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Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version :: Review by Pandemonium

Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version Album Title: Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version
Record Label: NTT Publishing
Catalog No.: PSCN-5001/3 (1st Edition); NTCP-5001/3 (Reprint)
Release Date: March 25, 1994; October 1, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


This soundtrack heralds, in my opinion at least, a golden age in the Final Fantasy soundtrack series. Its later counterparts may have the advantage of superior sound quality and a wider range of instruments but the synthesised melodies add a certain character and simplicity to the soundtrack as a whole. It contains some of the most sublime video game themes ever created and, in terms of melodic consistency, stands head and shoulders, as well as quite a lot of the upper torso, above the rest. However you can't really compare 16 bit with live recordings, that is why I will try to avoid such comparisons in this review. We can't blame Uematsu for not having invented the PlayStation 2 seven years earlier so we must appreciate it in context. I have played the game but strangely I hold very little sentimental attachment to it, which will hopefully give me a more impartial view of the soundtrack musically.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Opening Theme

Opening Themes are consistently done very well in the Final Fantasy series. This is no exception. The ominous organ opening is almost a surprise and creates an interesting atonal effect with two dissonant chords striking terror into the listener. The building up of the fourths creates a great deal of tension and the quite abrupt change into an almost hesitating descending piano line adds to the ominous effect. This moves on to a very grave theme. The melody is surprisingly good despite its simplicity and it successfully carries on the ominous mood. It also develops quite effectively in the short space of time that it. It is followed by a rendition of one of the much beloved themes of the soundtrack, "Tina". It is undoubtedly a very beautiful melody — it is quite pessimistic yet there are sunny sections of hope and optimism. The orchestration is successful with the strings providing a counterpoint to the main theme played by the oboe while the harp and snare drum provide the bass line.

The track is a very effective opening. The melodic material is top notch and it encompasses a lot of feelings. However it really isn't anything exceptional. I feel a tad underwhelmed by the track and, although "Tina" is very popular, there are better themes on this soundtrack and I actually prefer it in its entirety at the beginning of Disc Two. The main problem is that it doesn't quite flow logically between the three sections. The sections are very obvious and the linking passages don't pull it into one cohesive whole which lets it down. In spite of this, I still feel it is melodically sound and emotionally effective. (9/10)

2) Colliery Narsh

This track follows very logically from the "Opening Theme" and carries on the ominous feel. The dark dragging string chords and jazzy clicking bass give the track quite a mysterious feel. It is interspersed with a relatively fast-paced jazzy piano motif and the juxtaposition is quite effective. The oboe melody flows seamlessly out of the string chords, but unfortunately dies away soon afterwards. I like the way this track feels very laid back but still evokes feelings of melancholy. That's especially so in the opening string melody which is incidentally my favourite part. It flows well and feels logical in its progression, but I think this is partially due its brevity. This track does not stand out as amazing nevertheless. It is quite simplistic in its orchestration as its string chord progression just becomes very monotonous after a while. It also lacks in terms of melody; after the first 16 seconds there is very little emotive impact and I feel it just drags. However it isn't horrible to listen too and is quite relaxing in a hypnotic sort of way. A nice theme overall. (5/10)

3) Awakening

Again this track has quite a jazzy feel to it, especially the opening clarinet melody. The "Tina" theme is used again. The piano takes over from the oboe although the string backing stays pretty similar. What makes the difference is the lack of the bass line, which transforms it into a more reflective piece than the march version in the "Opening Theme". It is very subdued and calming but lacks the emotional impact present in its predecessor. The downside is that it is basically just Terra's theme again. It isn't as effective as the "Opening Theme" or later versions. It also isn't promising to have the same theme used in tracks of such proximity and seems to show a lack of originality. However, the themes are used to represent the same character and any track would benefit from having such a good melody. (7/10)

4) Locke

Another example of the melodic quality of this soundtrack. The track oozes hope and optimism; it sounds more like an airship theme than a character theme with strings and horns providing the melody and a snare drum for the bass. It develops well and the track flows logically from the A section to the more tense B section and back to the A section again. The orchestration is the best part of this track and really is what gives it the potency it has — the timpani provides appropriate accents and the lower string counterpoint is very effective. However, I find the main theme a bit too happy. Although the B section adds as an effective contrast, there are better melodies in my opinion on this soundtrack. Even though the theme is not my favourite, it develops better than most of the other tracks on this soundtrack which puts it above most of the others. (8/10)

