Game Music

Preview: Hamauzu’s Final Fantasy XIII Soundtrack Not to Disappoint

April 28, 2009 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook Preview: Hamauzu’s Final Fantasy XIII Soundtrack Not to Disappointon Twitter

The latest of the massive Final Fantasy franchise has finally arrived – well, sort of. As a nice bonus feature of the Blu-ray version of Advent Children that was released in Japan this month, a generous Final Fantasy XIII demo was included, finally giving fans a taste of one of the most anticipated games of 2009 and 2010.

The demo lasts about two hours and is broken up into two sections, featuring 4 pieces of music that appear to be near-final versions. The pieces include music for the menu, the “dungeon” area, battles, and the boss battle. For those who may not be aware (none of you, I hope), Masashi Hamazu is handling the score, finally getting his well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Read our preview of the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack after the jump.

The demo starts off with a menu screen, featuring a nice orchestral piece with Hamauzu’s signature piano that follows the traditional Japanese fantasy RPG sound. I was actually quite surprised that they did not use the famous series “Prelude” for this screen, but this beautiful theme sets the mood quite well. The track that plays throughout the majority of the demo (the “dungeon” theme) is a very short looped piece with a lot of ostinato (repetitive figures), giving a very edgy and progressive feel.

I would say that the highlight of the demo is the battle theme. It starts with low strings playing very distinct Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”-ish harmonies with some high string ostinato. Shortly after a French horn melody comes in, Hamauzu adds layers of percussion, high sustained string notes, and a distorted guitar – all of which work to build tension. From here, a band kicks in with a solo violin and synthesizer doubling up on a very catchy and gorgeous melodic line which releases the tension beautifully from the previous section. I’ll admit that this track doesn’t sound a whole lot like past Final Fantasy titles (I actually found it to be reminiscent of Ys), but it definitely sounds great. I am personally very pleased that Hamauzu went for band music (I guess Uematsu taught him well), as opposed to relying solely on symphonic music. This theme is simply an incredible, modern RPG battle theme.

The boss battle track provides another big surprise. On the top of the typical warlike symphonic sound, Hamauzu works in this prominent, impressionism-like piano motif throughout the piece, and the climax about half way through is simply epic. The strings and brass sections play such an incredible melody while high piano and strings bring on the tension. It’s really a great piece of music, and I think this is how a boss battle should sound and feel.

So, that’s it. Much too short, but oh so good. The demo is a huge tease, and I’m sure many of you are with me in wanting more. Hamauzu’s work is quite impressive, and I think it’s some of his best. He adds great musical ideas to the game while managing to keep the Final Fantasy sound and feel intact. Unlike the mixed reactions that Sakimoto’s score for Final Fantasy XII received, I think that Hamauzu’s work will be welcomed with open arms by hardcore Uematsu fans. The full version of the game is waiting for its release day in the winter of 2009… in Japan, and I’m sure Hamauzu has more surprises in store for us.

Are you a long-time fan of Hamauzu and are happy that he’s finally getting his moment in the spotlight? Are you impressed with the music featured in the FFXIII demo?

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