01 - Prelude
02 - Makou Reactor
03 - Anxious Heart
04 - Fighting
05 - Oppressed People
06 - Holding My Thoughts in My Heart
07 - Farm Boy
08 - J-E-N-O-V-A
09 - Cait Sith's Theme
10 - Sandy Badlands (Ambient Mix)
11 - Parochial Town
12 - Steal the Tiny Bronco!
I wish I hadn't listened to this album. Hearing all these crisply remastered versions of nostalgic FF7 tunes only makes my inner fanboy further clamor for that HD Final Fantasy VII remake that everyone wants Square Enix to create. FFX and Kingdom Hearts got the HD remaster treatment, so why not a full-on HD remake for one of the most beloved and popular JRPGs of all time? I know this is silly wishful thinking for a myriad of reasons, but when I close my eyes and listen to this album, I lose all rationality and become a petulant six year-old whining "I want! I want!"
How can I listen to "Fighting" and not unsheathe an imaginary buster sword, jump around the room, and omnislash imaginary enemies? How can I listen to "Anxious Heart" and not vividly imagine myself on that tense train ride home after bombing that first Mako reactor? How can I not listen to "Steal the Tiny Bronco!" and not be right there on the airship with Cloud as he coaches Yuffie on how to handle motion sickness? Even as I've grown up and logically justified to myself that Final Fantasy VII isn't as good as the pedestal I put it on in my youth, I think back to all the great moments I experienced in the game and grin like a blithering idiot.
Even though the majority of the songs are not the popular ones (e.g. you won't hear "Bombing Mission," "Aerith's Theme," or "One-Winged Angel"), the songs here remind me of all the in-between moments that are less bombastic but no less poignant. Tracks like "Farm Boy," "Parochial Town," and "Cait Sith's Theme" are not the first songs I think of when I reminisce about Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack, but they're great here. I thought to myself, "Man, these pieces of music are underrated." Sure, it's hard to stand in the shadow of evocative character themes like Aerith's or majestic location themes like Cosmo Canyon, but the sinister funkiness of "Cait Sith's Theme" and the grimy sleaziness of "Oppressed People" highlight not only the creative diversity of the music, but of the game's world as a whole. Of course, the binding threads holding the game together are represented by the variations of a common theme in both "Holding My Thoughts in my Heart" and "Steal the Tiny Bronco!"
The biggest standout track for me is "Makou Reactor." Its use of whirrs, clicks, hisses, and assorted sounds of heavy machinery put me right there in the mechanical belly of the factory beast. It gives an amazing amount of life to an inorganic object whose sole purpose is to absorb life. "Sandy Badlands (Ambient Mix)" is another piece of music that's made better than the original with its clever use of disorienting sound effects, perfectly evoking the feel of walking through a desert. Piggybacking on the common theme in this review, these are songs that few people really think about but are showcased nicely here.
Although this soundtrack is sublime, there are a few stylistic choices that I'm not 100% sold on. "Anxious Heart" is a very legato piece with lots of sustained notes that swell and ring out. This is why the figure played from 1:14 - 1:34 sounds jarring to me. I would prefer notes that swell and ring out in this figure, and the more staccato notes with abrupt cut offs interrupt that "swaying" feel throughout the song. The figure from 0:23 - 0:37 in "Steal the Tiny Bronco!" suffers from the same malady. The notes are cut off too soon and don't swell or ring out. In a piece of music that accompanies a band of adventurers soaring through the sky, the notes should sustain to evoke that feeling of openness when flying throughout the world. Perhaps I am being nitpicky here, and artistic vision is subjective, but my ears prefer what they prefer, and in these cases I would favor ring-outs over cut-offs.
Regardless of my stylistic nitpicking in a couple of the songs, this soundtrack is a winner. Can you really go wrong with expertly remastered versions of Final Fantasy VII's music? Even better is that this soundtrack, while having a few familiar pieces, chooses to highlight the more underrated/overlooked pieces of the game that are quite good once given a little attention. I look forward to future volumes of remastered Final Fantasy VII music, especially because after hearing this, I want to hear my favorite pieces like "Bombing Mission" and "Crazy Motorcycle" given this treatment.
Reviewed by: Neal Chandran