Final Fantasy XI -Memories of Dusk and Dawn-
Final Fantasy XI -Memories of Dusk and Dawn-
May 12, 2010
Buy at CDJapan
The discography of the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI has grown quite massive over the last eight years. Even after receiving a seven disc box set, new extension soundtracks and arranged albums were made for the title. In 2010, Square Enix decided to produce something for those who didn’t have the money or interest to keep up — a ‘best of’ compilation for the series. This disc features 25 favourites from Final Fantasy XI and its four extensions, as chosen ‘by fans, for fans’ in a vote at Square Enix Members. Did this user-voting method work out? Is the resultant album representative of what the music of Final Fantasy XI offers? While many highlights are containing within, the selection still leaves much to be desired…
The Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack is commemorated with only seven tracks on this album, but they are all good ones. Initially Naoshi Mizuta’s menu theme “Vana’diel March” demonstrates one of the key musical elements of the MMORPG — marches. Supported by a resolute string motif, the theme develops over three main sections to offer nationalistic French horn melodies, carefully integrated arpeggios based on the “Prelude”, and a surprisingly emotional development section before the loop. Nobuo Uematsu’s only setting theme, dedicated to the vast forest of “Ronfaure”, is also featured here. A calm enchanting soundscape is established with woodwind melodies supported by acoustic guitar and folk instruments. It sustains extended gameplay extremely well by both extensively elaborating on the primary section and exploring an intervening section that provides a deeper perspective on the forest’s landscapes. Later in the album, “Gustaberg” and “Selbina” provide interesting contrasts in musical texture, the former a slow-blooming harmonically sumptuous setting theme, the latter a straightforward jig with a charismatic fiddle lead.
One of the most dominant features of Final Fantasy XI – Memories of Dusk and Dawn are the action themes. Various climactic battle themes were chosen by fans above the regular battle themes, perhaps due to their increased novelty value. In the Final Fantasy XI section, “Battle in the Dungeon #2” combines inspirations of flamenco movements and some of Uematsu’s more belligerent creations to mesmerising effect. Kumi Tanioka’s “Shadow Lord” is one of the less accomplished additions to the collection; the impact imposed by the choir’s introductory ghostly chants is diminished by an unfitting transition to a much more ambient string section. She redeems herself with the ‘final’ boss theme “Awakening”, however. The work establishes a delicious soundscape with agitated string / brass melodies, ferocious drum rhythms, and climactic vocal chants. There are also fluidly integrated interludes, one featuring beautiful flute melodies and another offering the harp arpeggios of the “Prelude”, that top off a well-rounded and emotional work. But, of course, Final Fantasy XI featured numerous extensions and this was only the beginning…
On the Final Fantasy XI Rise of the Zilart Original Soundtrack, Naoshi Mizuta returned to single-handedly create 20 new pieces of music, four of which are featured here. He developed the acoustic sound of the franchise and embellished his ostinato-focused style to characterise new areas. For instance, “Kazham” portrays a jungle paradise city introduced to the expansion. A brisk acoustic guitar ostinato gives rise to finely synthesized woodwind melodies that give a hint of the unfamiliar. The theme comes together very well, featuring many beautiful moments and sustaining a motivating drive. Arguably the gem of the soundtrack, “The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah” beautifully portrays a crystal-enlightened forest during its extensive fluid development; it notably deviates from Mizuta’s ostinato-based approach in favour of a more dynamic acoustic guitar accompaniment. Two action cues are also featured. “Fighters of the Crystals” is a pressing and motivating action cue carried by its strong melody. The final battle theme for the extension, “Belief”, is an epic chimera of the others from the extension with its irregular ostinato patterns, engaging trumpet melodies, and richly flavoured interludes.
The Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia soundtrack was arguably the least accessible extension soundtrack, due to its increased ambient fo