Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack
|Album Title:Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack|
DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (2nd Edition)
March 10, 1999; May 10, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
There’s no denying that the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack features some strong and memorable tracks. Rather than just composing pieces suiting a game environment, Nobuo Uematsu, responsible for all of the original compositions, integrates a story of love and war within these four discs. He uses an amazing tactic that I have only ever seen done so successfully within this album by integrating several main melodies into a variety of pieces, yet avoiding blatancy in doing so. This careful intertwining of the soundtrack’s thematic material makes the album complete in a sense that it tells a story, rather than just giving life to the game. In my opinion, the game actually gives life and motion to the music, as well as an appearance.
Let’s start with the highlights of the album. Although found on Disc Three, I must start with the vocal track that is the basis for a lot on the album. The “Eyes on Me” melody can be found through out the whole soundtrack, the love theme for Final Fantasy VIII. Arguably the best vocal composition created by Uematsu and certainly the most influential, “Eyes on Me” received the Song of the Year (Western Music) award at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1999, and for good reason. It has a unique instrument arrangement (not quite rock, not quite pop), credited to Shiro Hamaguchi, with powerful lyrics, credited to Kako Someya, that are Final Fantasy VIII. However, it’s the melody and absolutely stunning vocals from Faye Wong where this song really shines. Uematsu represents the whole aspect of love in the album with “Eyes on Me,” and both the subject matter and its musical interpretation is a big part of Final Fantasy VIII. Moving on to the first track, “Liberi Fatali.” This orchestrated piece can be considered one of Nobuo’s best; yep, this man has written a lot of music and the first thing you’ll hear in Final Fantasy VIII and on its soundtrack is one of his best. I can hype it up for you until the cows come home, but it’s one of those themes you just have to hear for yourself. It’s three minutes of powerful, emotional, orchestrated music, complete with Latin vocals; it fits the opening FMV like a glove and works just as well as a stand-alone piece.
Now that I’ve covered the highlights of the album lets get down all the rest. The first disc has tracks that appear quite a lot in Final Fantasy VIII, not just the beginning. Some you’ll love for the sheer fact they grew on you, such as the serene “Balamb Garden,” and others you’ll despise for their repetitiveness, such as “Shuffle or Boogie,” used in the game’s card minigame. Several hidden gems are featured that are pleasant contrast to the more typical tracks like the battle music and victory fanfare. “Julia,” for example, is a beautiful, simplistic piano solo version of “Eyes on Me,” and it is quite unfortunate you hear it only once within Final Fantasy VIII. Another track here I thought was completely underrated was “Find Your Way.” It’s your standard eerie cave music, yet within it lies a sound of hope and despair. It’s worth a listen just to hear the many different emotions it portrays, or how many different environments it could have portrayed, though is never used in especially notable places in the game.
Shall we move onto those that are used often? Yes, the battle and traveling themes never get old, unless they’re bad to begin with. “Blue Fields” is the graceful music you hear wondering aimlessly on the world map, and, though often criticised, it’s a beautiful piece. The plucked strings creates a great atmosphere for traveling. However, you will be interrupted inevitable a thousand times by the trademark battle music, and the dreamy soothing music will stop for an adrenaline-pumping piece, “Don’t Be Afraid”. Uematsu is well-known for creating excellent battle tracks, and this one doesn’t quite disappoint, but is nothing groundbreaking, merely a mediocre theme that makes you ready to fight. To make up for this, Uematsu composes and excellent boss battle track, “Force Your Way.” This piece has the atmosphere a good battle track needs plus a strong melody. It’s worth a listen since, like a few other tracks, it doesn’t get played as much as you’d wish in the game. To close the first disc I’d like to point out “Waltz For The Moon,” a beautiful waltz that Uematsu should be proud of. However — those who have played the game knew this is coming — “Waltz For The Moon” is played only once in a key gameplay sequence. Am I seeing a pattern…?
The majority of Disc Two contains “witchy dark” and “going to war” music. This isn’t a bad thing, though. “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” is a notable piece. Here, Uematsu uses a combination of drums, strings, and female chants to create a respectable, creepy circus-like theme. I use the word respectable because these kinds of pieces are often corny and unoriginal. “The Stage is Set,” on the other hand, is a buoyant march that is catchy yet effective, integrating the same sorcery theme but within an action framework. Towards the end of the disc we’re treated to some soft emotional tracks to reflect the love in the game’s solid love and war theme. “Ami,” in particular, is a relaxing, yet familiar piece. This is what I was talking about with integrated themes, as it appears in many other pieces on the soundtrack in subtle incarnations; Nobuo composed Final Fantasy VIII is a very unique way I wish I saw more often.
Now lets get to Disc Three, shall we? Here you will hear a few memorable pieces, and a few that are not. Skipping straight to track seven, one of the most strongest compositions Uematsu’s made on this whole album, with “Fisherman’s Horizon.” Here, he uses an electric piano so start the start the calming melody, followed by the pan flute and harmonica that really emphasize the beauty. Its hard not to skip one through six to be honest on Disc Three, though! Following “Fisherman’s Horizon,” there is a simple, yet fun, arrangement of the classical Chocobo theme, “Odeka de Chocobo,” sometimes called “Odeka ke Chocobo.” Even more fun is the fast and jazzy piano piece “Slide Show Part 2,” which is definitely worth a listen since you only hear it once in the game. Continuing to explore the ongoing yet compelling love theme on disc three your treated to “The Oath,” “Love Grows,” and “Where I Belong,” all of which are worth your attention. We end here Disc Three with the famous “Eyes on Me”, which I elaborated on at the beginning of this review, the pinnacle of the love theme after all the development throughout the disc previously.
It’s time to cover my favorite disc on the whole album: the fourth. We open with Final Fantasy VIII‘s official chocobo theme, “Mods De Chocobo.” Led by the organ and a fast beat, it doesn’t disappoint, even with its unexpected synth vocal use. Moving on, you’ll hear a few suspense and “your time has come” kind of themes. Examples are “Lunatic Pandora,” with its unique instrumental choices, “Compression of Time,” with its strange yet effective combination of brass, strings, and synths, and “The Castle,” with its powerful organ melody and sense of progression. Drawing to a close, there are a few underrated final battle tracks. Only hearing these once in the game (surprised?) you may not have as much respect for them as you would the rest of the album. However, they are quite good and deserve to be heard a second time. The “Ending Theme” is a whopping 13:20 with the middle portion occupied by Faye Wong and the memorable “Eyes on Me” lyrics. The rest is pretty much an epic orchestral score that you would expect from one of Nobuo’s ending themes.
Final Fantasy VIII‘s soundtrack is yet another one of Nobuo Uematsu’s milestones. As stated numerous times, this album is an amazing combination of integrated themes made to tell a story of love and war. This is an amazingly strong album with few flaws. If you enjoyed Final Fantasy VIII there should be no hesitation in buying the Original Soundrack, as it seems to be the heart of the memorable and loveable game.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Black Mamba. Last modified on August 1, 2012.