5) Battle Theme

The problem with battle themes is that, in the game, you will undoubtedly hear them thousands of times as you train up. This often makes them unjustly despised as people gradually get sick of them. This one has a lot going for it; the rocky feel gives it drive and potency while the trumpet melody isn't bad at all. I think what makes the track are the strings, which are well placed to good effect especially at 0:08 and the very opening. It also flows very well and develops satisfactorily — the ABACA structure gives it a bit of purpose as well. This is a fun track in spite of its short length. However it doesn't hit me emotionally — it lacks impact and just gets annoying after a while. That's certainly a bad trait for a battle and, after the thousandth time, it definitely grates. In spite of this, it has a certain amount of character making it listenable the first 999 times. (7/10)

6) Fanfare

I always wonder why they put these fanfares in. They aren't very effective in a soundtrack and generally don't fit in. The piece starts with the traditional fanfare leading into an optimistic trumpet theme signalling the victory in battle. The glaring problem is its brevity and, length aside, it is extremely repetitive with very little variety to keep interest. It is a pointless edition that lets down the good run of tracks so far. But I have to admit is effective at what it does — announcing victory and then encouraging gamers to move on to the next battle. (3/10)

7) Edgar and Mash

A very regal track that fits the Royal Palace of Figaro and its residents. It is blessed with another good melody carried mainly by the brass and is harmonised by strings. What really makes the track is the powerful and emotive string development section that follows. The orchestration is good, although the trumpet can get on my nerves a bit in the high sections; it is difficult to find a harshly synthesised trumpet pleasing to listen to. However, the four note main theme does repeat a bit too often in the primary section thus making it a bit annoying. After a few times the melody loses its potency but the string section compensates for this and makes it a much more enjoyable track. (8/10)

8) Kefka

Now this track has character. It is mischievous, devious, and sinister perfectly reflecting the principal villain in the game. The melody is memorable but what really brings it out is the orchestration. The choice of instruments gives the track its unique feel and is why I find it so enjoyable. The pizzicato strings and woodwind are almost playful, which is a contrast to the macabre march-like orchestration of the second section. This track is a classic and probably the best villain theme in the series that I have heard. Like most of the tracks in this soundtrack it is quite short but this doesn't seem to bother me. The melody is top notch like most of the melodies on this soundtrack. Although it doesn't have the power of some, the orchestration which makes it special and stand out. An exceptional track. (10/10)

9) Mt. Koltz

This theme is quite a strange mix of optimism and mystery. It starts with rising strings with a beat in the background that provides the momentum as the characters move through the cave. The rather enjoyable main theme is played by the violins and creates the feel of a optimistic dance. This theme is passed to the horns and then to the woodwind as the theme spirals round and round. Despite the strength of the melody, it lacks development and could have been displayed more effectively. Instead of advancing on, the theme is passed around round. Although it sounds nice the first time round and suits the dance style, it can get repetitive in the game as there is little variety in the track to keep the listener interested. However, it is nice to listen to outside of the game. (6/10)

10) Returners

This military march fits very well in its brief appearance when the Returners are planning their rebellion against the Empire. It starts with the prominent beat that goes on throughout the track, then the violins bring in their motif before the horns enter with the main theme. Strangely I find that the theme has parallels with Kefka's theme; I don't know whether this has some symbolic significance or maybe it's slightly obscure? The trumpets have a fanfare motif which is developed slightly as it comes back to the beginning again. Nevertheless, this is a rather dull track. Although it does suit the militaristic situation it is played in, the theme lacks any emotive points, which leaves it rather underwhelming outside of the game. However, I do like the composition itself and its rather dissonant quality despite its stand-alone limitations. (6/10)

11) Shadow

Another example of the melodic wealth in this soundtrack. "Shadow" a beautiful if rather simple track that is very subtle in its emotional impact. The whistle that carries the melody can become annoying after a while but it does help to give almost a sort of Western feel to it and conveys a lot of mystery. The melody is very memorable and is typical of the brief but perfectly formed melodies that appear again and again in this soundtrack. Despite its strengths, I find this track is a little too short. It does nothing with the initial melody meaning it eventually gets boring. The orchestration isn't exactly complex either with a rather repetitive bass line and the main instrument hurts the ears. I think the theme could have been carried off better, but it is definitely enjoyable the first few times round. (7/10)

