Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack Limited Edition

Album Title:
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack Limited Edition
Record Label:
Square Enix Music
Catalog No.:
SQEX-20035/6
Release Date:
July 19, 2017
Purchase:
Buy at CDJapan

Overview

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack Limited Edition is a special edition of the re-recorded score of Final Fantasy XII made for the remaster of the game. It only comes in a physical format, containing the Blu-ray edition of the Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack as a well as a bonus CD titled Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Exclusive Arrangements, which has six new arrangements of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work handled mostly by Rikako Watanabe. The tracks of this bonus CD are thus not available digitally. Although the contents are solid, the edition as a whole may be too pricey for anyone but ardent fans of the game or score.

Body

The main disc is the same as that of the standard edition of the Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack. This re-recorded version of the score features live strings and wind instruments where the original used orchestral libraries, so that much of the score sounds much improved, although the brass and choral libraries still hold back some of the tracks. There are a few new tracks that round out the score but do not feel essential, save for perhaps the excellent “The Zodiac Age”. As a whole the re-recording is quite successful and fans of the original should definitely check it out, as many tracks feel properly realized and some even have new life breathed into them. Newcomers will find a complex cinematic score that is heavy on motifs and rewards the attentive listener. As a Blu-ray it follows the pattern of offering game visuals along with the music and separate mp3’s for download, but the visuals are redundant and don’t offer much new for fans.

The draw of the limited edition for many will be the bonus CD of exclusive arrangements. The first track on the disc is “The Zodiac Age (Music Box Arrangement)”, which mainly focuses on the main motif of the game without the many permutations of the original. Thankfully, the title of the arrangement is only indicative of the opening section, as the track quickly evolves past its music box intro (complete with wind-up sounds) to surprisingly include electronica elements by Yukinori Kikuchi. It’s a big departure from the original but is a lot of fun and works very well. The arrangement treads water a bit in its second half, but the accompaniment figures are new, and as a whole it makes a big impression.

Next up is “The Dalmasca Estersand (Folk Music Arrangement)”, which still retains the larger orchestral sounds of the original as support, but places various folk instruments at the fore. Aside from the introduction, the track follows the original fairly closely, so it just feels like a minor adjustment; it would have been more notable if the track was a bit longer and perhaps incorporated new solos from the folk instruments. In a similar vein in terms of using folk sounds is “Training in the Sewers (Acoustic Arrangement)”, but this one is more intimate in scale and diverges much more from its original in style. Notably it spreads out the rhythm of the melody, and introduces some variations. The gentle sway and the folksy feel is very well suited to the track, and I especially like the stripping down to the quieter closing.

There is a solo piano arrangement on the album: “The Barheim Passage”. Rather than taking the slow-build route of the original, the piano starts off forcefully but still shows restraint with its damped phrases. It is only after its quieter legato interlude that the notes and chords are more sustained, and I’m impressed at how much emotion Watanabe is able to put into the track in this later part, given how the original’s track did not have that focus. I would have liked the track to be a bit longer to develop some of the ideas more, but it’s a solid arrangement.

On the grander scale, there is “The Archadian Empire (Military Band Arrangement)”. The stylings are a natural fit for the track, given that the original was militaristic in tone, albeit orchestral. But this means that as a whole it is a rather unimaginative arrangement, despite some neat aspects like the harpsichord, especially given the impressive range of variations that the theme had received on the original soundtrack. It might have been more successful if it was at least played by a proper live band, but as it is it lacks power and real novelty. “Ashe’s Theme (Cinematic Arrangement)” has a similar issue, since the original was already quite cinematic. But this version does cut back on a few elements, so that the remaining parts stand out more, which I think helps since the original was an overly complex track. Although it also adds its own short new motif, this serves to give the track even more unity.

Summary

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack Limited Edition is a bit of a tough sell. Although the main disc that features the re-recorded Final Fantasy XII score is quite good, the bonus disc is just alright and probably will not justify the extra cost of the limited edition of the soundtrack for many. The bonus arrangements are by no means bad and offer some novelty where the main disc does not, but only half of the tracks have interesting arrangements, and as a whole they are quite short, being around two or three minutes, the entire disc clocking in at just 17 minutes. While this means the arrangements are concise, some of them could definitely have used more elaboration and development. Devout fans already putting money towards a physical edition of the soundtrack will perhaps be satisfied with the bonus disc (since the standard Blu-ray is not cheap either), and it helps that the limited edition has nicer packaging than the standard edition, but others will likely find that they are happy enough with the either the physical or digital standard edition.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Original Soundtrack Limited Edition Tien Hoang

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!

3.5


Posted on June 27, 2020 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on June 27, 2020.

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