Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version
Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version
PSCN-5001/3 (1st Edition); NTCP-5001/3 (2nd Edition)
March 25, 1994; October 1, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
The Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version is undoubtedly the most consistent Final Fantasy soundtrack and perhaps also the most enjoyable. Outstanding themes are abundant, there is near-perfect musical interpretation of the game’s artistic images, and some of the warmest melodies in any game soundtrack feature here. It was the completion of a game music revolution that was initiated by Nobuo Uematsu’s previous Final Fantasy efforts and saw N Generation Final Fantasy at its very finest. Stretching 16-bit sound quality and the SNES’ limited hardware capacity considerably, the album features three discs of memorable themes that mostly develop fully without losing the listener’s interest, are always appropriately emotional, and occasionally have highly experimental leanings. Nobuo Uematsu has a fine way of communicating with mainstream audiences through his highly accessible music and this soundtrack exemplifies this talent more than any other work.
It would be fitting to begin the core of this review by discussing just how fantastic the “Opening Theme” is. A dark imposing organ solo is used to introduce this theme; while not all that enjoyable, it sets the scene for the soundtrack well and introduces a crisis motif that recurs during the game’s biggest turning point. From this gloomy setting, the piece transitions to the soundtrack’s unforgettable main theme. The elegance and depth of the theme’s simple yet endearing flute melody emphasises more than any other Uematsu theme that nothing overblown or musically remarkable is required to create enormous impact. This piece recurs in the overworld theme “Tina”, which pleases me less since its quite harmonically dull, though this hasn’t stopped it from gaining many fans, even Jeremy Soule. I vastly prefer “Awakening”, a reflective and refreshing theme on slow strings.
The colourful world initially presented in Final Fantasy VI is finely complemented by Uematsu’s music. If you’re planning to make an ascent, expect “Mount Kolts” to adventurously accompany your journey. Be mesmerised by the haunting wails of “Another World of Beasts” as you travel deep into one of the game’s many caves. Enjoy the compelling string ostinati of “The Snake Path” as you explore underwater chasms. Mystical forests feature ghostly neo-romantic melodies gushing from a chromatic motif, the wild plains of the Veldt features infectious rumba rhythms, and the mines of Narshe are intriguingly interpreted in a jazz-based track based solely on diminished chord progressions. There’s even an excellent variation of the funeral march for game’s ghost train. Travelling underwater is made more compelling by the dynamic string ostinato of “The Snake Path”, while “Mystery Train” . While there aren’t too many town themes on the soundtrack, “Kid Runs Through the City Corner” does a good job as obligatory classical theme with a serene melody. And then there’s quirky themes like the jazz parody “Johnny C. Bad” for the inns of the game, a touch of ragtime for the opera house in “Spinach Rag”, and the similarly styled “Slam Shuffle” for the eerie Zozo. If nothing else fits a particular location, Uematsu created some off-the-wall percussive minimalism in “??” that works surprisingly well in the game.
One of the main attractions of this soundtrack are the unforgettable character themes and their arrangements. “Locke” and “Setzer” both feature gliding melodies and grand orchestration that represent their free-spirited and adventurous nature. Their respective arrangements, “Forever Rachel” and “Epitaph,” undergo a transformation from happy-go-lucky to sombre and fragile, describing the stories of both character’s long lost loves. “Edgar and Mash,” is pompous and overstated with its regal brass fanfares, though expresses beauty in its development section; the theme is arranged for the reflective “Coin Song”, where its sensitive undertones are emphasised by light instrumental contrasts and a slow tempo. “Cayenne” largely echoes “Edgar and Sabin” given it is also used in a castle centre, but has a more folky and melancholy feeling overall. The thoughtful whistled melodies of “Shadow” radiate against guitar strumming to reflect a distant lone wolf with inner warmth, while “Gau” is equally psychologically inclined, offering a melancholic ‘cello solo to demonstrate the depth of an otherwise wild and brash character. Other offerings include the dreamy bagpipe-infused “Relm”, the zany percussive “Stragus”, the irresistible but enigmatic “Gogo”, and the delightful but underrated “Umaro”. Also, the theme of the moogles makes a welcome return, accompanying the obligatory reprises of the Chocobo theme, Victory Fanfare, and the Prelude.
