Final Fantasy -Brave Exvius- Original Soundtrack
Final Fantasy -Brave Exvius- Original Soundtrack
February 26, 2016
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Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is the latest in a growing collection of free-to-play mobile games based on/in the Final Fantasy universe. One of the best things about the Brave Exvius OST is that this 2-disc soundtrack is almost entirely original compositions by Noriyasu Agematsu; he also handles arrangements of the four original Nobuo Uematsu compositions.
Like the game itself, the OST is quite ambitious in its scope and size. It maintains a lean approach to song structure, keeping most tracks right around the 2 minute mark, which cuts down on looping. Including a mix of high-energy orchestrated tracks, slower ballads, and outright rock’n’roll cuts, the Brave Exvius OST is poised to make waves.
The game’s opening track, “Moment of Recall,” paints a distinct outline of the thematic, motif-driven tracks of Final Fantasies past. While you won’t hear any overtly recycled themes, the compositional structure and orchestration are classic Final Fantasy to a T, skirting the line between ballad and overture. The track opens with a memorable melody in a minor key on piano, which sits atop harp-like rolling chords and makes use of supporting strings and deep-octave bass to create tension and gravitas. The melody isn’t as memorable as “To Zanarkand,” but it’s evocative of that classic track from Final Fantasy X nonetheless.
With “To the Horizon,” we’re given a much more boisterous, overworld-like theme full of grand brass and trilling winds. It’s a track full of hope and promising a heady adventure to come. The next track, “Into the Labyrinth,” shifts tonal gears into more apprehensive territory, though Final Fantasy fans will appreciate the familiar seventh-chord arpeggio that floats through the background. “DUEL!!” is just what you’d expect: a very Final Fantasy take on a battle theme, mixing more traditional orchestrated elements with subtle synth work to create a tapestry of tense but hopeful fightin’ music. “Victory’s Fanfare” comprises one of Uematsu’s credits on the album, as it’s an almost exact duplicate of the victory music from past Final Fantasy entries.
With “Peaceful Village,” the tension and momentum of the music is washed away by peaceful flutes and thrumming strings, giving the listener a respite from the recent battle/victory segment, while “Not of This World” takes a more ambient approach, leaning heavily on MIDI instruments to create a spacious and spacy atmosphere that builds and falls away repeatedly. The orchestration returns in full force on “Rain in Forest,” which I think is one of the highlights of Disc 1. Including a sweeping violin that trades melodies with a spanish guitar, galloping piano rhythm, and harmonic minor mode leanings, it’s an atmospheric track bolstered by smart shifts between exciting melodic phrases and loose, fermata-heavy refrains. Likewise, “The Ancient Life” takes a sparse approach to instrumentation, implementing blue-note inflected strings that dance over stately brass, creating a subdued but nevertheless hopeful, swelling air of emotion. “The Initiation” takes cues from cinematic and film scores, painting a picture of a noble, ritualistic process via full string, brass, and timpanic percussion orchestration that describe simple but memorable call-and-response melodies over somewhat predictable major-key harmonic structures. This track is right in line with classic Final Fantasy—but it’s not terribly memorable.
Another Disc 1 highlight is “Monument Valley,” which leans on electronic rhythm to add some zest and flair to the now well-worn interplay between rumbling brass and melodic strings. The occasional MIDI chirp and rock-forward drum set fills bring a welcome mix of classical and more pop-sensible musical elements that are sure to get some feet tapping. With “Supreme Mission,” we’re thrown back into darker, tenser, almost unpleasantly excited musical territory. A bass ostinato sets the stage for triplet-blasting horns, occasionally skirting into big band phrasing, with consistent but somewhat unimaginative string/wind doubling. “Devided We Fall” steps away from this overly excited tension, playing instead with sparser instrumentation that leans heavily on harmonic layering via bass pedal tones. This track is a bit repetitive and pensive, making no memorable melodic efforts. “The Emergency” amps the tension back up with a frantic, percussive orchestral tempo with lots of shared riffs between brass and strings.
With “Onslaught,” we take a dip into metal riffs that are doubled by strings, falling into overdriven rhythm guitars steeped in pinch harmonics and swelling treble bends. The rhythm plays a stop-and-go game, trading with strings and layering guitar solos over double pedal drums—it’s fitting to the title of the track. Following up, “The Suspicion” evokes a dark, troubled mood, appropriate to an unsolved mystery or outright suspicious situation, with industrial-sounding synths piping out breathy rings of sound over swelling but subdued string pads. The mood shifts again with “Walkabout,” a gentle, guitar-and-flute centric piece that combines pleasant fingerpicking and melodic flute phrasing with strings and light, shaker percussion. It’s much sweeter fare than a lot of the music to come so far. However, we’re back into battle tension with “Overcome the Menace,” a hopeful-sounding and cinematic piece that’s unfortunately a bit more repetitive than is ideal for a track that’s already fairly short.
