Final Fantasy Tactics Original Soundtrack
Final Fantasy Tactics Original Soundtrack
DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (2nd Edition)
June 21, 1997; March 24, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
One of the revolutionary years in Square’s gaming history was 1997. Many budgets for games released in that year were said to have been reduced to pave way for one of the biggest and famous role playing games ever. That game was Final Fantasy VII. For roughly 10 years, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s mega franchise has reached many continents and attracted many new fans. For the same amount of time, mega composer Nobuo Uematsu had solely taken care of the music for all numbered Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy VII took the world by storm. But at the same time, a man who had once run a small developing company called Quest (which was bought out by Square) was developing another Final Fantasy title. Yasumi Matsuno finished Final Fantasy Tactics for PlayStation not so long after the initial release of Final Fantasy VII. In that time, it was slightly overlooked because of the other major title, but the quality was very high. Final Fantasy Tactics was, quite obviously, a tactical strategy role playing game. Matsuno veered away from the simplistic but enjoyable plots by Sakaguchi’s team in the past, and ventured into the challenging world of complexity. The game received great reviews, but the hype wasn’t particularly high, and wouldn’t be so until a few years later (where it achieved a cult status).
Matsuno called for the help of two long time friends to create the game’s soundtrack. Before Final Fantasy Tactics, Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata weren’t huge faces, but they were known for such compositions on Magical Chase, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, and Treasure Hunter G. This was the perfect opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider audience. The music in this game is of the orchestral nature. The first Final Fantasy game of its kind to feature traditional based orchestrations that focuses more on rhythm and complex harmony than a catchy melody, as some have come to expect from Nobuo Uematsu’s previous Final Fantasy games. Being one of the earlier PlayStation titles, the sound quality of the soundtrack and the quality of the synthesizer isn’t anything too special, but for that time, it certainly wasn’t bad. Outside synthesizer operator Katsutoshi Kashiwabara makes great use of the available sounds while the sound programming is great — another excellent work by Hidenori Suzuki. All sounds and data are expertly filtered and adjusted and programmed nicely into the game. But enough about the details! Let’s get on with the music!
Hitoshi Sakimoto composes the majority of the original soundtrack with 47 tracks, most which are arrangements of both main themes. Some of his highlights include the opening track “Brand Logo ~ Title Black” which features a heavenly interpretation of both main themes — the hero’s theme in the first part and the main overture in the second half. It’s just too bad it’s so short as it is most definitely a highlight on the first disc. “Prologue Movie” is a superb arrangement of the main theme, contrasting both dark and light interpretations of it while being sandwiched between a delectable new bagpipe-led theme. The harp-led “Hero’s Theme” is a representation of one of the soundtrack’s main themes in its purest form and is also one of the best renditions. One of my favorite tracks on the entire soundtrack by Sakimoto is “A Chapel”. It’s actually only the ending of the track which really affects me, but it is such a powerful and concluding climax. Not a lot of tracks have that kind of immense power. “Zalbag, the Holy Knight” is worth a mention too. It’s an epic theme with great use of horns and brass. “Holy Angela’s Theme” is yet another awesome track. Violins thunder in the background while low strings build up to the eerie and enigmatic melody.
Masaharu Iwata has his tracks to talk about too, and although he has only scored only 24 tracks on the soundtrack, he relies a lot less on the main theme and more on original composition. His tracks start out with “Backborn Story”. Not quite as impactual as Sakimoto’s opener, but the drama is much more intense. “Algus” is tranquil and heavenly, as Iwata manipulates flutes and oboes to represent airiness. In the soundtrack, Iwata composes more music to reflect conflict and intense situations. Tracks like “Unavoidable Battle” are epic and get straight to the point with what they are trying to convey. The rising tension in this particular track makes it appealing, and the timing with the beat, in particular, is especially engrossing. “Decisive Battle” hosts a lot of screeching violins and driving horns and percussion, while “The Pervert” features rough brass with some odd percussion and strong strings that run chaotically throughout the track.
The final battle and finale tracks are range between impressive and just average. As much as a like Sakimoto’s “Ultema The Nice Body” as a first final battle theme, it doesn’t grab me the way Iwata’s final battle piece, “Ultema The Perfect Body” does. Generally, Iwata is more successful at showing a pinnacle of evil in a darker and more expressive tone. The cellos and low strings mainly standout above the rest of the track’s instrumentals. Sakimoto finishes this epic soundtrack off with some emotional turns on the main theme. “Epilogue Movie” is as epic as Sakimoto can get. He takes the track and progressively makes it better and better through utilising additional instrumentals to raise the power; it climaxes with a combination of sweeping strings and grandiose brass interpreting said theme. Finally, we arrive at the grand finale, “Staff Credit”, which lacks stylistically compared to his Vagrant Story credits theme, though is still amazing. Like a traditional Sakimoto ending theme, he builds the track up from a strong introduction and then after repeats the main theme of the game several times with different variations. A little more prowess would’ve made it perfection, though I still greatly enjoy the theme when wanting to travel back and remember what an astonishing soundtrack this is.
After reading this review, you should now have a good idea of what to expect from this soundtrack. There are very limited melodies to which you can sing or hum along too, but the orchestral music is beautiful nonetheless. I can imagine that fans of Uematsu’s music would not find it easy to adapt to such different music presented by Sakimoto and Iwata, but it is appreciable in a different kind of way. All in all, it has too many great features to miss and should be tried by all game music collectors. Recently reprinted by Square Enix due to popular demand, it is the perfect opportunity to explore this near-faultless soundtrack. Grab it now!
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Harry Simons. Last modified on August 1, 2012.