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Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack :: Forum Review

Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack Album Title: Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Aniplex
Catalog No.: SVWC-7351/4
Release Date: May 31, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Totz

I love Vagrant Story. I really do. I've finished the game countless times, turned my Fandango into a Divine Weapon, beat Asura, the whole thing. Then it hit me: "There should be more of this kind of game!" Imagine my elation when it was announced that the Vagrant Story team would be responsible for Final Fantasy XII. Composer Hitoshi Sakimoto is back taking the leading role. He's brought his friends, people we all know and love: Hayato Matsuo and Masaharu Iwata. The Ogre Trio is reunited, at last! Here we have three fantastic musicians that have a similar style working together, so what more could we ask for?

That's not all. Nobuo Uematsu, the iconic man behind the game, has composed a theme as well: "Kiss Me Good-Bye," which was arranged by Kenichiro Fukui and performed by Angela Aki. That is his sole contribution to this album, as he distances himself even more from the series. And that's still not all. Yuji Toriyama's "Symphonic Poem 'Hope,'" although not in its full version, is featured in the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack. This five movement piece effectively ends the game, being played in the credits. We've got a multitude of composers, musical influences and whatnot, not to mention a different production team than usual.

So, how does it stack up to previous entries of the series? Will it turn fans away, or will it attract new faces? Only time will tell. Either that, or this review.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Loop Demo (Written by Ovelia)

In my opinion, in an Original Soundtrack, especially a huge set like this, first impressions are very important for the listeners, and in this case, the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack delivers a definitely strong one, showing how the music in later tracks would be. The first part of the theme is the legendary "Prelude", which is slightly arranged here, adding female choir and other flourishes here and there making the piece very interesting, while still maintaining the genuine Final Fantasy feel. The second part is "Clash of Swords" and "Desperate Fight" combined in order to fit the title movie, but it was connected seamlessly, and these pieces are typical "Sakimoto on Testosterone" with its pulsating rhythms and powerful brass. This track not only sounds great, it also fits the title movie perfectly. (10/10)

2) Final Fantasy ~ Final Fantasy XII Version (Written by Josh Barron)

After the wonderful "Loop Demo", a classic theme, composed by none other than Nobuo Uematsu, is featured. With a nice original introduction, this piece sounds fresh nostalgic. Complete with poignant trumpets and majestic strings, this is certainly a brilliant arrangement of one of the most memorable Final Fantasy themes. (10/10)

3) Opening Movie (Written by Dark Cloud)

When I first heard "Opening Movie", I was blown away. The track starts off with a percussion solo, sort of like a marching style piece. This continues for about the first 40 seconds, and then comes in a blasting brass fanfare, along with woodwinds supporting it in the background. It then goes to a slow paced section, somewhat vocalised and with a very peaceful melody, and back to the brass. Soon, however, comes another march-style part, with drums and woodwinds mostly playing at this part. Over the next minute and a half or so, there's a little fanfare, something like you'd here at some very special occasion of a sort. AAfter a while, the piece goes into a suspenseful tune. Like the beginning part, this is mostly accompanied by brass, drums, and winds. But soon afterwards, another slow part comes and the piece soon fades away to the end... Since I haven't played Final Fantasy XII, I don't know what the rest of the soundtrack is like. However, I can say that the this piece is probably one of the best I've ever heard, and it's not even composed by Uematsu. Great job, Hitoshi Sakimoto and Hayato Matsuo! (10/10)

4) Infiltration (Written by Black Mamba)

Mystery, suspense, hope, and just some flat out awesome string passages. This track is not only pleasing to listen to, but I can see it doing wonders for whatever parts of the game Final Fantasy XII it is placed in. Starting in Sakimoto tradition, a bunch of miscellaneous celestial intruments accompany the strings at the beginning of this track. We then move into an amazing beat with distant brass and those wonderful strings. But the best is yet to be heard, for at 1:36 those strings pull out a quick, beautifully arranged solo. I am officially in Ivalice, thanks to Sakimoto. This is a review I've been looking forward to greatly, I just hope it doesn't pass in a few days. (9/10)

5) Boss Battle (Written by Nick)

Final Fantasy is well known for its battle themes, most of which have been tremendously memorable so how did Sakimoto fair with the Final Fantasy XII boss theme? One word: Wonderfully. This track wastes no time and starts off with a bang! The track opens with a string ensemble and militaristic drums after which heavy brass enters signalling that you are now in the middle of an epic battle. This composition is just so epic because of the clever instrumentation. For example, the cymbals are used to a great effect, being played at the right moments, which add to the tension that this track wields so well. While people would regard it as a standard Sakimoto battle theme, I feel it is so much more than that. It is clear that Sakimoto carefully chose the right instruments to suit the dire scenes this theme is played in, and the end result is a wonderful boss theme, fit to stand with the great Final Fantasy battle themes we all know and love. (10/10)

6) Auditory Hallucinations (Written by Rain)

"Auditory Hallucinations" is perhaps the darkest piece of music that I have heard in any 'main' Final Fantasy console game. It is brooding, disorientating, and gorgeously orchestrated. The piece is consistently morphing in clever ways to keep the tension up; whether that includes the inclusion of swelling strings or harsh grating dissonance at key points in the development, the piece is very effective in maintaining a feeling of quiet desperation and impending danger. As expected from Sakimoto, this is music that is willing to take the listener and game player into extremely dark territory without alienating them. Even in only listening to this piece of music, it is quite clear that the music will be very adept at portraying a musical journey. (8/10)

7) Secret Practice (Written by Dave)

After three decisively dark tracks, the playful Hitoshi Sakimoto returns here. High woodwinds cheekily communicate in the primary section of the theme in 'call and response' manner. The composition grows significantly more complex after 0:29 and Sakimoto isn't hesistant to use a large orchestral buildup that turns out anticlimactic as the composition soon returns back to its giddy self rather fluidly. A nice contrast in a dark serious score. (9/10)

8) A Small Happiness (Written by Dave)

This eight second theme consists of a light-hearted flute fanfare with xylophone accompaniment. Weirdly, it wasn't used in the game so I'm not sure why this filler track needed to be included on the actual soundtrack. (5/10)

9) The Royal City of Rabanastre / City Ward Upper Stratum (Written by Josh Barron)

This is one of the best town themes in the Final Fantasy series, in my opinion. The light pizzicato string and wind opening is just a nice simplistic way to start such a strong composition, both melodically and atmospherically. The flute plays a nice melodic line, with the horns and brass playing soft harmonies. This piece reminds me of walking through a city in the early morning at the crack of dawn and, just as the businesses are ready to open up, you see the sun rise into the dawn sky. The people slowly get up and go about their daily business. It is as if the city just blooms into life. The composition gives me that thought and more upon listening. That is enough to call this track a masterpiece. (10/10)

10) Penelo's Theme (Written by Josh Barron)

The first character theme presented is also one of the best themes on the score. The piece starts off with a nice simple introduction. The clarinets play a nice melody, with the other woodwinds as harmony, and pizzacato strings in the background. The tone then changes with the strings playing a soft, yet articulate, harmony and the flutes play another melodic passage. After that, the strings then play the transitional melody into the next phrase which is laid back, yet playful. With the ending near, the strings wrap up things with a final playing of the main melody before the track loops. I must say that this is certainly a favorite track of mine. With a soft and playful feel, this piece not only gives a sense of personality, but also a nice catchy melody that lives up to the Final Fantasy legacy. In other words, this is definitely a keeper! (10/10)

11) The Dream of Becoming a Sky Pirate (Written by Chris)

Despite lasting just 35 seconds, there is no loss of sophistication here. Sakimoto gradually builds the theme over a period of 13 seconds from the ethereal sounds of a lightly decorated solo piano melody into its dramatic and triumphant full-orchestral peak. Attaining an arch shape overall, as the forces dissipate, the theme is left on a suspended string chord, feeling even more dreamy and subtle than its opening. Brief and not that well-implemented in the game, but definitely heartfelt, exposing a melody that recurs in this soundtrack and Revenant Wings. (7/10)

12) Little Rascal (Written by Chris)

"Little Rascal" demonstrates Sakimoto's flair for changing a single piece's atmosphere in a profound way without sacrificing the natural musical flow of a piece of music. Opening lightly, Sakimoto utilises crisp and lyrical phrasing akin to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, essentially endearing the listener with dainty and gorgeously shaped bassoon melodies. A dark edge is created in just the second phrase of the theme, where the melody undergoes augmentation and his trademark suspended strings are added. This interplay of 'light' and 'dark' phrasing dominates the piece for some time until the piece touches upon compound time; here, there is a beautiful metamorphosis of character as the initially dominant force — a buoyant series of humorous triplets — soon become overwhelmed by an aggressive series of low-pitched discords.

