Game Music, Reviews

Fifth Time’s The Charm? FFXI: Seekers of Adoulin OST (Review)

July 10, 2013 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Fifth Time’s The Charm? FFXI: Seekers of Adoulin OST (Review)on Twitter

Seekers of Adoulin is the latest expansion for the long-running MMORPG Final Fantasy XI; the music, as with the four previous expansions, is composed by Naoshi Mizuta. I have to admit, Naoshi Mizuta is relatively unknown to me. Looking though his discography, I realize that I’ve not played any games where he is the sole composer (Street Fighter Alpha, Parasite Eve II, etc) and he hasn’t stood out for me when collaborating with Final Fantasy veterans Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu. So this review will be based entirely on the soundtrack, without any context of how the music worked in the game.

More, after the jump.

The first track, “A New Direction,” is a rousing, orchestral style theme that, unfortunately, lacks a definitive melody to latch onto, becoming somewhat generic as a result. Here we come upon my major problem with this soundtrack: the samples! I was instantly pulled out of the composition style, merely because of the low quality samples, specifically the strings and woodwind. I’m going to put this down to the limitations of a game that’s over 10 years old; however, in today’s climate of fully orchestral soundtracks (more recent Final Fantasy games and World of Warcraft as examples) the samples used here are an instant barrier to enjoying the music.

The first track that I actually enjoyed outright is “The Pioneers,” which, due to its smaller scale, manages to use the limited samples to greater effect. This one song, out of two in the entire soundtrack, has a decent melody and structure that you can actually grasp and enjoy. “The Sacred City of Adoulin” is a pleasant orchestral piece with, again, a somewhat generic melody and structure. The mellow “Into Lands Primeval” works better than most tracks as it has its own unique synths and samples. I can practically imagine this track in game, and I think that is my second problem, I haven’t played the game. I’m sure all the music works perfectly in game, but as music in its own right, it doesn’t seem to hold up to well.

The battle track “Steel Sings, Blades Dance,” although technically excellent and with some great ostinatos (at 0:38 in particular), lacks a strong theme to really grab your attention. “Arciela” is a particular problem for me, with a plodding piano theme and obviously synthesised woodwind samples blaring out a lacklustre theme, which is just badly composed. “Mog Resort” fares better, again, moving away from the “try hard” orchestral sounds with its own style and toe-tapping beat. It just sounds perfectly Mog like to me! “Water’s Umbral Knell” is suitably water-like and I’m sure fits the game perfectly. There are also moments of brilliance here. At 2:05 in “Provenance Watcher” (a bonus track from older FFXI content) the music leaps out with a memorable tune and interesting orchestration, but you have to slog through a lot of generic game music to find such instances.

Perhaps because of the game’s limitations and maybe because of the type of game it is (an expansion after all) this is not a soundtrack that I particularly enjoyed listening to. The samples used sound quite dated and don’t fare well when compared to games like Final Fantasy XIII-2 (which Mizuta penned much of and saw much success). The compositions themselves are nothing special, with only a hint of what I’m sure Mizuta-san is capable of, given free reign. If you are a Final Fantasy XI player, and have listened to the music in game, I think you will like this soundtrack. I haven’t played the game, probably to my detriment, so I’m left to judge the soundtrack on its own merits. On that level, I find it wanting.

For those who do want to purchase this soundtrack, its catalog number is SQEX-10362; it can be found at CD Japan and other online shops.

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