12) Troops March On

This is a great track. The brass melody is very ominous and really gives the feel of an approaching army. The orchestration is well done with the strings provide an effective bass line to the main melody. The second section carried by the strings develops the brass section somewhat, which again increases the emotional impact. There is very little to fault except perhaps its brevity, but you can say that about so many pieces on this soundtrack. It is very emotive and really gives you a feeling of power as you listen to it. It could have been fleshed out, but is good enough as it is. A recommended listen. (9/10)

13) Cayenne

Two good tracks in a row, Nobuo's spoiling us! Again, another powerful theme; the melody is incredibly emotive and the flute is absolutely amazing for a 16 bit soundtrack. The Japanese feel reflects the character's samurai background and thus fits perfectly in the game. What more can you ask for? (10/10)

14) The Unforgiven

This track effectively conveys a feeling of tension and propels itself along at some speed. The orchestration is well applied and adds to the impact of the piece; scurrying strings are punctuated by brass and timpani creating what I guess could be called the melody. It develops little and is very short, which lets it down somewhat, and lacks a clear melody to make it memorable. Although it does what it is intended to do very well, this sort of track rarely impresses outside of the game especially after a few listens. (7/10)

15) The Mystic Forest

This track is hauntingly beautiful in its eeriness. It is quite effective in the game setting the scene for the mysterious forest that will take Sabin and Cyan back to the other characters. It starts with a synthesizer motif and a guitar before the main theme enters with string chords underneath. The soundscapes and development create a certain ambience which is very fitting of the setting. Though the melody is not particularly moving in comparison to others, the mood and ambience that it creates makes it worth listening to. I don't think it really matters that much that the theme doesn't stand out as it would distract from the mood. It nevertheless makes the track a slightly bland addition to the soundtrack. (6/10)

16) Mystery Train

This track continues the eerie mood from the previous track but has a more pronounced tune. It starts with a piano solo which brings in the sombre main theme before it is taken up by the other instruments to create a funeral march. It is appropriate given it is the train that takes the souls of the departed to the afterlife. It concludes with a mysterious passage for strings and flute that brings the track back to the piano solo. The main theme is quite emotive especially in the piano form, but it still doesn't have quite the effect that some tracks have had. This track is not as good as it could have been. (7/10)

17) Wild West

Now we have a complete change of mood with African drums and shakers accompanying an interesting melody from the strings. It starts very low with mysterious and playful cello melodies. This is carried on to the violins, which are then joined by the oboe as the dance is brought back to the beginning again. This track really brings out the wildness of the Veldt and is also the wilder counterpart to the next track as well. It isn't quite up there with the best tracks here, but it works very well in and out of the game. (8/10)

18) Gau

A very beautiful and serene track that, in a way, contradicts the personality of the character it portrays. The cello starts off with the main melody really increasing the theme's emotional intensity. The theme is passed on to the flute with a cushion of string chords that create a very poignant counterpoint to the theme. The orchestration fits perfectly. This is yet another example of a perfectly formed, almost Mozartian, melody. It is emotive and relaxing with a great sounding cello comparable to the flute of "Cayenne". However, the melody doesn't develop which reduces the interest in the track. In spite of this, the theme doesn't get boring and maintains its impact. (9/10)

19) The Snake Path

This is a strange track to listen to outside of the game. It focuses on string ostinatos that create a strange atmosphere. It starts with repeated string chords in quite a syncopated style before the violins enter with a high rippling motif. The main theme is introduced by the horn and has quite a mysterious feel. Unfortunately, the strings get annoying after a while and the unmemorable melody is almost drowned out by the strings. I do like the horn sampling though. (7/10)

20) Kids Run Through the City Corner

A relaxing and simple track with a peaceful melody and accompaniment. It starts off with guitar chords before the main tune is introduced and later transposed a third above it. The second section develops the theme a bit with the violins taking a more prominent part, almost partaking in a duet with the main instrument. This is certainly a very peaceful track and is enjoyable on the whole despite occasional irritations. The second section makes up for most limitations, although it is still lacking a certain something to be a truly great track nonetheless. (7/10)

21) Under Martial Law

This track reworks the brilliant "Troops March On" theme and completely changes the mood to a mysterious one. It starts with some string chords and a harp accompaniment to create the macabre atmosphere. The melody is then introduced, but is little different from the original except for the slower pace and different instrument. This track is a disappointment as it is both unoriginal, repetitive, and badly sampled. The fact that it steals a theme does not impede the listening quality, but the repetitiveness does. (5/10)