The section that follows completely contrasts to all previously heard, featuring a series of descending horn notes against suspended chords, ultimately creating both mysteriousness and a sense of pride. Less impressive is the transition from here back into the original theme, which is sudden and makes the final section feel tangential, despite its relevance to the subject matter of the theme — interpreting the character of Vaan. Nonetheless, the theme is deep and thoroughly enjoyable, showing just how intricate Sakimoto's phrasing can be. (8/10)

13) The Dalmasca Estersand (Written by Don)

This piece plays during the first encounter outside the city walls of Rabanastre. As such, I'm sure it was composed to give the player much excitement because this track is full of energy. From the start, the piece reels the listener with its combination of brass and strings that build up to the main melody, which is comprised of a mixture of brass and strings. Underlying all this is a very motivating percussion line which gives the entire track a bit of a militaristic flair, but not an overbearing one. The addition of a woodwind section helps to add a sense of serenity to the overall feel of the track and I think it really helps to break the intense action you experience in the track. One of Sakimoto's strongest area tracks in the game, "The Dalmasca Estersands" is sure to tickle most everyone's fancy! (9/10)

14) Level Up (Written by TheShroud13)

As with the last fanfare, there's not really enough to merit a full score and review. The piece does it's job though. (5/10)

15) Naivety (Written by TheShroud13)

Although a slight step above what I would expect the quality of a piece entitled "Naivety" to be, this piece goes beyond what would expect for a minor event piece. I enjoy piece's main 10/8 jaunt and the cute melody seems to fit the Skyferry travels. The digression into less rhythmically exuberant material in the middle section is a welcome departure from the A section, as the material in the opening does begin grate after its many repetitions. Still, the reduced energy in this section loses my attention a little bit and doesn't arouse nearly as much as the other aspects of the piece. Though slightly aggrevating in its repetitions, "Naivety" is my favourite of the lighter coloured pieces to this point in the soundtrack. (8/10)

16) Coexistence (Imperial Version) (Written by Chris)

Despite its ominous dub of 'Imperial Version', "Coexistence" is mainly used in the light-hearted scenes at Rabanastre at the start of the game. An incarnation of the main theme of the game, sedate high-pitched woodwinds portray the melody against accompaniment. The composition develops into a deeper brass-led section as if to portray the drama due to unfold, though everything remains modest and calm throughout. Quite lovely, "Coexistence" is one of the few light-hearted themes that isn't blaring and definitely benefits from its strong melody. (8/10)

17) Signs of Change (Written by Chris)

"Signs of Change" is thematically continuous with "Coexistence (Imperial Version)" but much more concerting. Presented on clarinet, the main theme is sparingly presented in solemn manner in the first section against harp arpeggios and suspended strings. The second section gives a more mystical mood with its string use and change of harp arpeggio. A good accompaniment to several scenes showing the unfolding of dark political events. (7/10)

18) Mission Start (Written by Chris)

A seven second flash of imposing orchestral colour, "Mission Start" isn't anything to write home about. (5/10)

19) Downtown Rabanastre (Written by Don)

"Downtown Rabanastre" is a piece of music that really showcases Sakimoto's strengths with percussion instruments. The entire track has a mysterious and Arabian flair to it, which can be attributed to its fantastic use of percussion and woodwind instruments. It also has one of the more catchy melodies, despite being a bit repetitive. The mixture of playful flute and more serious oboe really make the track take on a multitude of flavors. The brass and string section, despite only being featured for a very sparse amount of time, adds a bit of an explorative nature to the piece as Vaan and company traverse the underbelly of Rabanastre. (8/10)

20) Mission Failed (Written by Black Mamba)

Yet another short filler track not featured in Final Fantasy XII. With a length of 12 seconds its hard to review such a track. (5/10)

21) Quiet Determination (Written by Black Mamba)

This track starts off with Sakimoto's usual celestial intruments, but this time around there is a notable melody and pattern. After the intro we are treated to the playful plucking of the pizzicato strings and a great progression into an emotional section. Here the flute softly plays out the main melody quickly followed by an underlining brass section, all of which leads into the next phase. The next phase of "Quiet Determination" is a short epic movement of strings and the crescendoing and decrescendoing of a harp. The piece ties together with the return of the flute and brass finishing off the melody. Overall I found this track subtle and very enjoyable despite being chronically underused in the game. (10/10)

22) The Dalmasca Westersand (Written by Chris)

One of the few setting themes that I find uninspired, "The Dalmasca Westersand" is stunted by its copious repetition of several motifs. It opens with a string motif that obsessively reverberates between two notes to portray the torturous conditions of the desert. It is accompanied by a selection of percussion included a tuned percussion motif ripped straight out of a sample library and prominently used in Resident Evil 4's "Infiltration". When it finally begins to develop, there is a pleasant oboe-led secondary melody and an eventual increase of intensity but the tuned percussion motif continues. Too little too late and nowhere near as strong as "The Dalmasca Estersand". (6/10)

23) Clan Headquarters (Written by Rain)

Man, this piece reminds me quite a bit of Final Fantasy Tactics. The piece starts off right in your face and doesn't let up except for the little moments where the piece actually softens its demeanor and becomes a bit more playful. It is quite easy to imagine the party members in the clan discussing the next mission, having a few brewskis, or simply enjoying the pleasantries of each others company. This permeates a definite feeling of hope and empowerment between hopelessly perilous missions. I was quite surprised with this one even though some find it annoying. (10/10)

24) A Small Bargain (Written by Rain)

Eight seconds of music isn't worth getting excited over. It has a few nice chord changes. (5/10)

25) Giza Plains (Written by Rain)

Here we are! This is the Sakimoto that I know and love. The piece starts off innocently enough with some large strings handing over the melodic materials to a small woodwind section with some pizzicato strings lightly plucking and then bam... SHOWTIME! 0:23 into the piece, you will know it and you will feel it. The piece wafts dreamily between musical anticipation and confrontation. Seemingly tensing musical moments build up to an explosion that sends your pulse thumping like a troop of soldiers marching down a warpath, destroying everything in their way. The horns are huge, the snares are awesome, and then at 1:51, you will hear a signature Sakimoto motif from Final Fantasy XII. The beautiful unique chord changes, variation of dynamics, and strong thematic showing excite me to no end and perhaps paint poignant, pretty, and perilous pictures of things to come. (10/10)

26) Parting with Penelo (Written by Chris)

Used in a tender scene between Vaan and Penelo, "Parting with Penelo" is a very pretty piano rendition of "Penelo's Theme". The technically competent arrangement definitely captures the depth and personality present within the originally light-hearted piece. In addition, the melodies really shine here. Despite this, this piece does not have a major impact on the soundtrack or the game as it ends after just 30 seconds. Again, the emotional capacity of the soundtrack suffers because of the poor coordination of game and music production. Here's to hoping there'll be a Final Fantasy XII Piano Collections where these ideas will be elaborated on. (6/10)

27) The Garamscythe Waterway (Written by Don)

This piece, played in the waterways below the city of Rabanastre, exudes a very sinister aura and makes the listener feel like imminent danger is around the corner. Sakimoto does some very interesting things here. He builds tension with a sequence of very soft strings and brass, gradually building it up into a more intense pattern of strings and overlying brass in an almost staccato fashion. I feel that this really helps to strengthen the sinister sound that this track exudes. The section used to break tension is definitely one of the nicer points to this track. It enables a bit of softer Sakimoto to shine with the implementation of some harp usage and some strings, but at the same time, it doesn't entirely alleviate the feeling of pursuing doom. (8/10)

28) An Omen (Written by Dark Cloud)

Hmm, what to say about this tune? "An Omen" starts off as a soft slow-paced piece and it's very hard to hear the actual melody. Why? The string section is loud and carries the creepy part of the piece throughout the entire thing. In my opinion, "An Omen" isn't a very good piece to listen to if you want cheap thrills. It will, however, please the people looking for a piece that quietly captures a sense of darkness. (7/10)

29) Rebellion (Written by Dark Cloud)

After the monotonous "An Omen", we finally get a fast-paced suspenseful piece once again courtesy of Hayato Matsuo. This does actually feel like a rebellious piece as the title suggests with the pressing brass melodies and driving percussion rhythms. However, right when it starts to get good, the melody stops and it loops over. I like this powerful piece, but I just wish it would've lasted longer. (9/10)

30) Nalbina Fortress Town Ward (Written by Dark Cloud)

Ahh, the last piece of the first disc and what a way to end it. Once you start up "Nalbina Fortress Town Ward", it immediately develops into a playful "happy" town theme. I was very impressed with the orchestration and composition of this piece. Contrasting with some of the other items here, it doesn't make you feel bored and gloomy. Overall, I was surprised by this piece and I think it was a good way to end the first CD. (9/10)

Disc Two

1) The Princess' Vision (Written by Migglie)

There's that delicate female hero touch in this track. There's great resolving of chords, use of strings, and major/minor shifting... even some very welcome Princess Laia theme references I might even go so far as to say. The ominous shift around 1:20 is delightful to my ears especially 1:26 where the flutes are joined by those tremolo low strings; a pretty realistic sound, and again, I make a film reference (hey it's what I love Sakimoto for). Definitely a favourite for me. (9/10)

2) Clash of Swords (Written by Nick)

Sakimoto takes a slightly different approach for his battle themes on this soundtrack. His battle themes are almost always epic but for this soundtrack they are a step higher. A perfect example would be "Clash of Swords". The piece opens with a blast gracing us with powerful brass, booming percussion, and harmonic strings, all blended together in perfect union. Eight seconds into the piece we hear a familiar segment which a small part of the Final Fantasy XII main theme. During the development, Sakimoto simply abuses cymbals, which I feel is really a remarkable metaphor for "clashing of swords". They are so powerful that I bang my head in coalition with them each time I hear this track. While the composition only clocks in at 1.15 before looping, it is certainly a very tense and bombastic playtime. (9/10)

3) Victory Fanfare (Written by Nick)

A classic Uematsu composition we all know very well. Sakimoto's arrangement stays true to the original theme while adding his own signature touch. Notable differences are the female choir and bass drums which give the theme a more "full" touch to it. It is also very fitting after hearing the superb track before it. Short, memorable and sweet (5/10)

4) Abyss (Written by TheShroud13)

Matsuo's second contribution to the soundtrack and a major improvement from his previous "Rebellion". The previous ended up sounding far too much like John Williams for my liking, but this piece has a much more distinctive colour and personality. The piece is harmonically dissonant and the disjunct melodic material is on the fringe of atonality and it's disjunct treatment throughout the instruments borders on pointillistic. "Abyss" is one of the few instances I've found the previously mentioned techniques to be effective and as a result, the piece depicts a hypothetical abyss quite well (it was disused in the game) and does so without drawing needless attention to its musical features.

