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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack Album Title: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Pony Canyon
Catalog No.: PCCG-00613
Release Date: August 20, 2003
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan

Overview

Following in the footsteps of both the Final Fantasy X-2 Original Soundtrack and the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack, the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack is also tangential in comparison to the numbered installments to the series. a firm and conscious decision was made to venture away from the series' traditional and perhaps timeworn styles and instead into the wild world of early and medieval music.

As a result of its early styles, the soundtrack boasts some excellent use of early instruments throughout — the serpent, recorder and hurdy-gurdy are all utilized, and even the kazoo and bagpipes are prominently used. While the liking of such instruments is often determined only by one's personal taste, their unique sounds ensure that they are never detractive from the soundtrack's overall quality and instead serve to add more style and instrumental variety. Much of the soundtrack is performed by the original band of musicians known as ROBA HOUSE. They specialise in performing such early music. The use of pre-recorded sound in this way is a clear advancement in game music technology.

Although the composer Kumi Tanioka is still a relative newcomer to the series compared to the likes of Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu, she was certainly a wise choice to lead this soundtrack. Although her role was relatively minor in the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack, she stood out for her musicality, versatility, and consistent excellence. She combines these assets together with the original and masterful 'ancient' instrument use that pronounces this soundtrack so strongly. While the consistent use of early styles does mean that some of her lesser tracks become quite indistinctive from one another, her work is otherwise flawless, with two discs of developed, refined, and completely representative tracks produced.

Body

The consistent use of early instruments and minimalist styles throughout a soundtrack is always going to be quite a mixed blessing: while this gives an album a distinctive, unique, and manifested style, it also runs the risk of it becoming quite dull as a collective whole due to lack of diversity of styles. Unfortunately, this Original Soundtrack considerably succumbs to the latter, as many tracks are barely distinguishable from each other or recognisable, particularly the endless array of setting and town themes. "A Gentle Wind Blows," "Moving Clouds on the River's Surface," and "Voice of Wind, Song of Time" are all tranquil setting themes, for example, and while perfectly likeable on their own, collectively they are totally unmemorable. How many times can one album use a recorder, I ask? Most of the battle themes are also unthinkably dreary — I swear that a dead goldfish could inject more life into a boss battle than "Monster's Dance ~Rondo~." If that isn't enough, town themes like "The First Town," "Prosperity and Tradition," "Magii is Everything," and "Annual Festival" all use the kazoo to play their primary melodies. The kazoo has a quirky effect at first, but it grows boring and predictable... very, very quickly...

STOP!!! Before you turn away and decide that this Original Soundtrack really isn't for you, aren't you wondering why I gave this album such a flattering overview? You must be thinking that this album has redeeming features, am I right? Just let me continue and discuss why I think this album is definitely one that should be considered.

First of all, this album does have a fair diversity of styles despite the abundance of town and setting themes: you get experimental gems like "Meager Advance" and "Mag Mail," two climactic final boss themes in the form of "Sad Monster" and "Unite, Descent," and even the slapstick march "Goblin's Lair." Let's look at the enormous contrast between the numinous last dungeon themes for instance: The first, "Echoes in the Heart" is highly minimalist in nature — Tanioka sparingly places a few mysterious high-pitched piano passages to contrast against the heavenly accompaniment of a bell ostinato. The other two, "Light and Shadow" and "I Don't Want to Forget," use backing vocals to create a holy eminence similar to that of a chorale; however, they also use celestas, tuned percussion, and the high-pitches of the piano to create a certain amount of frostiness. Each takes very unique approaches, but work wonderfully individually and collectively.

Still, the vocal themes are probably the best thing about the Original Soundtrack — "Kaze No Ne" serves as the ideal opening theme, adventurous and bold, while the much more subtle beauty of "Starry Moonlit Night" and its arranged is ideal for creating a bittersweet ending theme. Although Square vocalists have the tendency to sound a little shallow, Yae is not one of them, and she sings these themes with a settled, zesty, and airy style. Her voice was the perfect choice for the album — it is so good not to be drawn through the mill with a pop diva yet again. Tanioka's instrumentals are pleasing too and this ensures the success of "Endless Sky" and "Thoroughly Blue," the instrumental versions of "Kaze No Ne," which are, in fact, identical.

