Welcome to Square Enix Music Online

Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack Album Title Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog Number: SSCX-10028; SQEX-10005/8
Release Date: March 10, 1999; May 10, 2004
Content: 4 CD Set - 74 Tracks
Purchase: Buy at Square Enix Music Online Music Store


Is there any need for a dramatic introduction? Not really. The Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack is what it says on the front cover: a strong addition to the Final Fantasy series that has a profound mixture of themes, both in terms of genre and quality, and features the contrast of continuity against experimentation quite prominently. It's not superlative by any stretch of the imagination, but still rather good music. Is that not what a listener would expect from an average Final Fantasy soundtrack and Nobuo Uematsu? However, it is unique and very special, contrary to this initial analysis, and this is not because of its quality, but because of its contrasts. It is more inconsistent than most, with several major peaks yet some profound troughs, and is also more varied in terms of genre, with love, war, sorcery, and a funny thing called time compression all being explored in quite an in-depth way. When signs of age of the Final Fantasy franchise are shown, Uematsu counterbalances this by creating something weird and wonderful. When the soundtrack becomes too serious, Uematsu suddenly inserts a light-hearted number to lighten the mood. When the soundtrack is showing signs of consistent high quality, Uematsu randomly plunges into the depths of direness. You can never be sure what to expect from the next track in this soundtrack, though you can be assured of the overall quality of the listening experience by simply looking at its origins.


The soundtrack opens in incredible fashion with an ambitious fully orchestral choral theme, "Liberi Fatali," unparalleled by any earlier work in the series for the magnitude of its production and its sheer power. Synchronising perfectly with the spectacular FMV sequence it accompanies, subtly intensifying from the unaccompanied "FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC" chant that it begins with. Derived from one of the main themes of the game, the sorceress' theme, Uematsu and orchestrator Hamaguchi set the stakes high for the rest of the soundtrack, and, despite some people's cynicism, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in game music and was highly influential for other Japanese artists. While this version of the sorceress' theme is the best, there are many other versions, which are used to represent sorcery and the gamer's understanding of Edea, including "FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC" and "SUCCESSION OF WITCHES," which, though strophic not through-composed, use pre-recorded vocals and the characteristic chromatic progressions, combining them with menacing instrumental passages. "The Sacrifice" and "Premonition" identify with both Edea's darkest side, creating feelings of fear, terror, and emptiness, which is contrasted with two latter incarnations of the theme, "Truth" and "The Successor," which retain a certain amount of coldness, yet are somehow more soothing, demonstrating aspects of Edea's true character, revealed in the latter half of the game. As exemplified by these themes and two others, the reuse of leitmotifs throughout this soundtrack results in the score being less melodically rich than others, though, more often than not, this is purposeful and serves not only to reinforce the thematic material of the soundtrack, but add an extra layer of meaning to certain melodies.

The battle themes on Final Fantasy VIII are its best feature, unrivalled by any other Final Fantasy game. "Don't Be Afraid," the normal battle theme, is one of the few of its kind that creates sufficient tension and never grows boring, with its 5/4 metre making it especially original. Keeping up the trend, "Force Your Way" is a worthy successor to "Still More Fighting" as a boss battle theme, again taking an upbeat approach that combines rock riffs with energetic electronic arpeggio patterns effectively. Though not the best of its kind, it's a fine addition. Laguna's battle theme, "The Man with the Machine Gun," is the most popular action theme on the score, with its fast-paced light techno style being complemented perfectly by some exhilirating melodies that just feel magical and bring a smile on to the face of the listener. Despite its ghastly introduction, the aforementioned "Premonition" is also an effectual theme, which expertly combines the sorceress' theme and several other important themes in a haunting way, creating, as another reviewer described it, "Uematsu's Hobo Stew", or, as I'd prefer, "Uematsu's Witch's Broth". Used principally as the climactic boss battle theme when you fight sorceresses, it is also the first of the four final boss themes, which will get special mention later. Added to this, there are the two decent hurry themes, "Never Look Back" and the curiously titled "Only a Plank Between One and Perdition." The former mainly relies on a little too much repetition of ascending melodic sequences while the latter is more rhythmical, using the combination of a piano basso ostinato and some guitar riffs.

Action themes are also worthy of discussion here, as they're a lot more memorable than the ones from most Final Fantasy soundtracks and generally quite militaristic. "The Landing" is the most distinguished of these, adopting a similar structure to Final Fantasy VII's "Opening ~ Bombing Mission." Opening in warlike fashion, with a series of brass fanfares, there is a dramatic buildup that simply entices the gamers during the FMV sequence that shows your approach to Dollet. As this moves into a gameplay sequence in effortless fashion, the theme becomes more electronically-based and also integrates the sorceress' theme very effectively in a secondary passage. Energetic, relentless, and varied, this theme is an outstanding contribution. The game also boasts two militaristic marches, "The Stage is Set" and "Movin'," which not only intensify the situations they are used, but also use the sorceress' theme wonderfully and are great for whistling along to. "Ride On" is also very worthy of a mention, as it one of the best 'airship' themes in the series, full of buoyancy and blithe. It is made even more attractive by its introduction, based loosely around "Blue Sky," one of several short themes that are used to FMV sequences in remarkable fashion. Slightly less effective tracks include "SeeD," which comprises of lengthy drum rolls separated by repetitive wind and brass fanfares, as well as the eerie yet hackneyed organ-based theme, "Heresy," used to represent a secondary villain, and "The Mission," a track that is successful in-game only, due to some poor harpsichord synth and a repetitive basso ostinato. All in all, though, Uematsu hardly ever fails when it comes to creating dramatic, lively, and original to accompany Final Fantasy VIII's many action sequences and endless battles.

One of the more unusual features of this soundtrack is its absence of any true character themes, which separates it from all other Final Fantasy soundtracks of the numbered series since Final Fantasy IV. Some people see this as a flaw, as character themes have always been a source of fondness, but, overall, it likely adds depth to the characters, which are among the most subtle and complex in Final Fantasy history. Instead, Uematsu focuses his thematic representations on relationships or individual aspects of the character, often building an overall picture through a multitutde of themes. For example, as exemplified above, the sorceress' theme takes many forms, representing the gradual yet profound transformation in Edea's character, while "Unrest" and "Rivals" demonstrates Squall and Seifer's destructive relationship to an extent, despite the compositions lacking power. "Ami" and its arrangements are probably the most powerful for representing relationships, however, intricately linking Squall, Zell, Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, and Ellone. The melody itself, bright, beautiful, and memorable, makes the original theme a powerful tool for representing calm and happiness, though its arrangements are what principally gets to the heart of the characters' relationships. With "Tell Me," a powerful picture of Quistis' unrequited love for Squall is formed, with the gushing melodies showing her let feelings out, with Squall merely grunting back, shown by the unmoving harmonies. "Where I Belong" is dedicated to memories and unity, eventually bringing the abovementioned characters altogether, while its final manifestation, "Trust Me," is less successful, though provides necessary focus on Ellone, only otherwise representing in the appropriately named "Drifting." And, of course, all are united via Balamb Garden, and this building's ethereal theme not only appropriately integrates this melody but introduces it very early in the soundtrack.

With the game focusing largely on Squall and Rinoa's relationship, love also becomes one of the main emphases on the soundtrack. Their combined love is represented by "Eyes on Me," the main theme on the soundtrack, which is sung by Faye Wong and has won prestigious awards. A charming piece of music, boasting one of Uematsu's classic melodies, some pleasant string backing, and superb vocal execution from Wong, it was the first of its kind on the Final Fantasy series, though has many successors. Though many cite it as an example of a hackneyed composing style and criticise it for its Engrish lyrics, it fitted the game suitably and was a very successful addition to the soundtrack, drawing mainstream pop audiences in too. "Eyes on Me" utilises a leitmotif that was introduced much earlier in the score with "Julia," a heartfelt piano theme that represents how Laguna and Raine have many parallels with Squall and Rinoa, and this is developed in several other pieces as well. Indeed, Uematsu sensitively manipulates various incarnations of the theme by carefully placing them in certain contexts of the game to show the development of the relationship. For example, "Waltz for the Moon" integrates the theme to represent the lovers' first chance meeting, while "My Mind" immediately gives a representation of Rinoa's inner dreaminess, innocence, and gentleness, a contrast to her sometimes boisterous exterior, immediately indicating her possible interest in Squall. It's only until half way through Disc Three in the score, however, that any representation of Squall's true feelings on the relationship are expressed, initially with the gushing "Love Grows," the closest we get to a full instrumental version of "Eyes on Me," which accompanies a powerful moment in the game where Rinoa is absent and Squall comes to terms with his feelings about her. Uematsu creates a theme entirely independent of "Eyes on Me" to show his actual pledge of devotion, however, with "The Oath." The melody is perfect here — proud and powerful yet beautiful and sensitive — but it isn't overly happy, with some darker melodic progressions used to represent impending doom for this touching relationship. All this works wonders and the "Eyes on Me" theme doesn't end up being overused at all in the game.

