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Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack Plus Review:: Written by Migglie

Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack Plus Album Title: Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack Plus
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10047; SQEX-10035
Release Date: December 6, 2000; October 20, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Nobuo Uematsu would have deserved quite a long break upon completion of his work for the ninth game in the Final Fantasy series. Despite having already written Final Fantasy IX's standard soundtrack of a quality which we would have come to expect, Uematsu took his composing a step further. Rather than relying upon existing soundtrack music to accompany the game's full motion videos, he decided to write scores unique to the videos, thus rendering them as dramatic as possible. The effect is quite astonishing and, consequently, I have found a deep respect and a soft spot for this album. In an interview, Uematsu said that it was an ambition of his to write the entire Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack using exclusively traditional instruments. While he may have ultimately decided against such an approach, this album showcases a unique display of compositions that could act as a film score. This seems to make sense — Uematsu has hinted that he is interested in film scoring. Judging by the Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack Plus, this would be a welcome to us all. Now, in my eyes, this album really shines in its first 29 tracks. The pieces thereafter, I would classify as 'miscellaneous', or 'bonus' material, if you will. For most listeners, these orchestral tracks will be the main attraction of the CD. The music is highly evocative and descriptive so it's only natural to relive the FMVs when you listen to this soundtrack, and that can't be a bad thing — there are bound to be fond memories. What's more, all these pieces are above average anyway, so it's a rewarding listening experience in itself.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Brahne's Appearance ~ The Play Begins

This is bombastic opening to the album, apparently based upon the famous "Hall of the Mountain King" melody by Grieg, but in a major key. The light, bouncy percussion and bold brass compliments each other well in some fairly complicated part-writing. As with all the pieces here, it serves its purpose very well, representing the playful entertainment at Alexandria Castle (though at the expense of length). Still, it's an inspiring opening. (8/10)

2) Steiner to the Rescue

A more action-packed track here, recounting Garnet's leap of faith from Alexandria Castle and Steiner's subsequent accident. I always recall "YMCA" a couple of seconds into this track. I think you might see why. This track is really the Garnet/main theme stated in an exciting and vivid way. At the 14 second mark, the theme really soars and quickly descends back into a moment of suspension towards the end. (9/10)

3) Escape from Alexandria

This is not really a very melodic track; it plays out better as pure action music. Percussion and brass begins this track which depicts one busy Alexandrian army preparing to attack our heroes. Rising strings and accented timpanis creates quite a tension which builds into a final set of crescendos towards the end. (8/10)

4) Prima Vista Crash

Thematically, this is a wondrous track. Rather than choosing a gripping action cue for the devastated Theatre Ship, the noble Final Fantasy theme accompanies the ship's descent in a graceful and almost tragic way. Kuja's theme then takes over, rather surprisingly since he is not involved with this scene at all. Its melody does, however, serve as a menacing, forboding one in its own right. Following this comes the haunting "Queen of the Abyss" theme (which is, of course, a minor version of Vivi's theme). It's very satisfying to hear these themes in a slightly more subtle context. (9/10)

5) Petrification of Blank

This piece is an orchestral sprucing up of "Run!" as the party rushes to escape the deadly forest. This is a pretty straightforward adaption of a rather unoriginal escape theme. It certainly improves upon the original in this format, but, in my opinion, not greatly. The final few moments of tragic realisation that Blank is petrified is this track's best. That said, this is probably the most unsatisfying track out of the 29. (6/10)

6) Black Mage vs. Black Mage

Rather than focusing on the destruction of The Black Mages, this bittersweet track portrays the personal loss of Vivi - a simple piano and a single note of a music box are effective reflections of Vivi's innocence. Harp and strings join subtly before the piece concludes with some arguably cheesy chords representing the deadly third Black Waltz. (7/10)

7) Breaking Through South Gate

Playing through one of the most memorable videos in Final Fantasy IX, this track is one of the most impressive in the album. It's a thrilling piece, a marriage of rhythm and melody. Sweeping arpeggios and light woodwinds reflect the cargo ship's journey while a constant attack from the strings keeps the tension high. There are even some small heroic fanfares sprinkled in to represent Zidane's antics. The climax is followed by another moment of suspension (a technique that seems to be popular with Uematsu). (10/10)

8) Arrival in Lindblum

The nature of this piece is rather peculiar. Overall, it is both ominous and romantic at the same time, using unusual chord progressions to good effect. However, I did not find that it accurately depicts the arrival to Lindblum. Rather than being light-hearted or epic, it's rather subdued and melancholy. Perhaps, it better reflects the mood of the party at this point. A very uneasy piece. (6/10)

9) Song ~ Zidane and Dagger

Here we have a vocal statement of the "Song of Memory" as Garnet sings to herself. It's very stirring here and flourishes as the strings take over to a rather questionable, and abrupt, finish. This piece particularly suffers from the necessity of being short as the end is rather anti-climatic. It does score, however, high marks for having a powerfully emotional effect. (8/10)