22) Celes

An incredibly emotive track with another superb melody. The slightly frantic start subsides quickly to introduce the melody in E flat major — my favourite key! The melody is once again perfectly formed and conveys a great deal of emotion and pathos. The orchestration isn't exactly exceptional and the theme isn't developed, but the melody shines through in spite of this. This is one of those tracks which doesn't get boring given the melody is almost eternal in its potency and so is deserving of its popularity. The only slight downside is that its later counterpart does develop a little more making the original incarnation somewhat redundant. (9/10)

23) Save Them!

This is very similar to "The Unforgiven" except it is positive in its mood. It starts with an optimistic theme from the violins followed by a fanfare and a scurrying string section. There is a section that uses a slowed down version of Terra's theme and plenty of variety to keep the listener interested. The very rapid change of motifs and melodies gives a great feeling of momentum. It is a mood track that creates tension and drama, so a coherent melody is not necessary. (7/10)

24) The Decisive Battle

Finally the boss theme! It seems quite strange to put this so late in the soundtrack even though it has been used previously in the game. However, it works seeming as it succeeds the tension built up by the previous track. It has quite a dramatic introduction with strings and organ and then the energetic and exciting main theme is introduced which is very energetic and exciting. The furious mood really sets the tone and fits perfectly into the situation. Although perfect boss battle material, I don't feel it works so well outside. (8/10)

25) Metamorphosis

Another tension track that's only purpose is to create mood. It consists mostly of rising and falling string runs and a surprising reincarnation of Terra's theme. It is quite short and thus gets quite repetitive after a while. However, it is quite effective at building tension despite the stunted development. (7/10)

Disc Two

1) Tina

A good start to this new disc. The Terra theme returns again in certainly one of its most memorable reincarnations as the world map theme. Little of this theme has changed overall except for instrumentation, but it improves upon the "Opening Theme" version in some ways. It certainly suggests both the mystery and danger that lies ahead but also the hope of the group and a sense of adventure to drive the player on. The highlight of this track is the second development section, which is very emotive and powerful in the game. However, I feel that the theme still could have been used better — the strange almost bubbly bass line gets annoying after a while and it sounds like a fish. Nevertheless, the extra bit of development helps and improves greatly on previous versions producing a timeless addition to the album. (9/10)

2) Coin Song

This is a very relaxing arrangement of the "Edgar and Sabin" theme. The opening instrument gives it a very introspective and plaintive feel providing a sense of emotion to the scene in the game. A flute takes up a slight variation on this theme, which is then passed onto an oboe with a string accompaniment. This variation completely and utterly changes the mood of the original theme moulding it to the context of the moment. It is effectively orchestrated and has a definite laid back feel to it. Along with most other tracks it is short so will get repetitive, but it is nice in spite of this and very enjoyable for that brief moment it plays. (8/10)

3) Techno de Chocobo

Ah! The immortal chocobo theme! It starts with some very strange whooping sounds as the bass is introduced. The theme follows closely behind with an interesting counterpoint added as well as the occasional percussion entrance or background piano motif. To round off there is another odd section which kicks in at about 0:38 again with added whooping. This arrangement is a strange one. The melody is rather constrained by the techno instrumentation, though it still provides a sense of fun as you ride round on a giant yellow bird. Unfortunately, there are some really rather off-putting sections which don't add anything to the track. I haven't the faintest idea what the whooping is about — maybe a 16 bit chocobo call but it just sounds odd and again reduces its appeal. The principal instrument really grates at the ears after a while as well. It is also very short and develops little. In summary, there are better chocobo themes. (5/10)

4) Forever Rachel

Another introspective and melancholy theme which reminds me heavily of the track before last. It starts with a short melody passed between woodwind before finally introducing a variation on Locke's theme played on woodwinds with a harp accompaniment. The theme is repeated again with a string backing to end the track. It is clearly intended to be emotive and it achieves this well. It also originally develops on a previous theme and, like "Coin Song", remoulds it to fit the situation. It's impressive how an almost annoyingly optimistic theme is transformed into a subdued rather pessimistic theme. However, once again brevity and lack of variation comes into play again. It is short and (bitter)sweet within the game itself, though. (7/10)

