Final Fantasy V Original Sound Version
Final Fantasy V Original Sound Version
N33D-013/4 (1st Edition); NTCP-5015/6 (2nd Edition)
December 7, 1992; October 1, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy V was the non-classic among the Super Nintendo era Final Fantasy games, underexposed to overseas fans, enjoyed but not loved by the Japanese audience. Its soundtrack is the least well-known of the Final Fantasy games of the 16-bit era and beyond largely due to the lack of popularity of the game itself. With Uematsu at its helm, a diverse, atmospheric, and, above all, melodic score was guaranteed. However, would it be especially original? Let’s find out…
The soundtrack delightfully opens with the main theme of Final Fantasy V, “Ahead on our Way”. The dreamy and fantastical melody is supported by a light rock accompaniment and some bold arpeggios, supporting the quaint title sequence that shows the game’s hero riding his chocobo. Unlike most other openers to the series, the intention here is to immediately charm the listener with a light-hearted melody rather than set a complex scene or provide an elaborate piece of cinematic underscoring. That task is left to “A Presentiment”, a 4:30 accompaniment to the opening sequence and, at that time, Uematsu’s most ambitious composition. The dynamic composition excellently sets the atmosphere for the various scenes during this sequence and finely transitions from its serene opening phrases to a dark chord-dominated body before concluding in a mysterious but uplifting manner with several references to the main theme. The arrangement of the main theme primarily used for gameplay is subsequently presented, “Four Valiant Hearts”. Concerned with unity and bravery, the melody is left unchanged, but the accompaniment makes it more akin to a march. After an obnoxious but fortunately brief hurry theme, the opening set of themes concludes with the only character theme on the soundtrack. “Lenna’s Theme” is similar to Final Fantasy IV‘s “Rydia” in the fragile sound it creates and even directly references its main motif. I feel it excels its predecessor due to the larger range of emotions it creates through the entrance of gushing string accompaniment and the transition into a section that references a theme now drilled in to the listener’s head, “Ahead on our Way”.
And indeed that’s how Final Fantasy V often sounds: a more elaborate but less original continuation of Final Fantasy IV‘s soundtrack. The town theme “Tenderness in the Heart” again unites a calming melody with suspended strings, but is more developed and memorable than “Welcome to Our Town”. The dungeon theme “Fate in Haze” replicates the same ideas of “Into the Darkness”, instiling haunting melodies into a graceful slow dance, while the airship’s melody is the classic blend of light rock and triumphant melodies. The battle theme omits the conventional Final Fantasy opening but retains the upbeat melodic qualities and distinct strophic structure of its predecessor. As for “The Fierce Battle”, it brings the usual crisis motifs, minor chord progressions, and thunderous quasi-orchestral accompaniment, though its erratic development section is at least original. What else? There’s the anticipated dark arrangement of the main theme in “Deception” as well as an frenetic rendition in “Run!”, but both are rather contrived since the theme was originally clearly intended to create jubilance and hence isn’t exactly durable. There’s also the obligatory ‘off-the-wall’ theme “What?”, but it’s actually only really creative for its incorporation of cow noises. There are, of course, other trademarks like the “Victory Fanfare”, the Chocobo theme in a neat mambo arrangement, and, in the ending segments, the “Final Fantasy” main theme and “Prelude”. However, the soundtrack relies on these less than Final Fantasy IV, Uematsu confident that the Super Nintendo audience is familiar enough with them not to require them as central compositions.
The soundtrack still achieves a sound of its own. If anything, I’d describe it as a sentimental soundtrack, due to the emphasis on the experiences of the four main characters. Like “Four Valiant Hearts”, there are several marches concerned with companionship. “Walking the Snowy Mountains” is the gem among Uematsu’s ‘scale the mountain’ themes, featuring a jubilant melody and some eccentricities in the development accompanied by the soundtrack’s trademark light rock drum rolls. Familiar chord progressions and musicianship are evident in “The Fire-Powered Ship”, “The Four Warriors of Dawn”, and “Royal Palace”, but they differ with their respective militaristic, Asian, and regal flavours. Also of note is “The Castle of Dawn”; from a fanfare introduction later used in Final Fantasy IX, it transitions into an enchanting but resolute march with a superb chord progression just before it loops. But by sentimental, I was principally referring to the soft contemplative themes like Lenna’s. “As I Feel, You Feel” smoothly layers a selection of forces upon a single longing motif to achieve a gorgeous sound while the more fragmented “Music Box” feels tragically tinged despite its innocent exterior. “Nostalgia” and “The Day Will Come” convincingly arrange “Lenna’s Theme” and “Ahead on our Way” to achieve a sorrowful sound, but subtly differ so they can fit alternative circumstances. The falling melody of “Reminiscence” portrays tears while the minimalist accompaniment and fragmented synth vocals represent a faded memory. The greatest classic among these themes, however, is “My Home, Sweet Home”. Its amazing how many emotions Uematsu can portray in the treatment of one simple melody.