Upcoming composer/arranger Hidenori Iwasaki (of Front Mission fame) is another reason why this album should be purchased. He was commissioned to write one track for this album, "Eternal Oath," which I feel is the most musically sophisticated of all of them. The ambience he creates here is not at all bland or dull, but rather enigmatic, convincing, and effortless. The unimpeachable musical refinement that he achieves shows he is nothing other than a pure genius. While I do not discredit Tanioka, the additional diversity that a different composer provides in just one track is simply incredible.

While I believe it is often wrong to ponder on the olden days of the series' music, the fact that Nobuo Uematsu's classic "Cripper Tripper Fritter" from Final Fantasy V was revived in not one, but two arrangements, is definitely a good thing. "I'm Moogle" is as catchy and lively as ever with Tanioka's ancient touches making it fit snugly into the rest of the soundtrack. "My Den" is a much more experimental an arrangement, but is even more effective. It amazes me how the Moogle theme still manages to be the catchiest in a soundtrack containing two discs worth of otherwise new themes — this shows just how wonderful Nobuo Uematsu's melodies can be. (And it also sadly emphasises that Tanioka lacks melodic flair). It's just a shame there was no "Ancient de Chocobo." Don't you think it has a certain ring to it?

Summary

Hopefully with this balanced insight into the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack you should have decided whether this album is right for you. (If not then read the track-by-track reviews that follow). This soundtrack has many exclusive features unique to itself: the early instrumentation used so extensively, the vocal tracks so charmingly sung by Yae, the pre-recorded sound so well programmed in every track, and the minimalist and ancient styles so well perfected by Kumi Tanioka. I will not assure that you will necessarily love the soundtrack when you listen to it, at least at first, considering it requires a lot of time and effort to fully appreciate it. It lacks the diversity in styles present in most game soundtracks and this makes individual themes seem bland and indistinctive when listened to as a collective whole. It is most certainly a grower, however, and familiarity makes everything rather excellent in this instance.

Overall Score: 8/10

Appendix ~ Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Echo of Memories

This title theme for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is definitely minimalist in nature, but not in a particularly appealing way. It is nothing more than a repeated two bar bell motif that spans for 48 seconds before fading out into nothingness. It is definitely reminiscent of "Regeneracy" from the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack, sharing two familiar characteristics: its numerous bell use and its overall lack of success. It would be foolish to accredit such a needlessly simple track anymore than this — it definitely gets the Original Soundtrack off to a worrying start. (3/10)

2) Kaze No Ne

The opening theme "Kaze No Ne" is surely the major feature of the soundtrack. Yae's mature, flavoured, and dreamy voice is the winning feature here, and this gives her freshness against pop divas Faye Wong, Rikki, and Emiko Shiratori before her. It is also beautifully mastered compositionally — it blooms from the fragile textures of a harp and vocal duet in the introductory passage into a fully-fledged vocal theme. Here Yae's tender voice and the occasional renaissance flute enchantingly elevate themselves over the early instruments that accompany them. This is definitely my favourite Final Fantasy vocal theme and it is great to see a change from the style of the clichéd love ballad. (10/10)

3) Serenity

Following in the footsteps of "Echo of Memories," this track is very minimalist once again. It is nothing more than a 4 bar pattern of slow ascending solo harp arpeggios repeated for a total of 41 seconds. While it represents serenity in its simplest form, such a track does not get the album off to a strong start and is definitely a lacklustre creation. (3/10)

4) Today Arrives, Becoming Tomorrow

This track has very simple musical structures like "Serenity" before it and never has more than two instruments playing at one time. Thankfully, however, it develops more than "Serenity" and the introduction of a brief middle section gives it an additional level of musicality. Its melodies are not particularly well considered and feel far too indistinctive and dreary to be especially inspiring. The track works well in the game, however, and its addition to this album is certainly tolerable. (6/10)

