Final Fantasy -Mobius- Original Soundtrack
Mobius -Final Fantasy- Original Soundtrack
February 26, 2016
Buy at Square Enix
Mobius: Final Fantasy was developed with a simple concept in mind: to create a smartphone game of similar scope and quality to a console game. The team largely succeeded, resulting in a game that received considerable critical acclaim and commercial success domestically. The soundtrack for the title was scored by Mitsuto Suzuki, a rising star at Square Enix with roles in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, The 3rd Birthday, and Schoolgirl Strikers. For this title, created a high-quality Final Fantasy soundtrack that proved equally impressive musically and technically. The two-disc soundtrack was released exclusively through the Square Enix e-Store in early 2016.
Suzuki shows his ambition right from the start with his interpretation of the “Prelude”. The freshest rendition of the series’ staple in years, it blends subdued arpeggiations with lush exotic vocals within an ever-building electro-orchestral landscape. As with much of the soundtrack, it takes the series in a new direction while still preserving the fantasy elements and melodies of the series. It’s followed by a “Legend”, a rousing unforgettable anthem blending fantasy orchestration, ferocious chants, exotic percussion, and contemporary elements. Suzuki appeared to be inspired by the concept of Game of Thrones’ main theme here, right down to the string ostinato, but he still makes the theme his own through the triumphant choir work from 0:57 and the surprisingly effective electric guitar work from 2:21. In addition to their breadth and depth of composition, both tracks boast production values that not only exceed all smartphone scores, but also mainline Final Fantasy titles such as Suzuki’s own Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (which had a bigger recording budget but used it less successively). Combining samples from top-notch libraries, performances from session musicians, and impeccable recording quality, Mobius‘ tracks sound highly polished while still leaving an emotional impact. Thankfully, Suzuki manages to keep the production quality similarly high throughout the soundtrack, albeit with occasional bumps in musical quality and flow along the way…
Mobius is a spectacularly diverse soundtrack befitting the Final Fantasy series. There’s everything from orchestral and acoustic setting themes (e.g. “The Journey Begins”, “Eternal Realm””), to disco and rock tracks (e.g. “Attack Ignition”, “Chaosbringer”), to all sorts of fusions inbetween. Particularly impressive are the location themes, which blend acoustic, electronic, and exotic timbres to fascinating effect. Among the finest examples include ethereal “The Forsaken World” and “The Rune Crystal”, as well as the more rambunctious “Midday Sun”. As great setting themes should do, these themes capture the vastness and beauty of the location portrayed while giving a taste of their finer details and darker undertones. “Lightsway” is especially stunning, rivalling Final Fantasy XII with its vast, deceptive development. Among other tracks, the exotic percussion and chorus of the opener make welcome returns in two very different marches, the motivating “Endless Fight” and foreboding “Legend”. They’re balanced by the lighter tracks that occur on every Final Fantasy track such as “Echo’s Theme” with its childish vocals, “Danse Macabre” with its samba beats, or the obligatory Chocobo arrangements. Even those tracks that appear straightforward feature surprisingly twists: the vocoders on the techno track “Dancing Edge”, the extensive modulations of “Magic Madness”, or the horrifying escalations of “Silent Ruins” are just a few examples. Suzuki also puts an incredible twist on the RPG cliché of the mournful piano-based with his pensive minimalist writing and tasteful post-production effects of “Twilight Traveler”.
While Suzuki is primarily known as a contemporary composer, he produces some true orchestral tracks here with the help of string arranger Aska Kaneko, orchestrator Kengo Tokusashi, and several talented session musicians. These offerings, ranging from the playful stroll “The Journey Begins”, gushing waltz “Eternal Realm”, or the violin-focused “Sarah’s Theme”, are mostly excellent. It seems that Suzuki was deeply influenced by her past collaborations with Masashi Hamauzu on these tracks, resulting in material that is quite detached from his usual style, but highly impressive regardless. They immerse players into Mobius’ world with their fantasy overtones and resound in listeners’ heads with their cantabile melodies. But where they impress most is their orchestration, which somehow proves deep in timbre yet shimmering in texture at the same time. Where Hamauzu’s inspiration feels less welcome is in the melodic treatment. While Suzuki produces plenty of fine primary and secondary melodies throughout the score, his integration of the central thematic material generally feels contrived, as with some of Hamauzu’s recent works. Whether the electrifying battle anthem “Warrior of Light”, the jubilant victory theme “Just Desserts”, or the aforementioned “The Journey Begins”, most attempts to integrate thematic continuity into the score feel phoned in to otherwise impressively-produced compositions (and that’s not even mentioning the most contrived track of all, “Amnesiac”…).
However, where the soundtrack really stumbles is in the action and tension tracks with the likes of “Blank State”, “Garland’s Theme”, “The Howl of the Waste”, and “Battle Tower”. These tracks rely heavily on Hollywood tropes such as angular bass ostinati, epic brass leads, and suspended chord progressions. Some partially make up for their deficiencies with great development – the jubilant choir of “Blank” and electric guitar improv. of “Howl…” proving particularly welcome surprises. However, the derivative core and static rhythms of these compositions mean they lack the replay value of other tunes. In combination with a few blaring victory tracks, these themes tend to disrupt the otherwise breezy flow of the double disc album. Thankfully, there are two battle themes in the mix: “Infinite Arena” and “Chaos Strikes”. The former will delight any Final Fantasy mainstay, an ultra-catchy rock-orchestral fusion blending the unadulterated fun typical of Uematsu’s compositions with the sophisticated production values we’ve come to expect from Suzuki. The final battle theme, on the other hand, is a very different kind of Americana to the Hollywood-esque tracks. Building on his lessons from defeating Bhunivelze, Suzuki offers an ambitious yet formidable blend of avant-garde orchestration, Messiaen-eque chorales, and his personal electronic touches. The experience concludes with “The Azure Witch” – a piano composition impressive for its simultaneous emotional potency and compositional minimalism – as well as a final nod to the Prelude and a couple of other fan favourites.
Mobius: Final Fantasy impresses not just as a smartphone score, but as a Final Fantasy score more generally. As with the series’ best, the music is vast, diverse, memorable, and emotional. The soundtrack suffers a few problems in terms of its thematic material and overall flow, but proves overall to be an impressive effort right from conception to implementation. Having proven himself once more, now perhaps it’s time that Suzuki takes a solo role on a mainline Final Fantasy title?
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Posted on June 28, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on June 28, 2016.