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Final Fantasy USA Mystic Quest Sound Collections :: Review by Kero Hazel

Final Fantasy USA Mystic Quest Sound Collections Album Title: Final Fantasy USA Mystic Quest Sound Collections
Record Label: NTT Publishing
Catalog No.: N25D-020
Release Date: September 10, 1993
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Final Fantasy USA Mystic Quest Sound Collections (that's a mouthful) is composed by two Japanese guys: the funky Ryuji Sasai, and the serene Yasuhiro Kawakami. The two have very different styles, so make sure you cross-reference with the track listings to see which one composes what. I'll get straight on with the review and discuss everything as a whole analytically in the summary...

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Mystic Re-Quest I

The bulk of this kickin' remix is an arrangement of track 24, "Last Castle," which you'll have the joy of hearing later on. Sasai sure picked a great piece to open up this soundtrack, let me tell you. Guitars and drums are the dominant instruments, which is pretty typical for a lot of Sasai's later tracks. The piece sticks to the original version for the first two minutes, though the great instrumentation makes up for the lack of arrangement. Then track 20, "Lava Dome," makes a surprise appearance, and this tune is truly arranged rather than just orchestrated. The familiar harmony is the same, but the melody is all new stuff, pulling all sorts of crazy riffs with an electrified guitar sound. Then it's back to the "Last Castle" remix again. Despite a minimal amount of arrangement, this track is fantastic. The playing style and instrumentation sound so real, you sometimes forget that it's not a live band playing.

2) Mystic Re-Quest II

Don't let the slow opening of this piece mislead you, as this piece is intense. It's a remix of all three battle themes that appear on the soundtrack, blended to perfection. After the opener (from "Battle 3"), we hear a symphonic-rock remix of "Battle 1," the guitars and strings battling for control of the melody. Then it's off into "Battle 2," taking an already superb piece and improving on it with arranged riffs and quality drum work. But before you can catch your breath, we wind up back in "Battle 3," the instruments still blazing with compositional brilliance. The drums really start pounding, and then the guitars do their squealing-distortion thing, which are just a couple examples of the little goodies that Sasai throws into this track. For an ending, a short melody segment from "Battle 1" is repeated, fading away, as the drums keep pounding. This is my favorite arranged game music track of all time. Even if you're not into the kind of hard rock style that this piece uses, there's still a lot of compositional and instrumental work you can appreciate. And if you are into this kind of music, I guarantee you'll be waving your lighter around before you finish listening to it.

3) Mystic Quest

For a piece with really repetitive bass, this is pretty good. The horns carry the melody, which is pretty catchy, I must admit. But what really makes this track worth listening to is the work done by the other instruments; while the high-pitched "piccolo" is playing around the melody, the strings are expanding the harmony, providing a nice amount of variation.

4) Hill of Fate

A great fast-paced track, with an interesting harmony. The melody really takes off from the beginning, dancing all over the keyboard in a very unconventional pattern. A slower, string-heavy section near the end also keeps things interesting.

5) World

This is a variation of track 3, "Mystic Quest." It's a lot shorter, but it uses the same basic instruments in a march-like arrangement.

6) Beautiful Forest

Kawakami's first piece on the soundtrack introduces you to his style, which is much mellower than Sasai's. This piece has a slightly mysterious feel to it, but it's pretty cheery for the most part. Unfortunately, I think part of the effect is ruined since the choice of instruments tends to ruin the ambience.

7) Battle 1

This battle theme may seem too slow for some, but don't worry, as Sasai's just starting to warm up! Here we have some rock influence going on, which really helps the piece seem more battle-like. The bass guitar and drums fit in perfectly, and the composition is top-notch.

8) Victory Fanfare

Now Kawakami is getting into a rock style in this track. It's a short, sweet fanfare, which gets the job done with a minimum amount of fuss.

9) City of Forest - Foresta

Okay, back to the slower tracks. I like the choice of instruments in this piece, which are predominantly strings. The melody moves along at a smooth pace, though it's not much to listen to. Instead, direct your attention toward the harmony, which is one of this piece's stronger points.

10) Fossil Labyrinth

It's a heroic piece, and it's high in compositional talent to boot. Listen to individual instruments, and you will hear them actually taking turns playing the melody, cutting in to boost the harmony in places, and then letting other instruments take over. My favorite part happens near the end (just before the repeat), where the bass takes on this atmospheric quality that seems to surround you, and gives such wonderful depth to the piece.

11) Battle 2

If you were sleeping through the earlier original version tracks, this one should wake you up. This one's almost all guitar and drums, with a few minor parts played by horns and some synth-sounding instruments. It's got non-stop, catchy, hammering, compositional goodness, blazing through one melodic section after another. Sweet Soundtrack Gods in the sky, this piece is absolutely amazing!

12) Middle Tower

This track maintains a steady string-based rhythm and an ever-present mysterious quality. The instrumentation is fantastic, even if the melody sounds somewhat hackneyed. It has a lot of the intertwining qualities that track 10 has, and the symphonic technique Sasai uses adds an extra dimension to the harmony.

13) Shrine of Light

Yet another soothing melody from Kawakami. It's a very simple piece, but the progression that the melody undergoes makes it a nice semi-narrative piece. I like the harmonies here too as it just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

14) Rock Theme

Sheesh, what's with the rock music? Game music isn't supposed to borrow from other genres! I jest, of course. The instrumentation makes this track seem kinda corny, though, and the melody also needs some improvement.

15) Fanfare of Friendship

It's three seconds long. And it probably took Sasai about that same amount of time to compose it. What else could I find to say about it?