The soundtrack has a diverse bunch of themes not already discussed. Foremost among them is “Battle with Gilgamesh”, better known as “Clash on the Big Bridge”. The soundtrack is worth a purchase for this piece alone; its melodies are gold and its superbly implemented in all other respects ensuring an amazing and very fun battle theme. Another really interesting piece is “Musica Machina”, which combines a dissonant melody with meticulously programmed industrial percussion and some weird synth sounds. Though it sounds horrible in theory, the result is delicious because it’s so rhythmically compelling. The portrayal of the villain, “The Evil Lord Exdeath”, is unbelievably clichéd — with Psycho-esque strings, an amusing rock beat, and, of course, a classic chord progression of villainry. A similar flavour is maintained in “Exdeath’s Castle” and “The Ancient Library”, but these pieces are more melody-focused. While sometimes lacking coherency, “Sealed Away”, “Cursed Earth”, and “Unknown Lands” are more musically exuberant themes that a dark tinge. On to the more lively pieces, “Harvest” is a goofy town theme in which Uematsu experiments with a Celtic style, while the melody of “The Dragon Spreads Its Wings” breathtakingly soars against its light rock accompaniment to secure another classic. And let’s not ignore two other great melodies, that of “Pirate’s Ahoy” and the first rendition of the ever charming moogle theme, “Cripper Tripper Fritter”. The rousing parody “Waltz Clavier” forms the backdrop of a series of ‘piano lesson’ tracks at the end of the soundtrack. It’s cute seeing how the gamer progresses from jumbled renditions of scales to intepreting pieces such as Rondo alla Turca within these eight brief tracks.
Moving on to the final portion of the soundtrack, it begins its intensification towards the climax with the ethereal but ghostly “A Land Unknown”. The tribal “The Book of Sealings” and spine-tingling “Intentions of the Earth” maintain the atmosphere through familiar Uematsu chord progressions. “The Prelude of Empty Skies” is an experimental effort that parallels Final Fantasy IV‘s last dungeon themes in creativity and multifaceted character. Unusually, the weakness here is the rather repetitive melody, damaging the amazing atmosphere created by the lush chords and novel synth use in the accompaniment. A final march, “Searching the Light”, leads the party right into the last battle in a real feel good moment; given the sentimental flavour of the game, it was a wise choice to portray the heroes rather than the villain before the final encounter. However, rest assured that there is no shortage of villainry in “The Decisive Battle”. An atmospheric descending glissando from the introduction leads into the first of several fast-paced percussion- and chord-dominated sections. The erratic composition reaches its dramatic climax after a brief anthemic moment around the 2:02 mark leaving one confused but in awe of the development that preceded. Those after a catchy rock-based effort ought not be disappointed, however, for “The Last Battle” is on par with its Final Fantasy IV predecessor. As for the ending themes, “The Silent Beyond” initially reflects the ambient leftovers of the final battle but eventually blooms into an interesting composition, while “Dear Friends” reconciles the sentimental feel of the game with an original melody worth cherishing. “The New Origin” mixes welcome reprises with plenty of original music to create a jubilant end to the soundtrack over its 8:16 playtime.
Overall, the Final Fantasy V Original Sound Version is an enjoyable album with no shortage of excellent melodies. Uematsu crafts a diverse but familiar soundtrack bonded by a couple of more ambitious efforts, “A Premonition” and “The New Origin”. While it lacks as many popular tunes as other Final Fantasy soundtracks, the melodies of “Ahead on our Way”, “The Dragon Spreads Its Wings”, “Battle with Gilgamesh”, “My Home, Sweet Home”, “As I Feel, You Feel”, and “Dear Friends” ensure they have remained the top of many Final Fantasy fan’s playlists. The rest of the pieces tend to good efforts and almost always functionally successfully, though weaknesses here are the ugly hurry music and the laughable villain-related themes. It wasn’t a revolutionary effort like those for the landmark games 1st, 4th, and 6th games in the series, demonstrating more continuity than change with Final Fantasy IV. Nevertheless, it is a fine work with some individual character thanks to the themes concerned with friendship and some of the tracks around the climax. Overall, it is a highly recommended purchase for those who enjoy Nobuo Uematsu’s music, both for the highlights and the consistency.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.