5) The First Town

"The First Town" is not only the first town theme of the soundtrack, but one of the best too. The kazoo really works here, and while it certainly adds an odd impression to the track, it is somehow charismatic too; this is particularly so when the kazoo is combined with the light-hearted melodies that it accompanies! It is definitely a quirky and likeable track even if it is nothing particularly special. (8/10)

6) Caravan Crossroad

This is the first of several instrumental renditions of the "Kaze No Ne" theme during the album. The instrumentation used is ideal for giving a sense of voyaging. The strumming of the acoustic guitar is particularly important and provides a strong rustic feel. While the track is a little brief and does little other than repeat a four bar phrase once the melody enters, this ensures that the full-blown spirit of the two later instrumental renditions ("Endless Sky" and "Thoroughly Blue") is more prominently emphasised. Nice! (7/10)

7) Departure

"Departure" is one of my overall favourite setting themes. It remains both adventurous and revealing thanks to the way the serene and tender recorder melodies vividly contrast with the movement created by the creative harmonies beneath. It develops magnificently and manages to be one of the longest themes in the album at 4 minutes 15 seconds in length. There are no obvious musical flaws present either, and it remains subtly crafted throughout. This is definitely one of Tanioka's finest creations. (10/10)

8) Moving Clouds on the River's Surface

Although brief, "Moving Clouds on the River's Surface" is a perfect example of how scenic some of Tanioka's quieter setting themes can be. The recorder's pensive melodies and the lute's light accompaniment build up a vivid image of the morning sun emerging into a warm sunrise revealing the luscious verdant world surrounding you. Lovely! (8/10)

9) Twilight in Dreamland

This track uses harmony in a similar way to "Departure." The vivacious tuned percussion ostinatos add an effective, although auxiliary accompaniment to the mild recorder and kazoo melodies the theme is mainly centered around. One cannot help but compare how positively reminiscent such styles are to the likes of "The Republic of Bastok" from her work in the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack. This follows the trend of being charming, delicate, and an absolute pleasure to listen to. (8/10)

10) Echoes at the Mountain Peak

There is an adventurous 'scale the mountain' feeling present in this track. This is particularly well enforced by the tribal percussion beats that run throughout. While it verges on the repetitive at times, there is a wonderful bridge section created by the kazoo that eradicates this from becoming a more prominent flaw. This is definitely the best feature of the entire theme — I continue to be amazed by how well such an instrument works in this album. (8/10)

11) In the Gloomy Darkness

One thing that I have always liked about Tanioka's work is that her ambient tracks never become dull, a trait that composers like Nakano tend not to benefit from. "In the Gloomy Darkness" follows this trend nicely and creates a lot of mystery and somberness without becoming boring. This is mainly thanks to the bass viol de gamba's eerily suspended notes in the dark melodic line. These are also supported by resonant sounds of various other instruments that emerge as the track develops. It's good to see a haunting ambient track that is also so very likeable to the general listener. (9/10)

12) Prosperity and Tradition

This is the second town theme of the album. Tanioka's approach is very folk-influenced here like certain other town themes in the Original Soundtrack. While the kazoo use in this track isn't as profound as "The First Town," its use is still very quirky and enjoyable. Although this track suffers from being a little lacklustre, it generally proves to be decent enough. (7/10)

13) Shudder, Monster

Despite its name, this track is actually a dungeon theme as opposed to a battle theme. This is fortunate, however, considering it is quite a flat and annoying creation that really needs more boldness. While I admire Tanioka's attempts at using early instruments creatively, its light-hearted minimalist style doesn't manage to create much beyond monotony. It really needs more substance (and fast). (5/10)

14) If it's Three People...

