Final Fantasy XIII -Lightning Returns- Original Soundtrack PLUS
Final Fantasy XIII -Lightning Returns- Original Soundtrack PLUS
March 26, 2014
Buy at CDJapan
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack PLUS is a supplement to the original soundtrack for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, containing some alternate versions of songs amongst other tracks that didn’t make it into the original soundtrack release. These PLUS releases have drawn criticism for not presenting enough worthwhile material, and that criticism applies to this album as well. It doesn’t help that the Lightning Returns soundtrack was one of the weaker entries in the series to begin with, making for a supplementary album that is largely lacklustre.
The album includes a number of alternate versions of tracks from the original soundtrack. Opening the album is a trailer version of “Lightning Returns”. This track mainly features an extended introduction focusing on percussion. Once it launches into the melody, it’s a bit of a reduced variation on it, and before the track really gets to go anywhere, it finishes with a new outro. The use of the Overclock sound is a nice dramatic touch, and although it doesn’t come close to surpassing the original, its at least not as pointless as the later “Lightning Returns (Aggressive Mix)”, which only features that opening percussion for its duration. Tracks like “High Voltage (Game Ver.)” and “Dead Dunes (Live Edit Ver.)” feel very redundant, having such minute changes that they just come off as repeats. “Death Game (Synthesizer Ver.)” is a bit better, trading the harder rock elements of the original for synthesizers, but the structure and overall atmosphere of the track is identical to the original, so it’s not really a big deal.
Some of the alternate tracks have more substantial changes, mostly taken from cutscenes in the game. “Sazh and Dajh (Complete Mix)” has a minute of new material, with some eerie but meandering piano and cheap sounding strings that eventually give way to the bright and bouncy original theme. In a similar fashion, “Snow’s Theme – Final Words (Complete Mix)” also has an instrumental introduction added to the original track. This time the focus is those synth strings with some attempts at drama, but it’s all too sparse to leave an impression, even as it recalls “The Promise” from the first game’s soundtrack. “Desert Lullaby” is here in full as an instrumental, with Gabe McNair’s vocal replaced by a flute. It’s perfectly adequate, and some may prefer it over the original as a matter of taste. The Japanese version of “The Savior’s Words” is also included, with a vocalist that sounds remarkably similar to Wollny Andreas on the English track. But for some reason, the vocals are only on the right channel, which might frustrate some listeners.
The album also includes songs from cutscenes that were not on the original soundtrack. “The Captive Saint” begins with a piano rendition of “Vanille’s Theme”, which steadily becomes mysterious as other instruments join in. At the halfway mark the track changes completely into an atmospheric track with a couple horror movie-esque moments, though it’s not very melodic or memorable outside of its screeching climaxes. “Lost Souls – Caius & Yeul” is a pretty good as a dramatic rendition of “Caius’s Theme”, but can also be a bit empty at times. The atmospheric “Dying World” is fairly dark and oppressive with some unique stylings to it, and it certainly is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. On the other hand, “Soul Seeds” and “The Onslaught” are rather generic dark pump-up tracks, and they’re also too short to be memorable. “Ballad of a Vagabond” is a short guitar solo piece that’s decently passionate, and the pleasant “Innkeeper” does its job, but it’s only 20 seconds long.
Also on the album are songs sung or performed by various musicians encountered throughout the game, most being throwbacks to older Final Fantasy soundtracks. The most substantial of these are the English and Japanese versions of Final Fantasy III’s “Eternal Wind”, accompanied only by guitar. Both are great renditions with strong vocals and a simple but effective arrangement, though I do prefer the Japanese vocalist. “Serah’s Theme (Piano Ver.)” (the XIII-2 theme) is also quite good, keeping Frances Maya’s vocal and using a great, watery piano accompaniment that sets it apart from the other versions. “A Home Far Away” is a guitar and vocal version of “New Bodhum”, and unfortunately the vocalist is not too well-matched to the arrangement to make this one notable. “Final Fantasy” is the main theme of the series played by a wandering troupe, complete with a fade in and out as they walk by the listener. It’s got its charms, but it isn’t essential. “Battle at the Big Bridge” and “Terra’s Theme” get short, rather humorous arrangements with rather amateur ensembles and kazoos on the melody. It’s meant to be comedic, and while many probably won’t appreciate them I will admit that I enjoy them more than I probably should.
There are two completely new tracks on the album as well. “The Ark (Soundtrack Exclusive ver.)” is almost a completely different song from the original soundtrack version of “The Ark”. In contrast to the original track with its light vocals and dreamy arrangement, this track has a steady metronomic tick with some sparse piano and electronica elements. It’s rather ambient and intriguing, although its melody is more recognizable as a variation on “Lightning’s Theme”. “The Savior’s Words – Christmas in Nova Chrysalia” is a remix of the English version of the theme with a Christmas arrangement. The melody and the arrangement go together surprisingly well, and it’s convincing as a chill holiday track. It’s a pleasant listen, and the arrangement is just broad and varied enough to ensure that its enjoyment isn’t only confined to the season that it emulates.
Aside from a few interesting tracks, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack PLUS is fairly inessential and redundant. Most of the alternate versions of tracks have only minute changes, or else have completely different extensions appended on that for the most part feel like filler. Anyone who already has the original soundtrack will likely be unimpressed by the alternate versions, and the selection here doesn’t really do the original soundtrack justice for anyone who doesn’t have it. Aside from the alternate versions, there is some charm to be found in the later tracks played by musicians in the game, as well as some neat throwbacks to songs from earlier Final Fantasy games. Thankfully, these tracks can be purchased individually on iTunes in most territories, so there should be no need for anyone but collectors to have to bear through the rest of the album.
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Posted on May 11, 2015 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on January 19, 2016.