Note Worthy 008: Final Fantasy 25th anniversary special

An entire issue dedicated to Final Fantasy!

Wait a second, didn’t we just run an issue of Note Worthy two weeks ago? Well, we did, but there have been so many Final Fantasy music releases over the past couple of months that we’ve accumulated an entire issue’s-worth of reviews and thought it would be fun to put together a Final Fantasy 25th anniversary special edition. And to think the commemorative Final Fantasy Vinyls, Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks-, and Final Fantasy Orchestra Album aren’t even out yet!

We’ve got a lot of chip music for you this time with Square Enix’s line of “Chips” albums all covered as well as a number of special commemorative discs released for the anniversary. All of that along with Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack and Piano Collections Final Fantasy XII which isn’t even due out in Japan until next week.

Check it out and let us know what you think of this musical tribute to Final Fantasy that’s only just beginning! 

A Decade of Final Fantasy XI: Vana’diel Festival 2012
Release Date: June 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited (VanaFest 2012 giveaway)
Artist(s): Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka, The Star Onions

This is a special disc of music distributed at the VanaFest 2012 event in Japan. It contains eight tracks with half being performances by The Star Onions (a band created by Final Fantasy XI composers to perform music from the game) and the other half coming from various soundtracks for the game and expansions.

All of this music has been released before, but I enjoy how the tracks selected maintain an upbeat mood that I think is indicative of the game. The contemporary smooth jazz stylings of The Star Onions are perfectly accented by the original soundtrack selections, making for an easy listen. I also like the fact that this isn’t really a “best of,” as some more obscure pieces were also selected.

For those who are interested, here’s the track list: “Vana’diel March,” “Metalworks,” “Eastward Bound…,” Rapid Onslaught –Assault-,” “Fifth Ode: A Time For Prayer,” “Mithra,” “Griffons Never Die,” and “The Forgotten City – Tavnazian Safehold.”

Unfortunately since it was distributed as a gift at VanaFest 2012, it’s kind of hard to come by. But don’t fret, if you have the two albums by The Star Onions and the main Final Fantasy XI soundtrack, you already have this music.

Release Date: September 1, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Limited (Final Fantasy 25th anniversary event giveaway)
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Junya Nakano, Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masashi Hamauzu

This is an interesting promotional disc that was given to fans who purchased 3,000 Yen worth of goods at the Final Fantasy 25th anniversary event in Japan back in September. Each composer involved with the core Final Fantasy franchise was invited to select their favorite track to be presented on this disc, and while most collectors will already have this music, it’s worth checking out which track each composer selected.

Nobuo Uematsu picks “Tina,” or “Terra’s Theme” as we know it, the Final Fantasy VI overworld theme. I have no argument there, as it’s really one of his best, although I thought he’d go with Final Fantasy VIII since he’s said in the past that it’s his favorite.

Junya Nakano, who has the most limited experience working on the series (he contributed a small part to Final Fantasy X) offers “Summoned Beast Battle,” while Final Fantasy XI duo Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka take straightforward picks with “The Federation of Windurst” and “The Republic of Bastok,” respectively.

Hitoshi Sakimoto does a good job with “The Dalmasca Eastersand,” a great example of his work and one of the best tracks from Final Fantasy XII while Masashu Hamauzu goes with Final Fantasy XIII’s battle theme, “Blinded by Light.”

The picks are interesting, and the booklet included has a brief paragraph from each composer about their respective pick. Unfortunately the disc is probably not going to be seen again with the event being over, but maybe we can get an official translation if you guys are interested.

Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 4,100 Yen ($51)
Availability: CD Japan Special Order
Artist(s): (S_S), MJ & DJ OMKT

After what I viewed as the success of Final Fantasy XI Chips, Square Enix has followed with Chips albums for Final Fantasy VII, VIIIIX, and X. Before you balk at the price, this is a special order because it’s currently only available through Square Enix’s e-Store in Japan, although there are plans to offer these albums in other regions at a more reasonable price.

Jumping in, there are ten arrangements covering close to 40 minutes of music. Although I say arrangements, these are better appreciated as “demakes,” as there isn’t really a whole lot of interpretation or flair despite the involvement of (S_S) of SEXY-SYNTHESIZER who can usually get a crowd going (he does insert little flourishes here and there to remind you he’s there, though).