10) Kuja Leaving Burmecia

As Kuja makes a quick exit and a fool of the heroes, his own theme plays out in full glory much alike the "Kuja's Theme - Millenium Version" (track 33). The orchestra, percussion, and choir compliment each other well in what is a very memorable bad-guy theme. More variation would have been welcomed, but it is a solid track nonetheless. (8/10)

11) Summoning to Destroy Cleyra

As Brahne summons Odin to dispose of Cleyra, a single motif is repeatedly played, as the key changes with it. Ascending/descending scales and strident brass creates a dreadful atmosphere. Best of all is a cheeky and playful statement of Brahne's theme and the "Black Mage vs. Black Mage" theme on the xylophone, suggesting that she is just enjoying all of the violence. It is very effective. (8/10)

12) Lindblum Under Attack

Another track about Brahne's destructive habits. A rather uneasy opening leads into the theme of the Black Waltz, which is hinted at in a military march with the snare drum. It's subsequently played in an all-out brutal fashion. It is perfect for the scene, though it's nothing too special. (6/10)

13) Lindblum In Ruins

The second track of Lindblum's destruction is rather more enjoyable. The strings play anxiously as an oboe solo plays a similarly apprehensive tune. Brass/piano/bells rattle dischordantly as Garnet watches the evil deeds of her mother. Again, great in the FMV and rather enjoyable on the soundtrack. (8/10)

14) The Disappearing Mist

I find this track to be very beautiful yet regrettably short. The major key is a welcome change here, with a melody that floats above soothing cellos. Again, the ending caps the piece off well in the video but feels rather awkward on the soundtrack. Still, this is another of many highlights. (8/10)

15) Dagger Remembers (Madain Sari Destroyed)

As Dagger recalls the past, the "Memories of that Day" music is played (complete with Garnet's theme in a minor version). It's not the most exciting of tracks, but it has a strong melancholy feel, created by the echoing piano and soft, wind instruments. (7/10)

16) Summoning Bahamut

Now this is an exciting track! Blasting horns, furious tremolo strings and marching percussion. The Kuja theme returns on strings, menacing as ever; yet, another abrupt ending ensues. There are many decent action cues on this soundtrack and this is a fine example of one. Though short, it is incredibly evocative. (9/10)

17) Annihilation of Brahne's Fleet

This is almost an 'answer' piece to the previous tracks, but told from Brahne's point of view. It reflects the impending doom upon the Alexandrians with tremolo strings, anxious shifts and another rendition of Kuja's theme. Evil, yet tragic, orchestral accompaniment leads into an interesting ending. It seems to be a small melodic fragment from "The Evil Mist Rebirth!" (8.5/10)

18) A New Queen Is Born

A simple, sweet and touching rendition of the "Song of Memory" on the piano is a very suitable choice to represent Garnet's newly acquired sorrow and sense of uncertainty. It's not complex and there's no orchestra at all, and the gorgeous 'false relation' chord changes at the end is both eerie and bittersweet. (9/10)

19) Bahamut Raid

Another action cue and another good piece. The ascending strings and brass keep this piece on edge, with a standard sustained discord finishing off the short piece. It's good but not great. (7/10)

20) Eiko Descends

As Eiko descends from the sky, a minor piano floats around a series of melody notes before climaxing in a majestic release. This is a piece that really shines when set up against the visuals, though the ending disappoints a little. Still, for a short moment, it's absolutely magical. (8/10)

21) Summoning Alexander

After a subdued opening, the majesty of Alexander hinted at in the last track briefly returns. The presence of Bahamut ensures that there is still plenty of minor chords, soaring flutes, pounding brass and timpani. (8/10)

22) Ghost Ship

This piece is very brief but perhaps the most horrific yet. The brass blasts out chords throughout, and the choir, with accompanying descending strings, reproduce the terrible ship looming above the city of Alexandria. It's purely a piece for an atmosphere of dread. (7/10)

23) Rescuing Dagger

Haunting piano and swift strings are followed by a march-like passage. The pulse of the percussion really creates a sense of danger. Upon Garnet's rescue a beautiful passage follows with effective use of the cello and harp. It's edging towards romantic. A very enjoyable listen. (9/10)

24) Dagger Cuts Her Hair

As Garnet rids herself of her inner demons, she undertakes the symbolic act of a little haircut! This is right up there with the best on this soundtrack. In a way, it is an 'answer' piece to track 18 ("A New Queen is Born"), where the introverted Garnet is finally set free of her concerns. Here, the piano is reintroduced with a memorable and emotional melody. The oboe solo and hinted "Song of Memory" excerpt in the strings are equally moving. (10/10)

25) Dagger Recalls the Ghost Ship

Much like track 15, this is another recollection of the past with Garnet's theme in a minor version. It's rather short but again, there is much sadness and confusion evoked from the piano accompaniment. It's a shame that it is so similar to the other tracks, however. (7/10)

26) The Fall of Neo-Kuja

This slow piece introduces a choir and Kuja's theme over the voices. The shifting keys are disturbing and are appropriate for the 'fall' of Kuja. The fact that it remains so, well, evil, suggests that Kuja is not quite out of the picture. There is something very ominous about the harp too. Creepy. (8/10)

