Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Compilation Album
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Compilation Album
Square Enix Music
July 31, 2013
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Compilation Album is a five-disc album with music from the Final Fantasy series rhythm game spin-off. This release assembles together the four separate digital Theatrhythm albums—the EMS, FMS, BMS, and Chaos Shrine albums—alongside an additional disc with arrangements and remixes used as background music for the game, exclusively released as part of this set. The versions of tracks on the first four discs are all original versions of the songs from their respective games. The set does not contain all of the tracks included in the original release of the game, nor does it include DLC tracks. Still, the set effectively functions as a comprehensive best-of compilation of the Final Fantasy series’ first thirteen mainline games, with the few arranged extras.
The first disc of the set contains all of the EMS (event music) tracks from the base game, and thus one song from each of the first thirteen mainline Final Fantasy titles. It is the only disc to contain all of its respective music from the base game. The tracks are all fairly iconic fan-favourites, like the rousing “Opening Theme” of Final Fantasy I and emotional “Aerith’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VII. Although many of these like “Theme of Love” have official arranged counterparts on other albums that are more fleshed out, for the most part the original chiptunes and synths are still very charming and stand well on their own. Their strong melodies certainly still hold up after all this time. The later tracks that try to capture the feel of live instruments are the ones that suffer more from age, like “Waltz for the Moon” from Final Fantasy VIII and “Theme of the Empire” from Final Fantasy XII, but for the most part these issues can be overlooked. Some of the later tracks like “Suteki Da Ne” from Final Fantasy X or “Defiers of Fate” from Final Fantasy XIII which actually use live instruments are already in their definitive versions with solid instrumentation, which is great. Solid selection from each game on this disc, and great tracks.
The second disc deals with FMS (field music) tracks, and again has one track from each of the first thirteen mainline Final Fantasy titles. Many of these are also very popular, and players should certainly be familiar with them. The early tracks like the “Main Theme” from Final Fantasy IV still sound great even in their low-quality synth or chiptune. The middle-tracks like “Blue Fields” and “Over That Hill” of Final Fantasy VIII and IX are also great, with a better use of synths due to the more ambient focus of them. The first half of the disc is relatively cohesive in terms of sound and mood, but in the later tracks the sound really changes. The choice of “Mi’hen Highroad” from Final Fantasy X is perhaps the only really questionable choice on the disc, being very quirky, strange and not as naturally pleasing as the others. “Ronfaure” and “Giza Plains” from Final Fantasy XI and XII bring a much grander sound to things with fuller orchestras, and “Sunleth Waterscape” from Final Fantasy XIII departs into electro-pop territory. It’s an interesting progression to see throughout the disc. Again, solid tracks, though a bit weaker than the first disc.
The third disc consists of BMS (battle music) tracks, with again one song from each of the first thirteen mainline Final Fantasy games. These range from regular battle tracks like “Battle Scene” from Final Fantasy I and “Battle 1” from Final Fantasy IX to important boss tracks like “Clash on the Big Bridge” of Final Fantasy V or “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII. One can most clearly hear here how Nobuo Uematsu likes to re-use certain ideas throughout his battle tracks, such as basslines or rhythmic patterns, but the disc never really feels too repetitive, and it helps that the tracks all have great drive and energy. Still, the last three tracks (“Awakening” from Final Fantasy XI, “Clash of Swords” from XII, and “Saber’s Edge” from XIII) offer a nice departure from Uematsu’s work of the first ten games, and here especially they highlight the unique aspects that Kumi Tanioka, Hitoshi Sakimoto, and Masashi Hamauzu brought to the series. It’s again interesting to see the progression throughout the tracks, and the disc on its own is very enjoyable.
The fourth disc has a rather diverse set of tracks from the Chaos Shrine, and here does not have representation from each game. From dungeon tracks like “Gulg Volcano” from Final Fantasy I to battle themes like “J-E-N-O-V-A” from Final Fantasy VII to event themes like “Ending Movie” of Final Fantasy XII, there isn’t much cohesion to the disc. There are some notable inclusions here like the full seventeen minutes of the excellent final boss battle theme in four parts, “Dancing Mad” from Final Fantasy VI. Lack of flow and a few odd choices like “Mambo de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy and “The Last Day” from Final Fantasy VII make this the weakest disc of the set, but there are of course other great tracks on there.
The final disc contains the new arrangements and remixes from Theatrhythm’s various menus and screens, all done by Tsutomu Narita, Hiroyuki Maruyama, and Kingyo Miyamoto. The disc opens with the Title version of the series’ “Prelude”; it’s a straightforward rendition of the track with the standard arpeggiating harp, later helped by a solid synth orchestra and choir sound. There is also a contemporary drum loop with a few other synths throughout that round out the track, and distinguish it from other versions. A nice version of the simple track, though I wish it didn’t have to loop, as it weakens the climax of the track. There are two other versions of the “Prelude”, one more straightforward without modern touches, the other just the harp; neither as good as this first track. Another recurring theme on the disc is the “Opening Theme” which also gets three versions. The first is a pizzicato strings version which is quite charming, the second utilizes synths, and the third is like a mix of the two. All are pleasant, though also short and not ground-breaking. The other recurring theme is the series “Victory Fanfare”. The regular result screen version is very standard for the track, but the Quest Medley Screen is where things are quite different, with a more mellow feel in comparison, with just strings and a synth on melody. It too is too short to make a strong impression, but its still pleasant.
The remaining tracks are arrangements of existing Final Fantasy tracks, mostly very faithful to the originals. A large number sound like arrangements of tracks that would be used in remakes for the game. They make the most out of the sound libraries to produce a strong orchestral sound, even managing to produce good dynamics. “The Highwind Takes to the Skies”, “Hunter’s Chance”, “Kingdom of Baron”, “Return of the Warrior”, and “Chaos Temple” all sound like the original tracks finally coming into the sound that they originally aimed for. The short “Cornelia Castle” gets a nice piano and cello duet rendition, though it’s a real shame it didn’t get more elaboration and development. “Setzer’s Theme” and “Thunder Plains” are given similar treatment, but with more modern touches in the drum loops that they use. “The Royal City of Rabanastre” gets a cleaner sound, but it’s also disappointingly simplified and stripped of its development. Some get slightly altered sounds and instrumentations without significant change like “Blinded by Light” and the instrumental “Sunleth Waterscape”. Some others are more electronic: the light “Place Chocobo” remixes (the second of which is slower and a bit jazzier), the quirky “Palom & Porom’s Theme”, and “Clash on the Big Bridge” which mixes in synths on melody with high-octane rock in another great rendition. “Rose of May” is the only exceptional arrangement, with focus on piano and a smaller set of strings and wind instruments that is quite lovely. It even brings in a lot of new counterpoint throughout. Solid stuff here with a mostly cohesive sound, though nothing remarkable here except perhaps the “Rose of May” arrangement.
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Compilation Album offers few surprises, and will satisfy many but not be worth it for others. For those who do not already own many Final Fantasy soundtracks, this set is a decently priced sampling into the series with a selection of a few tracks from the main games in their original forms. The final disc is a nice addition as well, with strong and mostly faithful arrangements of tracks. However, few are very creative, and as a whole the disc will not make the set worth it for those who already own most of the tracks from the other albums. As a whole it is a solid set with great, classic video game music, but by all means, check out the contents first to see if overlap might deter your purchase.
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Posted on March 9, 2016 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on March 9, 2016.