With “Tree of Tales,” track 19, we’re treated to yet another emotive, orchestra-drenched overture with plenty of cadential phrasing and swelling dynamics. It’s a lovely piece in its own right, but after almost twenty tracks the efficacy of the instrumentation is starting to wear a bit then. Fortunately, “One more Dance?” makes a shift into three-step, chamber territory. It’s a plucky, melody-forward track that I could see playing over one of the more romantic cutscenes from a main Final Fantasy entry. To round out disc 1, Uematsu’s core composition makes a return with “Prelude,” the common overture/fanfare/Game Over screen music from almost every Final Fantasy to date. This arrangement maintains the hyper-familiar seventh-chord arpeggiation, but layers a harmonized vocal track and deep, rumbling brass to breathe new life into well-walked territory.
Like the first disc, Disc 2 opens with a fanfare-like, bombastic piece called “Great Voyage,” which reprises a very similar sound to Disc 1’s “To the Horizon” reiterating the “Prelude” music. “State of Grave” introduces pensive instrumentation with the same sweet string melodies over rhythmic piano used throughout much of the first disc. Following up, “The Oath” (which shares a title with a Final Fantasy VIII track, but is not the same song in the slightest) introduces a somewhat somber tone, again mixing flutes and strings over a harmonic section of static, consistent brass. “Snowdrop,” an early highlight on Disc 2, uses sparse bells, guitar picking, and subdued, airy vocals to evoke a wintery scene in the imagination. The fifth track, “Joie de Vivre,” is a laid back and gentle tune that’s reminiscent of the title screen from the Legend of Zelda series, with rolling major-seventh chords and dazzling piano beneath sawing, searching strings. “Mirage Palace” lives up to its name via modal structures and instrumental layering/rhythms evocative of a desert cathedral, leaning into sharp-seventh leading tones and displaced cadences to create pleasing tension.
The energy finally ramps back up with the spanish guitar inflected “Sacred Ground,” which mixes repeating choral swells and tight, erratic horn lines to great effect. And of course, what Final Fantasy OST would be complete without a chocobo song? Track eight, “Amigo de Chocobo,” should be immediately familiar, and is the third track accredited to Uematsu. The main theme is entirely whistled—Andy Griffith, eat your heart out. “Antiquities” takes a much more electronic approach than many of the other songs, featuring a much more synth- and drum/bass-forward soundscape almost entirely bereft of acoustic instrumentation, while “The Imperial Capital” moves into Stormtrooper-esque territory with a plodding, menacing rhythm line and deep, charged horn and timpani.
With “Shadow of Doubt,” we’re treated to a warm, spacious, and keyboard-layered track that meanders about a key without much semblance of purpose, but it doesn’t ever feel misguided. “Mystic Ruins” takes an islander approach to rhythm, stringing broken, treble piano melodies over palm percussion polyrhythm and—of course—layers of warm strings and winds, an almost constant staple of this OST. Things get spooky as we set sail on “The Ghostship,” an ominous track bolstered by a ghastly choir and minor-key piano that breaks into chromatic dropping basslines, lending a sense of falling and impending doom. With “Secrets in her Eyes,” a somewhat royal string melody floats over plinking harp and low, lush piano tones. It’s not an unpleasant track, but isn’t the most humworthy thing on the album, either.
“Nothing’s in Vain” is a highlight of Disc 2, bringing in restrained piano and airy, somewhat jazzy melodies that are picked up by a high, yearning violin. “Odyssey” jumps back into militaristic array with rhythmic snare rolls and flute swells, while “Force and Furious” boils harmony and melody into a stew of staccato horns, sharp drum hits, and a sassy string refrain. In “End is Nigh,” a dramatic and overwrought pipe organ leads the charge, filling the space with chaotic ostinatos and moving minor harmonies that play with fermata and refuse accompaniment from other instruments. It’s a memorable track, but may not be for everyone.
The drama comes to a head in “Celestial Battle,” which makes use of a wide array of instrumentation—piano, strings, horns, drum set, and a full choir—to create a bombastic and tense scene, setting the stage for the heroes’ final efforts. The penultimate follow-up, “Triumph of Destiny,” heralds their imminent victory with long, drawn-out major-fifth motions and crescendo fills that give way to reiterated themes, familiar harpic eighth note runs, and instrumental swells that sing of victory. Last but definitely not least for Final Fantasy fans, the closing track aptly dubbed “Final Fantasy” is a fresh arrangement of the classic “Main Theme of Final Fantasy.” It’s about what you’d expect—choir, bells, warm sawing strings, and serious brass—but is nevertheless respectful of the original material while standing on the shoulders of Agematsu’s preferred instrumental ensembles.
Taken in direct comparison to the main Final Fantasy games, the Final Fantasy Brave Exvius OST would fall a little short. This 42-track entry has strong moments—especially the opening track “Moment of Recall,” which is just about on par with the major themes of the main series games. However, there’s a lot more fluff here than is preferable: Memorable moments are outpaced, if only a bit, by emotive but nevertheless forgettable tunes. It’s more than satisfying accompaniment for the game itself, but isn’t the greatest choice for standalone listening.
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Posted on October 22, 2016 by Lee Neikirk. Last modified on October 23, 2016.