Timbre is the focus throughout, moving from piano to tremolo strings and other instrumental colour groups frequently and with a manner of sudden smoothness that is rare in music. This piece is one of my personal highlights from the album to this point, and were there more that stood out besides the orchestration, and the adventurousness of the music, it would certainly be a musical highlight in general. Still, a very solid atmospheric piece which does not bore like others on the soundtrack, and to this point it is the best cue I've heard from Hayato Matsuo. (9/10)

5) Dark Clouds (Imperial Version) (Written by Teraslasch)

This piece provides an insight into the imperial army from the perspective of the antagonists. The introduction starts with the French horn on a dark melody and subtle tremelo strings following closely behind to create a very dark feel. It is followed by more dark melodies by the tremelo strings that really pull you into the piece. The percussion (snares) which were implemented in the piece makes you feel as if you were floating in the skies above among the dark clouds. (9/10)

6) Promise with Balthier (Written by Dark Cloud)

Man, there sure are a lot of short pieces on the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack and this is one of them. This piece has a nice melody to it, but is way too short to substntially score. It would have potential if it were longer. (5/10)

7) Game Over (Written by Dark Cloud)

Wow! I never thought there'd be two short pieces in a row! "Game Over" has a sad tone to it created by a solo harp. However, like all the rest, it is just too darn short. (5/10)

8) Nalbina Fortress Underground Prison (Written by Don)

For some reason, I feel that Sakimoto really shines with his area tracks that take place underground. Perhaps it's because I love his percussion work in such instances or the entire atmosphere of the said piece fits very well with the underground scenery. This track plays, as you may have guessed, as Vaan and company are placed in prison. As was the case with "Downtown Rabanastre," the percussion in this track is very strong and gives this piece a lot of character. The melodic portion of this line, when present, is also very fulfilling. The use of soft chorals in the form chanting, a pleasant woodwind melody, and the use of Arabian instrumentation really give this piece an excellent atmosphere. The inclusion of the main theme for the game is also a pleasant addition and really helps to make this piece stand out among some of the area themes. (9/10)

9) Barbarians (Written by Don)

"Barbarians" is a piece that definitely emanates a sense of evil. While this track is a bit less involved than the former track, it still has plenty to offer. Tension is built via the use of a staccato brass section and sporadic percussion. Eventually, the listener is hit with a flurry of strings that mark the real meat of the track. Here, the brass melody is extended and contains that sinister feel that the build up carried. In addition, the percussion becomes more intensified and really helps to bring the track to life. Overall, this is one of the weaker themes on the second disc, but it's still fitting in-game as well as enjoyable out of game. (7/10)

10) Battle Drums (Written by TheShroud13)

Here we go. This track, which plays during the grisly encounters in the Nalbina Dungeons, is one of my favourites on the album. Sakimoto shows off his rhythmic prowess here, percussion taking the center stage throughout. The only real melodic material comes in the form of ominous low brass, and even their role is principally percussive, exhibited by the heavy accents and the use of falls in small pitch clusters. The rhythm is metrically common, but the rhythm within the meter is very well constructed and portrays struggle quite well. My main complaint is that it loops rather quickly, making me wonder how well the piece could function being looped in the game. Still, even in it's short duration, "Battle Drum" is one of the more striking and enjoyable tracks on the album. (9/10)

11) Theme of the Empire (Written by Black Mamba)

Sakimoto shows off his skills of being able to fit music to moments like a glove perfectly here. Split into two halves, the first half is used in the Draklor Laboratories, the second half in the capital city Archades, and the rest of the piece to varying amounts in many cutscenes. When I think of an empire, the marching strings and powerful melody perfectly fit my thoughts. But it's not all brimming with power and there is the occasional blissful celestial movement, helping to portray the capital city of Archades. Encompassing lots in its eight minute playtime, "Theme of the Empire" is effective as both a cinematic theme and a setting theme. (9/10)

12) Chocobo Final Fantasy XII Arrange Ver. 1 (Written by Nick)

When I found out Sakimoto was composing the next Final Fantasy title, I was quite curious how he would handle key arrangements by veteran composer Nobuo Uematsu. Naturally I wondered how he would handle the beloved "Chocobo" theme which hasn't been treated well in recent years. Sakimoto starts off this unused arrangement with a chime and the introductory flute plays us a slightly arranged melody we all know and love. And thus the Chocobo melody enters! The knocking in the back ground gives the piece a playful aura which is well connected to the big yellow bird. Being a Sakimoto arrangement, it is not complete without his signature orchestral strings which this track is full off after the 40 second mark. This creates an orchestral playful melody reminding us that the "Chocobo" theme is very much alive. While this is not my favourite arrangement of the theme, it certainly does the trick! (8/10)

13) The Barheim Passage (Written by Don)

As you may have guessed, this piece also takes place underground. As opposed to some of his earlier underground tracks, this one features very little percussion and it doesn't stand out at all. The track opens with a soft woodwind melody overtop a static string accompaniment. As the track progresses, the strings take on a more prominent role and help to add a bit of tension to the atmosphere of the track. Sporadic brass accents the string melody at times and helps to accentuate the feeling the track exudes. At the same time, brass also gets to share the limelight with a nice melody; however, I feel it isn't the strongest section of the track. On the other hand, the section before the loop, which contains the soft tension-breaking theme of its predecessors really shine in this piece. The harp plays a somewhat sorrowful, but overall pleasant, melody that really helps to add a bit of contrast to this piece. (9/10)

14) Sorrow (Liberation Army Version) (Written by Teraslasch)

The introduction starts with the French horn playing with some tremelo strings followed by subtle entries by the harp. About 20 seconds into the piece, the piano starts playing a melancholic melody, which is then replicated by the strings. Subtle atmospheric orchestration comes next followed yet by another sorrowful melody by the strings, which afterwards evolves to the main theme of this piece. The appropriate mood is nicely brought out by the strings. (8/10)

15) Basch's Reminiscence (Written by Chris)

Those of you familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance's "Crystal" will note that Hitoshi Sakimoto adopts a near-identical format here. It's a one-minute synthetic four-part chorale that mostly relies on unison or imitative motion all the way to the predictable but effective cadential 6/4 resolution at the end. It's unremarkable musically, lacking neither the sophistication of Bach chorales nor the originality of others, and also suffers from brevity. Nonetheless, it would likely represent memories moderately well and is decent for what is likely an FMV accompaniment track, so at least it is a functional success. (6/10)

16) Coexistence (Liberation Army Version) (Written by Don)

The second "Coexistence" piece to appear on the soundtrack and also the more light of the two. Dominated mainly by stringed instruments and brass, we are treated to the same melody as before but in a very airy fashion, due to the addition of some nice woodwind interjections. Sadly though, the track itself is a bit too dramatic for my tastes and, having heard the Imperial Version previously, does nothing much for me. (6/10)

17) The Skycity of Bhujerba (Written by Black Mamba)

This isn't an in-your-face town theme like the rest of the soundtrack as it represents a peaceful skycity. Created with a nice blend of orchestral instruments, the highlight feature of the track is the mellow clarinet melody. Very subtle and emotional, the melody is relatively conventional in shape unlike most of Sakimoto's themes. Of course, it wouldn't be a Sakimoto track without some celestial intrument making an appearence. However, here this intrument is actually pitched and plays the melody along with the woodwinds. Way to show some constraint Sakimoto! (9/10)

18) Secret of Nethicite (Written by Black Mamba)

Although things start pretty typically, this track soon develops into something very profound. In my opinion, it embodies a softer form of dissonance, portraying something mysterious and powerful. With traditional Sakimoto subtleness, intruments layer and blend together beautifully, but there's something more. It's rare for Sakimoto's pieces to contain a full-blown melody, his compositions are more ambient and orchestration on a new level. But what makes this semi-dissonance piece so great is that each intrument carries a short and unique melody from the pizzicatos to the strings to the brass. Impressively, it works well as both the setting theme for Lhusu mines and a regular accompaniment to event scenes. (10/10)

19) Dark Night (Imperial Version) (Written by Chris)

"Dark Night" produces an appropriately dark and mysterious atmosphere as it portrays the game's three main villains entering Rabanastre. Again, the instrumentation is integral in achieving this with suspended strings, tuned percussion, and woodwind melodies all being employed used to strong effect. Unfortunately, the melody here is less impressive here. By attempting to create a conventional and accessible Uematsu-esque melody, Sakimoto deviated from his strengths. Odin Sphere goes to show what failkures arise when Sakimoto's conventional melodies are the source of thematic material, but fortunately this theme only has one other incarnation. (6/10)

20) Speechless Fight (Written by Chris)

Speechless is an appropriate adjective to use here. This track's intensity just overwhelms. Near-enough entirely percussive, every force used adds to the rhythmical impetus of the piece and is pronounced in an aggressive way. This includes the clamour of an array of true percussion instruments that wildly articulate throughout the composition, the roars of an ensemble of synthesized brass that focus almost entirely on repeating a single note in a rhythmically interesting manner, and the delicious piano discords that are the focal point of the piece's first 'interlude'. The sole fragments of true melody and harmony are some high-pitched sounds that intersynch with the piano line and brass-led ascending chord progressions during two brief bridges. Not all will find this addition especially listenable, but it's bound to work wonderfully in context and demonstrates incredible musical innovation through its extreme method of representing aggression. (10/10)

21) The Dreadnought Leviathan Bridge (Written by TheShroud13)

One of the handful of tracks Hayato Matsuo offered to the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, "The Dreadnought Leviathan Bridge" is my personal choice for his weakest offering on the album. It is not a poor track, but lacks much of the melodic charm of many of his other tracks on the album and tends to wander a bit musically. There are a few too many musical ideas jammed into one piece here and that overflow of ideas does little to service any dramatic idea. Particularly distracting are the somewhat mysterious and magical sections which are both less effective than other similar sections Matsuo composed for this album, but fail to gel with my experience with the Dreadnought Leviathan. When the piece is full tilt forward, it's an engaging experience, and the musical deviations are satisfying, they just are a bit overbearing, and don't really work dramatically. (6/10)

