Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack
Final Fantasy VIII
There's no denying that the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack features some strong and memorable tracks. Rather than just composing pieces suiting a game environment, Nobuo Uematsu, responsible for all of the original compositions, integrates a story of love and war within these four discs. He uses an amazing tactic that I have only ever seen done so successfully within this album by integrating several main melodies into a variety of pieces, yet avoiding blatancy in doing so. This careful intertwining of the soundtrack's thematic material makes the album complete in a sense that it tells a story, rather than just giving life to the game. In my opinion, the game actually gives life and motion to the music, as well as an appearance.
Let's start with the highlights of the album. Although found on Disc Three, I must start with the vocal track that is the basis for a lot on the album. The "Eyes on Me" melody can be found through out the whole soundtrack, the love theme for Final Fantasy VIII. Arguably the best vocal composition created by Uematsu and certainly the most influential, "Eyes on Me" received the Song of the Year (Western Music) award at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1999, and for good reason. It has a unique instrument arrangement (not quite rock, not quite pop), credited to Shiro Hamaguchi, with powerful lyrics, credited to Kako Someya, that are Final Fantasy VIII. However, it's the melody and absolutely stunning vocals from Faye Wong where this song really shines. Uematsu represents the whole aspect of love in the album with "Eyes on Me," and both the subject matter and its musical interpretation is a big part of Final Fantasy VIII. Moving on to the first track, "Liberi Fatali." This orchestrated piece can be considered one of Nobuo's best; yep, this man has written a lot of music and the first thing you'll hear in Final Fantasy VIII and on its soundtrack is one of his best. I can hype it up for you until the cows come home, but it's one of those themes you just have to hear for yourself. It's three minutes of powerful, emotional, orchestrated music, complete with Latin vocals; it fits the opening FMV like a glove and works just as well as a stand-alone piece.
Now that I've covered the highlights of the album lets get down all the rest. The first disc has tracks that appear quite a lot in Final Fantasy VIII, not just the beginning. Some you'll love for the sheer fact they grew on you, such as the serene "Balamb Garden," and others you'll despise for their repetitiveness, such as "Shuffle or Boogie," used in the game's card minigame. Several hidden gems are featured that are pleasant contrast to the more typical tracks like the battle music and victory fanfare. "Julia," for example, is a beautiful, simplistic piano solo version of "Eyes on Me," and it is quite unfortunate you hear it only once within Final Fantasy VIII. Another track here I thought was completely underrated was "Find Your Way." It's your standard eerie cave music, yet within it lies a sound of hope and despair. It's worth a listen just to hear the many different emotions it portrays, or how many different environments it could have portrayed, though is never used in especially notable places in the game.
Shall we move onto those that are used often? Yes, the battle and traveling themes never get old, unless they're bad to begin with. "Blue Fields" is the graceful music you hear wondering aimlessly on the world map, and, though often criticised, it's a beautiful piece. The plucked strings creates a great atmosphere for traveling. However, you will be interrupted inevitable a thousand times by the trademark battle music, and the dreamy soothing music will stop for an adrenaline-pumping piece, "Don't Be Afraid". Uematsu is well-known for creating excellent battle tracks, and this one doesn't quite disappoint, but is nothing groundbreaking, merely a mediocre theme that makes you ready to fight. To make up for this, Uematsu composes and excellent boss battle track, "Force Your Way." This piece has the atmosphere a good battle track needs plus a strong melody. It's worth a listen since, like a few other tracks, it doesn't get played as much as you'd wish in the game. To close the first disc I'd like to point out "Waltz For The Moon," a beautiful waltz that Uematsu should be proud of. However — those who have played the game knew this is coming — "Waltz For The Moon" is played only once in a key gameplay sequence. Am I seeing a pattern...?