5) Slam Shuffle

This disc does have some strange ones. "Slam Shuffle" gradually builds out of some rain effects providing the track with several little ostinato patterns running through it and a bit of movement. The melody is played very high on some organ-like instrument creating a very seedy and sinister atmosphere. There is a reasonable amount of variation and the pace makes its brevity more bearable. This would have been a good theme if they'd perhaps chosen a less harsh instrumentation. The theme itself is quite enjoyable if you ignore how it's played and the jazzy feel really gives it an edge. I just find it too annoying after a while to persist in listening. (6/10)

6) Spinach Rag

An interesting theme with a nice melody and a significant amount of development. The piano writing is good and fits the instrument used creating the desired effect. It loops nicely as well giving almost a seamless eternal feel as if it just goes round and round forever. Not many of the tracks here actually achieve that particularly well. The instrumentation is rather basic with the constant piano emphasis and this makes the track feel a tad repetitive. However, it has enough personality to shine through in spite of this. (8/10)

7) Overture [Start of Opera Sequence]

Now we get into perhaps one of the famous game music sequences of all time, the Opera. This track is very dramatic creating a rich orchestral sound using 16 bit instrumentation. Although the sections are a tad fragmented collectively, each part is very well written and there are several good melodies. The selection of instruments is very good and embellishes the melodies very well. The voices lack a little, but have a surprisingly effective appeal. The only slight jab is that, although there are many themes, they are developed little; it feels more like a barrage of melodies than one piece. This track is nevertheless a great achievement — it is amazing how Uematsu can pull off an orchestral track on such an album and it works very well and suits the scene perfectly. (9/10)

8) Aria Di Mezzo Carattere [Second Part of Opera Sequence]

This track is probably up there in Uematsu's top 10 most famous works. It is mainly an arrangement of Celes from Disc One for voice, strings, horn, and harp but it doesn't half work well. "Celes" is already quite an emotional theme but this seems to intensify it making it one of the most emotive themes on the soundtrack and, in fact, probably all of tame music. The melody shines through on a synth voice that works surprisingly well in the context. The counterpoint is great, especially from the horn with the harp giving it a bit of movement. The best bit is the B section — a development on the main theme which again tugs at the heart strings with some vigour. The layers of strings gradually build up to the horn re-entry with a sort of secondary theme, which, although simple, has a great deal of potency in its simplicity.

This track is ostentatiously sentimental. You can't fault it for emotional impact, which remains long after the first listen and the hundredth listen. It can be accused of schmaltz but I disagree — it is quite deep and the main theme is actually quite restrained in its intensity. Although it is simple, it doesn't seem to bother me and the development more than makes up for the fact that this is a regurgitated theme. A true classic and one that really stands out in this soundtrack of great tracks. (10/10)

9) The Wedding Waltz ~ Duel [Third Part of Opera Sequence]

This just cries out to me 'Waltz from Sleeping Beauty' — the similarities are uncanny between the melodies. It is certainly a very beautiful track to start off with before it descends into a tension-filled episode. The scurrying strings and timpani strikes draw parallels with The Unforgiven. The voices return for the last time and again are surprisingly effective. The two sections are very contrasting perhaps highlighting a lack of development, but, after the operatic solo section, the theme does develop slightly. This track is schizophrenic, the first section being lilting and beautiful and the second section being dramatic and driven. Both sides fulfil their separate roles but I can't help feeling this is perhaps more like tso tracks than one and the link between the two sections isn't exactly fluid. The melodies are good but by no means exceptional by the standards set in this soundtrack. This track could have been better, but still captures the tension of the moment. (8/10)

10) Grand Finale? [Conclusion of Opera Sequence]

A big crashing fiesta of a track that is almost comical in its hyperbolic overblown instrumentation. The melody is alright but doesn't really have any staying quality compared to other tracks. What really makes this track is the string sections between the fragments of melody that really give a humorous feel. However, it does sink into darker waters with big bangs from the timpani and a variation on the melody from the horns; this is really effective and the big clashes really punctuate the track. It is rather bombastic but I like it for that. This theme is full of character and is one of the more interesting tracks on the soundtrack. (8/10)

11) Setzer

A typical airship theme dominated by very optimistic scurrying strings with an almost patriotic edge. It is well carried by the instruments, which remind me heavily of "Locke". I think the decorative string writing once again helps to give the piece more interest to the listener embellishing the theme. The melody doesn't have the same feeling of perfection that some of the other character themes like "Celes" do. However, the symphonic feel really gives it the potency it's after even though it doesn't quite do it for me. (8/10)