If you’re okay with that approach, this album is a lot of fun, and nearly every high point is visited. “Opening ~ Bombing Mission” will still send chills down your spine while the measured pace of “Those Who Fight,” the slow simmer of “Turks’ Theme,” the crunchy percussion of “Crazy Motorcycle,” the range of “Cosmo Canyon,” and the swagger of “Those Who Fight Further” should all bring a smile to your face. While there’s no “One-Winged Angel” (which I’m okay with), we do get “J-E-N-O-V-A” and the awesome “Birth of a God.”

My favorite track on the album, however, is the emotional roller-coaster, “Staff Roll,” which makes me wish I could play an 8-bit Final Fantasy VII just to be rewarded with this track at the end.

This is short but sweet. Uber fans may want to pay the price for the import (the special order includes international express shipping, so you can pile up on a big order and not only save, but get it in a jiff), but I’d say you can probably wait for this to hit a Square Enix e-Store near you, whenever that may be.

Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)
Availability: CD Japan Special Order

Here’s Final Fantasy VIII Chips, which gets two more high-profile remixers on the scene to provide 8-bit versions of your favorite tracks. Whereas VII Chips was straightforward, the artists inject a little more style into this album.

I’ve never given a damn about “Liberi Fatali,” but the bassy evil pirate jig arrangement here is at least interesting. I love the layering in the overworld theme, “Blue Fields,” the slow and almost tribal “FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC,” and the dreamy “Fisherman’s Horizon,” which I contend to this day is one of Uematsu’s greatest compositions. You’re also going to love the extremely quirky “The Castle” and the nearly 13-minute long “Ending Theme” which incorporates a crunched and digitized 8-bit vocaloid version of “Eyes on Me,” which is cute.

The highlights, however, are the battle themes. The main battle theme, “Don’t Be Afraid,” and the boss battle theme, “Force Your Way,” are lumped into an amazing medley with some great rhythmic variation that will have you bopping your head along, and the transition between the two pieces is the encounter jingle from the original Final Fantasy. Clever!

On the topic of the original Final Fantasy, “Man With the Machine Gun” gets original Final Fantasy-esque bass blended into the memorable Laguna battle theme. Finally, “The Extreme” is just as epic as the original with its lengthy build up and even some battling going on towards the end with the insertion of sound effects.

Overall, even though I like the Final FantasyVII soundtrack better, Final Fantasy VIII Chips is the superior album, and should be appreciated by fans looking to get an 8-bit fix off their favorite Final Fantasy VIII melodies.

Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)
Availability: CD Japan Special Order
Artist(s): (S_S), ajiponn, Xinon, mochilon, Far East Recording

And we’re back to straightforward 8-bit demakes for the most part. After Final Fantasy VIII Chips’s more arrangement-oriented approach, I was expecting more from Final Fantasy IX Chips, but if you’re looking forward to authentic 8-bit versions of your favorite tracks from the game, this album has you covered.

There’s a simple rendition of “A Place to Call Home” which is actually off of the SQ Chips Preview Mini Album, which is great because fans who didn’t pick up that Japanese exclusive can now enjoy the track here. It does, however, give listeners a taste of the straightforward approach of the album. The energetic battle theme is here, as is the emotional “Roses of May,” the gritty “Gulug Volcano” (actually an arrangement from the original Final Fantasy), and the desperate “Not Alone,” a fan-favorite which is great in any way, shape or form.

The highlight of the album is actually a bubbly version of the overworld theme, “Over the Hills,” which sounds like it could be right out of a NES-era RPG. It has a great swing and some added percussion that lends the piece a nice punch, providing one great arrangement for this album. The bumpin’ percussion in “Aboard the Hilda Garde” also stands out as something different.

There’s not much to say about this one. If you love the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack, pick it up. The “Over the Hills” arrangement is fantastic, and the rest should be enjoyable to those who know their way around the original soundtrack.

Release Date: September 19, 2012
Price: 2,100 Yen ($26)
Availability: CD Japan Special Order

I did not like Final Fantasy X. I did not like the soundtrack either. However, somehow, this album brings out the best tracks and corrects issues I had with their original counterparts, perhaps aided by the technical constraints of chip music.