The strangeness of this track reflects the weirdness of its name well. While its initial melody on the kazoo follows in the footsteps of the tedium of "Shudder, Monster," the secondary melody that emerges on the high winds is much more enjoyable. This melody has a dance-like quality about it and is very memorable. The track's not too shabby once you get into it. (7/10)

15) Eternal Oath

"Eternal Oath" is another brooding ambient gem. It develops chillingly from the delicious low-pitched wind sounds in the opening into an awesome ambient creation. This is the only track Kumi Tanioka did not compose — it was actually Hidenori Iwasaki who was responsible for its creation. For those who do not know him, Iwasaki is a valued member of the Square Enix team: he has been responsible for sound programming and arranging in several Original Soundtracks, including Final Fantasy XI's. His most recent work was single-handedly creating the gargantuan 4 disc epic, the Front Mission 4 + 1st Original Soundtrack, which gave him his second try at mainstream composing (the first was this track). I have no doubt that it was worthwhile assigning him a track to work on for this Original Soundtrack, considering his highly refined and meticulous compositional techniques resulted in the creation of nothing other than a true masterpiece. Look out for this composer in the future — he is a potential high flyer. (10/10)

16) End of the Tale

This is a 15 second solo lute track. It is obviously too brief to be anything special, but the lute is well mastered and the track serves its purpose well. That's all there is to say. (6/10)

17) Magii is Everything

I fear that you heard enough of me obsessing about the kazoo already. I will save you the agony of prolonging the discussion of the instrument by simply stating that the kazoo is used very well in this magical track to create a great sense of mysticism and mystery. It was a wise choice of instrument to use. There! That's it. Now, that wasn't too hard, was it? Or was it? Oh. Hmm, I think it'd be best if we move swiftly on. (8/10)

18) Amidatti and Eleonor, too

I was a little disappointed with "Amidatti and Eleonor, too" considering much of the theme is based around a rather superficial and annoying solo flute melody that is introduced in the monophonic opening. Thankfully, however, once it eventually manages to develop and move beyond this, it becomes a lovely Celtic folk theme that boasts lots of intricate harmonic and melodic manipulation. I apologise for mentioning the kazoo again, but the track has lots of zany solos for the instrument! I know I have an anal-retentive fixation about the instrument, but I would be doing the track an injustice if I didn't at least mention it. You understand, don't you? OK, I'll try not to directly refer to the instrument again. Sorry. (7/10)

19) Promised Grace

Guess which instrument has the primary melody for this tune? I'll give you three clues: it begins with a k, it is five letters in length, and it produces a buzzing sound when blown into. The two nimble and intricate wind passages that the kazoo passage (oops, I gave it away) precipitates are much more appealing, however, and have a lot of jovial flair to them. Kumi Tanioka clearly spent a lot of time on this theme and it definitely paid off. (9/10)

20) A Gentle Wind Blows

"A Gentle Wind Blows" represents its title well, just like "Moving Clouds on the River's Surface." Instrumental contrasts are used to create a fitting representation of this calm and airy scene. This is particularly so between the recorder melodies (yes, yet more of them!) and the light percussion that the track is mainly built around. It's beautiful. Don't worry — there are no kazoos to mention here (unless one is hiding somewhere and I missed it, which seems unlikely). (8/10)

21) Voice of Wind, Song of Time

"Voice of Wind, Song of Time" is another gentle track that features yet another solo recorder melody; however, the way the harmony is crafted around these melodies mean it is hardly unexceptional compared to other such themes. The use of the solo xylophone's light ostinato and the sporadically placed celesta, bells and other percussion give the theme an original and experimental approach in creating the required serene atmosphere. My only quarrel about the track is the brief organ passage that occurs at the 1 minute 50 second mark. While it has a lot of effect when it first enters, it feels rather pointless after this. Its transition back into the main melody is also rather thoughtless and it would have benefited from less interruptive integration. (8/10)

22) Goblin's Lair

This track is probably best determined as being controversial. It opens in quite a militaristic manner with a series of soldierly melodies that give the theme a lot of initial strength. It manages to somehow descend into slapstick, however, as a load of light-hearted melodies emerge. Some abhor the theme for this, and while this does reduce certainly reduce the theme's dramatic impact, it does also make the theme more multifaceted and a more rounded representation of the goblin's lair. I actually really like it in a strange sort of way — I think it definitely grows on you and is one of the more memorable tracks. (9/10)