12) Johnny C. Bad

This track reminds me heavily of "Spinach Rag" with the jazzy feel and the piano melody. The double bass line really helps with the whole feel and blends seamlessly with the piano part, blending seamlessly. The melody is nice but the development is thin on the ground with the second section being basically just being a dry sequence of chords. This is nevertheless definitely a fun piece and creates the desired effect very well — you could just imagine the flappers doing the Charleston. (7/10)

13) The Empire "Gestahl"

Another track based on "Troops March On" except with a much slower tempo resulting in a broader and grander feel. The instruments used work well creating the feeling of a funeral march. This is quite effective at representing the evil deeds of the empire. An interesting adaptation of the theme even if it does stay mostly the same as the original except for a string and tolling bell introduction. Not quite as good as the original, but memorable in context. (6/10)

14) Devil's Lab

This is a good track. The industrial theme works well with the electronic sounds decorating the brass and string themes. These are both very good and fit in surprisingly well with the modern feel to the piece. This is a melodically strung piece even though it is disguised somewhat. However, the strong beat also provides a great deal of momentum for the piece turning it almost into a futuristic march of some sort. This is very different to most of the pieces on the soundtrack which are classically-based and the sampling of the different sounds works very well. It could have done with a bit of development on the melodies and it is rather short. However, it is still good as it stands. (8/10)

15) Blackjack

This is not my favourite airship theme and the melody definitely lacks the potency of some of the other tracks on this soundtrack. It has the usual triumphant main theme coupled with a slightly uncertain second section that modulates heavily to create tension as it recapitulates. The trumpet presents the melody well accompanied by horns and strings. The theme in this track is not as good as some even though it is by no means bad. It does provide a sort of soaring feel but I think it is too optimistic for my liking and that does tilt my opinion somewhat. The instrumentation could definitely have been improved in some places and it lacks the impact of other airship themes in the series. However it isn't a bad track. (7/10)

16) ??

Um, slightly strange, but... OK. This is a percussion-based track with xylophone providing the melody accompanied by rather odd noises. It does have a unique jumpy and disjointed feel and is definitely a contrast to most of the pieces on the soundtrack. It can be appreciated for its quirky character, but I find it a bit annoying after a while. The inexplicable noises just seem random and make it stumble over itself, blundering to the end, although that's partly the intention. There is not a lot to keep the listener interested after the initial listen as the melody is simple and doesn't develop a great deal. (5/10)

17) Mog

Another slightly odd track with an interesting choice of instruments. What I find strange is the guitar that seems to be in the wrong key; it really stands out for the wrong reasons, disrupting the track. The orchestration is very basic and I feel it could have perhaps been pulled off better, but it has a unique feel in the soundtrack as a whole. Still, it is a nice melody and the jocular feel suits the character. However it can get annoying after a while and even though it does develop even that is annoying and grates after a few listens. Overall, not musically accomplished, but still a fun track in moderation. (6/10)

18) Stragus

A rather mysterious theme featuring some rather strange percussion noises to fit the quirky mood of this particular part of the soundtrack. The melody is again top notch and, although it may not have the same impact as others, it flows well and has development. It doesn't live up to some of the character themes in Disc One, but provides a welcome contrast in terms of style. It is tough competition here and you've got to have something to give. (7/10)

19) Relm

One of the most serene tracks on this albu. Aa lovely lilting melody is carried by solo wind instruments to create a peaceful and calm atmosphere that slightly contrast with the character. The tune is very nice even though I find the bagpipes that carry it a slight oddity. It is very relaxing and can be quite emotional at times especially in the development section. Overall, a well crafted and attractive track that returns the soundtrack to safer ground after a few experiments. (9/10)

20) Another World of Beasts

This track creates a quiet feeling of wonder and uncertainty. It features a very high pitched melody and interesting accompaniment from harp and strings. The different layers build up well and the piano motif in the second section accelerates the piece somewhat as a new theme appears. This is a very simple track and I do feel it perhaps needs a little more in terms of development. However, you begin to wonder where on earth this endless stream of melodies comes from; there needs to be some talent to maintain this consistency. (8/10)

