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volume 3 issue 7

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INFO FILE
Title:
Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack (Limited Edition)
Format:
2 CDs
51 tracks
Production:
Nobuo Uematsu
SquareSoft
Digicube
Naoshi Mizuta
Kumi Tanioka
Nobuo Uematsu
Comments:
Final Fantasy is back once again, only this time it's online, how does the music adapt to this change in direction for the famous RPG franchise?
Overall Rating:
90%

Animefringe Reviews:
Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack (Limited Edition)
By J.P. Arevalo

Another year, another Final Fantasy, another Final Fantasy soundtrack. Those familiar with Final Fantasy music, or video game music in general, should know the name Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu has been the musical genius behind the scores that bring the Final Fantasy world to life. As far as recent efforts go, Uematsu has taken a more hands-off approach, sharing musical composition duties with other composers while also handling the production side. This trend started with the last Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy X, when Uematsu teamed up with Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu. On this latest venture, Uematsu shares the stage with Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka.

The Final Fantasy games have always been about epic storytelling, and the music has always been crafted to fit a certain pre-determined mood or theme for a specific title. Final Fantasy XI presents a challenge, in that it is the first game in the 15-year old franchise to be online. Locales are the same, but what a character does is dependant on the player, putting a limit on the amount of music that can be written for the game. One look at the contents of the soundtrack will tell you exactly that. The FFXI OST is only 2 discs, whereas recent previous FF OSTs (i.e. FFVIII, FFIX, FFX) have all been 4 discs in length. There are 51 tracks on the FFXI OST, which is half of what is usually put out for Final Fantasy games. Uematsu and co. have had to come up with a score that lives up to the legacy of Final Fantasy while working within the confines of a MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game). Ironic, seeing as the words "confine" and "MMORPG" are rarely seen in a sentence together. Was their effort a success?

Final Fantasy soundtracks are always compared to each other. Everyone will have a favorite, and they will always base successive soundtracks on that one they like the best. With the recent infusion of new talent, there has been enough change and diversification to let the newer Final Fantasy soundtracks stand on their own as wonderful compositions of music. FFXI is a perfect example of this. With a very medieval feel, accompanied by the occasional upbeat, quirky tune, the Final Fantasy XI soundtrack stands on its own as a superior score that manages to fit the theme of the game as closely as it can.

If comparisons must be made, the FFXI OST sounds more like Final Fantasy Tactics than any other Final Fantasy game that has passed. This is an easy connection to make, as both games take place in a medieval setting. The standard marching-type themes can be heard throughout, a good example being the second track on the first disc, "Vana'diel March." After this, the tracks mostly consist of themes for the different kingdoms and races featured in Final Fantasy XI. My favorite track as far as the kingdom themes go, is definitely , "The Federation of Windurst." It has a catchy, upbeat feel to it, a very inviting and calming theme indicative of the Tarutaru, the small magic-using people, and the Mithra, specialists in nature study, that inhabit this kingdom.

Familiar themes remain. "Prelude" a.k.a. the crystal theme is intact, as well your Final Fantasy style battle theme and airship music. There are a few battle themes, as is the norm with any Final Fantasy game. The main battle theme, aptly named, "Battle Theme," does a great job of conveying the excitement of battle, even though you'll be hearing it many more times than you might like. One of the other tracks, "Battle in the Dungeons," sounds similar to the main battle theme, just with some heavier sounds. "Battle #2," sounds a little more like a boss battle theme, with that extra sense of urgency latent in the music. Having limited time with the game myself, I wasn't able to hear a fanfare track of some sort, and there doesn't seem to be a song on the soundtrack that sounds like a Final Fantasy fanfare track anyway, which is a bit of a disappointment for me. A great battle theme, followed by rousing fanfare, are the things that make the Final Fantasy soundtracks so classic.

Rolling along to the race themes, "Elvaan Female," has to be the best of the bunch. It is a catchy, beat-oriented number that gets your head moving when you hear it. Also similar in style to the aforementioned track is, "Mithra." These easy going tracks create an excellent atmosphere for the races that they represent, even down to the light-hearted "Tarutaru Male" and "Tarutaru Female" tracks.

Skipping down, we find, "Mog House", a light string-based theme that is fitting for a Moogle, the furry little white creatures which have been a staple in the Final Fantasy universe for a long time, very well. Coming to the end of the soundtrack, we are met with more dramatic-sounding tracks. These lead me to believe that they are used to drive along the story, but by what means I am not completely sure, as it is an online game and I have yet to play it to that extent. For what they are, they don't attain the same climactic fervor that previous Final Fantasy finales achieve, but of course, having not played the game that far, it's difficult to say.

I was able to secure a limited edition copy of this soundtrack, and it's quite nice to look at. It comes in a fold-out case, the back of the case being a mural of Yoshitaka Amano art, the man behind most of the character designs and concept art for the entire series. The package also comes with a DVD featuring the opening movie in Dolby Surround, Dolby 5.1 and dialogue-free versions, as well as a remix of the track, "Memoro de la S^tono," to video of a behind the scenes look at Uematsu's journey making the Final Fantasy XI soundtrack. A booklet is also included, displaying images from the game as well as messages from the three composers.

Getting a new Final Fantasy soundtrack, for me, is always a special occasion. This time around, the circumstances of the game are a little different, I still come away with a positive impression of the soundtrack and I'll probably be humming various tunes from this wonderful collection until the game reaches North America in 2003.

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