The majority of Disc Two contains "witchy dark" and "going to war" music. This isn't a bad thing, though. "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" is a notable piece. Here, Uematsu uses a combination of drums, strings, and female chants to create a respectable, creepy circus-like theme. I use the word respectable because these kinds of pieces are often corny and unoriginal. "The Stage is Set," on the other hand, is a buoyant march that is catchy yet effective, integrating the same sorcery theme but within an action framework. Towards the end of the disc we're treated to some soft emotional tracks to reflect the love in the game's solid love and war theme. "Ami," in particular, is a relaxing, yet familiar piece. This is what I was talking about with integrated themes, as it appears in many other pieces on the soundtrack in subtle incarnations; Nobuo composed Final Fantasy VIII is a very unique way I wish I saw more often.
Now lets get to Disc Three, shall we? Here you will hear a few memorable pieces, and a few that are not. Skipping straight to track seven, one of the most strongest compositions Uematsu's made on this whole album, with "Fisherman's Horizon." Here, he uses an electric piano so start the start the calming melody, followed by the pan flute and harmonica that really emphasize the beauty. Its hard not to skip one through six to be honest on Disc Three, though! Following "Fisherman's Horizon," there is a simple, yet fun, arrangement of the classical Chocobo theme, "Odeka de Chocobo," sometimes called "Odeka ke Chocobo." Even more fun is the fast and jazzy piano piece "Slide Show Part 2," which is definitely worth a listen since you only hear it once in the game. Continuing to explore the ongoing yet compelling love theme on disc three your treated to "The Oath," "Love Grows," and "Where I Belong," all of which are worth your attention. We end here Disc Three with the famous "Eyes on Me", which I elaborated on at the beginning of this review, the pinnacle of the love theme after all the development throughout the disc previously.
It's time to cover my favorite disc on the whole album: the fourth. We open with Final Fantasy VIII's official chocobo theme, "Mods De Chocobo." Led by the organ and a fast beat, it doesn't disappoint, even with its unexpected synth vocal use. Moving on, you'll hear a few suspense and "your time has come" kind of themes. Examples are "Lunatic Pandora," with its unique instrumental choices, "Compression of Time," with its strange yet effective combination of brass, strings, and synths, and "The Castle," with its powerful organ melody and sense of progression. Drawing to a close, there are a few underrated final battle tracks. Only hearing these once in the game (surprised?) you may not have as much respect for them as you would the rest of the album. However, they are quite good and deserve to be heard a second time. The "Ending Theme" is a whopping 13:20 with the middle portion occupied by Faye Wong and the memorable "Eyes on Me" lyrics. The rest is pretty much an epic orchestral score that you would expect from one of Nobuo's ending themes.
Final Fantasy VIII's soundtrack is yet another one of Nobuo Uematsu's milestones. As stated numerous times, this album is an amazing combination of integrated themes made to tell a story of love and war. This is an amazingly strong album with few flaws. If you enjoyed Final Fantasy VIII there should be no hesitation in buying the Original Soundrack, as it seems to be the heart of the memorable and loveable game.
Final Fantasy VIII, the second PlayStation Final Fantasy installment. Disliked? Perhaps, but the music is quite the opposite to the gameplay if you see the game as bad and boring. Nobuo Uematsu experimented with orchestral instruments for the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack. Most pieces, no matter whether they're sad pieces, or fast battle pieces, are done mostly with orchestral synth samples, and it really adds a great effect to the game in general.
The soundtrack couldn't start off better. "Liberi Fatali" is a great mix of Latin vocals sung by opera singers and orchestral music, supported with a strong drum beat. The singing nicely emphasises the speed and might of the piece and the best part is around 2:15 where all beat stops and a few loud chords are played using a variety of instruments. It then ends quietly. The winning feature is how well it goes with the cutscene it was created for. Excellent work.
After the introduction, we're soon introduced to "Don't Be Afraid," the first of many Final Fantasy VIII battle themes. It is quite well-produced for a normal battle theme. Beginning with heavy drums, it soon gets into the string-led main melody, also accompanied by a keyboard. Though quite consistent, meaning there aren't any major highlights, it suits its purpose, generally being quite adrenaline-pumping. Another highlight battle theme is the normal boss theme, "Force Your Way." It hits you straightaway, with really thick textures (i.e. all instruments that feature in the piece are involved straightaway) and a unrelenting fast pace. It develops well into a bridge section at the 1:00 mark where there are rapid synth arpeggiations and a guitar solo before the main theme re-enters. Now talking of synth, for all you light techno fans, Laguna's futuristic battle theme "The Man With the Machine Gun" is for you. Like the preceding track, ithas a strong percussion beat to it, but is more melodic and light overall.