Disc Three

1) New Continent

This track combines the sort of industrial feel of "Devil's Lab" with an epic orchestral feel. It really gives it a punch and staying power with broad melodies from the strings and a harp providing a rippling bass line. The electronic sounds are a bit off putting at times but they provide a lot of menace to the track, especially the big shocking glissando at the beginning. Percussion provides a lot of momentum especially the big timpani strokes in the second section. Although a very abrupt start to the disc, it creates a very unique feel through successful experimentation. (9/10)

2) Catastrophe

"Catastrophe" is an epic orchestra arrangement of the opening melody heard in the "Opening Theme". It again has a similar effect to create a grim almost desolate feeling, but the context is different given it represents the climax of events in the first half of the game. The repeated chord progression can get boring after a few listens and the contrasting second section doesn't quite work. The theme still has its potency even though I feel it doesn't have the same refinement as the original. (7/10)

3) The Fierce Battle

Wow, what a start. A truly big battle theme displaying symphonic power and a very dark melody featuring glissandi and all. It has pace and interesting counterpoint in places but what really does it for me is the intro that seems to epitomise despair on this soundtrack — the furious strings accompanied by a rising and falling motif really builds a hell of a lot of tension. It is probably the most tense track on the album and the orchestration is almost perfect in creating the desired effect. This track is my second favourite battle theme on this soundtrack and number one is truly exceptional so don't let that put this down. (9/10)

4) Rest in Peace

A massive contrast, this quiet serene piece gives you the sad news of your defeat. The flute melody is very beautiful and the strings provide a nice sonic cushion for it to soar above. The harp provides a nice counterpoint to the main melody and gives the piece a bit of pace. Shame about the disappointing length. (5/10)

5) Dark World

A very dark and desolate track. The organ motif is really effective at creating the feel of a plodding funeral march. The piano melody is very beautiful and, even though the bass line is repetitive, the interest is maintained in the beautiful theme. The wind sound effects are a bit unnecessary in my opinion and do get a bit annoying, although they add a bit more ambience to the track. The main problem is the organ bass line, which, although hypnotic, just gets boring even during the introduction given it is a long time before the melody actually enters. Even then the melody is quite spread out leaving gaping holes for the organ to fill. Even though the chord progressions do change slightly, it doesn't change the fact it is the same sequence but at a different pitch. (6/10)

6) The Day After

This track has another good melody played by the oboe with a harp and guitar backing. It isn't as good as some but reflects the mood of the setting well. The second section is very similar with no real change in instrumentation and another simple theme. The vibrato on the guitar provides an interesting feel but it does get slightly annoying. Though it lacks the real impact of the really good tracks, I like the relaxing and hypnotic feeling it creates. (7/10)

7) Searching for Friends

An unusual airship theme in the way that it is more melancholic than adventurous. The flute plays yet another nice compact theme; it feels quite similar to the previous track in its relaxing feel and the instrumentation is pulled off well and has an almost floating feel. There are some interesting sound effects in the background, almost like distant engines, but they are not intrusive and slot into place well. (7/10)

8) Gogo

Gogo has a surprisingly good comical theme. The woodwind melody works well and creates a similar effect to "Kefka". The dissonant harmonies in places really add to this and fit the slightly enigmatic character. It also becomes surprisingly interesting as the different woodwind and brass instruments are introduced to the mix. The different sounds blend together perfectly to provide a very nice atmosphere. There isn't much to fault here. (9/10)

9) Epitaph

Following the same pattern as "Coin Song" and "Forever Rachel", the rather optimistic "Setzer" is transformed into a rather mournful track. Like the other two, the track is successfully morphed into this more sedate form with a guitar carrying the main theme and woodwind instruments embellishing it. Though essentially a theme heard before with new instrument choices, it does what it sets out to do well. (7/10)

10) The Magic House

A very sinister track in the form of a tango. It has one of my favourite general characters in the entire soundtrack due to its mix of dark and comic moods. Although the melody isn't exceptional, the the way it is used that really makes it listenable. The string opening is very effective and the little harpsichord motif fits perfectly with the oboe and flute duet. It even develops a little unlike the vast majority of tracks on this soundtrack giving it a bit of breadth and scope. (9/10)

11) Umaro

I always get this one confused with "Gogo". They have similar comic edges and are quite partial to a bit of timpani. It depicts Umaro's lumbering self very effectively by creating a clumsyu march. The choice of instruments is very good, in particular the violin sections which add a bit of syncopated bite to the track. The theme is mediocre in such a melodically strong soundtrack, though. It also feels a bit bare and very short even on this soundtrack. For a character theme, it needs a bit more. (6/10)

