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Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess Original Soundtrack Album Title: Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Square Enix
Catalog No.: SQEX-10113
Release Date: April 23, 2008
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


The fourth Final Fantasy XI extension, Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess (aka Final Fantasy XI Crusaders of Altana), allowed gamers to travel through time portals to the era of the Crystal War. Composed once again by Naoshi Mizuta, the soundtrack reflected the wartime storyline with a variety of militaristic tracks. In addition, it featured many parallelisms with the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack given it provided new music to portray familiar areas 20 years in the past. The soundtrack again featured no synthesizer operator, but feels the most technically comfortable since Final Fantasy XI Rise of the Zilart. Let's take a closer look at the results...


The soundtrack immediately establishes a militaristic focus with the opening theme "March of the Allied Forces". This is the brightest of Mizuta's marches to date — announced by bugel and featuring dance-like clarinet and string melodies — affirming that victory is inevitable. Nevertheless, the difficulties of achieving it are reflected in many other themes. For instance, "Encampment Dreams" feels appropriately laboured by slow string motifs and, even in the elaborate development sections, seems burdened. The battle theme "Roar of the Battle Drums" is driven by a fantastic ostinato created with martial drums and brisk strings, while "Under a Clouded Moon" intersynchs rhythmically compelling percussive sections with abstract development and dabs of dramatic synth vocals. Returning to upbeat items, "Young Griffons in Flight" is a short but sweet bugel-led parade theme while the latest Vana'diel march "Wings of the Goddess" concludes the main portion of a soundtrack with a high-spirited blend of old and new.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the soundtrack is how the city themes differ in past time. Transformed into the wartime hub of the republic, Bastok's "Thunder of the March" features a dignified yet melancholy oboe melody punctuated by militaristic snares and strings. San d'Oria's "Griffons Never Die" is full of the pride and motivation of the Elvaan in response to an early defeat, while Windurst's "Stargazing" offers evocative progressions and ethnic instrumentation with a hint of military influence. The area themes largely parallel their present day counterparts. Rolanberry Fields' "Flowers on the Battlefield" is again built around broken guitar chords and wailing woodwind melodies, while Sarutabaruta's "The Cosmic Wheel" uses a similar construct to inspire nostalgia. Exhibiting some of Tanioka's influence, the guitar- and marimba-based "Echoes of a Zephyr" retains Gustaberg's beautiful organic qualities. Diverting from Mizuta's usual ostinato-based formats, the fluid and melodic "Autumn Footfalls" exhibits great influence from Ronfaure's original composer Nobuo Uematsu.

Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess comes with a set of new action themes too. "Clash of Standards" is yet another normal battle theme written for brass and strings, but still holds interest within the game and soundtrack very well. "On this Blade" achieves a slightly different sound to other dungeon battle themes due to its 7/8 metre, which leads to some very unpredictable rhythms during the development section. "Kindred Cry" is a very accomplished tough battle theme that focuses on creating tension by repeating and varying a crisis motif in a cinematic manner. Moving to a portal themes, Atomos' "Run Maggot, Run!" is jazzy action theme influenced by Chains of Promathia's "Conflict" themes. In contrast, "Cloister of Time and Souls" is minimalistic and secretive, featuring nothing more than a slow laboured string melody and a three note tuned percussion motif. "Royal Wanderlust" is another jazzy track, but feels more like an emulation of Uematsu's "Sometime, Somewhere" from the original game in the franchise. This is one of several examples where Mizuta displays more unusual stylistic influences on the soundtrack.

Moving towards the climax of the soundtrack, "Where Kings Rule Not" and "Snowdrift Waltz" create a sense of warped dimensions with minimalistic ambience. The former develops from nothingness to incorporate complex percussion cross-rhythms, while the latter features a melancholic clarinet melody against an incessantly repeated warped synth motif. "Troubled Shadows" is appropriately reminiscent of Final Fantasy XI's "Castle Zvahl" with its organ-dominated dark ambient soundscapes, but the off-the-wall second section serves as a reminder of distorted time. There are also three bonus tracks created for Final Fantasy XI Treasures of Aht Urhgan after its soundtrack was released. The first final battle theme "Iron Colossus" is a heavy work continuous with some of the more dissonant tracks at the end of the Treasures of Aht Urhgan soundtrack. The true final battle theme "Ragnarok" is an epic anthem introduced by a triumphant motif but progressively darknened by dissonant orchestration and obsessive brass use. The soundtrack resolves with the short and simple ending theme "An Invisible Crown".


Despite creating four earlier Final Fantasy XI soundtracks, Naoshi Mizuta was still able to add plenty of novel music to the world of Vana'diel for Wings of the Goddess. He offers militaristic tracks, parallel setting themes, and uneyxpected stylistic emulations, while also reducing and occasionally abandoning his sometimes stale emphasis on ostinato-based constructions. Varied, fitting, and meticulously constructed, the soundtrack is an entertaining listen from start to finish. It is also probabl the most impressive extension soundtrack to date. This album will delight fans of past Final Fantasy XI franchises and has the potential to regain the fanbase lost by the occasionally disappointing previous two extension soundtracks.

Overall Score: 8/10