Militaristic pieces take a leading role throughout the soundtrack. If you're keen on heavy drum beats, then "SeeD" is for you. The majority of the piece is based on the drums, though there are soft melodic motifs played inbetween each section of drum beats. The drums make it sound like a serious militaristic march theme, which suits its in-game perfect perfectly, while the melodic fragments are reminiscent of the proud yet somehow pieces played in movies before a war begins. It also really sets the scene for the next piece, which starts straight afterwards, "The Landing." Played twice in the game, most notably during the Dollet Landing FMV, this is unrivalled by other the undisputed, unrivalled best piece of Final Fantasy VIII, plays twice in the game, but the more recognised one of the two is the piece playing in the Dollet Landing FMV. The piece starts off with a few deep thuds, which act as the bass line as various forces then start to enter in fanfare-like fashion. After the buildup is complete, it suddenly transitions into the core of the piece, a fast-paced theme that combines various synth samples, both of electronic and orchestral instrument, which a new section at 2:36 ensuring it never grows old.
Two other marches featured are "The Stage is Set" and "Movin'," both of which are among the best in the soundtrack. The former starts off with heavy string samples, which are used throughout most of the piece, accompanied by heavy drum beats, percussion use, and some further synth to boost the strings. Filled with a sense of urgency yet also very catchy, this is good stuff. My personal favourite Final Fantasy VIII piece, however, is "Movin'." This plays through the entire Missiles attacking Garden cutscenes and when you're in Balamb Garden Basement level finding out what's down there. The main section of this piece is treated like an army theme, with snare drums and synth, though the piece also includes several other sections. For example, the short track "Retaliation" is integrated fully as a minor part in the piece before the main theme reappears around the 2:00 mark, while a series of discords represent the climax of the piece after the 3:00 mark. Splendidly developed and excellent work all round.
Action themes also include "The Mission," placed at the start of Disc Two. This has an urgent feeling all the way through, which works well in the game as time is against you when this first plays. The piece uses hard synth with harpsichord as the small chords under the main tune. A loud clash starts off Disc Two's other major action theme, "Only a Plank Between One and Perdition," which also has an urgent feeling to it. The light guitar used really works with the constant percussion beats and the melody isn't too bad either. "Starting Up" is also somewhat mentionable, as, while short, playing in the FMV sequence while the Communication Tower is being set up, it has a cool melody and an original industrial feel. The final noteworthy action theme is "Ride On," the theme to when you're flying in the Ragnarok. It is one of the only Final Fantasy VIII pieces to have a really good bass line, as the bass provides a countermelody under the happy upbeat tune above. The tune, however, can get repetitive during gameplay.
Away from the action scene, if you're into the slow sorrowful music, then listen to "Tell Me." It starts off really slow, but has one hell of a tune and is one of the best sad pieces of the soundtrack, using motionless bells as a background against nice soft synth as the main part. This is based around the "Ami," used in several other pieces on the soundtrack. "The Oath" is also an excellent calm piece for Final Fantasy VIII. Done almost completely with orchestral samples, the piece boasts a beautiful melody. At about 0:48, the instrument changes for the next part of the piece and it features a low soft synth with the first part of the piece in the background. This is very much worth a listen.
One aspect of the soundtrack that separates it is the frequent use of the sorceress' theme, introduced back in "Liberi Fatali." "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" is the main arrangement and plays at Edea's Parade at the end of Disc One in the game. It features high synth paired with low drum beats, along with some pre-recorded vocals. Not bad, and the vocals are moderately good too. It has essence of the piece to come also, that is, the wonderful "Premonition." This theme, used exclusively for special boss battles, starts off loud, with quite a terrible first part, but, as soon as the drums come in, "Premonition" becomes incredible. The flute is the main instrument here, and, though this might not sound like it could be powerful, once combined with some awesome keyboard and organ playing, it soon becomes strong. It also integrates several other themes, including parts of "The Landing," which can only be a good thing.
