjoyed it and the harmonica and guitar player did a great job.
There are a lot of cinematic tracks on this soundtrack, since the game is quite story-heavy. "Forever Fugitives", "To Hunt l'Cie", and "The Pompa Sancta" all reminded me of the E3 '08 trailer, since the music in that trailer is mainly borrowed from these tracks. All are very colourful and memorable tracks, surprisingly enough. "Escape" and "Crash Landing" are quite something different, although not necessarily worse at all. Both were recorded in Warsaw, and for some reason, Hamauzu does so much more with the orchestra than with the domestic recordings. The harmonies are also much more interesting, and overall, these tracks really give a Star Wars-vibe. It definitely makes me interested in Hamauzu's future carreer, now that he has left Square-Enix. Maybe he will look into film scores as well? Another track that I'd like to give some special attention is "Ragnarok", which only features choir and pipe organ. This is in my opinion one of the greatest choral pieces in a videogame ever. It starts with a simple melody (actually the same as "Fighting Fate"), but becomes a fascinating composition in the middle with brilliant harmonies, reminiscent of choral work from the 20th century. It's almost tear-jerking.
Moving towards the end of the game, "Will to Fight" is awesome. It's a brilliant mix of electronica, solo violin, solo cello and vocals. "Eden Under Siege" is probably the first time that Hamauzu writes music that sounds like in-your-face Hollywood music. While I'm usually not a big fan of that style, this time it just works. With its heavy pounding, big brass and strings, it's one of the best tracks on the album, and also one of the biggest surprises. It's only pity that it's a little short. A track that I also have to mention is "Desperate Struggle". It's actually arranged by Junya Nakano, and it sounds a lot like "Enemy Attack" and "Summoned Beast Battle" from Final Fantasy X. Like most of his music, it focuses a lot on rythm and harmonies, even while it's composed by Hamauzu. Nakano's contribution only adds to the diversity of this soundtrack.
The final dungeon theme is really bizarre. It opens with weird echoing sound effects before it becomes an interesting fusion of sustained strings, electronic kicks and a haunting vocal arpeggio. At the end, there's a weird and creepy organ solo, with great harmonies. It's a very effective track overall. The three final battle themes, all performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, are brilliant. "Fighting Fate", while a little short, is impressive. The combination of a large orchestra and choir works truly magnificent. If "Fighting Fate" wasn't already epic enough, prepare to be blown away by "Born Anew", which incorporates the theme of the game's main villain, Galenth Dysley. It's in the same vein as "Fighting Fate", but more ethereal. The orchestra and the latin choir just scream "epic" all the way, and the operatic tenor solo at the end was very well placed. I'm only slightly disappointed that it doesn't develop more.
Moving on the climax of the game, "Fabula Novis Crystallis" is yet another tear-jerking piece. In fact, it's another arrangement of "The Promise", this time mainly with con sordino strings and piano. It gets even better "FINAL FANTASY XIII – Miracles". The main theme, previously featured in "Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII", is reprised and it's even better than the aforementioned piece. The second half of the piece is a heroic passage with lush trings, snare drums, and yet again, a nostalgic reprise of "The Promise". It's serves great as build-up for the final battle that comes after that. The true final battle theme, "Nascent Requiem", is probably the best of them all. It doesn't have any choir, which is quite surprising, but rather focuses on piano. It doesn't get as awesome as "Decisive Battle" from Final Fantasy X, but it sounds a lot like "Chaotic End" from Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, and that's a good thing.. There's an excellent balance between tonality and atonality, and I especially enjoyed the Ravellian piano work and the calm interlude at the end. It's on the same level as other final battle themes from the series, and that says something!
The orchestral ending themes are simply breathtaking. "Determination", the track that follows right after the final battle, is a majestic piece with the grandest reprise of "The Promise" and "Lightning's Theme" in the entire game. The last track of this fantastic soundtrack is, you guessed it, "Ending Credits". While it's rather short for a Final Fantasy credits theme, only four and a half minutes, it may be the best of them all. You may be turned off by the fact that it's yet another rendition of "The Promise", but trust me, it's the definite arrangement. I've rarely heard so much emotion, power and beauty in a videogame track. The orchestration is breathtaking, and it simply ends the soundtrack perfectly. You just have to hear it for yourself.