One way Uematsu has clearly gone backwards from his Final Fantasy VI days are in the jazz- and country-based themes. "Shuffle or Boogie," used for the card game, lacks the sense of fun and energy that made "Slam Shuffle" and "Spinach Rag" successful, with a fairly mundane melody accompanied by a repetitive harmony line. It grows old and very quickly. Used in Timber, "Martial Law" isn't especially convincing either, despite an awesome electric piano solo in the development section and some top-notch percussion use, as the initial section just drags on too long and its progressions are far too usual. Another mediocre piece of BGM is "Intruders," which is pizzicato string-based, but becomes highly repetitive due to the use of a repetitive bell motif and, once more, some dreadfully predictable chord progressions. This only scrapes the surface, however, as deeper down this sea of excrement lurks horrors such as "The Spy," "Fear," "Jailed," and "Galbadia GARDEN," all of which are used in lengthy gameplay sequences. Despite having tonnes of potential, as reflected by their unusual jazz style, repetitiveness, cringe-worthy synth, and uninspired progressions make them the worst on the soundtrack. Galbadia's BGM is particularly underwhelming, as, after its imposing introduction, it descends straight into the depths of direness. There is the odd effective light theme, however, as well; the two slide show pieces in the final third of the soundtrack are fun, if underdeveloped, while "Under Her Control" represents the sleaziness of Deling City well, despite utilising yet another repetitive ground bass. Oh, and special mention has to go to "Timber Owls," which sees the employment of the most quirky ensemble in the game — pizzicato strings, a tuba, a clarinet, an oboe, a triangle, and the characteristic 'tick-tock' of a clock. And guess what? It works!

One significant aspect of the soundtrack that hasn't been signficantly discussed yet are the town and setting themes. These are, admittedly, quite a mixed bag, with the town themes generally being the most successful creations. "Breezy," for example, uses major 6th guitar progressions to create a lovely seaside feel, while "Fisherman's Horizon" the perfect musical representation of a complex scene, showing peace, simplicity, and the fundamental importance of the sea, while also carrying a beautiful melody. Though "Dance with the Balamb-fish" is hardly a stereotypical town theme, it works well in giving Dollet some 'oomph' and has a great 'Johann Strauss' feel, stately yet gushing, despite not actually being a waltz. "Fragments of Memories" is perhaps the most remarkable of all, however; played by just one instrument (tuned percussion of some sort), Uematsu manages to evoke a lot of emotion with one instrument, with its fragmented, fragile, soothing, and innocent melodies making it the perfect setting for the dream sequence showing Laguna's sweet memories at Winhill. The dungeon themes pretty much comprise of "Find Your Way" and "Junction," despite some other earlier discussed themes (e.g. "Fear" or "Movin'") being used in very specific areas. The former here is much stronger — a mystical theme that is superbly developed and has magical instrumentation — while "Junction," based on just four chords in a repeated sixteen bar solo harp melody, is hideously dull. Most disappointing, however, is the overworld theme, "Blue Fields," which suffers from a repetitive ground bass and poor synth operating, eventually turning a theme with a beautiful melody and some otherwise sumptuous harmonies into the most disappointing world map theme of the series. It's not at all bad, but a major letdown after the likes of "Tina" and the "F.F.VII Main Theme."

Perhaps one of the best features in the last third of the soundtrack are the appearance of a multitude of experimental themes, though these have a tendency to alienate a certain audience. The real change begins with "The Salt Flats," a minimalist yet beautiful ambient theme used in Disc Three in a salt desert as you approach the futuristic city Esthar. Used in this city is "Silence and Motion," a combination of sweeping well-developed melodies, eccentric percussion use, and high-pitched electronic sounds that literally 'float' above everything. It's unbelievably beautiful yet highly unusual, making it one of the most memorable pieces on the album. Even more zany is Uematsu's interpretation of a crystal light pillar (whatever one of those is) called the Lunatic Pandora. What we get is an imposing imperial march, complete with snare drum rolls, oppressive bass notes, and rigid rhythmical structures, yet with high-pitched synth sounds, eerie synth vocals, and detached tuned percussion motifs to create a futuristic, haunting, and alien feel. "Residents" and "Compression of Time" are considerably more controversial (yes, that's just about possible), with the latter being a light-hearted electro-acoustic theme and the latter being a minimalist yet ethereal theme that features a blaring saxophone sample repeated almost unrelentlessly. For some, however, these themes are really inspiring, though certainly a select taste. "The Castle" is a rare gem in that it manages to be really unusual — a Gothic organ theme to represent the final dungeon with some modern touches to represent time compression — yet also globally accessible. With three contrasting sections, lots of intricate counterpoint, and some awesome melodies, this theme is an all-round good egg, succeeding in accompanying a lengthy gameplay sequence too.

The final battle themes are, collectively, unrivalled by any Final Fantasy soundtrack, even if, individually, they don't quite beat predecessors such as "Dancing Mad" and "One Winged Angel." "Premonition," of course, starts the final battle sequence, though it's with "The Legendary Beast" that pure fear is really created. Despite its moderate timbres, standard textures, and lack of dramatic arch, this theme is perhaps the most chilling Uematsu has created. The track develops for nearly four minutes and not once does the level of intensity drop, with melodic fragments being passed between each instrument uncompassionately yet gradually undergoing metamorphosis through ascending chord progressions, while the harmonies remain horrifyingly consistent, constantly off-beat and never settled. It's successor, "Maybe I'm a Lion," isn't much kinder, with aggressive tribal drum beats, overdriven guitar backing, and dominant organ melodies presenting a powerful picture of a lion, though balance is attained with a tiny bit of intensity being lost about half way through the piece, showing there might just be light at the end of this tunnel. It's "The Extreme" that is truly outstanding and what the two previous themes have been building up towards, however. Opening ominously, the theme thickens beautifully before moving into a fast-paced passage featuring electronic beats, a piano descant, ethereal synth vocals, and diminished string melodies. With a superb dramatic arch, several gorgeous interludes, lots of creative electro-acousticism experimentation, and an overall sense of exuberence, this theme is no letdown, and one of the few final Final Fantasy battle themes that hasn't been consumed by the bane of overpopularity. Needless to say, these three themes are unmissable, whatever your musical orientation.

Technically, the soundtrack ends with a whimper, with the misplaced "Overture," but seventeen minutes of musical bliss come before this to produce the most poignant accompaniment to a Final Fantasy ending to be witnessed thus far. The loose ends of the sorcery element of the game are dealt with when "The Successor" is played, a simple yet effective solo piano theme that features the sorceress' theme in its most beautiful incarnation. It's the "Ending Theme" that's the best addition to Disc Four, however. Opening mysteriously in a string-led passage, the first two and a half minutes set the scene, but are breathtakingly orchestrated, leading perfectly into the reprise of "Eyes on Me", now fully orchestrated by Shiro Hamaguchi, making the theme much more deep and meaningful. After "Eyes on Me" has finished and the game's credits appear, the trademark "Final Fantasy" theme plays, following the precedent set by earlier Final Fantasy scores, boasting an execution superior to any other rendition of the theme. The truly momentous part of the "Ending Theme," however, is the final three minutes, which sees a full orchestration of the sorceress' theme in the grandest way possible followed by the use of music to accompany a touching epilogue scene. Ending with a glimpse into Final Fantasy IX and the harp arpeggios of the "Prelude" theme, the final minute and a half of the theme is a breah of fresh air. Over 13 minutes long, fully orchestrated, breathtakingly emotional, encompassing four major sections, incorporating four popular themes, and even providing a glimpse into the series' future, what more could you ask for? This is a timeless classic and a true masterpiece, and, in my opinion, unparalleled by any other ending theme in the series.


In conclusion, Final Fantasy VIII's soundtrack is a largely pioneering soundtrack that also shares many elements of continuity with earlier Final Fantasy soundtracks and occasionally shows signs of age for the Final Fantasy franchise. It introduces many new elements to the series — fleshed-out material relating to the theme of love, quite a few really 'out there' futuristic themes, several fully orchestrated themes, the introduction of a synthesizer operator in the form of Keiji Kawamori, the rejection of true character themes, and the thorough reuse of several leitmotifs, notably to reflect the themes of sorcery, militarism, and friendship. These changes are welcome, making the soundtrack superior to earlier instalments thematically and technically, even if not always musically. It is, however, largely a traditional Final Fantasy soundtrack, with Nobuo Uematsu scoring everything, using similar yet often superior formats for battle, action, and town themes, relying a huge amount on the power of a simple melody, employing use of several classic themes here and there, and even reflecting back on his Final Fantasy VI days with a large number of jazzy tracks, admittedly with often horrendous results.