22) Challenging the Empire (Written by TheShroud13)

If there is any track on this album that needs to be scourned for its Star Wars resemblances, this would be the one. While I find that the comparisons to Star Wars that can be made throughout the album are generally pleasant similarities, this track feels like absolute robbery. "Challenging the Empire" suits the mood of its in-game use, and is generally quite rhythmically driven, but the Williams homage is a bit overbearing. A dramatically appropriate, but the disappearance of Matsuo's voice sours this conclusion to the weakest leg of his generally strong contribution to this album. (7/10)

23) State of Emergency (Written by Jared)

"State of Emergency" isn't exactly new, as it recycles the material in other pieces, but it is nevertheless interesting and effective. The grand orchestration certainly helps things out here, especially the use of string backings and rhythms under blaring horns. It has a number of varying sections, but it does repeat fairly soon and the number of changes the track undergoes over a short time might turn some off. (7/10)

24) Upheaval (Imperial Version) (Written by Chris)

"Upheavel (Imperial Version)," like "State of Emergency," is a rendition of the wonderful main theme, but distinguishes itself as being one of the most effective outside the opening theme. After an amazing and highly dissonant introductory chord progression, the orchestration pieces becomes dominated by communication between brass soloists that is supported by dynamic string parts and ever-aggressive timpani in a luscious piece of orchestration. It builds towards a peak at the 0:46 mark when the main theme is exposed in its most raw form by brass instruments surely symbolic of the a might and oppression of the undaunted empire. Another faultless addition to the score, even if the orchestration and motifs used are quite familiar. (9/10)

25) The Tomb of Raithwall (Written by Chris)

One of the most impressive aspects of the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack in context with the rest of Hitoshi Sakimoto's career is the strength of the percussion use. This experimental gem perfectly exemplifies this. It is built entirely from a carefully assimilated array of percussion and sound effects. Despite this, it manages to be colourful, eerie, and memorable. Pitch-bends and other electronic effects to intensify certain sections of the compositions. This piece isn't for everyone, but the rhythms are impressive and the timbres are among the most remarkable of the score. (9/10)

Disc Three

1) The Sandsea (Written by TheShroud13)

One of a few strange track orderings on the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, "The Sandsea" actually preceeds "The Tomb of Raithwall" in game. In fact, it preceeds "The Tomb of Raithwall" for a very long time. Perhaps Square Enix was just trying to avoid a snoozer concluding Disc Two, although it doesn't seem any more appropriate to use that snoozer to open Disc Three.

This is one of the duller pieces on the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, if you haven't picked up on my sentiment already. Atmosphere is the name of the game here, and while the track is quite effective at allowing us to musically live Tatooine, er the Ogir-Yensa Sandsea, there's very little in this track that makes listening all the way through worth one's time. The only surprises are a couple instances of some col legno string attacks, and a statement of the game's main theme that is both brief and uninspired. This isn't a terrible track, but it's not particularly interesting and gets far too much time in the game for how uninspiring it is. I'll take the Westersand for more atmospheric desert music thank you! (6/10)

2) Esper Battle (Written by TheShroud13)

If I remade this album, this would open Disc Three without a doubt. Since chronology doesn't seem to be Square Enix's main priority on this album, "Esper Battle" would have been far better suited to the opening of the disc. While I prefer the later instance of this theme's incarnation on the album, this dramatic battle theme is no slouch at all. The cumbersome and unrelenting march, with its four pattern as clearly defined as Johnny Depp's cheekbones, is well suited to the massive (and presumably less than agile) espers.

Sakimoto's use of choir adds to the impressive effect, while also conjuring images of the divine. There is a great contrast extremes in primitivity (the ruthless orchestral timbre, with some really neat percussion instruments) and order (the afforementioned plodding four, and the use of choir) which paints a picture of incredible power shackled, and you just happen to be standing there as the chains show their age. It's a fantastic track. My one musical complaint deals with the segment of music that pops out at 1:30 and is never mentioned again outside of the loop. It would have been nice to see that idea developed a little more, as the piece could have used a little bit of contrast, and as it is - that little fanfare feels quite random. But it is a minor qualm with a fantastic track. (9/10)

3) Sorrow (Imperial Version) (Written by Chris)

A striking slow arrangement of the main theme for the game, "Sorrow (Imperial Version)" creates quite a lot of sadness and atmosphere in the game. Unfortunately, the treatment is also very generic with the suspended strings detracting from the more evocative brass use. Before the abrupt loop, the theme does make quite an evocative chord progression, but most of the theme feels empty despite the superficial poignancy. (5/10)

4) Seeking Power (Written by Chris)

Hayato Matsuo's only contribution to Disc Three is among the most beautiful additions to the score. It's dominated by three forces. One, a horn, sings a slow militaristic melody in the primary section of the composition, reflecting the sadness, desperation, pride, and solitude of warfare. Another, an oboe, mellowly resonates to enrich the emotional effect of the composition further in a deeply moving secondary section. A piano takes the most significant role, however. It initially accompanies the horn with a colourful, mystical, and fragile motif and, every two bars, the iteration of suspended bass chords that brood, impose, and add a percussive feel to the composition. In the development section, where exotic percussion and an ethereal flute motif also join, the piano work becomes increasingly decorative and it is responsible for several evocative chord progresions. The result is an atmospheric and moving composition with incredible timbral qualities that is melodically and harmonically exquisite yet understated. (10/10)

5) Desperate Fight (Written by TheShroud13)

"Desperate Fight" could easily be called "The Better Version of Clash of Swords". The musical material used in both of them is quite similar, particularly at 1:00 where the sword clash motive is followed by the a fanfare using the main melodic ideas from the darker portions of "Clash of Swords". The piece starts off a bit slowly, but once Sakimoto gets to the crescendo beginning at 0:21, the drama of battle really starts to come apparent. There are neat moments in the beginning, namely the horn solo; but once Sakimoto really gets the rhythm pulsing with consistent eighth notes the piece starts to get really exciting. Also, even though it is barely strong enough to be heard, check out the xylophone at 0:41 - absolutely fantastic! The crescendo climaxes at the clash motive I mentioned earlier, and continues a little bit before looping at 1:30. The length of the piece is really disappointing, as it basically guarantees that as a listener you simply experience the same crescendo over and over again, maybe just an extra minute of material before looping might have added a bit more drama. The musical material also doesn't stand out quite like some of the other battle themes on the album, but there's still a lot to like, and it's a very exciting track. (9/10)

6) Jahara, Land of the Garif (Written by Chris)

One of the underrated gems of the soundtrack, "Jahara, Land of the Garif" was overlooked because of its exclusive use in one of the least memorable settlements of Final Fantasy XII and the Marquis Ondore's initial memoirs. Complex percussion rhythms and stern string melodies are the main focus here, corresponding to create a proud gruff sound. It represents the race of the Garif well and was also very effective in setting the mood at the start of the game. (8/10)

7) Ozmone Plains (Written by Chris)

When I reminiscence about my experiences Final Fantasy XII, my carefrees strolls through Ozmone Plains somehow come to mind first, above memorable experiences like my first encounters with Rabanastre or my nightmarish climb up the Pharos at Ridorana. It's perhaps not coincidental that the music for the area is firmly engraved in my mind. In the main passage of the theme, the fantastical interplay of clarinets and flutes vibrantly depicts wandering through a lively green area. The plodding triple metre wonderfully characterised by woodblock adds to the dynamic flavour. The development takes some subtly dark turns to represent the looming enemies. However, the secondary section is mainly marked by the unconventional addition of synth vocals that elevate listeners with their warm mystical tones. While I found it slightly grating originally, "Ozmone Plains" is now surely one of my favourites on the soundtrack. (9/10)

8) Golmore Jungle (Written by Chris)

"Golmore Jungle" touches upon most bases previously covered in the album and curiously assimilates them. It initially takes a similar approach to "Little Rascal" and "The Barheim Passage". It's dominated by delightful interplay of fragmented and mischievous phrases from tuned percussion and piccolo with a dark and resolute low string motif. The gradual intensification of the darker component steps up several notches in the second section of the composition when the gay forces depart, the dynamics increase, and martial forces dramatically take over. One of the most unpredictable compositions on the soundtrack, "The Golmore Jungle" enters its final section by taking a tangent into a mystical section hinted at in the first section of the piece. After quite a spectacle, the piece loops; those not alienated by its dissonance and eccentricity will likely listen to it many more times, baffled by its randomness but enlightened by its musical charm. (9/10)

9) Eruyt Village (Written by Rain)

"Eruyt Village" is my favorite piece in Final Fantasy XII. The piece is very atmospheric, though there is a certain melodic and instrumental ethereal charm which connects itself to earlier Sakimoto works and establishes the track on the path of the road less travelled. The instrumentation is totally appropriate. The flute slowly and sadly coincides with a flowing harp to create an absoluting enchanting effect. It's unfortunate that Sakimoto is often not regarded for the intimate passages of music that he can often write, often overlooked in lieu of more comple, domineering efforts. In the case of "Eruyt Village" it is not hard to see that Sakimoto is quite comfortable in allowing more subtle roles in his musical exploits to play their cues efficiently. Within the theme's role in the actual course of the game, it supports every nuance of the emotional quality that is issued forth while exploiting a deeper more contemplative side which contributes great contrast to the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack as a whole. (10/10)

10) You're Really A Child... (Written by Chris)

Just a 13 second FMV track. It's pleasant and refreshing, but nothing as elaborate as, say, the similarly short "The Dream of Becoming a Sky Pirate" and "Separation With Panelo". Not really worth revisiting. (6/10)

11) Chocobo ~FFXII Version~ (Written by TheShroud13)

