Game Music

Soundtrack of the Month 07/2008: Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack Premium Box

July 1, 2008 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Soundtrack of the Month 07/2008: Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack Premium Boxon Twitter

Alright, so I’m cheating. This month’s featured soundtrack on OSV is not just an OST, it’s a boxed set! That makes it all the easier to boast about, since one would expect to find at least some good music across seven discs of content. But what if I told you it was all good, and that two of the seven discs have previously unreleased music that you cannot purchase anywhere else? Yeah, now you’re excited! (I hope).

Prepare yourself for a breakdown of what is (and isn’t) in this box set, and learn more about how to buy it without having to go to an import store after the jump.

The first two discs of the Final Fantasy XI box set are actually the “OST” proper. It is also the only part of the Final Fantasy XI music collection that is not composed solely by Naoshi Mizuta. Similar to Final Fantasy X, a trio of musicians scored the game, led by series composer Nobuo Uematsu. Joining him are Kumi Tanioka and Naoshi Mizuta. Together, they composed a fantastic collection of music to accompany the original setup for Vana’diel: three nations (San d’Oria, Bastok, Windurst), the Grand Duchy of Jeuno, and the perilous Castle Zvahl. The music found on these two discs is simply fantastic. I especially enjoyed Kumi Tanioka’s contributions.

Discs three, four, and five are the OSTs for three expansions: Rise of the Zilart, Chains of Promathia, and Treasures of Aht Urhgan (respectively). All three of these expansions starred Mizuta as the sole composer. For each of these expansions, new town, battle, and event themes were composed. They match the content of each expansion well. Zilart’s new “island” areas showcase the use of marimbas and xylophones; Promathia’s ethereal “Promyvion” zones are captured well with Mizuta’s expert use of almost otherworldly synths; Aht Urhgan’s “Near East” landscape is matched by an equally impressive soundscape. These three soundtracks were all originally available as separate purchases, and avid fans were willing to purchase them. Now they make up less than half of this box set. Get the picture? Good.

Now, here comes the really good stuff. The last two discs are not found anywhere else; they are exclusive to this box set. Disc six is an “Unreleased” collection. These tracks generally came about through one particular phenomenon. With each expansion Square Enix releases for Final Fantasy XI, the content is not finished at the time of its release. More is added through updates that happen four or five times per year. With the added content, sometimes, comes additional music. Since the expansions’ soundtracks are released at the same time as the expansions themselves, those newly-composed songs are never put on an official soundtrack. The “unreleased” disc showcases these songs. The most prominent song on this disc, found in multiple versions, is “Distant Worlds.” The melody was originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu in Final Fantasy XI, but this vocal track was used as the ending music for the Chains of Promathia plot. Its only fault is that the opera-style vocalist suffers from a case of Engrish-itis. L’s and R’s are just flying about every which way, and there’s no guessing when she’ll sing it right or wrong.

The final disc is the non-canonical “Piano Collections” disc. Why non-canonical? Well, last week Square Enix published a single-disc soundtrack entitled “Piano Collections Final Fantasy XI.” And it’s not a re-issue of this disc; it’s entirely new content from beginning to end. The arrangers and performers are the same, so that means there are now, technically, two discs of classic Final Fantasy XI tunes arranged for piano. I cannot compare the two albums, but I will say that I love the arrangements on this disc. Two tracks are performed as duets (a battle theme and “Vana’diel March #4” which is a title-screen song). The rest are solo piano, and they are all beautiful. Honestly, I’ve listened to (and at one time or another owned) every “Piano Collection” album in the Final Fantasy series. This one ranks among the top three.

So what isn’t in this mammoth set? There are three published albums that didn’t make it into this set. One is the aforementioned “canonical” Piano Collection. Another is the soundtrack for the fourth expansion, Crusaders of Altana (known in North America as Wings of the Goddess). The other is an arranged album from “The Star Onions,” a group formed by Final Fantasy XI developers featuring Kumi Tanioka, Naoshi Mizuta, and even members of that other Square Enix posse, “The Black Mages.” While I would like to have all FFXI-related music in one giant box, a game of this nature (an MMORPG, to be specific) will continue to grow and will thus continue to have new music, so at this point, one singular collection cannot be formed.

So, how do you get your hands on this lovely treat? The easiest way to do it is to purchase it directly from Square Enix. Indeed, Square Enix has been one of the first game publishers to offer both digital (iTunes) and hard-copy (CD) releases of their music to North American fans. The really exciting thing about it is the money saved on shipping and on monetary conversion. This box set, if imported, would run you well over $100. Direct from Square Enix, you can have it for about $90. Do the math, and that’s about $13 per disc, which is an excellent deal.

What do you think? Is Mizuta’s work worth the purchase of such a fancy-pants box set? And how about that vocal track from the end of Chains of Promathia? Some people love it, others hate it. See the video below to hear the song (alongside the Final Fantasy XI opening theme).

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