The soundtrack becomes quite experimental in its last third. The Esthar theme "Silence and Motion" isn't the kind of piece you'd expect on a Nobuo Uematsu Original Soundtrack. It starts off with little beepy sound effects which last throughout the piece before building into an orchestral piece with soft synths and sumptuous harmonies. The beeps always seem to be in key with the music which makes this quite well made-up, and, though not too accessible, it's not a bad piece altogether. "Compression of Time" starts off with some saxophone samples and then progresses into an ethereal sounding theme. The tune is impressive, although slow, but each note really wrks well and the constant beeping actually helps make it sound better believe it or not. Then a small theme begins under the main theme played by a harp. Eventually, it becomes the harp on it's on and sounds pretty cool. Gives a great setting for the area you're in. Another noteworthy theme is "The Castle," a Gothic organ theme with some modern influences. It starts off with an intricate solo before becoming very imposing with heavy chords and rich textures. There are several other contrasting sections, including a light one featuring various creepy sound effects. This is a very effective theme.
The first of the original final battle themes is "The Legendary Beast." Though it starts off pretty bad, once the drums come in and flute begins to play, it's all uphill from there, with the bass line becoming more intense and the drums helping to keep the tune interesting. The hard synth then comes in for a cool solo before cutting short. That would be the only thing wrong with the piece — the hard synth doesn't keep in tune too long. Another notable final battle theme is "Maybe I'm a Lion," one of the few Final Fantasy VIII pieces that has a guitar in it. Most of the piece includes high soft synth and a constant moderately good drum beat. The theme uses probably every instrument that the entire Original Soundtrack uses, but it could sound much better if the tune were better.
The fully orchestrated "Ending Theme" features four major sections. The first part is an ominous section, which soon builds up into a new version of "Eyes on Me," Faye Wong's love ballad. This is better than the original version, in my opinion, as the singing is a little softer, it has more meaning in the end cutscene, and is powerfully orchestrated by Shiro Hamaguchi. After this, the original "Final Fantasy" theme is played in a unique orchestration added to it. Following this, it moves into a militaristic section, featuring an instrumental rendition of the sorceress' theme, which sounds incredible. A soft synth solo closes the piece with fragments of the "Prelude" being heard. Simply excellent.
So altogether, it's brilliant. In my opinion, nothing's perfect. But this is the closest to perfect an Original Soundtrack can get. Whether the game itself is liked or not, you just gotta love the music. Great job, Nobuo Uematsu!
The Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack was written by Uematsu at the peak of his career. Like his earlier masterpiece soundtracks for Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII, he focuses on drawing gamers and listeners into the experience with plenty of memorable and emotional themes. However, he also carefully portrayed the topics of the game — exploring love, war, sorcery, and a funny thing called time compression in-depth — while exploring new technology using synthesizer operator Keiji Kawamori and even some streamed orchestral and vocal performances. That said, the soundtrack is one of the most inconsistent he has written. When signs of age of the Final Fantasy franchise are shown, something weird and wonderful pops up. When the soundtrack becomes too serious, a light-hearted number is inserted to liven up the mood. When the soundtrack is beginning to attain consistent high quality, it randomly plunges into the depths of direness. You can never be sure what to expect from the next track in this soundtrack, though you can be assured of the overall charm of the listening experience given it is a PlayStation era Final Fantasy score masterminded by Nobuo Uematsu.
