Game Music, Reviews

Finally Complete: Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack –Plus- (Review)

November 11, 2011 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Finally Complete: Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack –Plus- (Review)on Twitter

We joked with Izumi Tsukushi and Akio Shiraishi about completing the circle for Final Fantasy XI, as there were several tracks from the final Abyssea expansion and other add-ons that had never been released. We were wondering if a final complete box was on the way, but instead, Square Enix has decided to augment the Premium Box with subsequent releases, of which –PLUS- should be the last.

The album contains 12 tracks from the aforementioned expansions as well as a second disc dedicated entirely to music from the PlayOnline gaming portal that Square Enix used for Final Fantasy XI and Tetra Master.

Check out our review of the two-disc collection after the jump.

As mentioned, this is music from the Abyssea expansion and other expansions and add-ons that never got an official release. With that said, it makes sense that the soundtrack here doesn’t really tell a story, and is rather eclectic in style. Although there are only 12 tracks featured, they cover close to an hour of music, so don’t think you’re getting short changed either.

Starting from the beginning, “Wings of Dawn” is an epic orchestral piece that makes for a great opener to the album, bringing in that classic high fantasy RPG sound that Mizuta has been largely responsible for shaping over the past ten years. But he also wants you to remember that this is Final Fantasy as wel by tackling Uematsu’s “Final Fantasy” theme, creating a fantastic arrangement (he seems to have a knack for arranging this theme, as I loved his version from Final Fantasy Legends as well).

The longest track on the album is “Abyssea – Scarlet Skies, Shadows Plains,” coming in at over eight minutes in length. It’s contemplative and foreboding, coming off as rather simple and desolate, making for a pretty different listening experience to other stuff heard in Final Fantasy XI.  “Summers Lost” and “Everlasting Bonds,” on the other hand, are emotional, with the former coming as a touching electric piano and belltone duet and the latter as an electric piano and strings ballad.

There are also a lot of final battle themes on this album. “Luck of the Mog” brings in rock elements with a chugging bass line and rock percussion, but it’s the playful synth lead that makes the piece feel so moogle-appropriate, acting as the final battle theme with Riko Kupenreich in the Moogle Kupo d’Etat quest chain.   “Echoes of Creation,” on the other hand, is the final battle theme from the A Crystalline Prophecy add-on and is dark and mysterious with its razor-like synth leads that lend the piece a futuristic edge along with the hard-hitting factory-like percussion

My two favorite tracks on the album are also both final battle themes. “Shinryu” accompanies the final battle from the Abyssea expansion, and as the music would suggest, this ancient wyrm can apparently kick some serious ass. The piece is slow to build and sort of meanders about, but it’s the hopeful chorus section that will draw you in not only because it’s different, but also because it’s awesome. “Goddess Divine” is the epic final battle theme for Lilith from Wings of the Goddess, proceeding along decisively with lots of string stabs and brass.

The second disc contains music from the PlayOnline service. I remember listening to these tracks and picking out my favorites for my background back in the day, but there are a lot of tracks here I don’t remember as they were added later. The “POL OPENING” and “Space” from the Final Fantasy XI anniversary album are both here along with 23 other tracks by Noriko Matsueda and three by Kumi Tanioka. The tracks are all original compositions, so those who didn’t experience them on the PlayOnline service may not have that tug of nostalgia associated with them, but they’re pretty good, covering everything from jazz to synth pop to Asian-flavored tunes and everything in between.

I won’t go into all the individual tracks, but figured I’d mention a few of my favorites. I love the calm and peaceful “Gin no kaichudokei,” the soothing “Foster Family” that comes as a piano ballad, and “Tsuioku” which is simply mesmerizing. “Honobono” sounds like an RPG town theme, while “Yousei no odori” is upbeat and a lot of fun.

There are a bunch of funk and electronic tunes as well, including “Jungle” and “Jazz 2” (both of which I toggled as my own person background music on PlayOnline). “Funky Monkey,” “Solid Wax,” “Baby Herbie” and “Technorider” will all have you thinking you’re listening to music from de Blob with their heavy funk, which is a good thing.

That leaves Kumi Tanioka’s three compositions that come at the end of the album. I was looking forward to these, but they don’t end up being all that memorable next to Matsueda’s energetic tracks. “Megumi” sounds like a windy grasslands while “Minori” features a Western vibe with a back-and-forth bass line and a whistling woodwind melody.

In all, this is admittedly a very disjointed collection of music that will appeal to completionists out there who want to own all of the music from Final Fantasy XI. There are several key themes that hardcore fans of the game will probably want to have, as there are several final boss themes, many of which are cool to listen to even if you’re like me and never got that far in the game. The PlayOnline stuff is a great bonus that I’m glad to see Square Enix put out there, so I’m sure the same hardcore fans will appreciate this. The packaging is also quite nice, coming in a thick dual-disc tray with separate glossy booklets for the Final Fantasy XI and PlayOnline material.

It’s available from Play-Asia and CD Japan, but you’ll probably want to pick it up from the Square Enix North America store where players can get an in-game item if they purchase the soundtrack for $29.99.

Have any fond memories of the tracks featured on this album, including the PlayOnline material? Is this a better alternative to publishing another huge box with repeated material?

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