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Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack :: Review by Kie

Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack Album Title Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10028; SQEX-10005/8
Release Date: March 10, 1999; May 10, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


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!

Overall Score: 10/10