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Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite :: Review by Liminator

Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite Album Title: Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite
Record Label: Datam Polystar (1st Edition); Polystar (Reprint)
Catalog No.: H28X-10007; PSCR-5253
Release Date: July 25, 1989; March 25, 1994
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


From the perspective of a Final Fantasy enthusiast, it is certainly both amusing and satisfying to reflect upon the impact that 8-bit video games have had on not just the variety of video game music on offer today, but also on the culture of video gaming itself. Considering that someone has actually bothered to create a comprehensive orchestral album based on the first two installments from the Final Fantasy series, with both games well over two decades old, I find it nothing short of fascinating that this genre of music we now call "Video Game Music" is still well and alive in the hearts of many die-hard fans. Indeed, the tracks originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu during the earliest stages of his career would set the tone for many more successes to come...

The Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite is a recording of a concert that occurred in 1989, featuring music from both Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II No doubt, given that any album faces production costs and time constraints, the tracks chosen must have been decided rather selectively. However, considering the rather primitive gameplay and short plotlines of the first two Final Fantasies, and hence, a rather confined repertoire of music actually employed during the games themselves, it is arguable that the selection process would not have been an arduous task. So when I conclude that each individual track on this album qualifies as an accurate and just representation of the games themselves, this should not be a surprising result at all!


At the crux of this album lies a simple, but effective desire to tell a story. Indeed, the opening theme of Final Fantasy II featured in "Scene 1" foreshadows the game's solemn events quite well; the ominous vocals of the choir coupled with the foreboding melody serve as a just reminder of the tragedies that engulf the main protagonists.

However, "Scene 1" is not without problems. Arguably an inevitable downside of the 'video game loop' is that arrangers seeking to create a decent length piece from a ridiculously short melody (often spanning 20 seconds long) often face a considerable challenge. The issue here is not the melodies themselves, which are often intrinsically sweet in nature, but rather the fact that the melody is repeated numerous occasions with little or no variation. This problem is certainly not unique to this album alone, but it is not hard to see why this is a major problem for some tracks; attention need only be drawn to Scenes I, IV and VII where solo tracks are featured, as opposed to the welcome variation that medleys have to offer.

One striking feature of this album is the ease by which several themes can combine seamlessly into one medley, as seen in Scenes III, V and VI. Perhaps it is the excitable rigour and ferocity of "Chaos Temple" emerging in the midst of a harmonic "Prelude" and "FFI Main Theme" that does the trick in "Scene V", in contrast with the light-hearted fanfare that began the scene. Or perhaps it is the irresistible and rather nostalgic tune offered by a full-flared "Matoya's Theme" that accompanies the long-standing "Final Fantasy Theme" and sentimental "Town Theme". Or maybe it is the climax of suspense offered by a superb combination of "Gurgu Volcano" and the "Dungeon" theme in FFII that seeks to hold the listener captive to the intense nature of Final Fantasy environments encountered during adventures.

Whatever the reason, Hattori has skilfully meshed the themes effectively, and from the scores that I have given above, one can clearly see that they are very much the highlight of the album. Reflecting on the discussion mentioned earlier with regards to the repetition of short melodies, it is not hard to understand why a mixture of melodies being incorporated one after the other would make musical and common sense.

By virtue of being the second oldest Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy II is relatively unknown to the majority of mainstream fans. But things have changed somewhat with the release of the iTouch and/or iPhone applications. Both Hattoris should be commended for a superb and well-structured approach in bringing out the best of the game's music. A rather unconventional use of a drum machine in "Battle Scene 2" is rather unnerving at first, but complements the soothing, yet paradoxically upbeat melody. The resonating outbursts of noise could be a bit difficult to adjust to at first, but they serve the track well in some respects: namely, the true feeling, albeit an unorchestral one, that a battle is taking place.

In addition, the tranquility of "Love Will Grow" from "Scene IV" is equally as exciting for very different reasons. The touching onslaught of strings captures the restoration of peace to our protagonists' world. The expression of jubilation is subdued but beautiful at the same time, and provides a means for listeners to empathise with the characters in FFII. The patriotism of "Scene VII" is a fitting end to the album, in that it duly emphasises the Rebel Army's righteous struggle against the Emperor of Palamecia. The use of backup vocals are in my opinion invaluable as a tool in any piece; in this case they are utilized to accentuate the grim losses faced by the heroes of the game, similar to how they were implemented in "Scene I".


Barring those superficial and, rather careful qualifications, this album ranks quite highly on my list and I can't see why it shouldn't for any fan of the first two Final Fantasy installments. This orchestral album is consistent to the extent that there is no single track that is disappointing or fails expectations miserably, which is surprisingly difficult to achieve given the presence of other failures such as the track "Fithos Lusec Vecos Winosec" on the album of the same title, to name one example. The only problem is, if one is not an FFI or FFII fan, it may take a while to appreciate the quality of these tracks. Overall, great quality tracks make for a great quality album and will serve as a solid title to add to one's collection, but more so for the avid Final Fantasy fan.

Overall Score: 8/10