Game Music, Reviews

Naoshi Mizuta’s Fantasy Fulfilled: Final Fantasy Legends (Review)

August 29, 2011 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Naoshi Mizuta’s Fantasy Fulfilled: Final Fantasy Legends (Review)on Twitter

I would say the chances of Final Fantasy Legends coming out in the US are pretty slim, but then again I thought we’d never get The After Years. For those who are unfamiliar, the game was an episodic Final Fantasy spin-off released in Japan on mobile phones with music composed by Naoshi Mizuta.

Square Enix was kind enough to release the game’s soundtrack via iTunes in Japan after the final episode had been released. Do the 90+ minutes of RPG music by Mizuta strike that nostalgic chord, or do they fall flat?

Hit the jump for our review!

[Special thanks to Zanasea on VGMdb for the translated track titles]

First off, after Naoshi Mizuta’s handling of another Final Fantasy spin-off, Four Warriors of Light: Final Fantasy Gaiden, I had no doubts that Mizuta would be able to pull this one off. Little did I know, however, just how convincing he could be.

As it turns out, Final Fantasy Legends features a SNES-style soundtrack, sounding like a cross between Final Fantasy IV and V. However, Mizuta not only pays homage to Uematsu’s classic Final Fantasy soundtracks by arranging classic pieces such as “Chocobo” and the Final Fantasy main theme, but also by composing music in a similar style to Uematsu. Perhaps Mizuta’s focus on simple yet memorable melodies leads to a number of pseudo-references, but you can be sure that the score is chocked full of nostalgia whether they were intentional or not.

Let’s start from the top. “Prelude LEGENDS EDITION” takes the iconic theme and works magic on your ears with the simple addition of warm choir pads that add a reflective and otherwordly quality. Despite the minor addition, I have to say that this is one of my favorite arrangements of “Prelude” of all time, and that’s saying a lot for this highly over-arranged piece.  The Final Fantasy main theme gets a pretty straightforward arrangement in “Opening LEGENDS EDITION,” but Mizuta’s “Funk de Chocobo” adds an appropriately funky bass line and piano to give it a cool jazzy vibe.

Other references can be heard in Mizuta’s battle themes, most of which open with that opening warning slide before a chugging, repetitive bass line comes in. “The Sword that Emits Light” acts as the main battle theme, following this exact approach, and sounding similar to Uematsu’s battle theme from Final Fantasy IX. I love the chorus section in “The Sword that Tears Darkness,” which also sports some comedic elements, while “The Four Heavenly Rulers of the Empire” is another battle-seque theme with some major Uematsu undertones with jazz organ and electric guitar.

The battle theme that stands out the most, however, is the final battle theme titled “IMPERATOR.” It follows Uematsu’s signature sound even more closely with sharp rock organ notes, a funky bass line, and open hats on the upbeats. It’s catchy and cool, and when the strings finally join it, it’s epic.

It’s then on to the important overworld themes. “Journey for the Light” provides a wondrous backdrop complete with a decisive bass line and a meandering melody that is in line with other overworld themes of old. “Fluctuating Darkness” is a variation on this piece, taking on a more quiet and night-like quality, while “Dusk World” sports belltones and pads, bringing in a hint of beauty despite being overwhelmingly desolate.

The rest of what’s here is your standard RPG fare. You’ve got your triumphant main theme with “Return of the Warriors,” a sweet town theme with acoustic guitar and woodwinds, and a foreboding dungeon theme titled “The Temple Where Light Filters Through the Trees” that is mysterious and even a bit creepy, reminding me of King’s Field. There’s an upbeat airship theme, “Aboard the Ship to the Sky,” although I can’t say it’s all that memorable, which is a shame given these themes were always one of Uematsu’s highlights.  “Repressed Sadness” is the ‘sad theme,’ and is effectively melancholy with piano, belltones, and hollow pads.

The ending themes begin with “Epilogue,” which is a sweet and jazzy piece with a nice swing to it voiced by electric piano. “Whereabouts of the World” is reflective, but also upbeat. It feels like it was made to feature vocals, but I’m glad they went the traditional route and kept it instrumental.

While not all of the 43 tracks are going to stand out, Mizuta has done a great job creating a classic SNES-era Final Fantasy soundtrack of his own. I feel bad comparing his work to Uematsu’s constantly throughout this review, but I know that’s the sound they were going for, and Mizuta has performed admirably. In addition to his amazing rendition of “Prelude,” I really enjoyed many of his new compositions as well.

There’s not much here in terms of artwork given that this is a digital release. The cover features the sprites of the game’s characters along with the game’s logo. I’m actually kind of surprised to see this released digitally as opposed to a physical CD release given that they issued a catalog number and tacked on such a hefty price tag (1,800 Yen). It would have had to be two discs given its length, but perhaps they realized as a mobile game, it didn’t have as much of a mass appeal. Still, if you’re interested and you have a Japanese iTunes account, you can check it out.

What do you think of Mizuta’s retro scores? Do you think Final Fantasy Legends should have received a physical soundtrack release?

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