Final Fantasy Legends -Warriors of Light and Darkness- Original Soundtrack

Final Fantasy Legends -Warriors of Light and Darkness- Original Soundtrack Album Title:
Final Fantasy Legends -Warriors of Light and Darkness- Original Soundtrack
Record Label:
Square Enix
Catalog No.:
Release Date:
August 8, 2011
Download at iTunes


Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy scores of the Super Nintendo era continue to be regarded as the upper echelon of game music by a certain type of listener. As a result, the soundtracks have inspired a number of imitations over the years, ranging from the independent 3D Dot Game Heroes, to Final Fantasy’s own The 4 Heroes of Light, to Uematsu’s own Sakura Note. However, none of these imitations have been as blatant as Final Fantasy Legends: Warriors of Light and Darkness. This episodic mobile spinoff was modelled off Final Fantasy V with its 2D graphics and retro gameplay. Naoshi Mizuta took things even further by offering 90 minutes of arrangements and imitations of Uematsu’s classics.


The album features several direct arrangements of Final Fantasy’s most iconic melodies. The harp arpeggios of the “Prelude” predictably open the score, while the brass fanfares of the “Final Fantasy” theme once again close it. Neither track is particularly elaborate in arrangement or synthesis, as intended, but they nicely teleport listeners back to the 16-bit era. The samples sound truly authentic in these pieces and set precedent for a very nostalgic score. Mizuta took more liberties in his latest rendition of the Chocobo theme, but it’s bound to be a select taste; for me at least, the funky bass and piano lines here sound more cringe-worthy than catchy. Further classic references are heard in the two chord bass line of the normal battle themes and, of course, there is a short but sweet rendition of the victory fanfare.

Moving to the original composition, the extent that Mizuta emulated Uematsu is often surprising. Just take the two normal battle themes, the dark world’s “The Sword That Tears Darkness” and the light world’s “The Sword That Emits Light”, with their punchy lyricism and rock influence. They could have easily been early prototypes written by Uematsu himself. Plenty of other Final Fantasy staples are here: a town theme featuring peaceful flute leads and gentle guitar arpeggios (“The Wind Blows Over My Hometown”), the cave track written with spooky synth in triple metre (“The Cave Where Demons Lurk”), and the rebel army march featuring bright melodies and military orchestration (“Avalon Empire”). But not all these emulations are welcome: “Critical Moment!” is just as repetitive and jarring as Uematsu’s worst hurry themes.

There are three key questions about this approach. First, are the emulations as memorable as the originals? While Mizuta has improved over the years, Mizuta isn’t as masterful a melodist as Uematsu, and just doesn’t seem to be able to let himself go as much. The aforementioned normal battle themes are attractive enough thanks to their melodic emphasis, but won’t have listeners humming like “Decisive Battle” did. The main theme — first introduced in the soothing overworld theme “Journey for the Light” — initially rips off “Theme of Love” before developing in a scalar manner that makes the melody sound somewhat obligatory. Its darker arrangement in “Fluctuating Darkness” sounds equally contrived. At least Mizuta often introduces distinctive secondary melodies — as he also did in Final Fantasy XI — to avoid labouring his melodies and this works especially well in the longer setting themes.

Secondly, are the emulations as effective as their originals? While the tracks are rarely memorable, they achieve exactly what is intended. Whether climbing a mountain in “Crossing the Summit”, exploring a quirky locale in “Valley of the Dwarves”, or gliding through the skies in “Abord the Ship to the Sky”, every track suits the location and never feels out-of-place — in part due to Mizuta’s adherence to Uematsu’s tried-and-tested approach. “Repressed Sadness” and “You Are Distant” take a more introspective approach, with slow nostalgic arrangements inspired by “Forever Rachel”, while “Happy Streets” and “Elfheim” are among those light-hearted pieces that inspire a smile the first few times. Even the climactic final battle themes, the anthemic rock piece “Imperator” and the heavy crisis orchestration “Inside the Swirl of Chaos”, deliver the goods. They don’t transcend the realms of Uematsu’s equivalents, but are entirely acceptable imitations.


Naoshi Mizuta is very successful at emulating Nobuo Uematsu’s classic sound on Final Fantasy Legends: The Warriors of Light and Darkness. He clearly carefully studied the scores from Final Fantasy’s SNES era to ensure that he produced tracks similar in style and emotion. The synthesis also sounds authentic and listeners can easily believe they are listening to a score coming from the SPC700 sound chip. As a result, the score portrays and evokes exactly what was intended and works just as well in context — and sometimes even better than — Uematsu’s Final Fantasy V. Where the score is a pale imitation is in its melodic content and there are no tracks here that are likely to go down as classics. As a result, it is usually an enjoyable listen on a stand-alone basis, but rarely a memorable one.

And that just leaves the third question: is it acceptable to emulate a score as blatantly as this one? This one is for the individual reader to answer. By creating a replica score, Naoshi Mizuta did exactly as requested from the developers, who were already emulating the graphics and gameplay of Final Fantasy V. But he may have yielded a more personal and unique score if he were allowed to still express his own musicality, like he did on Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. While some will embrace it as a retro tribute, other listeners will consider it an artless rip-off. Either way, this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a brand new Final Fantasy score for the SNES.

Final Fantasy Legends -Warriors of Light and Darkness- Original Soundtrack Chris Greening

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.

About the Author

I've contributed to websites related to game audio since 2002. In this time, I've reviewed over a thousand albums and interviewed hundreds of musicians across the world. As the founder and webmaster of VGMO -Video Game Music Online-, I hope to create a cutting-edge, journalistic resource for all those soundtrack enthusiasts out there. In the process, I would love to further cultivate my passion for music, writing, and generally building things. Please enjoy the site and don't hesitate to say hello!

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