Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster Original Soundtrack
Final Fantasy X-2 Original Soundtrack
December 25, 2013
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy X-2‘s soundtrack was perhaps the criticised to have ever been released for the Final Fantasy series. Rather than bring back the team responsible for Final Fantasy X, Square Enix asked the duo to create an all-new score for the sequel. The composers were highly talented, as evidenced by their fusion soundtracks for The Bouncer and Racing Lagoon. But perhaps unable to cope with the intense production schedule of the sequel, they failed to deliver their best work here and in fact created the biggest stinkers of their careers. But while the soundtrack is often disappointing, it still offers plenty of highlights along the way, particularly in the form of its main themes and area tracks. Ten years after the original’s release, the music was directly reused for Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster. To coincide with this release, Square Enix re-released the soundtrack for the title complete with six excellent new pieces created for Final Fantasy X-2 International & Last Mission.
There’s little animosity among fans about the quality of the title theme, “Eternity ~Memory of Light and Waves~,” a simple but elegant piano theme written in the spirit of “Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X. The fluid piano writing, soothing piano lines, and tasteful synth overtones come together to create not just an enjoyable stand-alone theme, but something befitting Yuna’s search for her long lost love. Straight after, listeners are provided with a bang with “real Emotion (FFX-2 Mix)”, a bouncy J-Pop theme created by Kazuhiro Hara and sung by Koda Kumi for the opening FMV of the Japanese theme. Though not everyone will love it, its among the most memorable Final Fantasy vocal themes with its upbeat arrangement, memorable melodies, and provocative lyrics. It synchronises well with the opening FMV by showing Yuna provide a vocal performance in the game. It all hammers home a point: Final Fantasy X-2 and its soundtrack are completely different to Final Fantasy X‘s. Love it or hate it, this is just the start of the fun (or torture). The other vocal theme, “1000 Words”, is closer in style to the other vocal ballads of the series. It is emotionally balanced, flawlessly performed, and relates extremely well to the game. It’s fresh and original, albeit not in the same way as “real Emotion.”
To the dismay of many fans, Matsueda and Eguchi did not directly integrate any of the previous soundtrack’s themes. This move reflects that the producer wanted to reflect how Spira has rejuvenated and also create a clear line between the two new games. This is immediately evident from the all-new “Yuna’s Theme”. A stark contrast to Uematsu’s soft, acoustic creation, this is a bubbly electronic dance piece more typical of the artists’ work on The Bouncer. It’s another startling reflection of Yuna’s personality transplant and that the soundtrack’s composers have no intention of following what Nobuo Uematsu and co. offered in the Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack. Among other changes, the tender “Rikku’s Theme” has been replaced by a over-the-top brass-based dance theme, the iconic “Hymn of the Fayth” has been replaced by a hackneyed synth vocal chorale, and the airship themes have been replaced by two catchy electronic numbers (“Assistance Store Gullwings”, “The Gullwings March”). The victory fanfare is replaced for the very first time in the series’ history in favour of a series of slick jazz-flavoured electric guitar riffs, “Mission Complete,” which stupidly precedes the similarly styled “Mission Start”. The “Chocobo” theme also features, but in a hideously twisted, barely recognisable. It’s a hip-hop brass theme of sorts complete with 26 seconds of development and a random women shouting inaudibly. Alongside the equally inane and irritating “Lady Leblanc Has Everything!”, this might be the worst track ever created for a Final Fantasy soundtrack.
The all-new battle themes generally disappointed. The normal battle music, for some reason titled “YuRiPa Fight No. 3,” is little more than an overdriven electric guitar playing a fragmented solo against a static bass line. Though the idea of integrating a hard rock style to a Final Fantasy battle theme was a good one, this track is far too uninspired and underdeveloped to hold a candle on the superb Zako Battle tracks from Racing Lagoon. All this said, it does reflect the intense, frantic pace of the game’s ATB-based battles well. The boss battle music, “YuRiPa Fight No. 2,” is a little more memorable but still suffers from major development problems. As for the opening battle music and blitzball theme, “YuRiPa Fight No. 1,” it’s more melodic and accessible than the others, but still lacks finesse. The soundtrack’s second disc also features a line of orchestral tension tracks such as “Tension”, “Confusion”, “Summoned Beast”, “Clash”, and “Great Existence”. Barely anything distinguishes these horror-inspired tracks. They’re underpinned by hackneyed brass motifs, string suspensions, and timpani rolls. Not only are they collectively repetitive, but most become tiresome even individually, rarely exceeding a 30 second loop. Haunting romantic piano solos are used to introduce “Great Existence,” “Nightmare of a Cave,” and “Vegnagun Starting,” the latter shifting into an intense battle theme boasting imposing synth choir and juicy gothic organ lines.
