Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Tuesday 10s: Final Fantasy Soundtracks

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time to bring back The Tuesday 10s for a second go-around! With Final Fantasy VII Remake launching last month to rave reviews, including my own, it seems like an opportune moment for this edition of The Tuesday 10s to dabble into the music of the Final Fantasy series. I'm going to name my ten favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks and list some of my favorite themes from each. From mainline entries to solid spin-offs, this list has quality games and even higher quality soundtracks!

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Speaking of the game that inspired this Tuesday 10s edition, we kick off this musical adventure with Final Fantasy VII Remake. And speaking of things that are inspired, Final Fantasy VII Remake's soundtrack combines a mix of inspired new takes on familiar Final Fantasy VII themes and creates wholly new themes to go alongside them as well. Hearing tracks from my youth fully realized in new and brilliant ways was such a gas, and made my playthrough of part one of this remake all the more enjoyable.

Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

What better way to continue our glimpse and listen to my favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks than by following a remake up with the original article? Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack is implanted in the memories of a multitude of players, young and old. It to this day remains an important piece of a masterful whole that made fans of the original love the game so much, and a reason why new fans find a lot to love about Final Fantasy VII nowadays. The final boss theme, One-Winged Angel is one of the most famous and ubiquitous in all of gaming, and for good reason, too. I wouldn't call the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack Nobuo Uematsu's best work (but then again, that's highly subjective anyway)--I'm saving that for later, but it's certainly a well done one!

Final Fantasy IX (PS1)

Nobuo Uematsu closes out the PlayStation 1 era of Final Fantasy games with style and grace with his Final Fantasy IX score. You don't know how difficult it was for me to limit myself to just five song selections from IX. Well, to be truthful, that's how it is for every game soundtrack on this list, but it was especially so for Final Fantasy IX. Something about this particular game score sets me off and in a good way--and that's without even having played through the entire thing. Yes, yes, I know, mark of shame and all that. The fairy tale sound of the soundtrack mixed with some terrific melodies and leitmotifs, a stable for the series, are ever present in this phenomenal end to the PS1 run of Final Fantasy games.

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360)

Like Final Fantasy X and XI before it, Final Fantasy XII featured a group of composers lending their works to Final Fantasy XIII's sensational soundtrack, all spearheaded by Masashi Hamauzu as the main composer. Between the intense battle themes Saber's Edge and Blinded by Light (for boss and normal encounters respectively) and Chocobos of Pulse, my absolute favorite rendition of the Chocobo theme, Final Fantasy XIII delighted musically even if, for me, the game itself did not.

Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

This soundtrack, to me, is Nobuo Uematsu's finest work, but I'm open for debate on this. (You'll easily beat me down in such a debate since my musical knowledge isn't the savviest anyway!) Regardless, Final Fantasy VI remains my favorite Final Fantasy soundtrack of the mainline games, offering a diverse and impressive lineup of character themes that play gloriously in one final suite at the end of the game, a tremendous series of battle themes (such as the ever-impressive, haunting, ever-building Dancing Mad), and other great tunes. I feel like I'm doing Dancing Mad's impressiveness an injustice by just slipping it in that last sentence so casually, because it's amazing how it was programmed to switch between movements as you entered new phases of the four stage final boss encounter. Goodness, me. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Continuing our journey into 16-bit Final Fantasy soundtracks, we delve deeper into the past with 1991's Final Fantasy IV. This pick is mostly out of my own nostalgia, with it being my very first Final Fantasy game played way back when. The other reason for this pick is that it's just a genuinely excellent soundtrack! Nobuo Uematsu fine tuned his creative spirit and used his first foray with the franchise on the Super Nintendo sound chip with masterful ability, offering tunes that I find myself humming innocuously at random moments to this day. The boss themes, whether the normal (which I absolutely adore), the theme used when battling the Four Fiends, or the final boss theme itself, are etched into my gaming and melodic memories. Ah.... Don't mind me. Just waxing poetic!

Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1)

If I had to choose my absolute favorite soundtrack from the Final Fantasy series, a seemingly impossible task considering all the great music that has come from the games, my choice would have to be 1997's Final Fantasy Tactics. Composed by Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto, a pair also known for their excellent work on the Tactics Ogre series, the drama, the action, and the intensity unfolds in each and every note of the soundtrack. The hauntingly beautiful melodies and satisfying harmonies make for a soundtrack that I couldn't help but make my first game soundtrack purchase when I was a younger listener to the Final Fantasy series' music.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)

Taking on a much lighter sound to fit the much lighter mood of the game compared to the PlayStation original, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance showed that the less than stellar Game Boy Advance sound chip and speakers could deliver some truly tremendous and high quality music. One of the best GBA game soundtracks is a credit to the composition team led by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who did the majority of the music for the game. While the GBA versions of these tracks are delightful, the arranged versions as part of the official released soundtrack are even more magical!

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (GCN)

Here's another soundtrack from a Final Fantasy spin-off that I'm absolutely in love with. It's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, a game set to be remastered and released later this year, if arrangements still hold true. Part of my adoration with the GameCube's lone Final Fantasy game was how well the music complemented the journey. The music uses worldly, rustic, earthen instruments, delivering a sound that is quite unlike many other games in the Final Fantasy series. It helps that the melodies and accompaniments are just masterful--just a job well done from Kumi Tanioka!

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)

We move from one Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles game, the original, to a much more different game in the same sub-series with our finale. It's the Wii's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, and it delivered a departure from the tried and true heroes of modern Final Fantasy games. Layle was a really cool and charismatic dude! Even the gameplay was off-kilter, even by Crystal Chronicles' standards, offering the ability to pick up and chuck enemies into one another to deal damage, as well as possessing a plethora of engaging mini-game-like activities. The soundtrack, which I should really get into now considering the point of this Tuesday 10 installment, was composed mostly by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki, and like the game itself, the music stretched the definitions of Final Fantasy music.

That concludes this edition of the Tuesday 10s! It's with my hope that you won't have to wait nearly a month again for the next installment! In the meantime, which Final Fantasy soundtracks are your absolute favorites? Let me know in the comments below!

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