We were all a bit surprised when we learned on April 1 this year that Final Fantasy XIII OST PLUS was on its way. I initially thought it would feature international versions of songs along with some remixes, but that’s actually not what the album is about. What we have here is basically an album of trailer music, alpha versions, prototype version, alternate versions, English-vocal versions, and instrumental versions of tracks from the Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack that we reviewed some months ago.
So, the question is whether or not this album is a legitimate entry into the Final Fantasy XIII music catalogue, or whether it’s more of a gimmicky collector’s item. Find out what we think in our review of the Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack PLUS album after the jump.
First of all, the track titles on this album are crazy, but kind of cool. They contain the actual cue number and are often listed by what I assume is their original file names (i.e. Hope_PfNer3), but for simplicity sake, I’m going to refer to the tracks simply by their track titles. If you want to see all the neat cue number references and such, head over to VGMdb for the official tracklist.
The album opens with two trailer pieces that were used at E3 and Jump Festa. The E3 trailer from E3 2006 opens with some droning strings before a near-final version of “Blinded by Light” comes in. Given that the trailer is dominated almost entirely by “Blinded by Light,” it doesn’t offer much in terms of new content, but it’s interesting in that it shows that as of 2006, “Blinded by Light” was basically completed and finalized. The Jump Festa 2007 trailer music is a little more diverse and cinematic, working in several themes from the game and really giving a preview of the game’s music. I am surprised that neither the “Prelude to FINAL FANTASY XIII” nor “The Promise” appeared in either of these trailers, as they’ve come to be such memorable themes from the game.
Most of the alpha and prototype versions that are included here sound very similar to the final versions, except they’re more thin and distant, having not benefited from the same mixing and mastering process as the final versions. I suppose the inclusion of alpha versions of “title” and “BossA” provide an interesting look into how the music evolved over the development process, but I can’t see myself or anyone for that matter seeking them out specifically to listen to. Similarly, an alternate version of Lightning’s theme titled “Lightning NW Version” is included, but aside from the more impactful strings, there’s not much difference.
At least there are some major differences with “Last Battle Prototype+,” which is significantly shorter than the final version featured in the game, and “Sazh B+ Prototype,” which is actually much longer than the final version of the track, opening with a hip-hop oriented percussion section that gives the piece an entirely different vibe. The track here with the biggest difference, however, is “Hope.” “Hope’s Theme” on the original soundtrack is an emotional piece voiced by live acoustic guitar, whereas the version on this album is a solo piano piece, and is more contemplative than melancholy. This track is definitely one of the highlights of the album as it actually highlights the differences between the earlier version and the final version.
Aside from protoype and alpha versions, there are also some extended versions of tracks featured on this album that I know some fans will appreciate. “‘Defiers of Fate’ Palamecia Assault Version” is 5:11 as opposed to the OST’s 2:23 version, and sports an extended synth breakdown section, while “‘Blinded by Light’ Long Version” is about 20 seconds longer than the OST version. After listening to the regular version and “long version” of “Blinded by Light” back to back, however, I still can’t figure out what section they extended.
A number of alternate vocal versions also appear on this album. We get both an international and instrumental version of “The Sunleth Waterscape,” with the former featuring lyrics by Frances Maya. Honestly, the Japanese version of “The Sunleth Waterscape” also featured lyrics in English, so there isn’t a huge difference, but they mixed the vocals in the international version much better so that they’re more in the forefront of the mix. There are also instrumental versions of both “The Gapra Whitewood,” which featured only minimal choral work in the first place, and “Fighting Fate,” which I actually prefer without the bombastic choir for outside listening (the choir really helped drive the intensity of the battle scenes in-game). Finally, “‘Chocobos of Cocoon’ English Version” is pretty self-explanatory, with both versions featuring auto-tuned lyrics, but I think I actually prefer the sound of the Japanese lyrics.
The album’s packaging is quite interesting, with the cover sporting a certain haze that gives it a sort of ethereal quality, which is fitting given the “work in progress” nature of the music featured on the album. Inside, there are extensive notes on each of the tracks along with lots of artwork from the game and shots of Masashi Hamauzu in a variety of locations (including the recording studio). While I’m a bit torn on the actual content of the disc itself given that so many of the tracks are not drastically different from their OST counterparts, there are some worthwhile moments here, including extended versions, English versions, and trailer music that can’t be found elsewhere. The asking price of 2,500 Yen may be higher than many fans want to pay for what is more of a collector’s item than a standalone listening experience, but I know there are fans out there who will want this in their collection regardless of the cost. Those people can pick it up at Play-Asia or CD Japan.
What do you think of the concept behind this PLUS album? Were you expecting something different?Tags: Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XIII, Masashi Hamauzu, Reviews, Square Enix, Videogame