Quality-wise, the soundtrack is very variable. Yes, you have themes like "Liberi Fatali," "Ending Theme," "The Extreme," and "Silence and Motion," which are completely unparalleled and utterly marvellous. However, there is also an abundance of really poor themes, such as "Fear," "Jailed," "Rivals," and "Galbadia GARDEN," which not only add nothing to the soundtrack, but are used in prominent and lengthy gameplay sequences. Every Final Fantasy soundtrack has its stinkers, but Uematsu chooses to flaunt them here rather than take a low-key approach, significantly hindering several scenes in the game. It is in the utilisation of these poor themes, therefore, that Uematsu really lets the gamer down, and, indeed, if I were to assess the music based on just Disc Two and the first half of Disc Three, the results would be dire for Uematsu. It's fortunate that the introduction and conclusion to the soundtrack is nothing short of exceptional, easily making the soundtrack comparable to other additions of the numbered series. More inconsistent than earlier soundtracks, certainly, but still as heartfelt, enjoyable, and memorable overall, with lots of progressive elements to boot. All Final Fantasy music fans should add this to their collection, no doubt.

Percentage Overall Score: 85%

Appendix ~ Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Liberi Fatali

There is no doubt that many of Nobuo Uematsu's creations in the Final Fantasy series get much more credit than they deserve. I am obstinate in my opinion that this is not one of them, however. Why?

First, the ambitious level of the track's production helps it to stand out from a mile away. The sheer vocal wondrousness of a full Latin choir and its powerful accompanying orchestration is left completely unparalleled by earlier works in the series. This is attained by the pre-recorded sampling methods introduced in this score, which are similar (albeit still inferior) to that of a film score. Second, the way the track synchronises with the opening FMV sequence for Final Fantasy VIII is nothing short of perfection. It subtly intensifies as the FMV sequence develops up to its climax and the full-blown approach towards it composition presents a huge amount of power and impact as a result.

Third, if we assess the wider picture of the game, this track suitably introduces us to several of its main themes (as in both melodic ideas and subject matters), even if subliminally. The use of the "FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC" chant and its accompanying chromatic chord progression not only introduces us to one of the main melodies of the game, but also gives an inkling into two of the most important subject matters of the game: love and sorcery. Take note as to how the chant is, in fact, an anagram of 'SUCCESSION OF WITCHES' and 'LOVE'. In addition, the title of "Liberi Fatali" means 'fated children' in Latin. This is also appropriate, considering the FMV sequence provides a glimpse of the game's characters' destiny as once-fated children. This is definitely one of the best Final Fantasy pieces Nobuo Uematsu has ever written. (10+/10)

2) Balamb GARDEN

At first I thought this track was pretty dry and was not particularly fascinated by it. However, one day its inner beauty just seemed to radiate towards me and really swept me away. It has appealed ever since. The wind orchestration is particularly calming and works together with the strings to contribute towards creating the distinct tranquil atmosphere enriched within this track. I have been told that Balamb Garden's atmosphere is very much like the atmosphere in Japanese schools and I can certainly imagine this. Such a track interprets this well. While you inevitably run up and down Balamb Garden's corridors an uncountable number of times during Final Fantasy VIII (if you play it all the way through), I never get bored of it considering that new musical features seem to shine out every time I listen to it. Definitely highly recommended! (9/10)

3) Blue Fields

As the world map theme for Final Fantasy VIII, "Blue Fields" became a notorious disappointment after the overwhelming goodness of the "F.F.VII Main Theme." It has two key problems in my opinion: the first is an overly repetitive basso ostinato and the second is the utilisation of some dodgy synth instrumentation for the melodic lines. These two elements seem to have contributed towards it being quite heavily criticised by fans, and yet while somewhat understandable, such an opinion seems to be quite disproportionate against its relative worth overall. It definitely has many other positive features: its melodies are rich and boundless, are perfectly shaped, and contrast nicely over some dense counterpoint in the harmonic lines. A lot of its instrumentation also proves quite effectual. Many of these positive features stand out to a greater extent in both of the official arrangements of this track for the Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections and the orchestrated album Final Fantasy VIII FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC. These prove much more agreeable overall. (7/10)

4) Don't be Afraid

The normal battle theme for Final Fantasy VIII has much greater long-lasting appeal in comparison to the series' other contenders. While it doesn't sound particularly different from other battle themes for the series on the exterior, when you strip it down, a lot of original features emerge; its experimental 5/4 metre, for example, is a highly effectual element to this theme. It gives it a very agitated feel throughout and contributes towards a number of unusual rhythms being used. The bass riff that usually opens Final Fantasy battle themes is also gone giving way to a bit more creativity. Other elements crucial to its success are its catchy melodies and Uematsu's balanced choices of instrumentation. It manages to create everything needed for a normal battle theme — energy, danger, enjoyment, and memorability — and be highly musically intriguing at the same time. Unlike most battle themes, its effect is not lost with continuous battling either! (9.5/10)

5) The Winner

The "Victory Fanfare" was always an element of the Final Fantasy series that I tolerated in the early years but quickly got frustrated with as it was endlessly revived. While a trademark of Final Fantasy in some ways, its use has become pedantic and phoney in recent years. Its use has no longer become a familiar treat, but rather something expected and perhaps even dreaded. I manage to tolerate this particular rendition, however, considering the fanfare is followed by a tuned percussion and string passage that is quite inventive, and is also catchy and dangerously addictive. It gives an old theme a new lease of life. until the next instalment! (7/10)

6) Find Your Way

This ambient cave theme follows closely in the footsteps of "The Mystic Forest" from Final Fantasy VI and "Chasing the Black-Caped Man" from Final Fantasy VII before it. When I first heard the track, I didn't care much for it; however, it has since grown on me and I remain in awe of its subtle instrumental contrasts and its fine development even to this day. The atmosphere presented is just right: it manages to be creepy, mysterious, yet somehow calming. My only minor quarrel is that its accompaniment could have been experimented with more; the harmonies are based upon simple arpeggio sequences for the most part, and while it contributes to the boundless atmosphere, it is musically bland. Other than that, this is a great track and a real grower. (9/10)

7) SeeD

This is one of the first glimpses of the military influence upon this Original Soundtrack. It suits the various contexts it is played in very well (e.g. as background music for mission briefings). The rigidity of its rhythms, the heavy use of drum rolls, and its overall dominance all add to the militaristic formality inspired here. However, the main thing this track is lacking is variation. While the drum rolls are effective at first, they quickly grow repetitive. Furthermore, when you look at the full picture, these drum rolls become quite detractive from the impact of the brass and wind fanfares, which tend to be much more interesting. Combining minimalist and nationalist influences together is an awe-inspiring feat in theory but it didn't quite pull off as well as intended here. (7/10)

8) The Landing

Like "SeeD" before it, the introduction to this track is heavily militaristic and has a grand, almost fanfare-like style. This part of the track is used to accompany a spectacular FMV sequence within the game as you approach the Dollet shores. It then moves into a passage very much like that of a stereotypical Uematsu battle theme (i.e. lots of catchy melodies, syncopated rhythms, and a fast-paced tempo) in order to accompany the gameplay during the initial Dollet mission. This part also re-introduces a semi-orchestral rendition of a passage from "Liberi Fatali," which is used with great prominence throughout the soundtrack to create a sense of fate and sorcery as the game develops. If you remember "Opening Theme ~ Bombing Mission" from Final Fantasy VII then this track will be distinctly reminiscent of that theme in structure. It's a very worthwhile addition to the Original Soundtrack in my opinion. (10/10)

9) Starting Up

There is a distinct industrial feel presented in this track. This is appropriate, considering it is primarily used to represent a huge communication tower being activated within the game during an FMV sequence (although it is also used lesser successfully during part of the Timber train mission later in the game). The instrumentation is fantastic here and comes together to create a lot of agitation. It gradually builds up to a climax to represent the communication tower being in full operation. As well as its intended functional role, it introduces a more modernist approach to the music of Final Fantasy, which creates a pathway for some really experimental gems later on in the album. Although it is far from one of the leading tracks in the game, I feel it's certain very effective when considering in-game context. For this reason, I accredit it. (8.5/10)

10) Force Your Way

This is the main boss battle music for Final Fantasy VIII and I felt this was certainly no letdown. Like "Still More Fighting" from Final Fantasy VII, the track takes the upbeat and energetic approach and uses electronic synth instrumentation to the maximum. Its racing tempos, syncopated rhythms, ascending and descending arpeggio patterns, and heavy accentuation all contribute towards the movement and pulsating feel inherent to the track. I cannot help but feel this is a little too light-hearted, however, and lacks the sense of danger a boss battle should have. Still, despite these limitations, I generally feel this was quite a successful track that doesn't lose its impact over time unlike more recent boss battle tracks in the series. (9/10)

11) The Loser

'Game Over' music is renowned for being a 'something about nothing' in RPGs. This is an exception, however. The beautiful string melody that introduces this theme is full of sorrow. Its remarkable transition into a version of the familiar "Prelude" theme (the series' major trademark theme that sadly takes an otherwise absent role in the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack) is very touching; this is due to the element of sadness and despair captured by the synth vocals and the minor/diminished chord sequences used in the famous arpeggio lines. I feel this is a more sensitive 'Game Over' theme compared to others in the Final Fantasy series, and, although not a prominent track as such, it deserves a lot of musical recognition. (8/10)

