Final Fantasy IV Original Sound Version was released in 1991, was re-released in 2004 and now sees a special re-release in 2013. Final Fantasy IV Original Soundtrack Remastered Version is an upgraded version of the original OSV release. Similar to a DVD to Blu-ray upgrade, the core of the album is the same, but it does have a few changes.
There are three major differences that the Remaster Version brings compared to the original release of the music of FFIV. First, the sound is as crystal clear as my ears can hear and lacks any George Lucas-esque tampering with the mix or sounds. The songs show up preserved in all of their classic glory. Moreover, to truly be the most complete version of the FFIV soundtrack FFIV Remastered Version contains a few additional tracks. The tracks are short jingles left off of the original release for storage reasons, but it does give us a way to listen to the sinister sound of “The Serpent Road” as well as the bombastic diddy “The Dancer” among others. The expanded tracklist is a key to the Remastered Versions raison d’etre — the increased space of two CDs.
To keep costs down the entirety of FFIV OSV (44 songs in total) was crammed like sardines into a single disc. While financially sound for Square, the songs had no room to breathe; the tracks only go through one loop before fading away back into their smelly, fishy coffin. In the Remaster Version all songs loop twice creating a more full experience. This makes the FFIV OST Remastered Version the most complete release of the original music of FFIV available at this time.
This all sounds great doesn’t it? Well, a word of warning to the impassioned collector. Square Enix, lovable fools that they are, managed to screw something up after all. The first press editions come with both a beautiful box (complete with liner notes for those that read Japanese) and an error on Dancing Calcobrena, track 12 of disc 2, where the very beginning of the song is slightly cut off. To allay the concerns of fans, Square Enix has offered a disc exchange program available to Japanese buyers and sent replacement discs to overseas buyers as well. At this point the first press editions are sold out in most places and Square Enix is no longer replacing discs. Only retailers that requested new discs had Sony send them, so you’ll be gambling if you can manage to find a first press edition at this point. Even though the problem was addressed, it is disappointing that such a silly error would blemish a comprehensive release like this one.
While the real selling point of FFIV OST Remaster Version is the longer tracks, I would be remiss not to mention the music itself. One of the most important elements of the Remaster Version is the use of original SNES sounds. This provides you with more than the preservation of the music in its native form or a trip down memory lane; it shows off why the music is so beloved in the first place. The sound is instantly recognizable to Final Fantasy fans because, like Uematsu’s inspiration Deep Purple, FFIV featured the synthesis of orchestra with rock ‘n’ roll. For the first time, in what would be a Final Fantasy tradition, trumpet and guitar got to rock out side by side.
In “Fight 2” the bass guitar drives the track, providing an an easy listening groove underneath the more dangerous sounding shifts to the minor key by the horns and strings. “Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV” reflects on Cecil’s self-doubt with melancholy instrumentation, marrying familiar flute and harp sounds to down-tempo, rock-style drums. One of my favourite songs in the game is an arrangement of the main theme titled “Land of Dwarves.” The arrangement adds a sense of mystery while keeping the main melody intact, ambient elements and an outstanding bass line give it a more earthy feel, the perfect sound for exploring an underground overworld.
Many compositions stand out as favourites with or without a rock/orchestral fusion: “Troian Beauty,” “Melody of Lute,” “The Big Whale,” “Another Moon” and “The Final Battle.” Listeners can refresh their memories of all these tracks by checking out the samples provided.
Any fan that loves the music of Final Fantasy will appreciate the fact that Square Enix re-released an album which was out of print. A remastering of the music wasn’t necessary, the original ‘one-loop’ release is still available for purchase on iTunes, but in the history of video game music FFIV is a classic, informing the music of the Final Fantasy franchise and other JRPGs to come. It is important that the music isn’t just preserved, but that the preservation is at its highest quality in an accessible format. Even if preservation isn’t the goal behind the release of this and the upcoming Remastered Versions of the Final Fantasy V and VI albums, I give my appreciation on behalf of all fans to Square Enix for doing just that.