Game Music, Reviews

Happy Birthday, Final Fantasy XI: Memories of Dusk and Dawn (Review)

May 26, 2010 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Happy Birthday, Final Fantasy XI: Memories of Dusk and Dawn (Review)on Twitter

I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since Final Fantasy XI was released. I remember picking the game up a local GameStop (also pretty new back then) on the first day the game was released and getting ready to delve into the massive world of Vana’diel… after the 8 or so hours it took to update the game out of the box. I only made it to level 15 or so (red mage rocks!), and gave up after about 60 hours when it came time to look for the items needed to unlock dual classes, but I still have fond memories of the game.

This album commemorates the 8th anniversary of the game with tracks voted on and selected by fans, and I have to say that the fans have a pretty good taste in music. However, I’m still slightly baffled as to why Square Enix decided to celebrate the 8th anniversary in this manner… perhaps with the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XIV, they’re not expecting FFXI to reach the 10 year mark?

Well, in any case, here’s your chance to catch up on the best of what the game and its many expansions has had to offer. Hit the jump for our review.

So, while this is a “best of” album, there are still a couple unreleased tracks featured here, but not ones that you’d expect. Rather than music from the game, you get two tracks from Square Enix’s PlayOnline service composed by Noriko Matsueda. I remember digging these tracks when the service first launched, and both the electronic-based “POL OPENING” that opens the album and the jazzy “POL Window” that closes out the album are nice additions, although they’re quite short.

Since this is a “best of” album, I don’t want to dig too much into the individual tracks, as they’ve all been heard elsewhere, but I have to say again that the fans have picked some of the best tracks from the series. From the original Final Fantasy XI soundtrack, we get the memorable “Vana’diel March” which introduced most of us to the world of Vana’diel.  I still love how they worked “Prelude” into the piece, although I’m surprised by how dated this and many of the other tracks on this album sound after only 8 years. Uematsu’s “Ronfaure” is also included, along with “Gustaberg” and “Selbina.” While “Battle in the Dungeon #2” is here, I’m surprised that the standard battle theme is not included, as I always thought it was one of the game’s best. The ominous “Shadow Lord” also appears, along with a fan-favorite (voted #3 by fans), “Awakening.” Funny, as I didn’t think this one was all that memorable.

From the Rise of Zilart expansion that came packed in with the North American release, the wild west “Kazham,” the stunningly beautiful “The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah,” and the playful battle tune “Fights of the Crystal” (voted #2) all were rated high by fans and made the cut. I think these are some of the best tracks this expansion and this album have to offer, so I’m glad they were included. From Chains of Promathia, we get the soothing “Tavnazian Archipelago” and the epic “Distant Worlds.” I have to say, however, after hearing Susan Calloway’s angelic voice singing “Distant Worlds” with the Distant Worlds concert series, I can’t stand Izumi Masuda’s original “Engrish” version. This is still a beautiful piece of music, though, and a favorite among fans (#4).

There are a good chunk of tracks from Treasuers of Aht Urhgan, 6 in all, including the uppity “Mercenaries Delight,” the contemplative “Jeweled Boughts,” and the very Uematsu-esque “Whispers of the Gods,” which he surprisingly didn’t write. This grouping also includes the #1 most request track by fans, “Ragnarok,” which, while epic, is surprisingly short at less than 3 minutes in length. I can’t say I have experience with this track (or many others) in the game, so maybe I just don’t get it, but the mainly cinematic approach doesn’t really do much for me.

The last expansion released was Wings of the Goddess, and from what I’ve heard, I kind of got the impression that the music team was losing steam with this one. The only track from this soundtrack that was selected by fans was “Clash of Standards,” which, with “On This Blade” do have some seemingly forced energy behind them, although I prefer the gentler sounds of “Autumn Footfalls” and “The Cosmic Wheel.”

In the end, I feel that this collection is a good representation of what the Final Fantasy XI world has had to offer. I am kind of puzzled about the absence of some of my favorite tracks from the original soundtrack, including “Mog House,” “Battle Theme,” “Airship,” and “Batallia Downs,” and I’m sure that fans looking at this disc will also identify some glaring omissions. Still, as a fan of the original game that missed out on many of the expansions, it was great to catch up without having to spend a lot, but many would also argue (myself included) that the close to $30 it will cost you to import the album may be a bit steep (it retails for about $19 USD). There are the two PlayOnline tracks to consider, but their combined 3 minutes of music don’t amount to much. As far as the packaging is concerned, the birthday cake and figures on the cover are cute, and the birthday wishes from fans (in Japanese) as well as the vote results inside the booklet are a nice touch. You can pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested in skimming the surface of the massive body of music featured in Final Fantasy XI.

Are you surprised to see an album like this commemorating the game’s 8th birthday? Are there any tracks that you believe deserved to be here that aren’t?

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