12) Never Look Back

This track is ideal music for developing tension. The use of repetitive ascending melodic sequences creates a sense of impending danger throughout the track. This, together with the appropriately fast-paced tempo maintained and the electronic instrumentation manipulated, assures that the heat of the chase is aptly reflected. This was not the most inspired track in the game, however, due to the lack of memorable themes introduced and its overall repetitiveness. Indeed, as a result, while it works for in-game purposes marvellously, it is often very dull when played alone. (7/10)

13) Dead End

This is used as background music to accompany a magnificent FMV sequence in the game. In this FMV sequence, our protagonist (Squall) has to escape his impending doom from a giant mechanical spider. This music adopts a similar style to "Never Look Back," but magnifies the extent of the sense of danger and uncertainty to an even greater extent. The wide range of musical features operated here and the fact that it is relatively short assures that it doesn't get boring either. However, like many of the tracks used to accompany FMVs in the game, it isn't very memorable. (8/10)

14) Breezy

Although this lacks the immediate impact of tracks like "Liberi Fatali," I feel this track is truly beautiful once time is taken to appreciate it. The track aims to convey a fresh seaside feel and Uematsu succeeds in capturing this perfectly. His introduction of a light guitar melody built on major 6th chord progressions assures the creation of something calm, refreshing, natural, and somewhat different. While it is definitely simple when stripped down musically, I find this more of a reason to admire the track — the perpetual level of communication interpreted here assures a perfect musical 'illustration' of Balamb town. Indeed, this track proves once more that elegance is best attained with simplicity! (9/10)

15) Shuffle or Boogie

If you are one of those 'old school' Final Fantasy fans out there, then you might want to know that "Shuffle or Boogie" is very reminiscent of light-hearted tracks like "Slam Shuffle" and "Johnny C. Bad" from the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version. Of course, it maintains its own original style as well, which manages to be a strange yet somewhat effectual fusion between 'shuffle' and 'boogie' (hence the track name, duh!). It is used when you play the oh so tedious 'Triple Triad' card game throughout the game. Considering that you have to experience literally hundreds of these dire matches in the game (if you want to get some decent abilities, that is), you will listen to this track almost as much as "Don't Be Afraid." Sadly, unlike the normal battle theme, "Shuffle or Boogie" loses its edge quickly and, while it is originally the only fun aspect of 'Triple Triad', it quickly becomes just as unexciting. Sorry, guys and gals. (6.5/10)

16) Waltz for the Moon

This track is a proud majestic waltz that is a pastiche from the romantic period. Uematsu combines gushing melodies and dainty harmonies together with a sense of military formality that demands a degree of respect! It is split into two equally memorable and effective sections and, while they clumsily transition into one another, the track otherwise feels natural and unforced. Its subtle integration of the "Eyes on Me" love theme is appropriate since the track was principally used during a stunning FMV sequence which shows the game's lovers (Squall and Rinoa) first meet during the SeeD ball. Overall, while not perfect, this is a subtle and poignant track that is among the most memorable from the game and soundtrack. (9/10)

17) Tell Me

Although it is only used once in the game, "Tell Me" does not easily go forgotten. Providing the music for an uncomfortable conversation between Squall and Quistis early on in the game, this music represents how he still remains obstinate even when she opens her heart to him. There is a combination of beauty and warmth created by the gushing melodies, but the melodies contrast with the distinct sense of hopelessness created by the unmoving harmonies. Indeed, the awkward pairing of the melodies and harmonies in this piece of music could be seen as a metaphorical interpretation of the awkward pairing between Quistis and Squall (rather than poor composing, so to speak). The track introduces the "Ami" theme, which is a superb theme manifested throughout the soundtrack to symbolise friendship and memories. While its use may appear at odd at first, its inclusion helps to represent the hidden childhood link between Squall and Quistis, which is later discussed in the game. Indeed, on the whole, this track is much deeper than it originally seems and has a pivotal role in developing the soundtrack. (9.5/10)

18) Fear

This track has major problems: its development section is far too short to create some much-needed variation from the dull initial melody; its harmonies are downright repetitive and totally unimposing; the poor synchronisation between the parts leave nothing other than an empty feel throughout the track; and, most importantly, no atmosphere is created whatsoever. It goes straight over my head how this track can be considered an interpretation of fear. It has no emotion. It has no mood. It has nothing at all. Interpret it whatever way you like (I daresay somebody will find it inspiring and find some amazing minimalist features), but I'll sum up my interpretation of this track in three words: bland, muddled, and pointless. (2.5/10)

19) The Man with the Machine Gun

Could this be interpreted as the greatest battle theme ever? Probably not. Could this be interpreted as the greatest battle theme on Final Fantasy VIII? Definitely (and that is no mean feat). Some composers have a tendency to alienate people when using heavily electronic styles and leave only a small proportion of fans enjoying their work. Nobuo Uematsu has never had this problem, and while conformity has something to do with it, I would attribute most of this on the fact that the composer has so much melodic flair. "The Man with the Machine Gun" combines the game's catchiest and quirkiest melodies together with energetic upbeat rhythms, a dance-like pulse, and an overall sense of vivaciousness. This makes the Laguna dream sequences (which I never particularly cared for) much more enjoyable and creates a definitive highlight to Disc One of the Original Soundtrack. (10/10)

20) Julia

This piano solo sets the foundations for the main love theme in the game ("Eyes on Me") both in terms of the melodic progressions it introduces as well as in terms of the storyline of the game. (According to the game, Julia, the pianist who plays this track during the game later composes and sings "Eyes on Me" and dedicates it to Laguna.) It is a subtle and heartfelt rendition that is enriched with emotion and is genuinely sincere. While it is not especially developed, the theme sets the motion for much greater things to develop. It does what it needs to do and cannot easily be forgotten. (9/10)

21) Roses and Wine

I've always cherished this track for its warmth and innocence. Its melodies on the plucked strings are so simple and underdeveloped, but are so sweet and soothing that way nonetheless. Although it would certainly benefit from more development, the fact this track is so gently understated is, for the most part, its greatest asset. This track is definitely one to fall to sleep with. (7/10)

22) Junction

This track consists of just four broken chords and is simply a repeated sixteen bar solo harp melody. While a surprisingly strong mysterious atmosphere is created with the use of the harp, most of this is lost on the fact that the theme is so underdeveloped and repetitive. Weak as it stands, this track could have been much more. (4/10)

23) Timber Owls

This zany track helps to create a lot of chirpiness in the early part of the game and, despite often being overlooked, it is a worthy addition to the soundtrack. The ensemble used — pizzicato strings, a tuba, a clarinet, an oboe, a triangle, and the characteristic 'tick-tock' of a clock — is probably the strangest of the game, and while it adds to the quirkiness of the track, it also actually fits together quite effortlessly. Admittedly, the track takes a while to take to, but its place in providing some perkiness at the end of a rather serious disc is integral to the success of the score. So, how do you like mock seriousness, slapstick, and light relief all at once? (8.5/10)

Disc Two

1) My Mind

Out of the primary four tracks that feature the "Eyes on Me" love theme in the game ("My Mind," "Eyes on Me," "Love Grows," and "Julia"), this track is the least remarkable. The suspended strings in the harmony are not only clichéd, but feel bland too. Similarly, the choice of instruments to play the melodic line (bells and guitar) feels quite unbalanced, and, while what Nobuo Uematsu had planned to achieve here is clear, it was not implemented effectively. It is quite a good reflection of Rinoa's dreamy and innocent character, but feels rather one-dimensional nonetheless. This track is quickly overshadowed by later incarnations of the same theme and, while decent enough, it is far too sentimental for my tastes. (6.5/10)

2) The Mission

This track was used for the Timber train mission during the game and worked successfully in that situation. Somehow, however, it doesn't work at all as a stand-alone track. I'm not entirely sure why this is — its melodies are strong enough, there is sufficient variation as it develops, and it provides quite a strong sense of movement and danger throughout. It would be fair to attribute some of the blame on the fact that its introduction (featuring two horrific harpsichord passages) gets the theme off to a poor start and that the theme does not benefit from the repetitive string ground bass running throughout it. This track is admirable for what it achieves during the game, but is completely intolerable on its own. (6/10)

3) Martial Law

This is another fairly mediocre piece (you'll see a lot of those throughout Disc Two, unfortunately). The percussion use is top-class; it really makes this theme fun to listen to and makes it a strong picture of life in Timber under Galbadian control. In addition, the development section of this theme is creative and a real joy to listen to. However, the initial section of the theme drags on for far too long and is characterised by much more boring progressions than the development section. Also, the piece's melodic lines feel rather uninspired throughout and this creates an empty atmosphere just like "Fear" on Disc One. Although the positive points about this theme outweigh the negative points, this track still could have been much better. (7/10)

4) Cactus Jack (Galbadian Anthem)

Do you like national anthems? I should hope you do since the Galbadian National Anthem is the most stereotypical national anthem out there. Nationalism, militarism, and patriotism are the three main -isms that can be associated with this theme. While there aren't many distinguishing musical features that make it a worthwhile standalone listen, the strong use of brass instrumentation and steady melodic progressions assure the theme does what a national anthem should do within the game. Invent words to sing to it if you like. (7/10)