23) Make a Resolution

I don't understand the inconsistency as regards to how Tanioka develops her themes. You have themes like "Goblin's Lair" that develop comprehensively and loop only after 3 minutes; on the contrary, however, you also have themes like "Make a Resolution" that consist of little more than a repeated motif that goes round in circles for 50 seconds. This track builds up a little bit of suspense, but it is unforgivable that Tanioka didn't develop it more when she could have easily done so. (4/10)

24) Monster's Dance ~Rondo~

This is apparently the boss battle theme. It doesn't offer much, however, and while the fast-paced ostinato in the harmony creates some excitement, the bland and seemingly thoughtless melodies fail to create the gripping atmosphere strictly needed here. A three-toed sloth with its limbs amputated would inject more life into a boss battle theme than this. No, don't laugh — I really mean it. Still, it is always good to see a rondo being used, don't you think? (6/10)

25) Water of Life

This is a programmatic theme used to accompany an FMV sequence within the game. It is orchestrated in a beautiful and eloquent manner, and its watery textures present really radiate a lot of life from the theme. It achieves sufficient impact where it is needed, and while expectedly short, it is heartfelt nonetheless. (8/10)

26) I'm Moogle

The losses of the "Prelude" and the "Chocobo" theme from this Original Soundtrack were survivable because of the fact that the "Cripper Tripper Fritter" theme from the Final Fantasy V Original Sound Version was revived prominently in two themes. These are the first notable revivals of the theme since the Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack and are together highly welcome. Tanioka adds a lot of ancient touches to Uematsu's catchy melodies to ensure that "I'm Moogle" is not a misfit, and this also adds a lot of extra zest and zaniness. It would benefit from a little more experimentation, however. "My Den" on Disc Two is marginally better because of this. (9/10)

27) Nostalgic Profile

I have a great love for "Nostalgic Profile." This track boasts some absolutely stunning moments thanks to the poignant flute melodies that add something really exotic to the track. It is otherwise dominated by tribal beats and ethnic rhythms giving it an almost otherworldly feel. This is another really successful ambient gem that is sure to appeal to others when listened to fully. (9/10)

28) Annual Festival

This is another strong town theme that shows how Tanioka does folk tunes well. While the kazoo use isn't especially effective in this track, the flute melody, which enters after the initial kazoo passage has finished, is adorable. It gives a big warm smile upon my face every time I hear it. It is a refreshing way to conclude Disc One. (9/10)

Disc Two

1) Endless Sky

Remember that I mentioned how Tanioka saves the full-blown instrumental arrangements of "Kaze No Ne" until Disc Two when reviewing "Caravan Crossroad"? This track is the one that primarily feels the strong impact created by this (although it is literally replicated in "Thoroughly Blue" towards the end of the disc). It builds up from a simple introductory passage into a full-blown instrumental rendition of "Kaze No Ne." It sounds really magnificent when it blossoms like this. The addition of some tuned percussion passages from the glockenspiel are particularly welcome°™these grant enormous impact. There couldn't be a more marvellous way to start Disc Two! (10/10)

2) Meager Advance

"Meager Advance" is an experimental treasure that gives me the creeps every time I listen to it. It amazes me how effective all-so-simple contrasts in timbre can be: the deep sounds of the sporadically placed and heavily articulated bass viol da gamba solos produce amazing contrasts with the light pizzicato strings otherwise sneaking through the piece. These are really chilling and effectual. I daresay some won't like it, but it is definitely admirable in a musical way nonetheless. (8/10)

3) My Den

"My Den" takes a much more experimental approach to "Cripper Tripper Fritter" than "I'm Moogle." The swung and syncopated rhythms make the Moogle almost sounds drunk in places! It is definitely sought after, however. It amazes me how it is the Moogle theme still manages to be the catchiest in the soundtrack — this shows just how wonderful Nobuo Uematsu's melodies can be. It's great — trust me! (10/10)

4) Overlooking the Great Ocean

Kumi Tanioka shows just how well she can represent landscape scenes once again with this rustic treasure. The strumming of the acoustic guitar creates a rugged feel that is ideal for representing the battered shores of the ocean. However, the wind melodies that sing over them create a much softer and airier feel that presents the freshness of sea air to all who hear it. It's a shame that there isn't a secondary melody added, considering it seems to need a little more development. Other than that, however, it's just fine. (8/10)

