World of Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack
World of Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack
Square Enix Music
November 2, 2016
Buy at CDJapan
Whether or not a cutesy homage to Final Fantasy, chibi designs and all, is something that gets your heart all aflutter, Square Enix’s World of Final Fantasy got pretty positive reviews upon release. The game’s soundtrack spans four discs, which impressive for a spin-off game. Spread across these discs is a mix of original music and rearrangements of countless classics. Masashi Hamauzu led the production and composition of the score. For the task of rearranging the classics, composers from developer TOSE were brought along for the ride. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
The score opens with “Innocent²”, Ryo Yamazaki’s theme song. For those of you unfamiliar with that name, he’s a longtime Square synthesizer operator turned composer who’s worked on many Hamauzu soundtracks. His theme song for WoFF is very attractive and unique in certain ways. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I heard a song open with Irish Uilleann Pipes. Mizuki’s performance and crystal-clear voice are spotless. And, unlike so many theme songs (especially when they’re outsourced), Yamazaki throws in a rousing reference to Hamauzu’s main theme toward the end.
The rest of disc 1 and 2 is all Hamauzu and those of us who’ve been keeping a close eye on his career for the past years will recognize many performers in the credits: Benyamin Nuss on piano, Hijiri Kuwano on violin, Toru Tabei on guitar, Ippiqui Takemoto for all manner of percussion and more recent additions like cellist Takahiro Yuki. It’s become something of an expected pleasure, having these talented individuals really bring Hamauzu’s music to life. First up is Hamauzu’s title screen theme, “World of Grymoire”. It’s classic Hamauzu goodness, a gentle, undulating piece for piano and strings that does everything in its harmonic power to stop you from pressing the ‘any button’. The violin’s entrance in the middle is especially gorgeous. After that we’ve got Hamauzu’s actual main theme, “World of Beauty”. An early synthesized version was heard in the first trailer, and in the months since, Hamauzu thankfully used live instruments to, well, liven up this rousing piece. He reprises the theme in tracks like the tender piano and violin duet “Moonlight Melody” and “Mad Dash Melody” with its tense variation on strings.
To avoid the risk of turning this review into an overblown track-by-track analysis, I’ll discuss some of Hamauzu’s more noteworthy pieces. Of the two main characters’ themes, I’m particularly enamored by “Reynn’s Melody”, an austere piece yet full of determination. It mostly consists of a single theme, but Hamauzu changes the instrumentation so ingeniously that it feels like the piece is constantly evolving. “Happy Melody” and “Comical Melody” manage to be uniquely funny without ever becoming annoying, which is no small feat. “World of Nine Wood Hills” is an absolute gem and sounds like something Hamauzu might’ve composed for his group IMERUAT with its lively, breathy vocals and irresistible electronics. “Labyrinth of Light” is a delicate piece for Pyreglow Forest. The use of piano, synths and so on form such a pleasing whole that – like with the forest itself – you can’t help but lose yourself in it. The same goes for World of the Cathedral and its hypnotic cello motif.
I sense some of you are looking for some action. Not to worry. The excellent normal battle theme “World of Battle” conveys the lighthearted tone of the game very well with its bouncy, yet never annoying, rhythms. Its effectiveness is only enhanced by the interplay between all the instruments like an electric guitar, a cello and a trumpet. Wonderful details abound, like the seamless transition from trumpet to electric guitar at 1:16. And, like all good regular battle themes, it never gets boring. Even the lush “Victory Melody” is a joy to hear. The prominent electronic beats in Another World of Battle took me awhile to get used to, but there’s a lot to like here, including a sudden erhu solo.
Hamauzu might not have rearranged any old Final Fantasy tunes, but he seems to include a few winks and nods in “World of Addy”. The strings ostinato seems modeled after Final Fantasy XIII‘s “Lake Bresha” and the subsequent piano motif on “Besaid Island”. Even Unhappy Melody‘s early piano passages sound like the progression Uematsu often used in eerie tracks like VIII‘s “Succession of Witches”. Speaking of arrangements, although the composers from TOSE did most of them, Hamauzu is responsible for two of them: “Prismelody: Snow -F-“, a forceful yet delicate version of “Snow’s Theme”, and “Prismelody: Lightning Returns”, a groovy revision of themes associated with Lightning from both XIII and XIII-2 for piano, guitar, trumpet and percussion.