“At Zanarkand” starts us off and gets a healthy dose of reverb and some tasty delay on the bass that makes it so spacious and wonderful, and the slower and more contemplative version in “Ending Theme” is also fantastic. Next, “Prelude,” which marked a radical change for the series, is presented here in al its bubbly 8-bit glory.

In terms of battle themes, “Normal Battle” and “Seymour Battle” both take a straightforward approach, really sounding like something you’d here on the NES (although I could do without some of the dissonance in the former). “Otherworld” on the other hand, gets some excellent bass and a distorted lead in place of the annoying vocals from the original.

“Song of Prayer,” a bassy choral track I hated in the original game after hearing it too often during the annoying trial portions of the game is presented here with an arpeggiated melody that is encompassing and comforting. Finally, the weird “Mi’hen Highroad” gets an awesome schmup-styled outer space arrangement during the chorus section that caught me off guard.

In all, I really loved this album. It’s better than the OST in my opinion, and fans of the game, its music, and chip music will want to check this out.

Release Date: July 13, 2012
Price: 4,177 ($53)
Availability: CD Japan Special Order
Artist(s): Various Artists

We are republishing this review to appear alongside the other Chip albums, and to describe it in similar terms, this one’s pretty true to the OST. The problem that some of chip arrangements get into is trying to be too complex, so these are a nice treat for those who loved the original melodies.

You have the classic and memorable march followed by SEXY-SYNTHESIZER’s medley of the town themes, which is easily the best track on the album. “Airship” from Final Fantasy XI has always been one of my favorite Uematsu compositions, and the version here is absolutely delicious. “Mog House” is another favorite of mine, and while a chip arrangement sounds and is rather strange, I have to say I’m glad it’s here. Both battle themes presented are straight to the point, but great, and the “Shadow Lord – Awakening” track is gritty and dirty, and makes a much better 8-bit track than I would have ever expected. DIRTY-SYNTHESZIER closes with “FFXI Opening Theme,” complete with digitized choir.

I really dig this CD. So for that reason, it’s unfortunate that Square Enix is distributing it more widely. It’s available in Japan via their e-Store, which only ships to Japan. CD Japan is doing special orders, but it’ll cost over double the normal price for them to secure a copy for you. Still, it’s a great CD for hardcore FFXI fans and chiptune connoisseurs.

FINAL FANTASY XIV – Eorzean Frontiers
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Price: $11.99
Availability: iTunes
Artist(s): Nobuo Uematsu, Masayoshi Soken, Ryo Yamazaki, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Naoshi Mizuta

Well, it’s finally here, but not really in the form any of us were expecting. After the interesting Hot Pocket-styled mini album releases a couple years back, we finally have a more complete Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack, but only in digital form. Nobuo Uematsu is joined by several other Square Enix composers for over three hours of music, and I’ll say it’s a mixed back.

Most of my favorite tracks actually come from the mini albums. The moving piano melody from my favorite track, “Twilight Over Thanalan,” is simply beautiful, while other field themes, including the laid back and jazzy “The Twin Faces of Fate – The Theme of Ul’dah,” the adventurous high-fantasy epic, “On Windy Meadows,” the triumphant march “Navigator’s Glory – The Theme of Limsa Lomisa,” the lullaby-esque “Emerald Labyrinth,” and the mischievous “Born of the Boughs – The Theme of Gridania” all still stand out among the album’s 38 tracks.

Similarly, from the battle mini album, the heavy synth rock “Quicksand” and “Desert Moon Defied” are still two of the best on offer. Fortunately Uematsu’s amazing 12-minute long “Tempest” and Masayoshi Soken’s organ-infused rock track, “Fallen Angel,” also add something new in the rock department.

Other highlights not found on the mini albums include the upbeat jazz track, “Starlight and Spellswords” (cool title!), the bass jumpin’ “Conflagration,” the Panzer Dragoon-esque “Whisper of the Land,” the ethnic desert track, “Pitfire,” and the spooky “Tears for Mor Dhona.” I must also mention Soken’s “Good King Moggle Mog XII,” which comes as a The Nightmare Before Christmas vs. “Mog’s Theme” hybrid with silly vocals, and, of course, the lovable “Mog’s Theme” as its foundation.