The album opens in incredible fashion with an ambitious full-orchestral choral theme, "Liberi Fatali". Derived from one of the main themes of the game, the so-called sorceress' theme, it subtly intensifies from the opening unaccompanied "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" chants towards a dramatic climax. Nobuo Uematsu and orchestrator Shiro Hamaguchi create a work that synchronises perfectly with a spectacular FMV sequence and exudes sheer power thanks to the magnitude of its production. The chromatic chord progression and epic augmented melody that provide the foundations of this theme are heard time and time again in the game to represent sorcery and the development of the game's exploration of the witch Edea. "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" and "Succession of Witches," though strophic not programmatic, combine pre-recorded vocals with menacing instrumental passages. "The Sacrifice" and "Premonition" identify with Edea's darkest side, creating a sense of terror and emptiness. They contrast with later incarnations of the theme, principally "Truth," on a cold, authentic, and reassuring harpsichord..
The soundtrack isn't as melodically rich as other Final Fantasy soundtracks due to the extensive reuse of the sorceress' theme and two other leitmotifs throughout the soundtrack. Nonetheless, most subjects of leitmotif reusage add an extra layer of meaning to the themes they carry and reinforce the memorability of the soundtrack's overriding melodic material. "Ami" and its arrangements are probably the most powerful for representing relationships, however; its bright and memorable melody represents calm and happiness, aiding scenes that intricately link the stories of Squall, Zell, Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, and Ellone. With "Tell Me," a picture of Quistis' unrequited love for Squall is formed; the gushing melodies reference her letting her feelings out, while the static harmonies are symbolic of Squall's mere grunts in response. "Where I Belong" reflects memories with a nostalgic electric piano sound and shows the abovementioned characters being finally learning how they're united. The theme's final manifestation, "Trust Me," is less successful, though provides necessary focus on Ellone, only otherwise represented in "Drifting." Of course, all are united via Balamb Garden and this building's ethereal theme appropriately introduces the melody rather subtly early in the soundtrack.
Perhaps the most unusual feature of this soundtrack is the absence of any true character themes. While this is again detrimental to the soundtrack's melodiousness, it avoids simplifying Final Fantasy VIII's characters — among the most well-developed and realistic of the series — into caricatures represented by a single relatively shallow theme, a technique even Uematsu himself resents. Instead, Uematsu focuses his thematic representations on relationships or individual aspects of main characters, often building an overall picture through a multitutde of themes. For example, the sorceress' theme takes many form, representing the gradual yet profound transformation in Edea's character, while "Unrest" and "Rivals" demonstrate Squall and Seifer's destructive relationship, albeit underwhelmingly. Meanwhile "My Mind" and "The Oath" are intertwined to distinguish the personalities of Rinoa and Squall, the former dreamy and conflicted, the latter heroic and resolved.
Indeed, it's relationship of Squall and Rinoa is most thoroughly explored in the soundtrack. The culmination of their love is represented by Faye Wong's award-winning vocal theme "Eyes on Me". It's a charming piece of music that boasts a fair melody from Uematsu, some pleasant string backing, and superb vocal execution. Though many cite it as an example of a hackneyed composing style and criticise it for its Engrish lyrics, it fitted the game suitably, constituted a very successful addition to the soundtrack, and made an impact on mainstream pop audiences that typically ignore the series' music. "Eyes on Me" utilises a leitmotif that is introduced much earlier in the score with the brief but heartfelt piano theme "Julia" that demonstrates parallels of Laguna and Raine's encounters many years ago with the situation of the protagonists of today. Other incarnations of the theme are carefully placed within the game to show the development of Squall and Rinoa's relationship. For example, "Waltz for the Moon" integrates the theme within a Straussian dance to represent the lovers' first chance meeting, while "Love Grows" is a full instrumental version of "Eyes on Me" that accompanies a powerful moment in the game where Squall comes to terms with his feelings about an absent Rinoa.
The soundtrack reflects the game's initial focus on the military academy Garden and the elite forces it trains. "The Landing" opens in warlike fashion with a series of brass fanfares before exploding into a epic action theme as the FMV sequence reflects an assault on Dollet. There is an effortless transition into a more electronically-oriented section as FMV transitions to free-roaming gameplay and a secondary section of the theme is nicely decorated by a quasi-orchestral take on the sorceress' theme. The game also boasts two militaristic marches, "The Stage is Set" and "Movin'," which not only intensify the situations they are used, but also use the sorceress' theme wonderfully and are great for whistling along to. The airship theme "Ride On" is full of buoyancy and blithe; it is made even more attractive in soundtrack form by its programmatic introduction, based loosely around "Blue Sky," one of several short themes that are used to FMV sequences in remarkable fashion. Less impressive are "SeeD," which comprises of lengthy drum rolls separated by repetitive wind and brass fanfares, "Heresy," an eerie yet hackneyed organ-based theme used to represent a secondary villain in Balamb Garden, and "The Mission," a track that is successful in-game only, due to some poor harpsichord synth and a repetitive basso ostinato.