5) Only a Plank Between One and Perdition

Firstly, cool name! Secondly, this track isn't too shabby at all. While the percussion use is deadly repetitive, the track benefits a lot from an excellent piano basso ostinato, some memorable overdriven guitar melodies, and some sporadically placed orchestral clashes. As the game's main 'hurry' track, this track effectively creates a threatening and energetic atmosphere throughout several scenes in the game. I felt it could have had a little more flair, but this is mainly due to limited implementation rather than poor composing. (8/10)


This theme is integral for the purposes of developing the subject matters and melodic progressions relating to sorcery within the game. As the first major incarnation of the sorceress' theme (excluding "Liberi Fatali"), this theme fuses cold chromatic progressions together with chilling 'FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC' chants and abstract instrumental combinations. The most interesting aspect of this theme is the way the vocal passages (consisting of repeated 'FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC' chants) contrast so heavily with the lengthier instrumental passages. The vocal chants manage to be spine-chillingly menacing in a genuinely dark and brooding way; however, while the instrumental passages are also intimidating, this is because of their distorted playfulness. This is certainly Nobuo Uematsu's musical interpretation of images of a laughing witch. As one of the darkest pieces in the game, its use within the game is consistently strong and not hindered greatly by the fact that the sorceress' theme is heard in a number of other tracks throughout the Original Soundtrack. (9/10)

7) Galbadia GARDEN

A grandiose and militaristic introduction to this track leads to nowhere after the body of the track is reached. This body is based upon a cool jazzy style, but any chance of being an experimental wonder is significantly hindered by the fact that it is sloppily put together and highly repetitive throughout. To its credit, however, there is some mystery created as a result of its bare textures and this creates some anxiety the first time you listen to it. This is, of course, until it repeats so many times in one listen that it descends into utterly monotony. Skip this one. (3/10)

8) Unrest

A strong atmosphere is created within this track — agitated, brooding, cold, depressing, uneasy — and this allows it to serve the ambient purpose of representing Seifer's disturbed character adequately. However, the track suffers from being one of the most musically uninspired in the score; it is nothing other than a sluggish bass guitar solo blandly accompanied by some suspended strings. The consequent tedium created by listening to this track makes any of its ambient purposes completely unremarkable. It looks like you'll be skipping two in a row here. (2.5/10)

9) Under Her Control

While I didn't like this track at one time, it has grown on me a fair amount recently. Its jazzy melodies and laid-back rhythms contribute to building the ideal atmosphere for Deling City during the game. The instrumental contrasts are hardly vast and wonderful, but effective to a certain extent. The least inspiring aspect of this track is its structure. It is built upon a ground bass and thus develops by repeating a basso ostinato and varying the melodies above it. While I see no obvious problems with this structure, the fact that the basso ostinato is hardly enjoyable in the first place considerably limits the enjoyment of the track. A little more diversion from this rather rigid structure wouldn't go amiss either. After all, the track should be cool and free, and, as it stands, it really isn't. Other than that, the track is fairly commendable. (7.5/10)

10) The Stage is Set

This track is a fast-paced militaristic battle march led by a synth military band and strings. While the initial motif is catchy and fun to listen to, the excellent thing about this track is the way it gets even better as it progresses. As the textures gradually thicken, the theme gets more and more exciting. It builds up all the way until it reaches a poignant climax with a synth orchestral rendition of the main melody heard back in "Liberi Fatali." This part is extremely well done. It manages to be extremely captivating and create an enormous sense of urgency. On top of all that, it features some marvellous counterpoint from the string section to provide strong harmonies to the grand brass melodies. Disc Two would be much worse if it weren't for this wonderful gem. (10/10)

11) A Sacrifice

Unlike the other incarnations of the sorceress' theme (except "Truth"), this one does not feature any 'FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC' chants whatsoever (although some dodgy synth vocals are still heard). It is also much slower and darker than most of the other incarnations. Relying primarily on instrumentals, Uematsu uses a wide ensemble here to create a brooding and hopeless atmosphere that represents the torment, suffering, and anguish of Sorceress Edea's human sacrifice. While this track suffers from a lot of dodgy synth work and has a few awkward progressions here and there, it is otherwise a decent addition to the soundtrack. (8/10)


This is used as the sorceress' parade music at the end of Disc One in the game. It captures the darkness and mystery of this parade well by mixing the chilling 'FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC' chants together with cheeky and highly intimidating instrumental sections. Like "Liberi Fatali," the vocals in this track are pre-recorded and these technological advances give it a lot more realism (however, the track otherwise uses synth instrumentation). Considering 'FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC' is an anagram of 'LOVE' and 'SUCCESSION OF WITCHES', it is very interesting to analyse the extent to which the melodic and chord progressions used in this theme are manifested throughout this soundtrack. Some tracks integrate this theme with great subtlety while others do so with downright blatancy. Still, regardless of subtlety, each manifestation of the theme emphasises the themes of love and sorcery throughout the game and never feels inappropriate. (10/10)

13) Intruders

The pizzicato strings and unusual percussive instruments used throughout this track create a very sneaky character. The fragmented melodic lines and syncopated rhythms add to this edge as well. However, like most of Disc Two's tracks, the main problem with "Intruders" is its sheer repetitiveness. This means that while suitable for ambient purposes, it isn't a particularly good listen on its own. It would certainly benefit from being developed by introducing a contrasting second section. (7/10)

14) Premonition

Out of all the battle music in the game, "Premonition," which is used for the special sorceress boss battles, is my least favourite. Once the track gets to the fast upbeat part, it is perfect, but the introduction preceding it is horrific to listen to outside the game. While I can usually cope with dissonance if it is created in a purposeful manner, the discords and suspensions used throughout this introduction don't do that and just seem pointless. Sure, Nobuo Uematsu wants to interpret the evil of the sorceresses somewhat during the theme, but it is clear that the main aim of the introduction was to sound climactic, proud, and epic. As it stands, it just sounds repulsive. I am thankful that the body of the theme is strong, however. The prominent sense of sorcery created by the subtle integration of many melodies from the sorceress' theme is remarkable. Similarly, the vivacious rhythms used in conjunction with the piece's unusual 6/4 metre create a lot of energy throughout the piece and add to its intimidating and threatening character greatly. Indeed, once you are over the ghastly introduction, this theme is nothing short of a masterpiece. (8/10)

15) Wounded

This track is used to accompany an FMV sequence at the end of Disc One where Final Fantasy VIII's protagonist, Squall, is wounded. Once again, the chord progressions used in the sorceress' theme acquire a leading role here on the lead instrument (a synth solo organ); its characteristic ascending chromatic progression is actually extended to create the sourest dissonance heard on the entire Original Soundtrack. Against these suspended chords are some synth bells, which ring atmospherically above the vile mess below it to reflect the sadness and hopelessness of the dismal situation. While not especially pleasant to listen to on its own, this dissonance worked perfectly within the game and was not detractive from the overall musicality present in the score. It's a shame that the FMV sequence was too short for this to be extended over 52 seconds in length! (8/10)

16) Fragments of Memories

Due to the multifaceted nature of the emotions that can be gained from this track, one might be fooled into thinking that it is immensely complex in a musical sense too. Indeed, it wasn't until I analysed this track for the purpose of this review that I realized that it was played by just one instrument (which is tuned percussion of some sort). Still, it's amazing what Uematsu manages to evoke from just one instrument; it's fragmented, fragile, soothing, and innocent melodies make it the perfect setting for the dream sequence showing Laguna's sweet memories at Winhill before everything turned rather tragic for him (two deceased lovers and all that). It is an ideal track for reminiscing and has a very nostalgic feel to it. In addition, this track, more so than any of other, shows how bleak the world of Final Fantasy VIII has become, simply because it is such a profound contrast to the darker tracks on the album (e.g. "Wounded") intended to reflect events in the present day. (9.5/10)

17) Jailed

"Jailed" adds to the accumulation of substandard tracks throughout Disc Two. I would describe this track as one with a lot of unrealised potential, as, like "Galbadia GARDEN," it adopts a jazz style, but doesn't do anything creative with it. The track relies on one motif (which is rather dull in the first place) far too much and just doesn't develop, even though the theme is blatantly begging for it. It just repeats, repeats, and continues to repeat. At least it represents the jail well — after all, it is monotonous. (4/10)

18) Rivals

This track is intended to represent a climax in the game whereby the harsh jealousy and rivalry between Squall and Seifer has developed to the extent that it results in cruel torture involving electrocution. An ambient approach was taken here to represent it, revolving around low suspended strings and mysterious woodwind motifs. Unfortunately, unlike the events it accompanies, however, it sounds neither climactic nor particularly vulgar, but bland, clichéd, and lifeless instead. Something much more unique and emphatic was needed here to support the torture scenes in the way they deserve. (3.5/10)