If there was one track on this album (besides a certain upcoming track that those who know me may or may not predict) that I was worried about Hitoshi Sakimoto re-rendering, it was "Chocobo". Honestly, I should not have been so worried, and in fact "Chocobo ~Final Fantasy XII Version~" ended up being one of my favourite old-school piece revivals on the album. Yes, the texture is a bit overly thick and the pizzicato ostinato is a bit obnoxious, but Sakimoto did a fantastic job of darkening a very bright piece without losing its humorous character. The eastern flavour he imposes on the melody is quite effective as well. Sakimoto adapts this classic tune very well to his persona, and this new Chocobo theme fits right into this rendition of Ivalice. (8/10)

12) An Imminent Threat (Written by Chris)

Another mishmash, "An Imminent Threat" combines mysticism, foreboding, and aggression into a quasi-programmatic accompaniment to Henme Mines. Its best feature is the gorgeous piano decoration that appears towards the beginning of the piece against celesta and suspended chords. There is also a brief but excellent melodic section that reminds me of 'The Battle of Pelennor Fields' from Lord of the Rings somewhat in both structure and the emotions it evokes. The piece makes little sense to me even in the context of the game, given it changes character so many times in its development while looping. Nevertheless, Hitoshi Sakimoto has created another commendable composition. (8/10)

13) Clash on the Big Bridge ~ Final Fantasy XII Version (Written by TheShroud13)

I wasn't half as worried about Sakimoto rendering "Clash on the Big Bridge" as I was "Chocobo", but I come away from the effort very disappointed. To be fair, the end result isn't miserable, but the source material was so strong that hearing Gilgamesh's theme in this incarnation is difficult to swallow. Sakimoto makes a few good decisions along the course. The use of triangle and the replacement of Uematsu's percussive organ with xylophone is a natural choice that goes along with the humorous Gilgamesh. The low brass playing the rising chromatic passage at the opening is also deliciously cheesy and fit Gilgamesh quite well.

However, most of the piece is absolutely timbrally colourless, which is remarkable considering the variety of percussion uses. The pitchless percussion is part of my complaint with the piece; there are some moments where Sakimoto calls up either a tam-tam or a gong, and it adds so little to the piece and thickens up an already needlessly thick texture. The snare drum throughout is a novel attempt to transfer a trap set part into orchestral percussion, but the effect is too militaristic. The use of cymbals is usually well done, and the timpini part is absolutely amazing. The triangle also is a nice effect. The snare drum though, is very distracting and adds little rhythmic energy that the piece doesn't already posess, I also found the use of the tam/gong to be rather inappropriate, but that's even more a judgement call than most of my statements.

Continuing my complaint about lack of colour, the orchestration is unbelievably static for Sakimoto. That the ensemble (percussion excluded), from start to finish, comprises almost entirely of brass and strings creates a very grey orchestral colour that is tiresome to listen to. Plus, for pete's sake, this is Gilgamesh — if there's one word to describe his character, colour would be it! To have an orchestration as bland and unvaried as this one is a shame on Gilgamesh's name. Not a single woodwind is present in this track, and while I would not do anything to have Sakimoto thicken an already thick texture, using winds either in replacement of the strings from time to time or just as flourishes throughout could have helped in alleviating such a dry texture. What's even worse about the orchestration is that the accompaniment really has no fire in it — the instruments just sort of plod around beneath the trumpet in mock staccato not really adding anything or taking away anything. It's unclear, and has no bite at all. It basically makes the texture of the piece feel more thick than it really is, or ought to be.

Overall, I just found the piece to be devoid of both dramatic intensity and humorous colour, and think it's a disappointment, both relative to the original "Clash on the Big Bridge" and to the other battle themes on this album. (4/10)

14) Abandoning Power (Written by TheShroud13)

"Abandoning Power" is one of Sakimoto's most sensitive tracks on the album. Opening with a piano ostinato and choir harmony that would not be out of place on the Chrono Trigger soundtrack before moving into a more melodic section for winds. The melody is quite pretty (although less memorable than the piano ostinato, I sense a bit of a problem), although the melody is far more effective in my mind toward the beginning of its introduction, and starts losing a bit of character once Sakimoto begins putting the line into counterpoint. The added harmony from this really doesn't add to my emotional attachment to the piece, so I would have liked to have seen it remain alone. What really hurts the piece I think is the very abrubt drop out of the melodic section and back into the piano ostinato. There's really no preparation, and I always feel as if the melodic section still has somewhere to go, that it hasn't really finished its statement.

This is a nice and sensitive piece, but I feel it is afraid to really say what it wants to, which while partially effective dramatically, I feel is a bit of a cop out. While the character is not supposed to reflect its true feelings entirely in such a matter, the music ought to express the full of what is below, lest it be rendered useless, a simple restatement of the drama. The reservation works in "Eruyt Village" as we're not able to interact with all the Viera individually and feel the collective emotional withdraw from the entire village, but a dramatic piece like "Abandoning Power" needs more than it has. This isn't a poor piece by any means, but it feels like only half of what we ought to be getting out of it. And compared to the sensational "Seeking Power" that came before, this piece is entirely average. (6/10)

15) The Stilshrine of Miriam (Written by Totz)

If there's one single track in the entirety of the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack that I always must mention as a favourite is "The Stilshrine of Miriam." As usual, Sakimoto couldn't help myself and had to use brass, strings, AND choir, but the way they're used is what's important. They're never in your face (as usual), and they are used mostly for texture thickening or to lead us into another section. A clarinet melody is what really drives this mysterious piece forward, with the help of percussion and choir. One of the reasons why I like "Miriam" so much is how it reminds me of the greatness that is the Vagrant Story Original Soundtrack. There's this brief clarinet and strings passage (around the 0:36 mark) that sends me back to the game's "Workshop" theme. Sakimoto shining outside of battle themes? Yes, and very much so! (10/10)

16) Time for Rest (Written by Rain)

"Time for Rest" features a beautifully flowing harp and flute which plays a melody which mysteriously gravitates towards the unexpected. The thin orchestration in the beginning is later remedied by a chorus of strings which join the harp and create a warm, rich sound. This was the first track that I heard for Final Fantasy XII before the game came out and I really adored this theme. Its a shame that there are not more moments like this within the course of the soundtrack. I hear traces of old Sakimoto within the course of the soundtrack which desperately want to reach out and materialize, but sadly those apparitions are very short lived. As it stands this track is beautiful but some may find the chord changes to be a bit awkward and the melody to not really be very cohesive. Thats one of the things I like about it though. It is almost as if the melody is on a journey and IMO, this embodies Sakimoto's most endearing characteristic. (10/10)

17) White Room (Written by Chris)

"White Room" recollections the melody from "Auditory Hallucinations". Concerned with recollecting rather than experiencing dark tragic events, it concerns Vaan's struggle to understand and accept events concerning his brother at the start of the game. Suspended strings dominate the soundscape, playing the slow, thick, and agonising progression of "Auditory Hallucinations" in a slightly more settled manner. Harp arpeggios finely decorate the piece from the 0:40 with arpeggiations, some fragmented, some flowing, and are briefly joined by a horn whose timbre alone enriches a drab piece. All is very simple, but the progressions beautifully correspond with the subtly placed intricacies, helping to give a glimmer of hope. The elegant jewellery of "White Room" is more enticing than its plain body, but this seems appropriate given the powerful imagery provided. (8/10)

18) The Salikawood (Written by Chris)

Just as "White Room" represented a touch of hope after a series of sombre tracks, "The Salikawood" demonstrates colour within the wastelands. It opens with a moderately familiar ensemble — harp, strings, choir decoration, and exotic percussion — in a beautiful mystical passage. The entrance of a rich piano line gives the piece direction and leads, just like the piano in "An Imminent Threat" did, to an exciting orchestral buildup in which the piece gains purpose, meaning, and colour. The piano takes a subsidiary role until the piece's eventual loop, but adds considerable colour to an already rich composition. The piece reaches its peak with a highly decorated passage previously referenced in "The Dream to be a Sky Pirate". What a wonderful way to show the dream continues! Colour emerging from drabness seems to be a theme in the middle portion of Disc Three and the buildup of "The Salikawood" is a particularly fine example of this. (9/10)

19) The Phon Coast (Written by TheShroud13)

After three pieces that possessed similar colour to other pieces on the album that did something more what delight to hear "The Phon Coast"! This track shows is reminiscent in character to "The Dalmasca Estersand" in its boisterous encapsulation of unchained adventure. Though there are moments of drama "The Phon Coast" is mostly bright and always energized, a wonderful contrast from the mostly colour oriented environment themes that have dominated the soundtrack since "The Barheim Passage" and which grew somewhat tiring halfway through Disc Three, no matter the quality of the compositions.

The piece opens with heroic brass soaring above a driving snare drum and low string part. The energetic opening simmers only briefly before the piece erupts into its most memorable melody, a delightful dancing line dominated in colour by the glockenspiel and characterized by a healthy dose of syncopation and sixteenth note runs. This leads into a restatement of the opening theme at 1:03 with choir assisting to create an absolutely massive timbre that shines on the open coast and calls for the party to explore. Funny that this section reminds me so much of Metroid Prime, a game in which exploration had no part.