There's still one part of the soundtrack left that I need to mention: The theme songs. Yes, that's right, for the first time ever, a Final Fantasy title has got multiple, in fact, two theme songs, and for once they're not composed by Nobuo Uematsu, but by Hamauzu himself. Following in the footsteps of Faye Wong, Emiko Shiratori, Rikki and Angela Aki, the songs are performed by 19 year old Sayuri Sugawara, a pretty unknown singer. The first one, "Eternal Love" is a typical J-Pop track. The Hamauzu composition and harmonies are clearly apparent, but it gets a bit wasted by the arrangement of producer Sin. I did enjoy the song, but the arrangement makes it sound a little generic.
"Kimi Ga Iru Kara" is the other song and one of the ending themes. Unlike "Eternal Love", this one is more like the previous Final Fantasy theme songs. The melody is very memorable, and the arrangement, while being a little simple with only strings, drums, and bass, sounds nice. However, I'm disappointed that the album doesn't include the orchestral version that was performed live at the Final Fantasy XIII Premiere Party in September 2009. At this point, the track doesn't have the emotional impact that, for example, the orchestral arrangement "Suteki Da Ne" from Final Fantasy X had. But, I'll admit that it's already miles ahead of Unlimited SaGa's "Soaring Wings" and especially the song that will replace it in the western release, "My Hands" by Leona Lewis. I found this replacement to be a plain unnecessary and stupid move from Square Enix.
You know, when you're greatly anticipating something for a long time, whatever it is, it usually turns out to be disappointing or just plain garbage because you've been hyping yourself too much. I'm pleased to say that, for me, this isn't the case with the Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack. Everything, just everything that I had expected from this soundtrack and hoped for, turned out to be exactly like I wished. In fact, Hamauzu did even more than that. Hamauzu combines the best things of Unlimited SaGa, Musashi: Samurai Legend, Dirge of Cerberus, and Sigma Harmonics, and on top of that, does new things — stunning choral tracks, surprising vocal tracks, and even some jazz and blues.
The fact that this soundtrack has the highest production of any Square-Enix game to date, makes the final product only better. Most of the orchestral tracks are actually orchestrated by professionals and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra or a Japanese session orchestra. The electronic tracks sound great due to the collaboration with electronica expert Mitsuto Suzuki and there are also contributions from rhythm mastermind Junya Nakano and rock maestro Ryo Yamazaki. Finally, there's series' synthesizer operator Keiji Kawamori, who did a great job with the mixing. The only downside I can think of is that there are a very few ambient themes that just don't do a lot for me, but this is forgivable.
I've been a fan of Masashi Hamauzu for some time now, and I consider any of his work to be something special; whether it is the piano-heavy SaGa Frontier II, or his grand orchestral work on Dirge of Cerberus, every score does something for me. That he created his best work to date after being employed at Square Enix for fifteen years, and after having already composed some of my most favorite video game music ever, certainly says something. This soundtrack is awesome from the beginning to the end, and Hamauzu's magnum opus for sure. I highly recommend this soundtrack to anybody, even if you're not a fan of him. With the Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack now being released, the timing for Hamauzu to leave Square Enix — albeit forcibly — was absolutely perfect. Now here's to wonder about his future career as a freelancer. I'm sure he'll get lots of requests after this masterpiece!
P.S. If you are big Final Fantasy fan and interested in playing the games or watching the movie then make sure you checkout LOVEFiLM
where you can try a 1 month free trial which allows you games and online streaming.