19) Ami

The "Ami" theme and its variations (including "Balamb GARDEN") have possibly the most touching melody on the entire soundtrack. The melody isn't as cheesy as those in "Eyes on Me" and "Waltz for the Moon," nor as simple as themes such as "The Oath" and "Roses and Wine." Furthermore, unlike these themes, it represents the themes of friendship much more than it does the theme of love. The melodies come across amicably on the piano, which leads the theme, and sound even warmer during the flute and string passages. Though still a little simple, the theme is undoubtedly one of the most memorable, bright, and beautiful on the soundtrack. (9/10)

Disc Three

1) The Spy

This is another track that could have potentially been excellent ambient music, featuring a cool jazz style similar to "Under Her Control" and "Martial Law," but doesn't work somewhere along the way. Like "Blue Fields," Keiji Kawamori's synth operating deserves a significant amount of the blame, which makes the melodic lines sound awkward and the accompanying parts dull. Uematsu's composition wasn't up to all that much either, however, with the melodies being uninspired and the rest being quite predictable. That said, the bass riff is fun and one of the few features that allows this piece to stand out in terms of originality and create a sense of sneakiness. A functional success, just about, but not a particularly pleasant addition to the soundtrack. Oh, and somebody told me to add that it sounds like hentai music. Well, to be honest, I don't really know what that sounds like, but that gives me one more reason to avoid the genre in addition to my dislike for animated pornography! (5/10)

2) Retaliation

The fourth minor situational track used to accompany FMV sequences — after "Starting Up," "Dead End," and "Wounded" — this theme is successful in that it adds a lot of power to the scene and a touch of colour to the soundtrack. With a distinct sense of movement and some lovely melodies, this charming addition is developed further in the subsequent track, one of the major additions to the soundtrack. (8/10)

3) Movin'

Action tracks have always been amongst Uematsu's best, boasting melodic prowess to lure the listener, rhythmical impetus to stimulate the listener, and lots of subtle additions to continue interesting the listener. "Movin'" is certainly no exception, and, once again, it is developed to great heights, initially feeling ominous in nature, before moving into an upbeat and slightly agitated section written in the style of a militaristic march. The theme's high point comes after an accelerando at the 1:30 mark, when there is a series of discords over an ascending chromatic chord sequence associated the sorceress' theme, which is suddenly and beautifully relieved to reflect the passing of danger, though the theme continues to develop further from here as danger persues once more. The mechanical and militaristic fusion that this theme holds is unique to a certain degree, even if it partly reiterates what was gained in "The Stage is Set," though development is the key factor that makes it so distinguished compared to the average action theme. (9.5/10)

4) Blue Sky

The second situational theme on the disc, "Blue Sky," is a refreshing composition that effectively represents the boundless sea and clear sky when Balamb Garden is floating. The FMV sequence that it is used in will only occur if Rinoa is in the party, however, so not all will remember it or the context it used in. This theme shares close parallels to the airship theme, "Ride On," which uses similar melodies and is also a breath of fresh air, though it also uses fragments of the "Eyes on Me" theme as well to represent Rinoa's presence. (7.5/10)

5) Drifting

This theme is used in several significant themes in the game featuring Ellone that represent mystery, sadness, and beauty. It's initially quite successful in creating atmosphere, with its contemplative string melodies feeling flowing and heartfelt, but its impact is quickly lost. This is largely due to the fact that there is hardly any variation and development, though its problem actually lie even deeper than this, as it is devoid of any musical profoundness. Consisting of just a repetitive string melody accompanied by a suspended string note, with no true harmonies whatsoever, any amateur musical could write something like this and this is a major disappointment, both from the perspective that it is not something you would expect from Uematsu, though, more importantly, that it adds to the tedium of some of scenes it accompanies. (3/10)

6) Heresy

With a jazzy bass-heavy sneaking theme, a slow string-based emotional theme, and two situational themes that end on a suspended note having just passed, what is the next cliché Uematsu is going to utilise on this album? A miserable organ-based villain's theme, of course. Though we've been there and done that before in VGM, Uematsu does a decent job here in creating tension in the brief scene that it plays, utilising layering and other features to disguise the actual simple chord sequences that underpins it effectively. It made the encounter with the secondary villain NORG more memorable and will be quite enjoyable for those who enjoy the organ's sound. Further, to Uematsu's credit, he doesn't often resort to using the organ for these purposes, so it might be considered original after all, even if inferior to its successor, "Castle Pandemonium," in the Final Fantasy IX's soundtrack. (7.5/10)

7) Fisherman's Horizon

Remember that I expressed my initial apathy towards the "Balamb GARDEN" at the start of this review? Well, I felt the same about "Fisherman's Horizon" originally, with my hatred for fishing and boredom with much of Disc Two in the game likely explaining this. Nowadays, however, I consider it to be the perfect musical representation of a complex scene, which represents peace, simplicity, and the fundamental importance of the sea, while also carrying a beautiful melody. Widely regarded as one of the best town themes Uematsu has written, many arranged versions of the theme now exist, including an acclaimed orchestral version, a piano version, and the oh-so-cute Mahoroba recorder version, which only serve to emphasise the sensitivity behind Uematsu's original composition. (10/10)

8) ODEKA de Chocobo

One of the more unusual additions, as Uematsu prepares to move into the experimental third of the soundtrack, "ODEKA de Chocobo" sees a return to 'old skool' style with NES-style beeps. It's cute, very catchy, and bouncy, though likely an ironic statement rather than anything else. Still, it's nice to see this classic theme stripped down after all the wild and sometimes wonderful versions before it, and, although this track grows annoying eventually, it might make you smile the first few times the melody plays. (6.5/10)

9) Where I Belong

"Where I Belong" is another variation on a theme of "Ami," this time in the form of an electric piano solo, with string backing being provided from the 1:17 mark. It isn't especially different from the original theme, but demonstrates the power of the melody as a representation of peace and unity, with the timbre the electric piano offers giving it an especially notable nostalgic feeling. Used in a scene when a powerful revelation is made about the relationship between Squall, Zell, Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, and Ellone, this theme adds to the sentimental nature of the scene and is by far the most memorable rendition of the "Ami" theme in terms of in-game context. Original? Certainly not, but it's still a special theme. (8/10)

10) The Oath

Some people say this is Squall's theme. It isn't. Why would it be given such a name if it is? And why would Uematsu betray the policy of no character themes? What it is a representation of, however, is Squall's relationship to Rinoa from his perspective, thus inferring information about his personality too. Indeed, it's a theme of dedication from Squall towards Rinoa, which naturally infers a more sensitive side to his silent exterior, though can hardly be described as a full picture of his personality, as it was never intended to be. The melody is perfect here — proud and powerful yet beautiful and sensitive — but it isn't overly happy, with some darker melodic progressions used to represent impending doom for this touching relationship. While another standard 'melody with accompaniment' piece that features a little too repetition to be considered a masterpiece, its warm melody and the atmospheric nature makes it close to pure gold nonetheless. (9/10)

11) Slide Show Part 1

The two slide shows themes are slapstick piano-based themes used to accompany a hilarious dream sequence featuring Laguna and a film company. Part 1 is definitely the worse of two, featuring a very simple harmonic pattern and some descending scale melodic lines, making it another theme devoid of any musically rasping material. Worse still, it features the background noise of a film rolling, which was simply unnecessary, and annoying rather than communicative. Somehow, though, it manages to be tolerable, though only just; this is because it has lots of character, representing tension before all hell breaks loose. When it finally does, it leads us nicely into Part 2... (6/10)

12) Slide Show Part 2

All hell has broke loose in the scene and Laguna is being chased by a life-threatening dragon. Guess what Uematsu does to represent this? Use a solo piano to play a fast-paced Western-style rag, of course. Yes, I know you're thinking that could possibly be scary, but it does suit the mildly amusing nature of the scene. Despite apparent chaos, this theme is a simple one, underpinned by basic rhythms, a ternary structure, and standard chord progressions, but Uematsu has a tendency to hide the simplicity of his works and he does this superbly again here. It's simply a fun theme all-round, and, though Uematsu could have developed it much more, making it equivalent to something like "Spinach Rag" or "Johnny C. Bad" from Final Fantasy VI, it was only ever intended to be a short jingle anyway. (8/10)

13) Love Grows

"Love Grows" is the closest that we get to a full instrumental version of "Eyes on Me," so, if you can't stand vocal themes yet still love great melodies, then this track is for you. Played as Squall finally begins to express and come to terms with his true emotions for Rinoa while she is absent, it is powerful, flowing, and sentimental. With the opening stages consisting of a light interpretation of the melody with simple accompaniment, the track quickly blooms as a number of different instruments are added to increase the power of the scene. When a flute comes in to take over the melody and some strings are added to the accompaniment to give it more substance, the track becomes almost tear jerking, with the theme of romance being tied in with a sense of tragedy delicately. In terms of actual in-game context, the theme is used considerably before "The Oath," which means its placement in the soundtrack feels a tiny bit out-of-synch, though it is ideally placed to prepare for the major rendition of the game's main theme at the end of the disc. Some people would describe this as a variation on a theme of "Eyes on Me," and, while technically true, the subtle instrument use and nostalgia created by the scene it is used in make it a major addition to the soundtrack. (9/10)

