Final Fantasy III Original Soundtrack :: Review by TheShroud13
Mimicking its parent series in the early years, Nobuo Uematsu's NES Final Fantasy soundtracks are an inconsistent lot, filled with the growing pains that would be expected from a franchise seeking its identity. Final Fantasy III in particular shows the series figuring out exactly how to maintain the Final Fantasy feel while pushing the expectations of the series forward with new gameplay standards. Unfortunately, this left Final Fantasy III somewhere in a bit of a dead zone. The game didn't have the freshness of a new series that its two predecessors did, and wasn't a realization of a new storytelling and gameplay direction for the series as Final Fantasy IV was. The soundtrack is quite a deal larger than either of the soundtracks it succeeded; at over sixty tracks, it is almost exactly twice as long as Final Fantasy II's soundtrack. Unfortunately, far fewer than those sixty tracks are worthy of repeated listening, and of those tracks worthy of repeated listening, few of them are as intriguing as similar pieces on previous soundtracks. Though there are some moments of great quality that look toward the series' future quality, for the most part Final Fantasy III feels like a rehashing of previous soundtracks with a generally lower quality, and despite a generally good effort in revitalizing the music for the DS, the soundtrack is mostly forgettable.
Many of the greatest moments on the Final Fantasy III soundtrack come from the game's relatively large amount of city tunes. "Town of Amur", "The Village of the Ancients", and "Hometown of Ur" are all peaceful and melodious, with just enough harmonic tension thrown into the mix to keep the music interesting. The three tunes are perhaps a bit close to each other for comfort, but it's nice to see individual towns getting individual tracks. "The Hidden Village of Fargabaad" is similarly melodious, however the composition is more distinctive than those previously mentioned. Its pseudo-modal melody soars above a pizzicato accompaniment, and climaxes with trills above the pizzicato lines, depicting people less than eager to be seen. "The Megalopolis of Salonia" is also more distinctive than the average village themes in the game, but the overall effect of the bombastic piece is more tiresome than evocative. The melody is not memorable, and the overblown percussion makes it difficult to focus on anything else.
Beyond the game's town themes, I was most struck by its battle anthems. "Battle 1" is one of the most exciting standard battle themes of Final Fantasy's NES era, although its DS rendering is spoiled by overly aggressive samples, particularly in the percussion and brass. "Battle 2", already less affecting a piece as "Battle 1" (the A section is a bit too cute for a boss battle) suffers from the same percussive overdrive. It's really only on "Last Battle -3-" that main aspects of the piece are not overshadowed by the percussion, and that's mainly because much of the piece emulates the NES sound-chip. It's fortunate that "Last Battle" was given the best treatment as it's probably the most exciting of the three battle themes, with an agitated melody that is both memorable and inventive. There's an extra version of "Last Battle" as performed by The Black Mages on the album, and it's a real treat. It's one of the best performances I've heard by The Black Mages (with some good choices made on the synth this time), and it's of a rather exciting track, so enjoy that little bonus with the soundtrack!
Unfortunately, those two categories cover most of the exceptional material on the album. Much of the other material in the game, particularly the material of great prominence, fails to be nearly as captivating as the pieces I've already mentioned. "Eternal Wind", the game's world map theme, is not nearly as melodically interesting as previous map themes in the series (particularly the fantastic theme from Final Fantasy II), and suffers from an accompaniment that tires itself out quickly. It is one of few pieces that actually worked better as an NES chip tune than it does on the DS' sound card. "The Cave Where the Crystal Lies" is actually based on a relatively interesting idea, but like many of the pieces on the album, suffers from having approximately four bars of music written before looping. "Crystal Room" is similarly short, only it pairs its brevity with obnoxious ascending arpeggios. "Dungeon" features the same arpeggios from "Crystal Room" set beneath choir and strings. Not that much more interesting. There is a neat section for bassoon and flute with an appropriate sneaking quality that is effective, but it is brief and poorly worked into the whole of the piece.
Then there is "Tozas". If emo is the label for unacceptably depressing music, then "Tozas" should surely become the label for unacceptably cute music. The only way to begin to get a sense of this piece would be if Mountain Dew consisted as much of Prozac as it does of caffeine. The rest of the album is pretty much non-descript. The high moments of the remainder include the extremely catchy and quirky "Jinn's Curse", a rather emotional tack in "The Dark Cystals", and tracks we've all heard before think "Prelude", "Opening Theme", and "Chocobo". The rest is neither good enough to merit mentioning, nor bad enough to speak out against.
If you've already heard the soundtracks for Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II, you have a good idea what to expect out of this album. This album is basically a continuation of Uematsu's musical journey from those two albums, although no single track from this album really stands against any of those from the other albums. This is not quite an abysmal album, but it fails to reach the standards of previous games, and suffers from having just too many tracks for its own good. A passable album, but I'd recommend other Uematsu first.
Overall Score: 5/10