Back to the atmospherics, “Labyrinth of Dunes” combines subtle synths with a slightly distorted piano that immediately conjures up the image of an expansive desert. “Joyride Melody” comes out of absolutely nowhere, but it’s a wonderfully energetic piece for guitar, flute, percussion and so on, like an amped up version of XIII‘s “Yaschas Massif”. That’s a recurring theme in this soundtrack, Hamauzu putting his soloists to good use, like in “World of Sunshine” (another reprise of the main theme), featuring some lovely interplay between the instruments and in “Labyrinth of Crystal” and its atmospheric use of guitar, ‘icy’ piano and violin.
Taking a break from the Hamauzu tracks, we turn our attention to TOSE artists Shingo Kataoka, Hayata Takeda and Takashi Honda, their work comprising most of disc 3 and 4. Most of these are rearrangements of old tunes, but there are some nice original compositions here and there, like the smooth tones of “Labyrinth of Trees” and the comical power of “Labyrinth of War”. Though many tracks tend to be rather short, undercutting their effectiveness, there’s lots of little gems here. ‘Prismelodies’ like “Town” and “Eternal Wind” are both excellent adaptations of Uematsu’s themes. Kataoka and co’s use of a violin and cello in tracks like the aforementioned “Labyrinth of War”, “Terra” and “A Fleeting Dream” makes their music mesh reasonably well with Hamauzu’s established sound.
Some rearrangements are better than others and the summon themes hamper the album’s flow. But most of Kataoka and his colleagues’ contributions manage to strike the intended balance between serious and fun and nowhere is this more obvious than the three “Clash on the Big Bridge” tracks. We’ve got intense rhythms, wailing electric guitars and yet — like the tiny but overeager Gilgamesh — they maintain a touch of the comical. Two true standouts are “Blitz Off! / Zanarkand” and “Chocobo / Wishes” that manage to seamlessly wrap their themes into highly listenable packages. The merging of the Chocobo theme and “Wishes” is especially funny, given that the latter is actually Hamauzu’s melancholy theme for XIII-2.
Skipping ahead a bit to the end of disc 4, the last handful of tracks by Hamauzu. “Ex World of Battle”, the not-so-final battle theme, emulates Hamauzu’s own bizarre and unique “Challenge” from X, although never really equals it. “Last World of Battle”, however, is arguably the best track on the album. All the live instruments give the impression it was recorded with an actual orchestra even though it wasn’t. From the sustained trumpet in the opening à la “Chaotic End” from Hamauzu’s Dirge of Cerberus to the subdued ending, it’s a feast for the ears. It’s rhythmically propulsive yet light enough to fit WoFF and never repetitive, every second so full of life and detail that you never know what’ll happen next. And, as expected, it also features some dramatic references to the main theme. “Ending Melody” is a great closer and plays during the credits when all the old Final Fantasy characters walk past, slowly, one by one. Hamauzu’s warm, soothing orchestration is on point and, combined with the imagery, it makes for a nice trip down nostalgia lane.
We’ve also got two closing songs, both of them supervised by Ryo Yamazaki. First up is Ryusuke Fujioka’s “Silent World”, accompanying the game’s bad ending. It’s sung by Tama’s voice actress and her high-pitched vocals will be an acquired taste for many. Finally, there’s the more upbeat “World Parade” by Ryo Shirasawa, for the good ending. Both songs undoubtedly fit the game, though a split between Eastern and Western audiences’ receptiveness here wouldn’t surprise me.
All in all, just really solid work from everyone involved. Hamauzu brings his A-game and provides a wealth of lovely tracks, from soothing area themes to propulsive battle themes, seamlessly combining synths and live instruments as he sees fit. The same goes for TOSE’s composers who manage to breathe some new life into beloved old tunes. While some tracks fall a bit flat, the amount of quality on display is praiseworthy. And despite the presence of multiple composers, the soundtrack somehow feels quite cohesive. High marks all around.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on January 28, 2017 by Lucas Versantvoort. Last modified on January 28, 2017.