16) Dungeon of Ice

A somewhat ambient track. I say "somewhat" because with all the drums and annoying melody, it's kind of hard to slip into the mood. Too much of this piece seems to be wasted notes.

17) Dungeon of Waterfall

The superior counterpart to "Dungeon of Ice." Now we have a truer ambient feel going on, and the low sounds that echo every so often also add a nice touch. The feel is somewhat reminiscent of "Beautiful Forest."

18) City of Fire - Faeria

This piece is very catchy. It's a more jazzy remix of "City of Forest - Foresta," which suits the location in the game (a lively city). The catchy beat and the good instrumentation make this a very enjoyable track.

19) Rock 'n' Roll

Not only are we getting Rock 'n' Roll in this track, we're getting some serious old skool composition going on. Translation: simple but catchy melody, simple but catchy beat, simple but... you get the idea. It's all simple, it's all catchy, and most importantly, it's all good.

20) Lava Dome

Sasai really cooks up a storm with this track, which is definitely the "hardest" rock piece in the soundtrack. Gone is the simplistic harmony of the previous track as it's replaced by some serious dissonance and composition. The melody takes on the same unusual feel that was used in track 4, and puts it to even better use in this piece. A bit on the slow side, but damn, it's catchy.

21) City of Wind - Windaria

Another variation on the town music of "City of Forest - Foresta." This piece is filled with noise samples that sound like gusts of wind; this wouldn't be so bad if they were not constantly blowing, sometimes even overpowering the actual music. Whereas "City of Forest - Foresta" focused on string instruments, this one uses woodwinds, which I think gives the piece a more beautiful sound (if you ignore the wind, anyway).

22) Mountain Range of Whirlwinds

This piece adopts a style very similar to the one used in "Fossil Labyrinth." It's heroic, inspirational, and puts its instruments to great compositional use. The harmony is also quite a knock-out, especially when the brass kicks in.

23) The Crystal

The melody in this piece hints at the title theme "Mystic Quest." It's quite repetitive, and although the harmony is good, there is so little happening in the piece that it makes the cycling melody go old very quickly.

24) Last Castle

Guitars and drums make another appearance in this track, but they are accompanied in full force by strings and chimes. Instrumentation is awesome as always, and so is the composition. As the piece progresses from one theme to the next, listen to all the instruments doing their own creative parts, and you'll get the maximum effect of this track's greatness.

25) Battle 3

Here, Sasai sacrifices some of his head-bangin' guitar riffs, but he makes up for it with a melody/harmony combination that just screams "epic showdown". The strings and horns give this piece a special Symphonic-Hard-Rock kind of feel, which truly needs to be heard in order to be appreciated.

26) Mystic Ballad

This piece features a pretty melody and harmony, although the composition is weak. The two loops you hear in the soundtrack aren't so bad, but woe to those who listen to this track any more times than that (which can happen in the actual game).

27) Ending

Quite a departure from the usual Sasai style, this piece sounds more like the ending theme to a movie than a game, but I guess it would seem out of place if he put another rock track in at the end, wouldn't it? The harmony is delicious, and keeps the piece progressing forward, despite the somewhat repetitive melody. I also love the choice of instruments, which makes the piece sound very dramatic, especially during the last minute.

28) Re-Mystic Quest

Kawakami's arranged track has quite a variety of music in it. It starts off with a church bell ringing in the wind, and then a slightly jazzed-up version of "Beautiful Forest" comes in. It fades out to give way and a synthesized voice saying "Mystic Quest Quest Mystic Quest Quest" etc. barges in out of nowhere! After a short original piano-based composition, we get a remix of the moody "Dungeon of Waterfall," followed by that annoying voice again. Then it's on to an nicely-arranged version of the Shrine theme from "Shrine of Light," followed by a brief segment from the town theme, and another original tune with a very haunting sound. After more random voice synth and some brief original music, the piece closes with a tranquil remix of "Mystic Ballad," complete with a ringing church bell.

Although this remix is really more of an orchestration of the setting themes rather than true arrangements, they still sound pretty good individually. My main complaint with this track is that horrible voice saying "Mystic Qu-Quest" over and over again, which adds absolutely nothing to the music, and only diminishes it. The track samples are also much too short, always cutting out just as they become interesting. Perhaps Kawakami should have made two remixes instead of one. This would have also left him more room for his original music that, for the most part, kept the track interesting.


There you have it. The album that came so close to being my favorite Square soundtrack, and ended up losing that title, all because of some ill-used, cheesy, artificial voice samples. Although Yasuhiro Kawakami's music was very enjoyable to listen to, it's obvious that the real genius behind the soundtrack is Ryuji Sasai. I suggest that if you decide to go after this CD, do it based on your feelings for rock music. If you like that style, this soundtrack will be your best friend. If not, I doubt that the mellower work of Kawakami will make it worth your while. Again, I have nothing against slow music, and Kawakami is a pretty good composer, however, the bulk of the quality pieces are written by Sasai, and given the rarity of the album, you need to really love it to shell out $100 or so for it.

Don't take my warning the wrong way. You don't need to be a hardcore rock fan or metal head to enjoy Sasai's composition. But if you don't like that style of music, this album is not going to change your mind. If you are indifferent to the rock genre, you should be fine. The Final Fantasy USA Mystic Quest Sound Collections is a great compromise between the heavy distorted stuff and the lighter, catchier material. If you have a strong positive inclination towards rock music, and you are not one of those mindless drones who simply head-bangs to every piece they play on the radio, you'll be in heaven while listening to this soundtrack.