Final Fantasy IV -Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption-
Final Fantasy IV -Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption-
July 19, 2009
Download at OverClocked Remix
OverClocked ReMix is one of the better known arrangement communities on the Internet, and some of its most reknowned artists have again come together to bring us Final Fantasy IV-Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption-. Based upon Square Enix’s Final Fantasy IV (originally Final Fantasy II in the US), the project’s ambitious stated goal is to tell the story of the game through the music. While the album does indeed contain some good music, the storytelling part regrettably falls short, mostly as a result of weaknesses in key tracks that are a vital part of any story.
Since the album is free to download, I’ll let the reader explore the intricies of the album rather than bore everyone with a lengthy list of each track. There are, however, a few tracks that are worth pointing out because they are stellar examples of how far the free game music arrangement community has come in the last decade.
One of the most impressive tracks of this massive 46 track album is “Rhymes with Elixir”. Anyone who has played any Final Fantasy game will easily recognize the trademark “Chocobo Theme” that is present through this hip-hop rendition of the already catchy theme. All it took was for Liontamer (Larry Orj) and The Scuba Divers to transform it into a minor key. Lower these two notes on the scale, add a whole lot of bass, insert some rapping, and you’ve got a song that quite literally is a hit that could be played on the radio. I’m not kidding with this one. The production is so well done that it sounds as good as anything that’s on top 40 today, and Orj, the announcer at the beginning of the track, obviously took his time writing exactly what he was going to say and recording tens or hundreds of takes to get the various parts right. Part of the reason this song works is also because it keeps the lyrics light instead of “corny,” as so many video game songs often end up being. If you really listen to what’s being said (and that’s hard because this is the one track where there’s a lot going on), you’ll probably find that the words are hilarious.
Perhaps the high point of the collection is “Fallen Dragoon”. The song features what appears to be a live cello solo, and while my background as a violinist might make me partial to this track more than the metal-oriented tracks, it was performed beautifully. I practiced for many years, but my screetching was not able to approach anything like the vibrato in this solo. The artist obviously took the final boss theme from The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time as an influence to this work. However, as is common throughout Echoes, the track is just short of greatness, because the two minutes of synthesizer work preceding the cello solo is mediocre at best.
One of the common threads about Overclocked albums is that all of them advertise a “story” or a “build up” towards a finale, which is usually the final boss theme. I like this idea — personally, I think that the final boss theme is the most important work in a game soundtrack. Several games I’ve played, like Chrono Cross, have poor or no final boss themes, and a game can be ruined by such a letdown. I was extremely disappointed in the way that the final boss theme, here renamed “Genesis of Destruction”, was rendered in Echoes. The remix certainly contains quite a few elements of greatness (the completely out-of-control death metal portions come to mind), but the female vocals simply do not fit the music. The lyrics (about the traditional fare of saving the world), unlike those in “Rhymes with Elixir,” come out as forced and corny, and prevent the song from achieving the orchestral, climactic feel that has made other Uematsu classics, like “One Winged Angel,” so popular. All in all, the Black Mages’ version of the Zeromus battle theme is superior to “Genesis of Destruction”.
Time and time again throughout this extensive work, tracks always come up just short of being great. I found myself continually frustrated at how a song that started out sounding like it was going to be a video game arrangement classic squandered its potential by taking what seemed to be the wrong direction. Sometimes, the tracks were too long. Othertimes, the focus of the song shifted to the wrong instruments or melodies. In other cases, artists tried to introduce too many elements into the music and wound up confusing the listener instead of creating an epic feel.
The origin of these problems may lie in the nature of the source material. The original soundtrack for Final Fantasy IV is not one of Uematsu’s most diverse works and the remixed work is longer than the original soundtrack. While some might argue that the increase in length is a result of adding material through reinterpretation, the original soundtrack already contained repetitive themes, and the artists involved in the Echoes project often appear to be reaching for inspiration. The first five tracks on the first disc, for example, are all arrangements of the “Main Theme”. All are good by themselves, but as part of an album, the listener just wants to move on to the next piece.
With a few exceptions, every remix on this album is pretty good. But only one track, “Rhymes with Elixir”, really reaches the level of being great, instead of just good. That’s since the source material is so limited and because so much material is repeated, padded for length, or is already present in other songs in this project. This album could have been better if it had been shortened to two discs instead of three, with the redundant tracks left out or shortened. The listener will probably be pleased if they listened to any one track alone, but this album sounds more like a random collection of Final Fantasy IV music than a creative work that tells a coherent story.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Stephen Sokolowski. Last modified on January 19, 2016.