Final Fantasy VII Soundtrack
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
People who played the game require this in their lives.
Large diversity of styles
A lot of music packed in
Should bring back some fond memories
Conjures up some powerful emotions and images
Fade-outs can become annoying
Might not instantly appeal to people who haven’t played the game
Good luck getting this cheap/easily
Those Who Fight Further
One Winged Angel
For most of the people reading this, it will need no introduction. You know exactly what to expect, a four-disk masterpiece of the music, in its order of appearance in the game, from arguably the best accessible RPG ever made. However, for those who are not familiar with the music, let alone the game, here’s the low down:
The man behind the music
Nobuo Uematsu is a name you’re either familiar with, or should be. He’s created more music in his lifetime than most bands would ever dream of, and he covers a large range of musical styles, from sad, solemn string led pieces, to upbeat marching songs, to fast paced adrenaline pumping pieces. He doesn’t stay in a simple style, yet his music is often instantly recognisable. This soundtrack is a perfect example of that.
Its hard to do a non biased review of the whole soundtrack really, but I know that some tracks to people who never played the game will not appeal as they may feel bland or empty without the storyline in their mind. Of course, for those who have, this album immediately feels like a concept record, as it follows the storyline through the times each new piece of music was introduced (ironic that the ‘Game Over’ music is listed after J-E-N-O-V-A, I don’t believe anyone who got that far in the game first run without dying)
The music that drove the game
Rather than just drift off into a mega track by track review, mainly due to attention span and time constraints of the average person, a summary is the best way to go. To describe the first few tracks gives a good idea of the soundtrack as a whole. With the opening track on Disk 1, one of the ever present pieces on Final Fantasy games, known simply as ‘The Crystal Theme’ (though named as Prologue on the track list), is alone, a simple, yet amazing piece of music. With its watery feel, a simple arpeggio becomes a beautiful piece of music, and would be easily at home with any post rock effort. Makou Reactor is a direct contrast to this, its dark, broody, almost industrial in its feel, and is one of many atmospheric tracks over the course of the soundtrack.
This kind of contrast continues throughout the album. You can be sitting listening to the ever popular, now rock anthem, ‘Those Who Fight Further’ (listed as ‘Still More Fighting’ on the album) one second, and be brought into the techno-pop realms of ‘Racing Chocobos’ the next, then to be thrown off into the dark, gothic sounding ‘You Can Hear The Cries Of The Planet’. Almost everything is covered in terms of musical variety
Its also possible, though highly debatable and tough, to pick a standout track from each disk, one track that, due to its length and dynamics, sticks out as a highlight. The opening theme on Disk 1 is a progressive piece of music which goes from full orchestral to a mazy bass-line, almost thrash in its chugging rhythm, (hey, listen to it and imagine guitars playing that piece and you’ll picture it too). However, Disk 1 is, for me personally, dominated by the immensely powerful ‘Shinra Theme’. If Microsoft were to have a theme song, this would be a close contender. For those not familiar with the game, the Shinra were essentially the clear-cut ‘bad guys’ for the early part of the game. This music perfectly reflects not only the size of this foe, but the dark evil it portrayed. A huge sounding slow paced percussion, layered with vox effects and a stuttering ascending and flowing keyboard melody, which still sends shivers down my spine all come together to create this big atmospheric setting.
Disk 2 opens with the main FF theme (aka, the world map theme, before bad things happened in game). A grand orchestral piece, layered wonderfully with the additional keyboards overlapping, with mood changing parts and a main ‘riff’ melody that is almost hooky with the way it’s instantly recognisable.
Disk 3 has one of my top 3 pieces of music of all time in the hauntingly moving and beautiful Aerith’s Theme. Both simplistic and layered in area, a simple 3 note opening that immediately sets the mood of a sad sombre piece (the part of the game when this is first played is a particularly moving time, no matter how much you hated Aeris), and builds into a orchestral crescendo, before falling back to a simple few notes. Its one I would certainly recommended you download to hear yourself.
Disk 4 is full of long epics, as is the case when an RPG is coming to its conclusion, and is by far the darkest. Tracks like ‘One Winged Angel’ (now redone at last by The Black Mages in all its guitar led glory) and ‘Crisis Of The Stars’ are something fans of classical, progressive or post rock will find something in common with, and should appeal to all broad-minded music fans. It also uses a lot of themes from tracks off the other 3 disks, creating a perfect epic ending feel, and a good conclusion.
This album, as a whole, is not something you can listen to in one sitting. It is a monster collection of music that is constantly changing mood, tempo, layering, genres, etc. It can be perfect background music (as was its original intention in the game of course), a source of inspiration, or simply a change from the rest of your record collection, as there really isn’t anything that sounds like Nobuo’s work (the only track I think can come close is Dream Theater’s ‘Overture’ off 6DOIT).
There’s always a catch…
However, like all albums should, flaws need to be addressed, as nothing is perfect. Although a large amount of people will fall for this, played the game of not, there will be some people who will either not ‘get’ it, or may simply be bored with the lack of massive gain and 2000 strums of a muted E per second (which is ok, I would point those towards the Black Mages first). Another problem is that 90% of the music here was made to be a background piece for a level or cut scene, so were made to loop. Putting them onto an album meant needing to end them at some point, so a lot of fade-outs are used instead of a definitive ending, which I know is a pet hate of some
In the time line of Nobuo’s work, this is a pretty pivotal moment in his career. Moving beyond the midi restrictions of former console outings, and before the increase in budget and technology that spawned the instruments and methods behind the equally stunning FF8 soundtrack, it shows that his musical talents shine through in both a stripped down state, and massively layered environment. Plus with his current work with The Black Mages on their 2 albums and latest Advent Children movie, he’s reinvented his own work and taken it to another level.
If you played this game, and have access to both an ebay account and a good wage, I highly recommend getting this, as 90% of the downloadable versions on the web are midi workings, or lack the quality of the game/soundtrack versions. Good luck finding this in a store or on a retail website though.
For those who have never played, or heard anything off this, I urge you to download some of the tracks off this no matter what format they’re in, to get a small taster of what this album contains.
Of course, I would first recommend to those people to take a month off school/work first to experience the game and music first hand. Hollywood can’t make movies as interesting and rewarding as 7’s storyline. But that’s another review for another website….