Final Fantasy XIII Original Sound Selection
Final Fantasy XIII Original Sound Selection
March 9, 2010
Buy Used Copy
As many fans of the Final Fantasy series are aware, much of the music of the main series that most people have fallen in love with has been composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Since his departure, a couple of composers have tried to fill the void left in his wake, most recently Masashi Hamauzu on Final Fantasy XIII. The composer largely succeeded in making the Final Fantasy series his own, while still offering a melodic and emotional focus. Among the many releases related to Final Fantasy XIII‘s music was the Final Fantasy XIII Original Sound Selection, a ten track disc packaged with the Limited Collector’s Edition of the game. Hamauzu selected a number of excellent tracks for the game, but it is still only a sampling of the full score…
The album opens in a cinematic manner with “Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII”. It slowly builds up in an ethereal yet militaristic manner, as the opening cinematic contrasts the beautiful colours of the world Pulse with the incoming flying machinery. Though initially subtle, the composition soon unveils a fantastical primary theme of the game at the 1:30, before returning to ambience. The main theme for Final Fantasy XIII, “The Promise”, is a soft and contemplative composition. It’s a wandering piano, woodwind, and violin performance that shows the delicate and beautiful soundscapes that Hamauzu is able to create. “Promised Eternity”, meanwhile, provides my much-desired dose of piano and string interplay. These instruments often appeal to me and, thanks to the exquisite arrangement, their use is especially poignant here. I can’t get enough of it really.
Final Fantasy XIII has a very colourful and warm soundtrack, and this is particularly reflected by the themes for the locales. While there aren’t any towns in this game, amazingly enough, there are quite a few area themes, some of which are featured in this selection. “The Vestige” showcases Hamauzu’s strengths at composing exquisite area themes and is immediately reminiscent of “Besaid Island” from Final Fantasy X. The combination of ethereal vocals, beautiful piano wanderings, and tranquil electronic accompaniment ensures a simply magical soundscape. I thought “Besaid Island” was good, but nothing great, yet this one really impressed me. The other setting theme, “Lake Bresha”, inspires imagery of a frozen lake, thanks to a combination of Masashi Hamauzu’s icy soundscaping and Keiji Kawamori’s expert synthesis.
Hamauzu offers a more impacting theme with “Defiers of Fate”, previously featured in the trailers for the game. A combination of electronic, rock, and orchestral elements, it’s the product of a collaboration between Mitsuto Suzuki, Ryo Yamazaki, and, of course, Hamauzu. It actually opens and ends with electronic elements, yet the meat of the theme is orchestral in nature with some gritty bass backing. The orchestral theme carries the motif of the main theme, “The Promise,” that is reprised throughout the soundtrack. The theme returns in the normal battle theme, “Blinded by Light”. It’s a powerful and energetic arrangement dominated by thrashing guitars and dense percussion work. However, Hijiri Kuwano’s solo violin performance still ensures an underlying beauty still radiates through the action. It’s a shame it’s so short before the loop, but considering how quick the battles can be, I can see why the decision to keep the final version rather short.
Several other battle themes are also major highlights here. The normal boss music “Saber’s Edge” is classic Hamauzu through-and-through. It has a very heroic nature to it thanks to the bright nationalistic orchestration. However, the dissonant descending piano clusters and edgy militaristic percussion rhythms continue to give the theme a sense of underlying danger. The ominous section prior to the loop is also expertly implemented. “Eidolons” meanwhile is the battle theme playing during the encounters with summons. The percussion in the theme is extremely powerful and, when combined with the electrorock elements of the bass line, serves to accentuate the urgency of the battle; this is especially effective in context, given there is a time limit — and not a particularly forgiving one — in these battles. Although it’s not melodically focused, this theme really manages to capture the dire situation the characters are faced with.
Overall, the Final Fantasy XIII Original Sound Selection provides a good insight into the thematic and stylistic basis of the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack. There are several extremely exquisite tracks here, particularly among the area and battle tracks, both electro-acoustic and orchestral. That said, despite being an excellent selection, this release does not compensate for owning the full soundtrack — featuring over four hours of music rather than a mere 28 minutes — and still omits many significant themes. It is nevertheless a welcome bonus with the Limited Collector’s Edition of the game and a good introduction to Masashi Hamauzu’s magnum opus.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.