14) The Salt Flats

Used when passing through the harsh salt desert during Disc Three towards Esthar, "The Salt Flats" represents a turning point in the soundtrack from conventional and sometimes hackneyed themes like "Heresy," "The Spy," and "The Oath" towards more experimental ones, ideal for representing the futuristic nature of Esthar, the Ragnorak, and even an outer space base. Not all people like this theme, as it utilises minimalism and some unusual percussion use, while sounding hostile and cold, but it is nonetheless a fantastic composition if considered as ambient music. It develops breathtakingly, uses gorgeous contrasts in textures, and is the home to some haunting melodies. Well-refined and atmospheric, this theme is perfect for the context it is used in, yet an acquired taste. (10/10)

15) Trust Me

One of the banes of Uematsu in recent years has been overusing themes, and, though this isn't an awful problem in the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack, it has to be asked why it is necessary for the "Ami" theme to be arranged once more here, when the original theme or "Where I Belong" would have been more suitable. The composition is actually quite irritating, with some poorly synthesized panpipes initially playing against an annoying bell motif that repeats throughout the whole track. While the clarinet playing the melody eventually saves the theme from complete failure, focusing on the bell motif either makes you go mad or have a headache. "Ami" is the classic rendition of the theme, "Balamb GARDEN" is a perfect scene-setter, "Tell Me" made one scene much more heartfelt, and "Where I Belong" is a good creator of nostalgia. This, on the other hand, just exists, and, seemingly, for no reason other than to annoy. (3.5/10)

16) Silence and Motion

What do you get when you combine gorgeous melodic progressions with futuristic electronic sounds, hints of minimalism, and lots of development? Well, there's two answers: "Silence and Motion" and a masterpiece. Both are actually the same thing, however; look at the Oxford English Dictionary under 'masterpiece' and you'll see "Silence and Motion" be mentioned, and, if you look under a picture dictionary, you'll also see a picture of Esthar, the ubertastic city where it plays. To all those who say that Uematsu has never progressed and relies on nothing but melodies, this is proof that he actually experiments a lot while also retaining his melodic flair. Combining the tasks of creating feelings of awe to representing a stunning metropolis while establishing a contemporary and influential development in game music can't be easy, but Uematsu pulls it off admirably, creating, as I said, a masterwork. When Uematsu dies, this track should certainly be played at his funeral, while his gravestone could have 'silence and motion' engraved in it, to represent one of his finest works and an awesome title. Oh dear... I just turned something wonderful rather morbid. Moving on... (10/10)

17) Dance with the Balamb-fish

EvilMushrooms has said it, Djinova has said it, Tetra has said it, and now I will say it for emphasis: "Dance with the Balamb-fish" is not a waltz. How can it be if it is in 4/4 for the most part? Not that common misassumption has been dealt with, I must say that this little dance is a classic. It's equally as charming as "Waltz for the Moon," with a stately melody and gushing feel, only emphasised further with the transition into 3/4 time during a brief passage. It's used in some strange places — the seaside resort of Dollet, the Lunar Base, and a random sequence involving a fishing rod — but that's not a major complaint, as it just about works, even if it was pushing it using it in space. It's a touch of colour to the soundtrack, does no harm in the game, and is strong musically, so receives high marks! (9/10)

18) Tears of the Moon

This track brings back bad memories — really bad memories. No, not of the Lunar Cry, as tragic as it was, but of my broken Disc Three of Final Fantasy VIII. I was happily playing through until the FMV this track was used in played, but it was never able to complete the FMV sequence, always stopping some time in the middle. Though I now understandably hate it, it suited the scene it was used in perfectly, utilising lots of chromaticism and Star Wars-esque instrumentation to create an ominous sci-fi feeling. While some don't realize it, Uematsu has a talent for creating programmatic music and the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack really demonstrates this, even if the themes concerned are mostly short. Oh, and in case you were wondering about how I solved that problem, it turned out it was my PlayStation that was the problem, so it worked fine when I played it on my PlayStation 2 instead. So, yeah, I was able to watch the world get destroyed after all! (8/10)

19) Residents

Another example of controversial experimentation, "Residents" uses a combination of oppressive percussion beats, lots of light-hearted futuristic synth sounds, and some amusingly placed 'cello samples to paint a picture of the interior of a spaceship taken over by monsters. Perhaps most quirky of all, however, is its subtle integration of the chromatic sequence used in the sorceress' theme into the bass line. If this is Uematsu's attempt to representing how sorcery has become linked to Rinoa or is simply him feeling a little uninspired, we will never know, but its use isn't obvious until more intricate inspection. Though "Residents" doesn't exactly create the image of pure fear, despite the scary nature of the monsters lurking about, it is a plain fun track if you're not one to be alienated by synth sounds and a little cheesiness. (8/10)

20) Eyes on Me

"Eyes on Me" is bittersweet. On one hand, it's the first of its kind for Final Fantasy soundtracks, features superb vocal execution from Faye Wong, boasts an unforgettable melody, and portrays the climax of the love story that has been developing in the game up to the point it is played. Indeed, Uematsu made a choice to bring a fresh new idea to the series while also drawing in a new audience of mainstream pop fans and manipulating the capabilities of pre-recording technology. On the other hand, it is based on a hackneyed love ballad format, features some rather bland instrumentals in its original version, is considered overly soppy by some, and is not strictly a pioneering creation in terms of all Square soundtracks. Indeed, it was actually Yasunori Mitsuda's "Small Two of Pieces" that was the first Squall love ballad, though was sadly clouded by "Eyes on Me" when it came to general popularity and receiving prestigious awards; it was "Eyes on Me" that somehow won "Song of the Year (Western Music)" at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1999. When the theme is overhyped and features few rousing original musical features, it's not a surprise that it played straight into the hands of elitists, who often cite it as the worst creation in video game music history. Truth be told, however, when it is seen for what it is — a pleasant love ballad that accompanied a powerful scene effectively and features a talented singer — it can be deemed as a worthy addition to the soundtrack without the use of needless extremes. It is not the best nor the worst, just a decent innovation that was especially memorable. (9/10)

Disc Four

1) Mods de Chocobo (Featuring N's Telecaster)

To be totally honest with you, I am sick and tired of the endless uninspired renditions of the Chocobo theme, which have turned a once enjoyable theme into something both nonsensical and annoying. Since "Electric de Chocobo," the "Chocobo" theme seems to have followed the series around like a rabid pack of lambs (what a good mix of metaphors!), with Mizuta's "Dash de Chocobo" and Hamauzu's "Coi Vanni Gialli" being pleasant exceptions, and this theme was the first of many utterly horrible renditions in recent years. It's catchy, yes, adopting a swingin' sixties style that would appeal to the (relatively) few mushroom-loving Video Game Music fans out there, but has extremely low replay value, making many, including me and a telecaster-carrying Nobuo, go into convulsions every time it plays. (5/10)

2) Ride On

"Ride On" is easily one of the most inspirational themes on the album, used in the Ragnarok, the airship (or should I say spaceship) that you spend most of your time exploring the world map with. The start of the theme consists of a string section that plays a series of staccato notes alongside a intricate flute line. Although this may initially bring you into reenacting the scenes of the Swan Lake ballet in your head, Uematsu makes sure that he develops the theme in a way that most wouldn't expect, hopefully bringing you back down to earth. Pardon the pun! From here onwards, the theme glides into a section full of hope with lively motifs and airy instrumentation, though suffers a tiny bit from repetitiveness. Overall, one of the stronger airship themes in the series, though the introduction is more inspiring than the actual core melody. (9/10)

3) Truth

I admire what Uematsu was trying to do here. That is, to create a wind quartet with harpsichord continuo, a once common ensemble in the Baroque era. Is the execution effective, however? Well, Bach wouldn't be proud of this work, I can say that for sure. Uematsu's counterpoint is sloppy and thoughtless, while each individual voice in the winds is too pronounced, only coming together in one brief yet heartfelt moment during the 4 minutes of playing time. Indeed, it feels thin for the most part and lacks any memorable melodic material beyond that already covered in the sorceress' theme. Still, though hardly a musical masterpiece, the theme is quite effective in context, with the winds showing Edea's inner warmth, the harpsichord showing the ancient and forgotten nature of the orphanage, and the initial chromatic harmonic sequence demonstrating the continued presence of sorcery. A functional success, but it could have been better. (6.5/10)

4) Lunatic Pandora

You've witnessed comments about Uematsu's interpretation of the interior of a spaceship, an icy desert, and a futuristic metropolis. Now you're going to learn about how Uematsu deals with a crystal light pillar (whatever one of those is) called the Lunatic Pandora. Yes, his method is appropriately strange. What we get is an imposing imperial march, complete with snare drum rolls, oppressive bass notes, and rigid rhythmical structures, yet with high-pitched synth sounds, eerie synth vocals, and detached tuned percussion motifs to create a futuristic, haunting, and alien feel. It's a beautiful fusion of styles and is one of the truly inspiring themes on this soundtrack, though accessibility is an issue and will mean that some will not enjoy it. If you're not an open-minded listener, I pity you for missing out on one of the pinnacle achievements on this soundtrack. (10/10)