Where Matsueda and Eguchi succeed is creating fitting and appealing setting themes. Gone are the electro-acoustic mastery, ethereal melodic progressions, and delicate layering of forces that respectively underpinned the depictions of Besaid, Kilika, and Luca. However, the successors are all pretty good. “Besaid” is a new age piece that revolves around a simple solo piano melody and grows richer as more forces enter. It perfectly depicts life in a peaceful, isolated tropical island. “Kilika” also relates well to the rebuilt town, an adventurous and tropical piece featuring forces as diverse as panpipes, didgeridoo, tuned percussion, and a Matsueda-esque jazzy bass line. “Luca” likewise feels appropriately busy with its jolly melodies and has an appropriate seaside-like feel. “Macalania Forest” is one of the soundtrack’s most expansive and rewarding pieces, while “The Calm Lands” and “Zanarkand Ruins” will inspire much emotion with their respective piano and bagpipe solos. But between such tracks, there are the stinkers. “Bikanel Desert” captures the oppressive heat of the locale, but is nothing more than an unpleasant pile of overdriven electric guitar riffs on the soundtrack. Djosé’s “Machina Faction” and “Thunder Plains” take the biscuit for in terms of underdevelopment. The former adheres to a cheesy ever-repeating electric guitar riff throughout, the latter is electronic rubbish that loops after just 30 seconds despite being used in one of the game’s biggest areas.
There are several other emotional highlights on the soundtrack. “Yuna’s Ballad” is a solo piano track that captures Yuna’s anguish during battle following a distressing in-game revelation. The last dungeon theme “The Farplane Abyss” won the hearts of millions as a gushing new age arrangement of “1000 Words”. Although atrociously underused in the game, the theme of the villain Shuyin grabs listeners with its tortured piano melody and orchestral swells. Moving to the soundtrack’s conclusion, the final battle themes “Destruction” and “Demise” are reasonable charming, but don’t compare to their Final Fantasy X predecessors given their understated arrangements and overreliance on a descending three chord progression. Following competent orchestral and piano renditions of “1000 Words”, the soundtrack concludes with two orchestrated ending themes. “Ending ~Until the Day We Meet Again~” is an excellently-developed theme that captures the conflicting emotions of completing the game and saying a final farewell to Spira. It doesn’t compare to the album’s final track, though, “Epilogue ~Reunion~,” an orchestral recapitulation of the “Besaid” theme highlighting the talents of Eguchi as an orchestration. These ending themes, though quite brief and very understated, stand up to series’ tradition and are incredibly emotional in context.
Exclusive to this release are the six pieces that Matsueda and Eguchi created for Final Fantasy X-2 International & Last Mission, an enhanced version of the game that was exclusive to Japan until the release of the Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster. With more time available to them, the composers ended up creating some of the best tracks in their career. The widely commended “Seal of the Wind ~The Three Trails~” was written in a similar style to “Eternity ~Memory of the Lightwaves~”, featuring radiant violin melodies above airy piano and guitar arpeggiations. The three “Last Mission” tracks are richly-styled improvisations based on different genres, the first inspired by Latin jazz, the second by bebop, the third by electrorock. Each boasts impressive instrument writing, memorable melodic and rhythmic hooks, and plenty of development. “Creature Create”, better known for its Piano Collection rendition, is a bluesy piano-focused piece written in quintuple metre. Constantly building up upon a single ostinato, “Flash Over” boasts a fast tempo, pulsating beats, and excellent development. These tracks are all central to the Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack experience and in general capture Matsueda and Eguchi’s inspirations better than the pieces exclusive to the main game.
The Final Fantasy X-2 Original Soundtrack‘s failures are astonishing and unforgivable. How did “Thunder Plains,” “Machina Faction,” and “Chocobo” became so astonishingly bad, with total lack of development combining with terrible innovation in the worst way possible? How and why did Matsueda and Eguchi completely disregard the tradition of the Final Fantasy franchise by creating compositions like “YuRiPa Fight No. 3”? For every hit like “Shuyin’s Theme,” “1000 Words,” or “Under Bevelle,” why is there a bad counterpart like “Lady Leblanc Has Everything!”, “The Akagi Squad,” or “Clash”? The soundtrack really isn’t all bad, though. The area themes are warm and accessible, the vocal themes are probably the best to feature on a Final Fantasy soundtrack, and some of the bolder, experimental themes will appeal to certain audiences. The soundtrack is cautiously recommended to those that played and enjoyed the game, just expect to press ‘skip’ on more than a few occasions. The 2013 print is the definitive one, given it packages all the original tracks created for both the original and international versions of the games into one modestly-priced package.
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Posted on December 28, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on December 28, 2015.