27) Escape from Terra

Another slow, ill-omened piece that makes full use of bizarre chord progressions and strings. At one point, the oboe provides a a short melody fragment that I find very appealing to the ears. The piano, strings, and woodwinds all come together in another subdued ending. Overall, this track is another very chilling piece. (8/10)

28) Zidane and Dagger Separate

Here is probably the most romantic track on the soundtrack, a thoughtful rendition of "Melodies of Life" with rich strings and a sweet piano. It lacks the same beauty as track 24 ("Dagger Cuts her Hair"), but it is still a mighty affecting piece. (9/10)

29) To the Origin of Kuja

This final action cue is one of the best on the soundtrack as Zidane races into the Iifa Tree's roots to rescue his brother. Fluttering strings, trilling flutes and jungle rhythms pepper the track! Throughout this track there are hints of the Garnet/main theme, most significantly a rather heroic solo on the trumpet. At the same time, there are piano clusters too! And don't forget the jungle percussion! With a good deal of complex writing, this is a glorious track and a fine finish to the main 29 tracks. (9/10)

Other Reviews

Now, the remainder of the album consists of bonus tracks. Don't expect them to blow you away - they won't. But they're worth a listen. Well, most of them are.

Track 30 offers nothing new really, and while "Rufus' Opening Ceremony" is a catchy tune, it's a rather repetitive one too. Most people will already have this track anyway. Honestly, while it was fun to hear a musical cameo in the game, I don't think this track should have been included on the album.

Track 31 is a resurrected track from Final Fantasy III that can be heard in the Black Mage Village after specific events. Again, it's not really Final Fantasy IX, it's fairly repetitive, and it's not that impressive.

Track 32 is a clone of Eiko's theme with the Garnet/main theme played on top. It's a pleasant alternative to the original but nothing to lose sleep over.

Track 33 is the Millenium Version of Kuja's theme. This is a piece that should have been included on the original OST since it plays throughout one of the major dungeons in the game. It's only some synth percussion from "Immortal Melody" on top of the original theme, but it works fairly well, despite being rather simple and repetitive.

Track 34 named "Main" maybe should have been mostly closely associated with an actual 'Main Theme'. It's "Crossing the Knoll," only more upbeat and with some some additional new material. An enjoyable track.

Track 35 is one cool track that was sadly missed in the game. With the Black Waltzes hardly making a significant appearance, I can see why this Waltz went unused. Yet, it's an infectious, devious little waltz, perfect for the three Waltzes. With its similarities to the "Honey Bee Manor" (Final Fantasy VII) and the Black Mage theme, it is a fun piece to listen to.

Tracks 36 - 38 are all variations on the "Place I'll Return to Someday" theme. I get the impression that Uematsu really wanted to exploit this theme and experiment with the medieval sounds that Final Fantasy IX's premise could allow him to play around with. The original piece was certainly sublime and these tracks fail to match it. However, they are definitely worth a listen. They are repetitive but communicate an ancient, almost medieval atmosphere. Track 36 may be too dirge-like for some tastes and 37 perhaps too mundane and discordant. Track 38 however, is fairly easy-listening.

Track 39's "Dokodade" sounds like danger music, though the ascending notes are a giveaway that this music was originally intended for events taking place at the Iifa Tree. It's not really worth repeated listens.

Track 40 has a similar 'giveaway' with the instrumentation and melody. It's practically a slower variation of "Sword of Doubt" (Beatrix's boss music). I prefer the original and can see why it was chosen as a preference over this. It's not great.

Track 41 is Kuja's theme, on the piano as before, but with some nice additions, such as major arpeggios and romantic touches. Rather than being straightforwardly evil, there's more variation here; it's a welcome change.

Finally, Track 42 is a Silent Mix of Melodies of Life. Now, personally, I'm not a big fan of most video game vocal music. However, while cheesy, this piece possesses charm and a memorable melody. What's more, the silent mix is calming and the volume never gets above a medium range. A good remix, a great chillout track, a decent bonus track, and a suitable ending to the soundtrack.


If you see the album as being a soundtrack for the FMV music, then that's great. That's the way that I view the album. The drawbacks of the album are undoubtedly some uninspiring bonus tracks. However, they don't really deter from the magnificence that is Uematsu's stunning work on Final Fantasy IX. Unlike the Original Soundtrack, this CD has some unique advantages and disadvantages, thanks to its very nature. The endings to the FMV tracks are often abrupt, unsuitable and forced due to the fact that the music was written for video, not the other way around (as is the case for the majority of the Original Soundtrack themes). As well as this, the pieces are inherently short and this is also a shame when you can imagine the pieces soaring away for another minute. Of course, there are advantages to this format - the pieces are specifically vivid, telling a specific little episode, and are thriving with emotion. Unlike some regular tracks, they do not suffer from repetition either. Each piece is a one-time-only affair, making their availability on this soundtrack that much more special.

Final Fantasy IX was never blessed with orchestral arrangements with real instruments, but these pieces are a step towards making up for it. It's not too long — you can have a musical journey though Final Fantasy IX with this soundtrack in a sitting and, for that alone, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Overall Score: 9/10