There’s a lot to like here, but again, most of my favorite tracks come from the previously-released mini albums. Even more, some of my favorite tracks form the mini albums are not found here. It’s still unknown as to whether Uematus’s score will be carried over into A Realm Reborn, so we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, this offers three hours of music for only $11.99 on iTunes, which is a good deal.

Piano Collections FINAL FANTASY XII
Release Date: November 7, 2012
Price: 2,800 Yen ($35) (stand-alone) / 5,250 Yen ($66) (with OST)
Availability: CD Japan (stand-alone) / (with OST)
Artist(s): Casey Ormond, Hitoshi Sakimoto

We recently mentioned this album, and while everyone chimed in that they were hoping for an HD re-release of FFXII, I couldn’t be more happy to finally get this album. Not only is Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Final Fantasy XII soundtrack highly underrated, but it’s the only Final Fantasy title without a piano arrange album, and I’ll take partial credit for finally making it happen (read here)!

The Final Fantasy XII soundtrack was certainly a regal and mature affair. It wasn’t as bouncy and melodic as previous outings which is why it takes more effort to find the musical gems hidden within. Arranger and pianist Casey Ormond does a great job highlighting some of the key story elements as well as the game’s most memorable melodies.

The more serious side is presented through the powerful “Opening Movie (Theme of FINAL FANTASY XII) ~ The Dream to be a Sky Pirate” and the dastardly “Theme of the Empire.” The latter’s arrangement sports tons of staccato (short) notes that remind me a lot of Kefka’s theme.

On the melodic front, we get the popular “The Dalmasca Eastersand,” but in a more upbeat form. “Penelo’s Theme” is as infectiously happy as you’d expect, and the bubbly arrangement of “Near the Water” is my favorite moment on the album with Ormond having a lot of fun with the rhythm. “A Moment’s Rest” also does some interesting things rhythmically, showing off Ormond’s skill, and the bass-heavy “Rabanastre Downtown” approaches funky jazz territory. The closer, The Skycity of Bhujerba,” is appropriately reflective, giving listeners a last look back at the world of Final Fantasy XII.

The album’s biggest surprise, “Eruyt Village,” trades the beautiful harp arpeggios and encompassing pads of the original for a much more interpretive approach from Ormond. The result, while impressive, obscures the original melody, leaving me a bit disappointed.

Overall, I couldn’t be more happy that this album has finally been made. It can be picked up alone or in conjunction with the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack which also comes highly recommended.

Release Date: September 20, 2012
Price: Not for Sale
Availability: Tokyo Game Show 2012 giveaway
Artist(s): Various Artists

Every year for the past several years at Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix has given away a free sampler CD to anyone making a purchase at their merchandise store. These contain samples from Square Enix’s upcoming music releases, and this year proved no different, featuring lots of Final Fantasy lovin’ given the franchise’s 25th anniversary is this year.

The unfortunate thing is that, by now, many of these albums are already released. We have Final Fantasy Legends, which was actually released in 2010 in Japan, but recently hit iOS and Droid. The music by Naoshi Mizuta is fantastic, and worth looking into. Then there’s a weird Nightmare Before Christmas vs. “Mog’s Theme” in “Good King Moggle Mog XII” from Final Fantasy XIV, a dancey remix of “Twister” from The World Ends With You -Crossover- for iOS, and a lengthy rock adventure from Bravely Default.

The big surprises here, however, come from the final three tracks. “The Dalmasca Eastersand” from Piano Collections Final Fantasy XII is quite lovely, providing a gentle touch the bold theme. A big band performance from Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks- of the Final Fantasy main theme also appears, although I think I’ve heard enough arrangements of this theme to last a lifetime. Finally, there’s a sample from an album titled Military Tune that we still know nothing about. The pumping trance remix of my favorite track from Dewprism is a pleasant surprise, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about this CD, as it seems like it could be an SQ-style album.

Unfortunately these discs are handed out at TGS then tend to disappear, but it should still give you a preview of what to expect from Square Enix music through the end of the year.

About The Author
Jayson Napolitano
More Stories by Jayson Napolitano