The town and setting themes are a mixed bag, as defined by the overworld theme "Blue Fields". Though it has a beautiful melody and some sumptuous harmonies, it suffers from a repetitive ground bass and poor synth programming. It's not all that bad, but its shortcomings are so prominent that it ends up being the most disappointing world map theme of the series and a major letdown after the likes of the "F.F.VII Main Theme." Some more modest tracks compensate, for example Balamb's "Breezy" uses major 6th guitar progressions to create a lovely seaside feel, while "Fisherman's Horizon" carries a beautiful melody to provide a representation of a town that demonstrates peace, simplicity, and the fundamental importance of the sea. "Dance with the Balamb-fish" gives Dollet some 'oomph' and, like "Waltz for the Moon", is written in the style of a stately yet gushing romantic dance (but not a waltz). "Fragments of Memories" is perhaps the most remarkable of all, however; its fragmented, fragile, soothing, and innocent melodies are interpreted by a single tuned percussion instrument and the theme is a strong setting for the dream sequence showing Laguna's memories of Winhill.
The last third of the soundtrack introduces a number of interesting experiments. "The Salt Flats" is a beautiful ambient theme used in Disc Three to demonstrate the hostile environments on the journey to Esthar. "Silence and Motion" suitably represent the party's arrival at the jaw-dropping futuristic metropolis. It offers a combination of sweeping well-developed melodies, eccentric percussion use, and high-pitched electronic sounds that seem to 'float' above everything. Even more zany is Uematsu's interpretation of a crystal light pillar (whatever one of those is) called the Lunatic Pandora. It's an imposing imperial march made twisted and alien by high-pitched synth sounds and eerie synth vocals. Less popular but still interesting are "Residents", a light-hearted electro-acoustic theme with a quirky bass line, and "Compression of Time", an ethereal minimalist creation that features a blaring saxophone sample endlessly repeated. Finally, "The Castle" is a Gothic organ theme to represent the final dungeon, but is hardly a hackneyed one; there are some modern touches to represent time compression, three contrasting sections, lots of intricate pseudo-counterpoint, and, of course, some unforgettable melodies.
Popular response to these themes have been mixed but hardly hostile, though, fear not, the authentic sound of the Final Fantasy series is not dead. Notably, the "Victory Fanfare", "Prelude", and Chocobo themes all make prominent appearances, even if their arrangements aren't special. One way Uematsu has gone backwards from his Final Fantasy VI days are in the jazz- and country-based themes, though. "Shuffle or Boogie" lacks the quirky harmonies, decent melody, and sense of fun that made "Slam Shuffle" and "Spinach Rag" successful; it grows old very quickly used and is not effective as the accompaniment to the regularly played card game Triple Triad. There are a few effective light themes, however; the two slide show pieces in the final third of the soundtrack are fun, if underdeveloped, while "Under Her Control" represents the sleaziness of Deling City well, despite utilising yet another repetitive ground bass. Timber's "Martial Law" initially drags on, but an awesome electric piano solo in the development section and some top-notch percussion use saves it from the realms of the unremarkable. Oh, and special mention for "Timber Owls"; this employs the most quirky ensemble in the game — pizzicato strings, a tuba, a clarinet, an oboe, a triangle, and the characteristic 'tick-tock' of a clock. And guess what? It works!
