Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack Premium Box
Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack Premium Box
March 28, 2007
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In 2007, Square Enix commemorated the popular music for the Final Fantasy XI franchise with a seven disc box set. Five discs were composed of the previously released soundtracks for the original game and the first three extensions. There were also two exclusive discs featuring previously unreleased music from the franchise, an exclusive piano arranged album and accompanying sheet music book, and a guest appearance from The Star Onions. Though certainly a select taste, the music for the franchise has endeared many that have spent hours playing the game or listening to the soundtracks on a stand-alone basis. Carrying a $100 price tag, the album is clearly intended for the most dedicated fans of Final Fantasy XI music rather than the earliest releases in the franchise for more casual fans. Is it worth purchasing if you have the money available?
The Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack opens the set with two discs of music for the original release in the franchise. The soundtrack represents a necessary departure from the numbered Final Fantasy series. An abundance of themes accompany the long periods of gameplay in Vana’diel’s vast landscapes. With rich organic palettes, subdued melodies and harmonies, and slow steady development, these themes help to characterise the scenery without being dramatic or penetrating. Naoshi Mizuta uses ostinato-based constructs to create a surprise amount of emotion in setting themes like “Battalia Downs” and “Mhaura”. Co-composers Nobuo Uematsu and Kumi Tanioka show more harmonic flexibility with their respective contributions “Ronfaure” and “Gustaberg”, but these themes nevertheless blend fluidly in the set. The themes for the four main cities of Vana’diel and their administrative centres are also dispersed throughout the first disc, representing the pride of the Elvaan, the childishness of the Tarutaru, the balance of the Humes, and the sedateness of Jeuno. Nearly all the instruments are also synthesized impeccably thanks to programmers Hidenori Iwasaki and Hirosato Noda.
The Final Fantasy XI soundtrack also introduces the recurring melodic material of the franchise. The “FFXI Opening Theme” is a four-tiered orchestral masterpiece that introduces the game with a recollection of Vana’diel’s Crystal War. It exposes the haunting main theme “Memoro de la S^tono” with Esparanto choir and the secondary reflective theme “Recollection”. The original “Vana’diel March” is a striking militaristic march that is one of several pieces also to use the harp arpeggios of the “Prelude”. In the second disc, Mizuta also creates a series of marches to convey the masculinity and militaristic intent of the male characters. Kumi Tanioka expresses personality more outrageously in the female character themes with short-lived synth jazz themes and more substantial techno works. However, they are also undeniably out-of-place on an almost entirely acoustic soundtrack. As for Mizuta’s battle themes, the majority feature brass melodies, string harmonies, and intense development sections, forming a basis for later additions to the franchise. The spectacular climax of the soundtrack includes “Castle Zvahl”, a nine minute organ-based ambient work, and “Awakening”, a delicious final boss theme with tribal influences.
With the Final Fantasy XI Rise of the Zilart Original Soundtrack, Naoshi Mizuta returned to single-handedly create 20 new pieces of music. He developed the acoustic sound of the franchise and embellished his ostinato-based style to characterise new areas. For instance, “Yuhtunga Jungle” features ethnic touches to portray an exotic jungle, while “Altepa Desert” uses enigmatic cor anglais melodies to accompany wandering through an enomous expanse. Some other gems include the “Kazham” to represent a lively jungle paradise, the serene and feathery “Tu’Lia” and “Ve’Lugannon Palace” for the floating island, and “The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah” to portray a crystal-enlightened forest. The battle themes mainly share the brassy approach of the Final Fantasy XI battle themes. However, each is sufficiently individually characterised to be enjoyable on this soundtrack while sustaining the distinct sounds of Vana’diel. The rest of the soundtrack mostly features miscellaneous event themes, including the charming clarinet-based “Dash de Chocobo”, the uncertain and villainous “Eald’narche”, and the classically-oriented “End Theme”. Overall the soundtrack works outstandingly in the game and is a charming acoustic work on a stand-alone basis.
The Final Fantasy XI Chains of Promathia Original Soundtrack differed in two major ways from its predecessors. As Square Enix could not afford the expenditure of a synthesizer operator on the project, Mizuta was left to his own resources to sequence the music resulting in a substantial blow in sound quality. The music also took an even more ambient and subdued approach than previous soundtracks due to the storyline focus of the game and the introduction of mostly gloomy new areas. This resulted in some fascinating if inaccessible ambient themes for areas such as Promyvion, Movlpolis, Pso’Xja, Al’Taieu, and Ru’Hmet. Still, not everything about the stylistic approach to the setting themes is different as noted by the elegant and contemplative “Currents of Time”, the elevated oboe-based “The Forgotten City – Tavnazian Safehold”, or the exhaustively developed “A New Horizon – Tavnazian Archipelago”. The action themes show more rhythmical focus than predecessors despite brassy textures and the “Conflict…” tracks are novel saxophone-based jazz themes. There are more event themes here than previous soundtracks due to the integration of five odes into the storyline, which results in several arrangements. Also enjoyable is the bonus performance of “Gustaberg” by the original Star Onions quartet.