The piece's last major section before looping is signaled by a triangle roll at 1:30 and finally arrives at 1:33. Now Sakimoto's orchestral colour is a bit darker, reminding us that we are, in fact in the empire rather than Dalmasca. The more sustained melody reflects a more cautious mood, and the melody shifts between changing notes on strong and weak beats to create even more uncertainty. However, in no time, this section crescendos out of the drama and back into the adventurous opening, renewing the spirit of exploration regardless of danger. "The Phon Coast" revives of the audacity from the opening of Final Fantasy XII that lulled through its middle stages, and is unfortunately the last truly exceptional exemplification of the moments that made Final Fantasy XII such a special game. It's easy to label "The Phon Coast" among my favourites on the album. (10/10)

20) Destiny (Written by TheShroud13)

The opening of "Destiny" seems to imply that this would be Sakimoto's personal answer to Uematsu's "Final Fantasy", but the melodic section that enters at 0:55 counters that interpretation. The melodic section is the part of "Destiny" that really shines, and it is quite a lovely moment of music taken by itself. The instrumentation is traditional Sakimotian mysticism with a flute melody under high strings and harp accompaniment and as the high string line descends it takes the melody from the flute. Vagrant Story fans should delight in this moment of music. The one problem with this section is that, having already had similar pieces ("White Room", "Abandoning Power", "Eruyt Village" and "Place of Rest" all have segments very reminiscent of the melodic section of "Destiny") very recently, this instrumentation is somewhat tired.

Regrettably, the remainder of the music in "Destiny" is very dull. The opening motif, pulsing strings above a descending bass line and coming to a very satisfactory cadence, is very effective at creating a sense of needing to go forward and would make an excellent introduction if it were ever to reach the apex that it foreshadows, and were not repeated near verbatim four times. The musical idea itself creates a great sense of forward motion, but its execution slows piece far too much, and implies an almost optional destiny. This piece deserves decent marks for its melodic section — but the ineffective lead-up (which accounts for twice as much of the piece as the other) prevents me from listening to the piece any more than once, especially with "Place of Rest" right next door to cover any melodic desires I might have. (6/10)

21) The Sochen Cave Palace (Written by Chris)

Masterminded by Masaharu Iwata, "The Sochen Cave Palace" is dramatic, horrifying, mystical, and gorgeous all at the same time. Iwata employs use of melodies, timbres, structures, chord progressions, and harmonies that are altogether more definite, pronounced, and simple than Sakimoto's mostly fluid and subtle creations. The composition opens with an agonisingly beautiful piano chord progression supported by chorus until it eerily quietens as the main oriental-influenced melody is introduced. The composition's sudden peak is awe-inspiring and terrifying, leading to a decorative bridge that leads the composition to loop. The chord progressions are amazing in this piece and the ambitious timbres enhance its emotiveness. (10/10)

22) A Moment's Rest (Written by Chris)

"A Moment's Rest" utilises a typical Sakimotian ensemble in a gorgeous way. It's initially led by an alluring flute that interprets a well-constructed series of suspended notes and decorates them with trills and such. The passage is harmonised by an arpeggiated harp motif that enhances the theme's rhythmical qualities due to its peculiarly subdivided nature: four sets of three quavers followed by two sets of four semiquavers. As the theme goes on, the flute melody grows more elaborate in shape and is closely harmonised by a second flute. The theme's core follows — a string ensemble interpreting a series of chord progressions over a dramatic arch. While this format may sound boring, the depth of the chord progressions and nuances such as the occasional reemergence of a harp motif make it gorgeous. None of the three major forces in "A Moment's Rest" are treated in an especially elaborate way, but they do reflect refinement. (9/10)

23) Near the Water (Written by Don)

"Near the Water" depicts an almost oasisian (OK, I made that one up) environment. This definitely fits in with the areas in which it is played — one on the Phon Coast and another by the River in the Estersand. But onto the musical portion of the track. The track's playful attitude is implemented by a nice use of string instruments. It does an effective job there. The strings are also accompanied by the use of soft percussion. The triangle in particular helps to enforce the playful attitude. The woodwind section in the middle carries the main melody and makes the listener (or adventurer) feel like they've reached a spot for respite. A great track overall (8/10)

24) The Mosphoran Highwaste (Written by Chris)

To producers at least, "The Mosphoran Highwaste" is one of the iconic themes of Final Fantasy XII, taking prominent roles in the game's trailers, Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings, and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 Grimoire of the Rift. This is probably because it is the most straightforward in-game rendition of the main theme for the game. The composition is actually very well done, featuring some of the boldest brass melodies, heavy percussion, and abrupt driving transitions. To listeners, however, it may not be all that memorable due to its somewhat out-of-place use in a filler area. Furthermore, the bombastic brass synth and uncompassionate instrument layering means that the piece has the capacity to be harsh and ugly on a stand-alone basis. (5/10)

Disc Four

1) The Cerobi Steppe (Written by TheShroud13)

"The Cerobi Steppe" is, in my mind, the most beautiful peaceful track after a collection of awkward and overly dramatic attempts from the later stages of Disc Three. It's one of the few pieces on the entire soundtrack where Sakimoto has allowed himself to use a light orchestral texture and the result is fantastic. The delicate pastoral melodies paired with tremolo string figures, brief choral passages, and harp ostinati sound as a peaceful breeze, and the generally high register of the piece paired with the occasionally distant accent in the low register creates a great sense of space. The melodic material is limited to some scalar figures and an ascending sixth motive. Although a little unmemorable, the whole of the piece paints a beautiful image with somewhat minimal musical material. (8/10)

2) Esper (Written by Dave)

With fast rhythms and sporadic choir movements, this track for summoning an Esper is quite an ear-pleaser. Very little happens in terms of melodic development, but the contrasts in instrumentation and the diversity in timbre seem to add an extra something. Small additions like the intermittent drum and gong beats, the slight accentuations at the end of each phrase, and the simplistic undertones really add a sense of character. I'd certainly like to see this piece in a much more developed form and feel it is weaker than "Esper Battle", but "Esper" really seems to get the job done well. (7/10)

3) The Port City of Balfonheim (Written by Don)

This track starts out quite calmly. Melodically, it's pretty good with a horn/string combination carrying the main melody. The middle section that incorporates the harp is a peaceful interjection into the main melody, but I feel it hurts the track even more. When I imagine a port city, I imagine more of a hustle and bustle going on since ships come into port and trades are being made. This track really didn't do any of that for me. The main melody is pretty good but could have been developed a bit more while the harp could be taken out. (7/10)

4) Nap (Written by Don)

A small ditty. It seems to fit well. (5/10)

5) The Zertinan Caverns (Written by Dave)

Starting off in an almost surreal manner, "The Zertinan Caverns" is the type of setting track that conjures up a mixture of emotions. The track opens with some high-pitched string notes alongside an eerie choir accompaniment, but then moves on to a section seemingly fixated upon creating a fearsome tribal atmosphere. Drum beats and a plucked string melody join forces to create this aura and, as the piece progresses, sweeping bowed strings add to the tension. The piece soon returns to its surreal basis, only to be tainted with the introduction of the drums and plucked strings once more. Throughout this piece, the listener is on edge. Sakimoto places development in a lot of individual instruments, which makes the listener more aware by firing something new at them every step of the way. This track is fairly creative in this sense, and all in all, it seems to achieve its goal. (7/10)

6) A Land of Memories (Written by TheShroud13)

Ironically, even though the track's title referrs to the memories of the fallen souls in the wasted kingdom of Nabradia, "A Land of Memories" inspires a lot of memories for me. The piece's lush harmonic character, principally sparce orchestration, and melodic poignance makes it one of the few tracks on the album that really captures the evocative mysticism of the golden age of Final Fantasy. Obviously being from Matsuo, the language is not the same as Uematsu's, but the feel is similar and the effect is stunning.

The music doesn't hold together all that great as a stand-alone piece. That's not to say it's an unpleasant listen outside of the soundtrack, but the piece's loop point is not all that well thought-out and the piece leaps between musical ideas with a lot of frequency. That seems to make sense for a land of memories though, with the thoughts of spirits seeping in and out of the ether. The shape of the piece seems almost as if mirroring how the Kingdom of Nabradia's past may have gone. It opens with a lush, romantic, and majestic melody starting in low strings and working its way into the high. At 0:49, ominous lines introduce a much more pensive melody in the glockenspiel or celeste (I can't quite tell).

At 1:07 the brass takes this melody and there is a haunting orchestral crescendo that paints the picture of the kingdom falling. After that outburst, the string melody returns and is picked up by oboe with a harmonic backing which both implies hope and turmoil. It's quite an effective run, and the background parts throughout are intriguing and effective. The timbres here are remarkable for synthesized orchestra. Walking around the Nabredus Highlands while listening to this track is really one of the most memorable of my experiences from Final Fantasy XII. (10/10)

7) The Forgotten Capital (Written by TheShroud13)

Far more ominous than the previous, "The Forgotten Capital" is an appropriate accompaniment for the castle sinking in the mist, the Necrohol of Nabudis. "The Forgotten Capital" isn't quite the musical journey that "A Land of Memories" is, and in some ways that makes it a better listen out of context. The track sticks more to one mood. Creepy. Subtle implications of majesty slip in and out of the track, but overall the track seems dedicated to creating an atmosphere of unsettling mysticism. Pretty much all of the piece is timbrally expressive, but the most impressive portion of the piece comes at 1:11 with the trumpet carrying the melody over an incredibly forboding low string line. The flute takes over the melody at 1:30 and the disturbing mood created by the strings is augmented by brass accents. These two sections are both quite evocative, and the piece as a whole is an easy favourite on the sountrack. (10/10)

8) The Feywood (Written by Chris)

"The Feywood", Masaharu Iwata's other contribution to the soundtrack, is stylistically continuous with "The Sochen Cave Palace", but far more horrifying. The instrumentation use is reflective of a mystical wood. An earthy feel exudes through unrelenting bass emphasis and the use of suspended strings; the integration of lots of percussion, both in the form of fantastical decoration from chimes and more aggressive tribal sounds, adds to the multifaceted timbre created. As is often the case with Iwata's works, layering upon a repeated chord progression enhances the drama of the piece and keeps it well-driven. Emphasis is given to an unrelenting ascending brass crisis motif clearly inspired by horror movies; booming percussion lines and a ghostly choir makes the effect overwhelming. A rather complex composition, other sections include an action-dominated introduction, a less intense variation on the initial idea made interesting by cross-rhythms, and a brief, touching, but uncompassionate interlude prior to the loop exclusively featuring strings. Overall, Iwata does well creating an accessible and dramatic piece that reflects the mysticism, terrors, and action associated with the Feywood. (10/10)

9) Ashe's Theme (Written by Chris)

"Ashe's Theme", eh? Well, this track isn't thematic like Nobuo Uematsu's character themes were. In addition, it doesn't appear to represent Ashe that well. Those qualms aside, I'm inclined to praise this composition. It changes atmosphere both discreetly and subtly throughout, encompassing sounds representing mystery, nobility, elegance, and aggression. Its principle sections offer the typical abstract woodwind melodies and fantastical orchestration one would come to associate with Sakimoto now 88 tracks in to the soundtrack.