‘Where is “Celes”?’ I hear you cry. Ahh yes, the enigmatic Celes — opened by a passionate array of arpeggios, her theme turns out restrained and fragile on tuned percussion after all… as if Uematsu wanted us to wait before fleshing out the theme properly. It is far more significant in its arranged form in the soundtrack’s crowning achievement, the famous opera sequence. With the stage perfectly set by its instrumental version a few tracks earlier and a romantic and multifaceted “Overture”, “Celes” reappears in a gushing vocal arrangement, “Aria Di Mezzo Carattere”. While the 16-bit synth vocals employed are jarring, the inner beauty of the melody of this theme is easily appreciable and the luscious orchestration enhances the drama of the focal point. The opera sequence has two other excellent movements. “The Wedding Waltz” is often overlooked thanks to the marvel that precedes it, but is still highly creditable. It transforms well from its opening as a light Neo-Classical waltz into an action-packed track that is ideal for leading into the following track. The fast-paced and timpani-mad “Grand Finale?” is a fun battle theme to finish and provides a perfect end to a perfect sequence. For those unable to appreciate the opera how it is presented, check out Game Music Concert 4 ~Live Best Selection~ for a complete orchestral arrangement.
While Final Fantasy VI has one of the most colourful RPG tracks, many of its themes are concerned with representing darkness. The villain’s theme “Kefka” opens with a misleadingly cute and playful melody, but is nevertheless unsettling due to the minimal harmonies; the theme soon exposes Kefka to be a war-mongering sadistic maniac, presenting the strongest imagery of all the character themes. Most of the other significant themes use a recurring leitmotif. “Troops March On” presents the imperial army’s unforgettable theme with militaristic pomp. The theme recurs in “Martial Law”, an Asian-themed town theme to represent imperial occupation, and “The Empire Gestahl”, an epic but minimalistic piece that helps to drive the first half of the game towards its climax. The theme of “Tina” is also cleverly integrated into the action-packed “Metamorphosis” and “Save Them” for storyline reasons; here the chord progressions become augmented due to a classic tension-building device while the pace and harmonies are manic. The only cue more epic than Gestahl’s is “Catastrophe”, which reuses the organ melody heard back in the “Opening Theme” to represent the world’s dire fate. The changed world is represented in the new overworld theme “Dark World”, which represents a hostile world with its organ line and wind sound effects. Other themes associated with the darker portion of the game are the outrageously experimental “New Continent”, the downtrodden town theme “The Day After”, the oppressive choral-based “Fanatics”, a sentimental airship theme, and probably Uematsu’s finest ‘last dungeon’ theme.
The classical quartet of battle themes returns here. The normal battle music is as catchy and rhythmically compelling as ever, excellently punctuated by some descending Phrygian runs to give a dab of Spanish flair. The boss battle music is a crisp synth-rock theme that both jabs and entertains the listener. More bodacious is “The Fierce Battle,” another unconventional theme with a super organ melody. Talking of organs, the final enormous boss theme “Dancing Mad” uses the instrument exclusively creating a wonderful creation. The first three tiers are full of tension and excitement while the final showdown theme is truly climatic with its striking melodies and sense of hope and sadness. “Ending Theme” is even more gargantuan and is actually Uematsu’s longest ever theme, amounting to 21 minutes 35 seconds in length. The first eleven minutes feature arrangements of every single one of the character themes. Each arrangement corresponds to the scenes in the game carefully while being original and well-executed musically. They all progress into one another perfectly and are centred around a single original motif that provides stylistic consistency. The second half of this track is dominated by an incredible, grandiose arrangement of “Setzer’s Theme” that far surpasses the original with its bombastic tones and high-spirited liveliness. The revival of the famous “Final Fantasy” theme as the credits roll is very welcome and the theme is topped off once more by the soundtrack’s spectacular coda!
So there it is: the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version, one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time. Original, groundbreaking, engaging, and unforgettable, what more could one ask for? Rest assured that by buying the soundtrack, it’ll give countless hours of wonderful listening and be a treasure to one’s music collection.
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.