5) Something Burns in the Heart

"Something Burns in the Heart" gives the first glimpses of grave darkness in the Original Soundtrack. Lots of elements are used to build up this sense of darkness: its tribal drum beats; the bass viol de gamba's dark suspended notes; and the agitated chord sequences used to build up the piece's brooding melodic passages certainly work together in doing this. Although too early to be a climactic theme, it certainly builds up tension early on in Disc Two, which is maintained for the next few tracks in one way or another. (9/10)

6) Leaving the Body Freely

There is something very enigmatic created by the irregular 7/8 metre used for this theme. This creates a fragment of tension that ensures what was built up in the last track was not lost. Otherwise, however, it tends to be a venturesome theme. It features some profoundly mastered acoustic guitar melodies that make this track very enjoyable for the general listener. (8/10)

7) Sleeping Treasure in the Sand

I love "Sleeping Treasure in the Sand." Although another folklore track, it maintains quite a frantic feel thanks to its racy melodies and the basso ostinato's irregular rhythms. While it is the primary melody that makes this track so memorable, the secondary melodies that occur are especially good. The viol solo that occurs at the 2 minutes 35 seconds mark adds a much more emotive feel to the entire track and is a really captivating addition. (9/10)

8) Oh, Light...

The frenetic "Oh, Light..." definitely has a great sense of dramatic ascendancy about it, which the soundtrack certainly needs more of. The harpsichord melodies are first-rate and the track certainly greets them when they emerge. Similarly, I have a great fondness for the stylistic guitar strumming that the track is loosely yet effectively based around. This is the last of the initial bout of dark tracks. (8/10)

9) Aiming Towards the New World

The string of excellent tracks continues through "Aiming Towards the New World," another voyaging track. I have always found its gentle instrumentation contrasts to be quite "Gustaberg"-esque. ("Gustaberg" is from the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack.) If you listen to the way the violin and viola-da-gamba sing over the scotch snap rhythms repeated in the harmony then you should see exactly what I mean! This is another fine effort, even if a little simple. (8/10)

10) Strength in Sadness

We witness further lute mastery in "Strength in Sadness," an uplifting and relaxing theme that develops beautifully, particularly when the melody is added. I'll give no prizes for you guessing what the lead instrument is in this track! Yep, it is the recorder yet again! (No, not the kazoo.) Still, its airy and ancient sounds make it the ideal instrument in such themes and I do not dispute that it is effective where used. Other than being a little brief, I see no problems with this one. (8/10)

11) The Time of Many Smiling Faces

"The Time of Many Smiling Faces" is the ideal musical epitome of medieval town life. It endearing melodies are an engaging feature that can be listened to for many hours. It's short, but it's very, very sweet. (8/10)

12) When the Northern Sky is Clear

This is one of the darkest themes in the entire Original Soundtrack and is a clear-cut favourite. Its many musical features°™the foreboding chanting of synth vocals upon suspended long notes, the intense chord progressions that occur in the passage starting at the 1 minute 20 second mark, and the uptight tuned percussion motifs that decorate the track's harmonies°™all give an ominous, profound, and eminent feel. This works to drive the album towards its climax in what marks the second (and final) bout of dark themes. (10/10)

13) Mag Mail

Following in the footsteps of "Meager Advance," the incredibly dissonant "Mag Mail" shows Tanioka does experimental and ambient tracks well once more. It sounds like Tanioka's personal representation of a looping out-of-tune music box! Such weird yet wonderful tracks are always good to hear and to get one's 'claws' into, don't you think? (9/10)

14) Across the Divide

This is another snappy theme that sees the tuned percussion take the lead with a quirky melody. Eventually a secondary melody is introduced on the flute, which is even more charming. This would be ideal music to represent a chase, and it really gets the excitement and tension brewing needed in the approach to the end the Original Soundtrack. (8/10)