There are intricacies and subtleties that are well worth exploring, but two things constantly fascinate me. One, the beauty of the Wagnerian construct of its underlying motifs. Two, the way the track constantly battles between being being smooth and luscious to sounding jarring and percussive. From the very start of the track, flowing harp arpeggios and close harmony clarinets contrast with a bitter cello riff and abrupt martial drums. Sometimes the track blooms with melodiousness, but at 1:50 when percussive booms dominate; the intense beats, harsh powerful brass, and unrelenting rhythmical ideas make this section one of the soundtrack's highlights. I won't pretend to understand why this track represents Ashe, but it's a highlight on the excellent Disc Four. (10/10)

10) Giruvegan's Mystery (Written by TheShroud13)

After having reviewed the two best tracks on this album, I now take a stab at what is in my mind the unquestionably worst track on the entire album. This track seems to be Sakimoto's reaction to Ravel's comment that his own "Bolero" was a piece without music. Sakimoto has managed to make a track with even less music. While Ravel's "Bolero" at least had personality, a catchy melody, and sophisticated orchestration, "Giruvegan's Mystery" is completely devoid of anything worth listening to. There are a couple nice timbres here and there, but for the most part Sakimoto employs mysterious clichés such as high strings and augmented harp chords endlessly throughout the piece.

This is a piece that goes nowhere. It simply wanders around in its own pseudo-ambiance content that because it employs the orchestra it will be considered subtle and sophisticated. It's certainly subtle, but it's more subtle in the manner of blowing down a wobbling pin at the end of the bowling alley than the manner of tasteful cologne application. The worst part of it all is that this track accompanies what is probably the second most obnoxious and needlessly long dungeon in the game. The tedium of it all is difficult to express, but the combination of this track of music and its accompanying dungeon is enough to make a person mad.

There's really nothing about this track that is particularly interesting to me. Its timbres and harmonic language are extremely typical, there's no melody to speak of, and it's about as rhythmically interesting as the fat of a fanatic topless football fan. There are pieces of music that are uninspiring, and there are those that just make me wonder why I have any interest in music. This track is the latter. Fortunately the next track is a wonderful little piece of music. (3/10)

11) To the Place of the Gods (Written by Neo Locke)

This piece opens with an enchanting and beautiful rhythmic harp melody, which quickly is taken up by a piano, continuing the enchanting mood of the piece. When the woodwind is added, a bit of wistfulness is added that furthers the amazing tone and then there's a short string section to lead into the end of the introduction. There's also a subtle vocal harmony from time to time that just adds to the serenity of the composition. The meat of the piece is similar in the beginning to the intro with an added string harmony interjecting every once in a while. This leads into the most gorgeous part of the piece: A climactic and smooth contrast of string chords that adds strength and intensity to the piece without making it sound at all forceful. This is the epitome of an interesting yet relaxing piece of video game music. My only complaint would be that I wish more was done with the transition at the end of the loop, as it seems rather sudden. (9/10)

12) The Beginning of the End (Written by Chris)

The buildup to Final Fantasy XII's final confrontation begins here. It initially does an impressive job quickening the pace of the soundtrack through use of lots of cross-rhythms. Accented strings initially provide an accompaniment to a surly brass melody before the forces switch places and trombones produce a roaring noise by repeating a single note in a rhythmically agitated manner similar to "The Speechless Battle". Soon the track develops colour through the introduction of the harp, development of the melodic line, and use of some powerful ascending chord progressions. Paradoxically, however, the track's problem is that it drags on for too long; by the 3:37 mark when it ends, any sense of impending climax has dissipating and I'm close to pressing the 'skip' button. Not bad, but this would have been best as a relatively short composition to accompany some FMV. (8/10)

13) To the Peak (Written by Chris)

It seems Sakimoto fulfilled my request for a shorter composition here, but there still seems little regard here that repetition of whole sections does nothing to enhance pace. Its elements are very similar to "The Beginning of the End": effective repetition of cross-rhythmic ideas; alternation of strings and brass as melodic and harmonic forces; and use of melodies and chord progressions that attain a feel of ascension. On a more intricate level, this one is more unique, particularly at 0:58, when the track moves out of its repetitive rut into a new idea dominated by a hopeful brass melody. Not one of the most thoughtful or inspired tracks on the track, additionally spoilt by its obnoxious in-game context, but with some merit. (7/10)

14) The Sky Fortress Bahamut (Written by Josh Barron)

This is what Sakimoto does best. He excels in writing aggressive music and this is no exception. The piece starts off strong with the strings and brass which build up with the help of driving percussion. This continues on until about the 50 second mark where the piece dies down. Now it may be a bit quiet here, but it's no less intense. The strings keep this section moving along with the French horn melody. This reminds me of a couple pirates swashbuckling on the plank for some reason. This piece then reaches its climax with the dissonant chords in the brass with the cymbal accentuating the impact points. I really enjoyed the horn section after that, though, as it really drives the composition into the loop, and is a perfect transition.

Overall this piece certainly describes a fortress. The brass and strings shine with a Sakimoto flair. The percussion doesn't tend to overpower anything like some of Sakimoto's aggressive themes; it accompanies rather than playing a prominent role. This is such a great listen and is one of the best location themes on this disc and perhaps this whole soundtrack. The only criticism I have is that I felt this piece could've went a bit further musically before looping. Sakimoto could've done so much after that horn transition; however, this track still delivers, so I can't complain. (9/10)

15) Shaking Bahamut (Written by Josh Barron)

This a short composition, and by the cinematic direction of it I would assume that it is played during a cutscene. Not much to say here, except for as short as it is, it certainly sounds great. The reprises of melodies heard earlier in the game are variated well, and the orchestration is top-notch. (10/10)

16) Battle for Freedom (Written by Don)

At long last, we've come to the final battle track of Final Fantasy XII. In previous efforts in Final Fantasy XII, Sakimoto has shined in his execution of battle themes. From the gargantuan "Esper Battle" to the intricate subtleties found in "Desperate Fight," Sakimoto showcases some of his finest battle themes to date. How does "Battle for Freedom" compare to those, and more importantly, how does it compare to other final battle themes that have been found in previous entries.

Starting off with a slow string development that plays an ominous melody, it follows suit to some of the more popular Final Fantasy final battle themes, such as "The Extreme" (Final Fantasy VIII) and "Final Battle" (Final Fantasy IX). In addition, it helps to get through the sequence leading up to the final battle. At the 1:30 mark, brass accompanies literally a flurry of violin sections that eventually lead up to the meat of the battle theme.

The meat of the battle theme revolves around two themes: "Theme of the Empire" and the "Liberation Army" theme. Quite appropriate for what is one of the most epic battles in the game. In what is one of the better arrangements of "Theme of the Empire," Sakimoto invokes terror with a fantastic snare and timpani drum accompaniment to some pretty strong brass instruments playing the main theme. The addition of the harp creates a tension breaker, but at the same time, adds a nice constrast to the strong brass. The "Liberation Army" theme played by harmonizing strings and brass creating a heroic contrast to the terrorizing "Theme of the Empire" portion. Once again, a snare drum accompaniment adds a militaristic touch to the entire track.

All in all, this is one of the best final battle themes to grace the Final Fantasy name. Brass, percussion, and strings are used to create two extremely contrasting portions to this piece. By balancing the battle theme with sections of heroism and terrorism, Sakimoto succeeds in drawing the listener, or player, into the battle itself and gives the main characters a sense of purpose in the final battle. (10/10)

17) The End of Battle (Written by Chris)

No guesses when this short programmatic track is used. It opens with a relieving descending chord progression but the use of a layer of tremolo strings show the danger isn't quite over. The entrance of a piano line at 0:18 relieves the tension and is one of the key moments in the entire soundtrack; it shows the transition from an aggressive and threatening sound into a sentimental and touching one. Colour continues to radiate with a superbly orchestrated flourish on the main theme over the most fantastical harp use in the entire soundtrack. However, it's not over; after a brief pauses, martial forces at 0:52, ending the track abruptly after a series of crisis motifs. Will "Ending Theme" relieve the tension or will our protagonists all die? Read on regardless of whether the answer is obvious... (8/10)

18) Ending Movie (Written by Josh Barron)

Before I go into this piece in depth, I must say that this is the epitome of Final Fantasy ending themes and lives up to the precedent set by Nobuo Uematsu. This composition perfectly sums up the entire soundtrack and is well orchestrated by Hayato Matsuo.

We start off with some driving string parts along with the percussion to assist that sense of danger. The build between here and when the brass enter at the time signature change is spine chilling. It reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean by Klaus Badelt. When one believes that the tension will become more prevalent, everything dies down to a variation on the "Empire's Theme". Sakimoto has definitely done a great job with the variation with the melody in the oboe and the subtle harmonies by the strings. It is so beautiful and alluring that I thought the sense of danger was gone, and then... BAM!