With the Final Fantasy XI Treasures of Aht Urhgan Original Soundtrack, Mizuta represented the newly introduced Eastern continent with some ethnically flavoured tracks. “Bustle of the Capital” is similar to other town themes, but the strangely synthesized main melody and ethnic drum beats immediately give a sense of a new continent. “Bandits’ Market” uses Arabian-influenced melodies and catchy panpipe motifs to create a bustling image while the sailing theme “Eastward Bound…” creates just the right feel with gliding synth melodies and adventurous jazz piano chords. Nevertheless, there are more familiar soundscapes with the ambient “Illusions in the Mist” and “Ululations from Beyond” or the gentle and comforting “Jeweled Boughs” and “Whispers of the Gods”. The action themes are not as individualised as predecessors but nevertheless feel mostly compelling. Other additions include two jazz-based Chocobo arrangements, the calm but cheeky “A Puppet’s Slumber”, and an adventurous new Vana’diel March. The culmination of the soundtrack brings some of the most dissonant and tense themes of the franchise to date, such as “Ever-Turning Wheels”, “Forbidden Seal”, and “Hellriders”. While the soundtrack is very segmented and unfortunately omits three themes, it is overall a solid mixture of continuity and change.
The Final Fantasy XI Premium Box Unreleased Tracks mainly features tracks created after the soundtrack release for each extension. Though a few jingles and a Chocobo theme remain unreleased, the disc was created to be an enjoyable collection on a stand-alone basis rather than a compilation of trivial themes. A lot of the music exhibits a familiar Final Fantasy XI sound such as the beautiful and organic “A Road Once Travelled” and “Revenant Maiden”, the dark and cinematic “Bloody Promises” and “Celestial Thunder”, or the three diverse instrumental arrangements of “Memoro de la S^tono”. However, there is plenty of quirk too such as the lullaby version of the Chocobo theme, two silly fishing mini-game pieces, and a Christmas remix of the Jeuno theme. Easily the best two themes are Chains of Promathia’s epic final battle theme “A Realm of Emptiness” and the ending theme “Distant Worlds”; on the latter, Nobuo Uematsu returned to create a fantastic ballad sung by Izumi Masuda and reinterpreted by an acoustic guitar for those who dislike her mispronunciation of English lyrics. Other neat bonuses are “Sunbreeze Shuffle”, a merry Eastern-flavoured jig, and “Ru’Lude Gardens -Star Onions Version-“, a brand new synth-pop arrangement that is barely recognisable melodically.
Another bonus is the Final Fantasy XI Premium Box Piano Collections CD and sheet music book. This exclusive eight solo piano interpretations and two duet renditions of Naoshi Mizuta’s compositions arranged by Kaoru Ishikawa and performed by Ayumi Iga and Kasumi Oga. Arrangements like “The Federation of Windurst”, “Rabao”, “Choc-a-bye Baby”, and “Jeweled Boughs” stick closely to the equally important melodic and harmonic features of the originals yet nevertheless sound exceptionally pianistic. Other arrangements like “Moblin Menagerie – Movalpolis”, “Faded Memories – Promyvion”, and “Tu’Lia” elaborate upon their ambient original material so that they sustain interest well during their playtime. While the solo piano renditions are all strong if conservative, the duets “Battle Theme #2” and “Vana’diel March #4” are clumsy, repetitive, and unpianistic; the number of voices is used to create superficially powerful textures rather than for more interesting reasons. Another welcome addition is “Distant Worlds”, which stays close to the original and is very powerful as a result. Overall, the album stays true to the musicality of Final Fantasy XI and the relatively simple arrangements allow beginner to intermediate piano players to perform the enclosed sheet music book.
The Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack Premium Box is an impressive testament to the scope and quality of the music for the Final Fantasy XI franchise. The 130 pieces of original music will provide a fantastic tour through the scenery, battles, and events of Vana’diel for enthusiasts of the game and by-standers wishing to learn more about it. The franchise will be best remembered for its calming acoustic music that nearly always shines for its colourful palettes and extensive development. Nevertheless, there is a fantastic diversity in the set; there are brassy and upbeat battle themes, dark and hollow ambient pieces, worldly influences from the tropics and the East, quirky themes for the mini-games and festivals, rich orchestral or vocal pieces, and even experiments with jazz and techno. With a few exceptions, the music has been composed and implemented meticiulously principally by Naoshi Mizuta, who has dedicated nearly a decade to the MMORPG.
Nevertheless, some warnings are necessary. Mizuta’s ostinato-based style will bore some people and even infuriate others so any prospective buyer should make sure they have sampled Final Fantasy XI music before purchasing the set. In addition, it is not a complete box set — omitting The Star Onions albums, the Wings of the Goddess soundtrack, and the second Final Fantasy XI Piano Collections, and several jingles. Nobody quite knows how many more extensions and arranged albums for Final Fantasy XI will eventually be made so people might want to weary that an even more definitive box set will eventually be produced. Its $100 dollar price tag (a little less if you purchase it via Square Enix Members) is good value for money — after all, it offers five soundtrack discs, two bonus discs, a sheet music book, and very nice packaging and notes. The Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack Premium Box is a fantastic commemorative item for enthusiasts of Final Fantasy XI‘s music. Just as the game itself has a timeless quality to it, enthusiastic listeners will find themselves spending endless hours listening to this box set.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.