5) Compression of Time

There's some tracks that you either love or hate and "Compression of Time" is certainly one of these tracks. Considered repetitive, annoying, and repugnant by some, yet artistic, surreal, and beautiful by others, this one divides opinions quite sharply. I like it, of course, despite Kawamori's awful synthesizing of a saxophone motif that runs throughout most of the track. Once it develops with the addition of some arpeggios, the timbre created is gorgeous, while the rest of the track has a minimalistic quality that makes it ideal for representing the compression of time. If you have selective hearing and can ignore that repugnant saxophone sound, it might well capture your heart, though it probably won't do. (7.5/10)

6) The Castle

The final dungeon theme, "The Castle," sustains use during a lengthy gameplay sequence in the game superbly, partly due to its length, though the overall experimental nature of the theme is the key reason. Intended to represent a huge Gothic castle, the theme combines Baroque organ use and counterpoint with more modern styles, representing time compression, whatever the heck that is. It starts off with a light contrapuntal introduction that would, at last, make Bach moderately proud, before transitioning into an imposing chordal section that is dark and frightening. The most enjoyable section, however, is the secondary one, which is playful yet somehow intimidating, almost like "Cefca" from Final Fantasy VI. It's a superb piece of music that not only works in the game, but succeeds in being memorable, creative, and downright enjoyable. (10/10)

7) The Legendary Beast

Following "The Premonition," "The Legendary Beast" is the second of four final battle themes. Some may call me mad for saying this, but I think it is the most threatening battle theme Uematsu has ever created. Sure, it's an unlikely candidate for this title: no fast tempo is needed, contrary to Final Fantasy IV's "The Final Battle" from Final Fantasy IV, with everything staying fairly moderate; no thick textures are employed, unlike "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII; and, for that matter, there are no unusual timbres with the organ mastery of "Dancing Mad" being traded for average symphonic fare, such as aggressive drum beats, flute-led melodies, and brass countermelodies. Where the track achieves success and separates itself from all predecessors is through its unrelentless melodic progressions and agitated rhythms in the bass line. The track develops for nearly four minutes and not once does the level of intensity drop, with melodic fragments being passed between each instrument uncompassionately yet gradually undergoing metamorphosis through ascending chord progressions, while the harmonies remain horrifyingly consistent, constantly off-beat and never settled. This one really sends shivers down one's spine, and, even when it does loop, no relent is achieved, for it feels like it is merely going around in circles, creating a feeling of an entrapment. And, heck, this is only the second final battle. How is this nightmare going to end? (10/10)

8) Maybe I'm a Lion

The battle theme progression continues with the third final boss theme, in many mays more original and aggressive that its two predecessors, though with a few compassionate moments. A belligerent track that is intended to represent a lion, "Maybe I'm a Lion" combines tribal rhythms with electric guitar prowess and an invigorating organ melody. Like the preceding track, it develops really comprehensively, though occasionally thins to leave just the ethnic drum beats and bell sounds, providing a moment where the track relents after the progressive building of instruments previously. To be honest, though this makes the theme slightly less intense, it was needed, as the themes are harrowing enough and too much buildup would destroy the climax in the following track. Ultimately, therefore, it provides the essential balance of pioneering forward and building up tension, while still representing a fiery encounter. A very effective interpretation of a lion, this contributes a great deal of balance to Final Fantasy VIII's legendary final battle quadrilogy. (10/10)

9) The Extreme

You've fought three battles to get here and now need to fight one more. Yes, the ultimate battle is here, and you know what that means? Yup, a masterpiece is created to accompany it. Opening ominously with a final distorted chant of "FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC" against sound effects that interpret you travelling through space, the piece moves into a more settled passage, featuring a solo harp playing a slow arpeggiated pattern, later joined by piano decorations and some ethereal synthesized vocals. At 1:38 mark, these acoustic instruments are suddenly replaced by a hard-hitting electronic beat, which has an imposing effect, only exacerbated by the subsequent addition of a piano descant, the introduction of the diminished string-led melody that the theme is most memorable for, and the eventual establishment of a adrenaline-pumping bass line.

Constantly intensifying and always remaining stimulating, the theme reaches its climax at the 3:03 mark, when some fast-paced electronic runs and arpeggios are played against a powerful rendition of a secondary melody, making the listener want to reach out for the stars. Adding to the dramatic effect of the theme, all forces are suddenly cut and a beautiful interlude featuring the piano descant prominently against the highly effectual synth vocals is featured, with the textures dramatically thickening once more for a repeat of a lot of what occured earlier in the only true loop of the piece. Creative, absorbing, and, most of all, with a sense of exuberance, "The Extreme" is a worthy successor to "Dancing Mad" and "One Winged Angel," and one of the major dramatic peaks on the soundtrack. Go, go, Uematsu! (10+/10)

10) The Successor

Without the right balance between harmony and melody, solo piano tracks can go horribly wrong at times, but, thus far, Nobuo Uematsu has yet to fail creating one. Although this theme doesn't offer anything especially inspirational, it is plain nice. It wraps up the loose ends concerning the sorcery aspect of the game, with practically all the track being based around the sorceress' theme, and the light timbre Uematsu employs presents a final and more compassionate insight into the theme of sorcery. Though nothing in comparison to the track that follows, it is a lovely break after the terror before. (9/10)

11) Ending Theme

Final Fantasy VIII's ending was probably the best in the series, rivalled only by Final Fantasy IX, and Uematsu and Hamaguchi's score was one of the key reasons for this. Opening mysteriously in a string-led passage, the first two and a half minutes set the scene, but are breathtakingly orchestrated, with little hints of the sorceress' theme placed here and there to add interest, in conjunction with decoration from a piano, which fits this theme effortlessly, thanks to Mr. Hamaguchi. In the last 30 seconds this passage plays, the theme builds considerably, eventually leading to a rendition of "Eyes on Me," which is perfect for representing the tragic end to Rinoa and Squall's love story in a scene that could be considered the pinnacle of achievement in the game. Faye Wong's performance is unchanged from the original theme, but it is now fully orchestrated by Hamaguchi, making the theme much more deep and meaningful. This rendition is certainly vastly superior to the original, even if the lyrics are unchanged. Overall, this reprise of the theme is simply unforgettable.

After "Eyes on Me" has finished and the game's credits appear, the trademark "Final Fantasy" theme plays, following the precedent set by earlier Final Fantasy scores. It is, however, vastly superior to all earlier renditions, thanks to Hamaguchi's orchestration, which combines grandeur, emotion, and nostalgia into one, powerfully representing the magical journey that has just passed. The truly momentous part of the theme, however, is the final three minutes, which sees a full orchestration of the sorceress' theme in the grandest way possible followed by the use of music to accompany a touching epilogue scene. The opening brass fanfares retain the militaristic air that otherwise runs through the soundtrack, and the way the theme develops almost relentlessly simply makes the listener feel captivated, likely feeling exactly the same as they did with the introduction using "Liberi Fatali."

The final minute and a half of this theme is a breath of fresh air, with the sorceress' theme movingly transitioning into a much mellower section led by woodwinds. Here, the "Prelude" theme reappears, with harp arpeggios accompanying the deep orchestration that lies beneath, and this was a very welcome addition, considering it only otherwise appeared in "The Loser." Even more remarkably, however, the "I Want to Be Your Canary" theme from Final Fantasy IX makes a brief but heartfelt appearance, giving a glimpse of the next game in the series, while the credits state that the series will return. Over 13 minutes long, fully orchestrated, breathtakingly emotional, encompassing four major sections, incorporating four popular themes, and even providing a glimpse into the series' future, what more could you ask for? Right there with "Liberi Fatali" and "Silence and Motion," this is a timeless classic and a true masterpiece, and, in my opinion, unparalleled by any other ending theme in the series. (10+/10)

12) Overture

Nobuo Uematsu faced a dilemma with this theme, which was used on the title screen prior to the player pressing 'New Game'. Did he place it before "Liberi Fatali," ultimately dampening the introduction to the soundtrack, or did he place it at the end, creating an anticlimax following the breathtaking theme that came before? Placing it here was probably the lesser of two evils, but he probably would have been best allowing it to start a different disc, such as Disc Two; sure, it wouldn't fit chronological order, but at least it wouldn't be in reverse order! Truth is, this track isn't bad at all, being militaristic, well-developed, and featuring some fine melodies, but its use in the game is much stronger than here, as it feel like a misfit after the fully orchestrated 13 minutes of immediately goodness before. And, heck, after over 14,000 words, endless poor jokes, and discussions about musical nonsense most don't understand, this review just ends with a whimper and an 8.5/10. Doesn't that feel like an anticlimax? Nobuo, I hate you! (8.5/10)

Home Contact Us Top