The Final Fantasy Type-0 HD OST has a huge amount of music to offer. In the space of over 60 songs, Takeharu Ishimoto builds and expands on a few different musical styles that together form his take on Final Fantasy music. And although it’s a new take on Type-0, this OST sits comfortably alongside much of what the series has offered in the past. When I hear bit-crushed beats under billowing string sections or when the main theme swells up only to be cut short by a crunchy guitar, it feels authentic, familiar even.
That’s not to imply that the work is derivative. Aside from the stray Moogle or Chocobo theme, the Type-0 HD OST has strong character. From over-the-top orchestral blow-outs like The Beginning of the End to the indie-rock tinged Erased Memories, this album always knows what it’s going for, and delivers with consistently high quality. There were several tracks that I didn’t enjoy at first, but I came around in subsequent plays as I began to appreciate the songs’ layers and production.
Speaking of which, the production and use of effects are top notch. Electric guitar effects are used expertly: distortion, reverb, echo, chorus, and even a phaser are all brought in with little post-production to maintain a raw, direct tone. There’s plenty of well mixed synth leads, some overdriven bass guitars, smart electronic drums, and Arecia Al Rashia even sports some kind of… cool underwater harp sound. Perhaps some kind of wet flanger? And every effect can be appreciated to the fullest thanks to the super clear, well tuned mix. I’m not familiar with the original Type-0 OST, but with the level of polish present in this version, I’m not surprised that this is a second take.
My biggest complaint is the frequency with which the main theme is reinforced. It’s the driving force behind a number of songs, and is not generally used cleverly or staged in an especially meaningful way. The few songs that do are some of my favorites on the album, like War: The Quiet Bloodbath and Choosing How to Die, but it’s easy to get burnt out on that chord progression over the course of the album. Ishimoto’s use of percussion is very engaging, and that helps keep it fresh, but it was just a bit much for me.
Luckily, there are a ton of great one-off tracks. Soar, Arecia Al Rashia, That Which Quivers, Servant of the Crystal, and all of the War tracks stick out to me as unique tracks that show off Ishimoto’s character, in the way that a band’s b-sides can be more revealing than their singles. While his compositions can flip readily between live orchestra and digital production, he seems to be at his best when the two are in harmony.
Also included on the Blu-ray is a 10 track self-titled album by Ishimoto’s band The Death March. While the (largely English) lyrics range from cringey to inoffensive, the tunes are fantastic. With a charming electronic indie-rock sound, they perform vocal arrangements of Ishimoto’s compositions from The World Ends With You, Crisis Core, and Dissidia. I have some serious problems with a couple of the songs, but Calling, Hybrid and Promise might be the best things I listened to in the process of this review. I will be keeping an eye out for more stuff from The Death March.
There are a lot of tracks from the Final Fantasy Type-0 HD OST that will be staying in my rotation. I don’t ever assume that anyone’s tastes are the same as mine, but I do think that the styles here are so well executed and thoroughly explored that most listeners will find something to love here.