12) Fanatics

A very dark track with lots of dissonant organ and synthesised male choir chords. The percussion is very effective and adds to the general feeling of despair the track is trying to convey. The track doesn't do much though, though — there isn't a melody as such and it lacks any real spark of interest. So much more could have been done but it is cut off prematurely after only a few choir chords. (6/10)

13) Last Dungeon

Another of the successful industrial / orchestral combos. It marries the techno with a broad and powerful orchestral melody. The track creates a sense of reaching the end of a journey and really fits with the situation. The melody is great as well — militaristic and grand with really good use of the brass and strings both separately and together to create the whole effect. It develops fluidly and extensively propelling the soundtrack towards the next. The perfect tension building track... this tension is about to be released. (9/10)

14) Dancing Mad

One of the great boss themes. It has truly immense scope, development, and melodic power. Each individual section has some of the real highpoints of this soundtrack from the opening alto solo to the impassioned climax. The track has oomph as well — the pace and drive makes it an ideal boss theme to gets your heart pumping. There is also great orchestration as well from the pizzicato strings right the way through to the rock based fourth section; it exploits the organ's power and real menace as well as the exultant and jovial tones. The organ cadenzas are written very well indeed and, even though it screams 'TOCCATA AND FUGUE' at you, it has so many other original redeeming features that it doesn't affect my overall opinion of the track. It even reprises themes from earlier on in the game — Kefka's theme naturally plays a major role and even the enigmatic "Opening Theme" is used and to amazing effect as it preludes the final boss section. A truly amazing track by game music standards and one I would probably kill to see orchestrated properly in a live performance. An epic track that is undoubtedly up there in Uematsu's greatest hits. (10/10)

15) Ending Theme

Proceeding the boss theme that overshadows most other boss themes comes the "Ending Theme" that outshines all other ending themes. This is, by my reckoning, definitely one of the longest tracks in game music history even out stripping the vast majority of classical works. Epic beyond belief, every single character theme — yes all 13 of them — is reprised in some shape or form and that's just the first half. The awesome melodies are brought back and take one final bow at the curtain call. Some of them even outshine their previous incarnations, and in fact most do. "Edgar and Sabin" really hits you, while the "Mog", "Umaro", and "Locke" reprises are far more enjoyable than their originals even though they don't loop. "Shadow" is unrecognisable and is completely transformed from a rather basic theme to a lush and impassioned string melody and "Locke" is cleverly used as a counterpoint to "Celes". It has one of my favourite versions of the Final Fantasy Theme and the exhilarating Setzer reprise in the final section brings the whole soundtrack to a close with a bang with undoubtedly my favourite game music coda. This track is a microcosm of the entire soundtrack — it's epic, melodically strong, full of character, and a joy to listen to. (10/10)

16) The Prelude

I am trying hard to restrain myself from completely devastating this soundtrack. The "Ending Theme" is so final that any theme after it is really destined to flop in comparison. It is the same harp arpeggios and melody that appears in ever version of the "Prelude" so there's nothing particularly innovative or exciting. (6/10)


This soundtrack is of a ridiculously high standard. The melodic inventiveness of this soundtrack is awe-inspiring — there are so many memorable tunes that can be relived many times. The character themes are perhaps the biggest achievement on this soundtrack. In a game with an almost ridiculous number of playable characters Uematsu manages to craft an individual gem for each one encapsulating their character as well as providing musical bliss. They are remarkably consistent in quality and never fail to hit me emotionally. Of course there are plenty of other themes which deserve just as much attention.

Of course it isn't perfect. Not all the tracks were of uniform high quality and several were under-developed and unfulfilled in their potential. This soundtrack is full of short tracks. This is perfect for the miniature yet perfect themes such as "Celes" but some are really lacking in something to keep the listener interested the second or third time round. 16 bit mood tracks never really work and this is demonstrated several times, you really have to wait until the sound quality has improved.

In spite of this the soundtrack is is truly worthy of the Final Fantasy stamp. The tracks often supersede their technologically challenged roots with often surprising realism. This helps to close the door on 16 bit soundtracks and open the way for the more realistic PlayStation soundtracks. I highly recommend this soundtrack if you are planning to delve into the earlier game market. A very worthwhile purchase.

Overall Score: 9/10