The dungeon themes pretty much comprise of "Find Your Way" and "Junction," despite some other themes (e.g. "Fear" or "Movin'") being used in very specific areas; The former here is much stronger — a well-developed mystical theme that integrates some magical instrumentation — while "Junction," based on just four chords in a repeated sixteen bar solo harp melody, is hideously dull. Another entirely mediocre piece of BGM is the pizzicato string-based "Intruders"; any whim and drama this piece could have had is limited by predictable chord progressions and a repetitive bell motif. Likewise "The Spy," "Fear," "Jailed," and "Galbadia GARDEN" are ambient jazz-based themes that are used in lengthy gameplay sequences. They're the worst in the soundtrack due to their uninspired progressions and melodic deficiencies. All Final Fantasy soundtracks in the past have had a degree of filler material, but what separates this one is that they're used in long gameplay sequences and do nothing to alleviate the tedium. Added to this, there are two percussive hurry themes, "Never Look Back" and the curiously titled "Only a Plank Between One and Perdition." The former mainly relies on a little too much repetition of ascending melodic sequences while the latter is more rhythmical, using the combination of a piano basso ostinato and some guitar riffs.
The battle themes on Final Fantasy VIII are its best feature. "Don't Be Afraid," the normal battle theme, creates plenty of tension with its irregular 5/4 metre and is orchestrated well enough to sustain in-game use rather well. The boss battle theme "Force Your Way" takes an upbeat approach that combines rock riffs with decorative electronic arpeggio patterns rather effectively. Laguna's battle theme, "The Man with the Machine Gun," is written in a surprisingly accessible light techno style and evokes many warm feelings with its exhilarating melodies. Among the final bosses, "The Legendary Beast" passes melodic fragments between each instrument uncompassionately and gradually undergo metamorphoses over ascending chord progressions; the harmonies are horrifyingly consistent, constantly off-beat and rhythmically unsettled. It's successor, "Maybe I'm a Lion," isn't much kinder; aggressive tribal drum beats, overdriven guitar backing, and dominant organ melodies present a powerful picture of Squall's nemesis. Finally, "The Extreme" opens ominously with spacey sounds and harp and piano use that gives a sense of inevitability before quickening into a electro-acoustic beat fest that climaxes with some deliciously crisp duelling synth lines.
Plenty of musical bliss is offered in the "Ending Theme". Opening mysteriously in a string-led passage, the first two and a half minutes set the scene and are breathtakingly orchestrated. The theme segues into a reprise of "Eyes on Me", now fully orchestrated by Shiro Hamaguchi; the lush orchestration gives the theme much more depth and meaning and support Wong effectively. After the vocal theme has finished and the game's credits roll, the trademark "Final Fantasy" theme plays, boasting an execution superior to any other rendition of the theme. The truly momentous part of the "Ending Theme," however, is the final three minutes. This offers an epic orchestration of the sorceress' theme and some programmatic music to accompany a touching epilogue scene. Ending with a glimpse into Final Fantasy IX and the harp arpeggios of the "Prelude" theme, the final minute and a half of the theme is a breath of fresh air. Over 13 minutes long, fully orchestrated, encompassing four major sections, incorporating four popular themes, and even providing a glimpse into the series' future, what more could you ask for? This is a timeless classic and the emotional peak of the soundtrack. It's preceded by "The Successor", which ties up the loose ends of the sorcery element of the game by reflecting Edea's true character, and is followed by the misplaced "Overture", which ends the soundtrack with a whimper, but not after a massive highlight.
Overall, Uematsu did an excellent job embracing new styles and technology on the Final Fantasy VIII while capturing the unique tone of the game. However, the individual pieces he created to achieve this are quite variable in quality. There are themes like "Liberi Fatali," "Ending Theme," "The Extreme," and "Silence and Motion" that are completely unparalleled and exceed Uematsu's prior achievements. However, themes such as "Fear," "Jailed," "Rivals," and "Junction" add nothing to the soundtrack, despite being used in prominent and lengthy gameplay sequences. It's fortunate that the introduction and conclusion to the soundtrack is nothing short of exceptional, easily making the soundtrack comparable to other additions of the numbered series. This release is still as heartfelt, enjoyable, and memorable as its immediate predecessor, with lots of progressive elements to boot. All Final Fantasy music fans should add this to their collection.