FINAL FANTASY XIII Episode Zero -Promise- Story01 - ENCOUNTER-
Lightning: Maaya Sakamoto
Snow: Daisuke Ono
Serah: Minako Kotobuki (寿美菜子)
Hope: Yuuki Kaji
Vanille: Yukari Fukui
Fang: Mabuki Andou (安藤麻吹)
アモダ曹長: Yuuji Ueda (うえだゆうじ)
Lebreau: Yuu Asakawa
Yuj: Wataru Hatano
Gadot: Bichi Sato (佐藤美一)
Maqui: Makoto Naruse
Nora: Komina Matsushita (松下こみな)
Mother: Miru Hitotsuyanagi (一柳みる)
Chocobo Seller: Masao Komaya (駒谷昌男)
Young Soldier: Kenji Takahashi (高橋研二)
FINAL FANTASY XIII Music Section
Music Composed, Arranged & Produced by
Synthesizer Operated by
Music Arranged by
(Disc2 M-14, Disc3 M-20)
(Disc1 M-4, 6, 7, Disc2 M-3, 9)
(Disc3 M-13, 15, 19, Disc4 M-9, 13)
(Disc1 M-4, Disc2 M-1, Disc3 M-10)
Lead Sound Designer
Supervising Dialogue Editor
Sound & Dialogue Editor
Studio Technical Support
Arrangement & Orchestration
(Disc1 M-2, 4, 5, 6, 15, Disc2 M-10, 12, 20)
(Disc3 M-11, Disc4 M-6, 11, 16, 17, 20)
(Disc2 M-8, 11, Disc3 M-1, 3, 4, Disc4 M-4, 5)
Orchestration & Scoring
(Disc1 M-13, Disc3 M-17, Disc4 M-14)
(Disc2 M-16, 22, Disc3 M-10, 22, Disc4 M-7, 9)
Phillip Dale Bright
Dr. Volker Ahlemeyer
(Disc2 M-16, 22, Disc3 M-10)
(Disc2 M-3, 13, Disc3 M-22, Disc4 M-7)
Yuichiro Goto Strings Group
Takashi Kato Strings Group
Kimiko Nakagawa Strings Group
Trumpet & Flugelhorn
В…AND OTHER INSTRUMENTALISTS
Recording & Mixing Engineers
Recording & Mixing Studios
Sound Inn Studio
Sony Music Studio
Musian & Orchestra Recording Coordinators
(Tokyo Shitsunaigaku Kyokai)
(Tokyo Shitsunaigaku Kyokai)
Note: "Musian" is an official typo.
(Disc1 M-13, Disc2 M-6, 7)
(Disc3 M-9, 17, Disc4 M-1, 14, 19, 22)
Arrangement & Orchestration
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Warsaw Philharmonic Choir
Orchestra Recording Studio
Warsaw Philharmonic Hall
Choir Recording Studio
M1 Polish Radio Studio
Chior Recording Coordinators in Poland
Masza Kmcki Lejman
(Classical Recordings and Concerts)
DiMAGIC Sound Plant Mix-A
(DiMAGIC Sound Plant)
DiMAGIC Sound Plant Foley Booth
(DiMAGIC Sound Plant)
[Kimi ga Irukara (Long Version) & Eternal love (Short Version)]
Recording & Mixing Engineer
Recording & Mixing Studios
A & R Director
(FOR LIFE MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT)
Sales & Marketing Staff
(FOR LIFE MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT)
Artist Promotion Coordinators
(FOR LIFE MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT)
(FOR LIFE MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT)
(FOR LIFE MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT)
Theme Song Coordination
FOR LIFE MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT / YUI MUSIC
Original Soundtrack CD Staff
(MASAMUNE co., ltd)
(MASAMUNE co., ltd)
(Sony Music Communications Inc.)