15) Echoes in the Heart

Tanioka uses minimalism here through sparsely placing thin piano passages against the repeating ostinato of the mystical bell harmony first introduced back in "Echo of Memory." This is minimalism at its best in my opinion and such styles are amazingly effective in creating the mystery and holiness. This is the first of three 'final area' themes, and while not particularly climactic, the recapitulation of the "Echo of Memory" theme helps to bring the album round full circle. (10/10)

16) Light and Shadow

This is the second of the 'final area' themes that alternate in the last dungeon of the game. A mystical feel is inspired by spiritual backing vocals. These elevate the track to an almost paranormal level. It also feels quite cold and icy thanks to the use of celestas, high-pitched piano motifs, various tuned percussion motifs etc. This is by far the best final dungeon themes the series has seen has seen since Final Fantasy VIII and seems ideal for its in-game purpose. (9/10)

17) I Don't Want to Forget...

This is the last of the 'final area' themes. It is very similar to "Light and Shadow" — its melodies are the same, the atmosphere created is equally as mystical, and the instrumental combinations are practically identical. If I were to play them separately without looking at their track titles then I can frankly say that I wouldn't know which one is which. This is hardly a bad thing, however, as its success is equally as great as "Light and Shadow." (9/10)

18) Sad Monster

This is the first of two 'final boss' themes and it is one of my overall favourites from the entire soundtrack. While I enjoy the bagpipe melodies, the driving force of the booming bass drum and the organ solo bridge in the middle of the track are my favourite features! Admittedly, it takes some time to truly appreciate (thus making this track often rather underrated); however, I know I am not alone in believing this is one of the best final boss battle themes the series has so far seen. (10/10)

19) Unite, Descent

"Unite, Descent" develops into the second final battle theme after a short and rather problematic introduction. After its questionable start, the track becomes an excellent one, brewing with an enormous amount of darkness, menace, and flair. The drumbeats really drive this theme along, just like they did in "Awakening" (from Final Fantasy XI) and "Sad Monster." In addition, the synth vocal backings and lead flute melodies are also very contributory in adding to the dramatic impact. I particularly love the way that fragments of "Kaze No Ne" are integrated within this theme by tubular bells. This raises the whole ultimacy of this wonderful track. (9/10)

20) To the Successor of the Crystal

With the final bosses defeated, the album is wrapped up with a couple of much softer tracks. The synth vocals employed here have the effect they did in "Light and Shadow" and "I Don't Want to Forget..." by creating an enormous amount of spiritualism and mysticism. While it is a little underdeveloped in nature, it presents the right atmosphere needed and does exactly what it needs to do. (8/10)

21) Thoroughly Blue

The "Kaze No Ne" theme is recapitulated in another powerful instrumental rendition. It is identical to "Endless Sky" at the start of the disc except under a different name. Sneaky, huh? Still, I don't dispute its presence — it's an excellent theme and the album really needed to hear it one last time to feel concluded. (10/10)

22) Starry Moonlit Night

The second vocal track of the album, "Starry Moonlit Night," is sung by the incredibly talented Yae once again. This really makes the ending of the game a beautiful one. Whenever I listen to it, its gentle and lonely melodies remind me of the end of your long adventure where you say your fond farewells to your comrades to go off and live happily ever after. Somehow it manages to be so sad yet so happy at the same time. Bittersweet, dare I say? (10/10)

23) Orgel of Water

This is a thoughtful recapitulation of "A Gentle Wind Blows" on the airy tones of a solo lute. While repetitive and undeveloped, it provides a soft 'penultimate reprise' nonetheless. It serves the purpose of splitting the two renditions of "Starry Moonlit Night" fittingly within the album. (7/10)

24) Starry Moonlit Night ~Arranged Version~

I prefer this rendition of the "Starry Moonlit Night" to its original. It amazes me how the monophonic solo line of Yae's voice heard in the introduction gradually builds up musically into a full masterwork complete with backing vocals, drum beats, and even the electric guitar (the only time an electric instrument is heard throughout the entire soundtrack). It is beautifully done and does Yae credit. It is undoubtedly a masterpiece. (10/10)