Composed, Arranged & Produced by Nobuo Uematsu
Composition: Nobuo Uematsu
Lyrics: Kazushige Nojima
Latin Translation: Taro Yamashita
Orchestration: Shiro Hamaguchi
Conductor: Katsuaki Nakatani
Horn: Otohiko Fujita, Mitsuo Matsuura, Takahito Saijyo, Megumi Ishibashi
Trumpet: Masahiko Sugasaka, Toshio Araki, Hitoshi Yokoyama
Trombone: Masanori Hirohara, Yuzo Kataoka, Junko Yamashiro
Tuba: Kiyoshi Sato
Flute: Takashi Asahi, Yoshio Kizu
Clarinet: Tadashi Hoshino, Ayako Oura
Keyboards: Haruki Mino
Harp: You Saito
Percussion: Teiko Haruna, Tomoko Kusakari, Isao Kanayama
Strings: Masatsugu Shinozaki Group
Soprano: Komaki Miyabe, Matsue Hamauzu
Alto: Chie Sasakura, Hitomi Kaga
Tenor: Hirokazu Takigushi, Jun Suzuki
Bass: Katsuyuki Nakanishi, Takeshi Yamagami
"FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC"
Composition: Nobuo Uematsu
Orchestration: Shiro Hamaguchi
Soprano: Matsue Hamauzu, Ayako Okada
Alto: Kyoko Arita, Chiharu Takahashi
Tenor: Daisuke Hara, Toru Tabei
Bass: Tomo Matsubara, Takamura Atsuta
"Eyes On Me"
Vocals: Faye Wong
Composition: Nobuo Uematsu
Arrangement: Shiro Hamaguchi
Lyrics: Kako Someya
Electric Piano: Ichiro Nagata
Electric Bass: Michio Nagaoka
Drums: Eiji Shimamura
Electric Guitar: Jun Tsunoda
Shinobue: Takashi Asahi
Strings: Masatsugu Shinozaki Group
Composition: Nobuo Uematsu
Orchestration: Shiro Hamaguchi
Lyrics: Kako Someya
Vocals: Faye Wong
Conductor: Koji Haijima
Flute: Hideyo Takakuwa, Akiko Osawa
Oboe: Masakazu Ishibashi, Satoshi Shoji
Clarinet: Kimio Yamane, Michiyo Sato
Faggot: Keiko Sugawara
Trumpet/Trombone: Eric Miyashiro Group
Tuba: Isao Watanabe
Horn: Otohiko Fujita Group
Piano: Masato Matsuda
Harp: Tomoyuki Asagawa
Percussion: Teiko Koshino, Tomoko Kusakari
Strings: Masatsugu Shinozaki Group
Sound programmer: Minoru Akao
Recording engineer: Kenzi Nagashima
Synthesizer programmer: Keiji Kawamori
Mastering engineer: Yasuji “Yasman” Maeda
Mastered at Bernie Grundman Mastering
Art direction: Tadashi Shimada (Banana Studio)
Design: Tadashi Shimada, Norie Kadokura (Banana Studio)
Photography: Keita Nishio
Director: SQUARE SOUNDS
Kishio Ozawa & Tsuyoshi Takemura (DigiCube)
Sales promotion: Saiko Fukui (DigiCube)
Katsuyuki Yoshida (SME Intermedia Inc.)
Production manager: Kensuke Matsushita (SQUARE)
Co-executive producers: Michio Okamiya (SQUARE)
Hirofumi Nakamura (DigiCube)
Executive producers: Hiromobu Sakaguchi (SQUARE)
Hisashi Suzuki (DigiCube), Hirofumi Yokota (DigiCube)
Special thanks to… Akira Kashiwagi, Keiji Hamada, Tatsuyoshi Kitada, Takeharu Ishimoto, Cathy, Tadatsugu “PRI2” Tsutsumi
Don't be Afraid
Find Your Way
Force Your Way
Never Look Back
Shuffle or Boogie
Waltz for the Moon
The Man with the Machine Gun
Roses and Wine