CD Production Coordinators
CD Production Assistant
CD Production Assistant
CD Production Desk
FINAL FANTASY XIII Game Production
Tsuyoshi Sekito, Makoto Ise
Ritsu Mizutani, Yusuke Saito
Ai Yamashita, Masayuki Yui
Yuki Hirose, Yukihiro Seta
Ryo Inakura, Satoshi Shinohara
Makiko Kitamura, Ayako Hino
Yuko Mizoguchi, Yasuhiro Takamatsu
Emi Uesako, Kakuko Obinata
Yumi Katsuyama, Jun Nakamura
Yoshinori Fujita, Masayuki Tanaka
Original Composition: Masashi Hamauzu
Final Fantasy Reprises: Nobuo Uematsu (3-10, 4-4)
Arrangement: Mitsuto Suzuki (1-4, 1-6, 1-7, 2-3, 2-9, 3-13, 3-15, 3-19, 4-9, 4-13), Ryo Yamazaki (1-4, 2-1, 3-10), Sin (1-16, 4-21), Toru Tabei (2-8, 2-11, 3-1, 3-3, 3-4, 4-4, 4-5), Junya Nakano (2-14, 3-20)
Orchestration: Toshiyuki Omori (1-2, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-15, 2-10, 2-12, 2-20, 3-11, 4-6, 4-11, 4-16, 4-17, 4-20), Yoshihisa Hirano (1-13, 2-6, 2-7, 3-9, 3-17, 4-1, 4-14, 4-19, 4-22), Kunihito Shiina
Orchestral Performance: Japanese Session Orchestra (1-2, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-15, 2-8, 2-10, 2-11, 2-12, 2-20, 3-1, 3-3, 3-4, 3-11, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6, 4-11, 4-16, 4-17, 4-20), Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra (1-13, 2-6, 2-7, 3-9, 3-17, 4-1, 4-14, 4-19, 4-22)
Lyrics: Motomu Toriyama (1-13, 3-17, 4-14), Frances Maya (2-16, 2-22, 3-10, 3-22, 4-7, 4-9), Phillip Dale Bright & Tom Slattery (English Translation), Taro Yamashita & Volker Ahlemeyer (Latin Translation)
Vocals: Sayuri Sugawara (1-16, 4-21), Mina (2-3, 2-13, 3-22, 4-7), Frances Maya (2-16, 2-22, 3-10), Matsue Hamauzu (4-9)
Synthesizer Operation: Keiji Kawamori
|1.||Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII||02:55|
|2.||FINAL FANTASY XIII - The Promise||01:33|
|3.||The Thirteenth Day||00:54|
|4.||Defiers of Fate||02:24|
|6.||The Hanging Edge||03:26|
|7.||Those For the Purge||03:05|
|8.||The Warpath Home||03:32|
|9.||The Pulse Fal'Cie||01:13|
|10.||Face It Later||00:55|
|14.||In the Sky That Night||01:24|
|16.||Eternal Love (Short Version)||03:27|
|18.||The Pulse L'Cie||01:37|
|1.||Blinded By Light||02:55|
|4.||A Brief Respite||02:08|
|8.||Daddy's Got the Blues||04:28|
|9.||The Vile Peaks||03:02|
|12.||March of the Dreadnoughts||02:31|
|13.||The Gapra Whitewood||02:45|
|14.||Tension in the Air||03:28|
|16.||The Sunleth Waterscape||03:46|
|18.||To Hunt L'Cie||02:40|
|19.||No Way to Live||02:04|
|20.||Sustained by Hate||02:38|
|21.||The Pulse L'Cie||04:12|
|1.||Can't Catch a Break||05:20|
|4.||This Is Your Home||02:16|
|7.||The Final Stage||00:42|
|8.||The Pompa Sancta||02:12|
|10.||Chocobos of Cocoon - Chasing Dreams||02:57|
|11.||Feast of Betrayal||03:17|
|12.||Eidolons on Parade||03:36|
|13.||Test of the L'Cie||02:23|
|14.||All the World Against Us||01:16|
|19.||Setting You Free||02:17|
|22.||Will to Fight||04:20|
|3.||The Archylte Steppe||04:25|
|4.||Chocobos of Pulse||04:18|
|5.||The Yaschas Massif||02:11|
|6.||Memories of Happier Days||03:13|
|9.||Dust to Dust||03:49|
|10.||The Road Home||01:07|
|11.||Start Your Engines||03:23|
|12.||Eden Under Siege||02:33|
|13.||The Cradle Will Fall||03:58|
|16.||Fabula Nova Crystallis||02:40|
|17.||FINAL FANTASY XIII - Miracles||02:49|
|21.||Kimi ga Irukara (Long Version)||06:22|
FINAL FANTASY XIII Original Soundtrack latest news
Latest update: 30.04.12
Have something to say? Do it!
You can't leave comment. Log in or sign in first.