The driving music from before comes in again, reminding that the crisis isn't averted. The dramatic melody from the "Opening Theme" makes an appearance as well. This variation, complete with the trumpet fanfares, make this sound like something heroic happens. It gives one a sense of hope amidst this sense of chaos and war. After this part, a variation on the theme of "Destiny" shows up, which leads into a brilliant reprise of the "Empire's Theme". Everything is just put together seamlessly and the transitions are so natural that one wouldn't think that these were two separate works. Next, the orchestra goes to pianissimo and builds up to the driving music. This time, however, the brass come into play only to lead in the climax of the composition. Dissonant chords are used to maximum effect here, as the brass plasters the listener to the wall with their power.

After the powerful climax, the emotional part comes into play. "Destiny" makes its final appearance and this shows that Sakimoto really knows who to write something truly emotional. The timbres created here are just gorgeous. I always get chills here (especially at 5:33). The swells just give the listener a surge of warmth and serenity that is unparalleled. When you believe that all is beautiful to the end, that's when the brass come in with majestic prowess. They play another fanfare passage which leads to the strings playing the melody from the Opening Theme, and the composition ends like the score began. Overall, this is an orchestral masterpiece that holds its own against some of the best ending themes in the series. (10/10)

19) Kiss Me Good-Bye (Written by Don)

Nobuo Uematsu is infamous for his vocal pieces in the Final Fantasy department. Some are a little overdramatic, others are a beautiful harmony between instrumentation and vocalist. Like a vintage wine, or a delicious cheese, with age comes greater taste or sophistication in this case. Lacking his usual powerhouse arranger, Shiro Hamaguchi, how well would his composition fare in the hands of Kenichiro Fukui, known for his classic rock arrangements in Final Fantasy VII Advent Children and The Black Mages? Would he be able to transition well between the rock he's used to or would he fail to blend together a concoction between vocalist and instrumentation that just bears the famous signature of previous Final Fantasy vocal piece efforts?

Now, taking a look at the track itself, the arrangement is quite simple. Lacking the colorful orchestration found in "Melodies of Life", which some consider Uematsu's greatest vocal piece, and the sometimes grating voice of RIKKI, previewed in "Suteki da ne", Fukui is able to take a simple melody and arrangement and do so much with it. Catering to the strength of Angela Aki's voice, he creates an arrangement more in line with that of "Eyes on Me," but with one major difference. Taking a less pop-sounding approach, he creates an arrangement of sophistication using the most basic of instruments. Armed simply with a piano, strings, a harp, and a drum, Fukui allows Aki's voice to be the main focus of the entire track while making the orchestration a mere accompaniment to her gracing presence. The instrumental break in the piece showcases the sophistication that so few instruments were able to achieve.

Now, on to the vocals. Endearing, sad, yet hopeful at times, they invoke something that most vocal pieces for video games seem to lack: coherency and genuineness. Coherency in the fact that the lyrics flow quite well and genuineness in the fact that I actually feel everything the lyrics were meant to invoke. Other pieces, such as "Pain" or "Kokoro", seem to lack the execution of this genuine feel. So, all in all, how does the track fare compared to Uematsu's previous efforts. I'd say quite well. In fact, I honestly feel it's his greatest vocal piece to date. By ditching the bombastic arrangements of previous installments, Uematsu and Fukui were able to focus on the beauty of simplicity and, in the words of Uematsu, "create the most beautiful melody I have ever composed." (10/10)

20) Symphonic Poem "Hope" (Written by Don)

This track was written by Taro Hakase and Yuji Toriyama for this game. While this is the shortened version, it is essentially the amalgamation of five movements seen on the single. The first portion, "Overture," creates quite a sombering effect. I can only assume this track was written to exemplify the impending invasion of Archadia. It successfully recreates this with its use of strings and the short, sporadic brass portions. The second portion, "March of a Wise Man," was obviously written to showcase the effect of going to war. With the militaristic use the strings, and the strong percussion behind it, Hatase creates an imperial piece that motivates the listener to go to war.

While the third movement, "Road of Hope," and the fourth movement, "Romance," are not showcased in this track, the reprise is. The third portion, "Road of Hope ~ Reprise" is by far the strongest addition to the entire track. Through its constant string tremolos and the light brass, it creates a melody that invokes hope into the listener. Once the violin takes the center stage, the track only gets stronger in its exuberance and finishes the track off nicely as the listener continues on his journey. (9/10)

21) Theme of Final Fantasy XII (Presentation Version) (Written by Dave)

This track is essentially the beta version of "Loop Demo" and "Opening Movie (Theme of Final Fantasy XII)." The theme lacks the divine orchestration of the two original themes, but characters the fantastic sound of the game brilliantly. I'm not too sure why this theme was included on the soundtrack, since personally I feel that the two original themes provided enough impact standing alone. However, it's certainly a nice summary of the thematic material and moods of the soundtrack. (8/10)


Written by Chris

As many anticipated, the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack is the most musically intricate, melodically devoid, and stylistically peculiar score of the series. Crafted by Hitoshi Sakimoto, it is a complete diversion from Nobuo Uematsu's earlier scores to the series and rarely feels like Final Fantasy music at all, despite its fantastical nature. Appropriate given Final Fantasy XII was a Yasumi Matsuno project that probably didn't deserve to be called a numbered instalment of the cherished series. It doesn't make the score any less alienating and inaccessible to those who grew up with Final Fantasy and its melodic music, however.

Nevertheless, it is a very fine work. Sakimoto does an excellent job conveying the militaristic theme of the game, the largely bland 'imperial' themes aside, utilising the excellently shaped main and Empire theme especially well. From the overpowering "Giza Plains" and "The Dalmasca Estersand" to the haunting "The Secret of Nethicite" and "The Barheim Passage" to the subtle "The Salikawood" and "The Cerobi Steppe" to the elated "The Phon Coast" and "Ozmone Plains", there is so much to love. The battle themes are also solid accomplishment, my personal favourites being "A Speechless Battle", "Upheaval", "Desperate Fight", and "The Battle for Freedom". Other offerings are moody event themes, charming town themes, and some pleasant depictions of the game's characters.

The soundtrack is a variable accompaniment to the game. Even some of the best themes are overpowering. Oddly, though, some of the event themes barely heighten the emotional depth of the game at all. Relative to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the themes concerned with gaiety on the first disc such as "Secret Practice", "Penelo's Theme", and "Clan Headquarters" are disappointing — often repetitive, irritating, and forcibly melodic. The soundtrack also suffers from Sakimoto being so bombastic in places that it is even detrimental to soundtrack listening. Pieces such as "The Mosphoran Highwaste", "Esper", and "Clash of Swords" all sound unpleasant to me. All Final Fantasy soundtracks in the last decade, however, have suffered greatly from inconsistency and this is overall a musically accomplished effort.

The supporting cast do a fine job. Nobuo Uematsu's ballad is suitably powerful, Masaharu Iwata's two contributions are among the score's most emotionally overwhelming, and the appearance of Symphonic Poem "Hope" was welcome. Hayato Matsuo is the most consistent and impressive contributor to the soundtrack, however, and excels in many areas that Sakimoto does not. His symphonic compositions "Seeking Power", "The Land of Memories", and "The Forgotten Capital" are fluid and lush. His orchestrations of the opening and ending themes are impeccable and reflect Sakimoto's faith in him. Sakimoto also arranges several trademark Final Fantasy themes for the soundtrack, usually faithfully, to admirable but not incredible effect.

To conclude, the Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack is an excellent musical accomplishment with many highlights, though sometimes lacks in the emotional department and verges on saminess throughout. Well worth purchasing if you're prepared to persevere with it and have some affinity to Sakimoto's symphonic musicianship. (8/10)

Written by Don

In Final Fantasy XII, Sakimoto has done a remarkable feat. He's actually captivated me for most of the album. He failed to do this in Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. However, given the scope of this project, it only seems fitting that he puts his heart and soul into this work. While some might say it's repetitive and ambient, Sakimoto carefully configures each track to carry one of the three main themes found in the game. In this case, it sounds like the same thing over and over again, but the subtle yet profound nuances in the tracks help to identify them from one another. Sakimoto's battle themes are his strongest to date and are consistent at that. His area themes bring the flora and fauna to life and his main themes are masterfully composed. Uematsu, with his single contribution, succeeds in accomplishing his goal. While some think that it doesn't quite fit with style of the music, and I agree, at least it is related to the story and does a good job and conveying the overall theme of the game. In the end, it's Sakimoto, alongside Iwata and Matsuo, that bring the world of Ivalice to life in a way never constructed before. (8/10)

Written by TheShroud13

Final Fantasy XII has proved to me once again, that Sakimoto will only ever interest me in bombast and in atmosphere. Fortunately, this soundtrack is full of the former, and is generally successful in the latter. The battle themes are by far the most interesting I've heard by Sakimoto, as they maintain his tendency to create battle themes that morph over time, but avoid the boring and inappropriate passages that plagued some of his earlier work. His atmospheric writing, although inconsistent, is generally imaginative and effective. In addition, the two major themes are likely the most memorable bits of music Sakimoto has ever composed and the contributions from the album's supporting cast are stellar. Matsuo stands out especially to me as his writing reminds me so much of Uematsu's glory days, with much fancier synth.

However, this is not a flawless soundtrack by any means. Though the two principle themes are memorable, they're not particularly moving and don't undergo significant transformation throughout the soundtrack. The themes are used frequently, sometimes to great effect; but for the most part the themes tend to feel tacked on in many circumstances and don't contribute a lot musically to many of the pieces they show up in. They're more tag lines in the tradition of "I'm gonna git you sucka" than leitmotives in the tradition of Williams. Beyond that the soundtrack is so emotionally dry. A bit of this is owing to the game's somewhat reserved script, but Sakimoto's score does little to heighten what little emotion was present in the game. There's also the matter of an unusual amount of unevenness, which owes to the scope of the soundtrack, but some of the lows on this soundtrack are really bad.

It's an accomplished soundtrack, but too flawed for me to wholly recommend. (8/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 8/10