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Soundtrack of the Month 08/2011: Final Fantasy IV

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I still have a giant backlog of Soundtrack of the Month articles I want to do, but it’s about time I got around to one of my favorite Final Fantasy titles and soundtracks of all time. Perhaps the recent release of the Final Fantasy IV The Complete Collection has brought this one to the forefront of my mind, but I think most fans would agree that this soundtrack is deserving of this honor.

Join us as we take a trip back in time and highlight some of the best that Nobuo Uematsu had to offer with Final Fantasy IV.

There are a number of popular tracks from this score, including “Theme of Love” which has been featured in live concerts throughout the world as well as the series “Prelude” and “Prologue,” the latter of which has come to be known as the “Final Fantasy” theme. It’s due to this soundtrack, however, that I still always refer to the theme as “Prologue.”

While other songs from this game don’t get much attention in the mainstream through Distant Worlds and other venues, hardcore fans know and love many of the tracks on the album. “Red Wings” is the hard-hitting theme for Baron’s elite unit of warriors, and has found its way into the Orchestral Game Concert series as well as into The After Years as an arranged theme.

“Welcome to Our Town!” is one of Uematsu’s finest town themes, sporting the perfect title for such a warm and welcoming theme. “Rydia” and “Melody of Lute” are beautiful and highly emotional, while “Airship” is joyous and ridiculously catchy. The title’s main theme is also one of Uematsu’s best with its sweeping strings, piano arpeggios, and percussion that skips along without a care in the world. There are some comical moments with “Hello! Big Chocobo!” and “Mystic Mysidia,” with the latter being completely ruined in the DS (and PSP) re-releases of the game. Similarly, the groovy twist on “Land of Dwarves” blew my mind as well as the creepy waltz, “Dancing Calcobrena.”

Of all the music from Final Fantasy IV outside of the “Theme of Love,” the battle themes have probably retained the most popularity, but then again, everyone loves Uematsu’s battle themes. “The Dreadful Fight” and “Fight 2” are practically legendary (see Hyadain’s remix of the former), and still stand up among Uematsu’s best works, and “The Final Battle” shows that you don’t have to write a 10-minute epic piece of music to create a powerful and memorable final battle theme.

Some of my personal favorites, however, have never received much attention. I remember turning on my Super Nintendo and walking to Mt. Ordeals just so I could enjoy the music in the background while I played with my medieval-themed Lego sets. I wish this theme received more attention. The short but powerful “A Long Way to Go” and “Somewhere in the World…” have always stuck with me despite coming in at less than a minute in length. The quirky “Another Moon” left an impression with its strange brass sounds and prominent use of timpani, accenting the experience of exploring a completely foreign world. The chorus section, voiced by strings, lent the piece a sense of untouched beauty. “Within the Giant” is easily one of Uematsu’s greatest themes of all time, so it’s a shame that it hasn’t lived beyond the game’s original score. The chugging bassline and beautiful harp arpeggios provided such a memorable contrast that I’d love to hear them dressed up for today’s audiences.

Well, I’m sure many of you know where this review is going. How can one discuss Final Fantasy IV’s soundtrack without mentioning “Troian Beauty?” It seems that Uematsu and Square Enix knew it had a hit on its hand at one point, featuring arrangements of this piece on the Celtic Moon arrangement album, the Piano Collections Final Fantasy IV CD, as a special track using the Final Fantasy VI sound source on the Final Fantasy VI Special Tracks CD, and most recently on the Final Fantasy IV & The After Years Sound Plus CD as a hidden bonus track. It seems like everyone knows how great this track is, but it hasn’t received any attention as of late. The theme is perfect, and I’ve insisted that Uematsu include this piece in the Distant Worlds tour. It’s getting to the point where I’m considering commissioning the piece using my personal funds just because I think it’s so deserving. They were even kind enough not to ruin the piece on the DS remake, which I greatly appreciated.

I could really run through every track on this album and explain why it’s so vitally important to me and the formation of my love for videogame music. The Celtic Moon arrangement album is actually responsible for me discovering that videogame music (and arrangement albums) even existed in the world when I was 13 or 14 years old in an AOL listserv chatroom. Some guy had Celtic Moon in his MP3 list, and I emailed him to ask about it, being completely blown away that somebody would take the time to re-arrange music from a videogame. That album and this original soundtrack are must-haves for anyone who loves videogame music, and were certainly two of the first albums I had in my collection.

People often go back and forth as to whether Final Fantasy IV or VI is the better game or soundtrack. I find myself on either side of that debate from time to time, but I can’t argue that every track on this album is pure gold, and that Final Fantasy IV and the music from the game will always occupy a special place in my heart and mind, really turning me on to how cinematic and emotional music in videogames could be.

Why not take some time to tell us about your experiences with the Final Fantasy IV soundtrack? Did it have as big of an impact on your childhood as it did on mine? What are some of your favorite tracks, and do you feel “Troian Beauty” is deserving of the heaps of praise that I’m always throwing on it?

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