Final Fantasy Vocal Collection consists of 10 vocal themes from the Final Fantasy series. But don’t look for anything really old here — the series only began utilizing vocal songs in Final Fantasy VIII, with the love song “Eyes On Me.” Since then, the series has incorporated vocal themes with mixed results. Some songs are quite memorable, others not so much. Do my feelings about the songs coincide with my feelings toward their representative games? Let’s find out.
“Eyes On Me,” like Final Fantasy VIII itself, is something I had a love-hate relationship with. Final Fantasy VIII is a game I wasn’t really into at first, grew to enjoy until I found that the plot has more holes than Spongebob Squarepants, and now appreciate as a character case study. At first I thought the vocal theme song was a bit hokey and tacked-on, but the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it. I like the evocative melody, which is a little darker than your average love ballad. Faye Wong has a lovely voice, and the nostalgic lyrics remind me of particular scenes in the game, like Laguna trying to talk to Julia at the piano bar and stumbling big time.
Final Fantasy IX is a game I compare to macaroni and cheese. It’s good and you love it, but it’s not one of the more exciting flavors out there. It’s comfort food. That’s precisely how I feel about “Melodies of Life.” It’s not quite as evocative or memorable as “Eyes On Me,” but it is a lovely song that perfectly befits one of my favorite Final Fantasy games.
Final Fantasy X was an experimental Final Fantasy game that tried new things like multiple composers for the soundtrack, a revamped battle system, and voice acting to name a few. Some aspects were utterly brilliant (e.g. the best battle system to ever grace an FF game), while other aspects were a little jarring. “Suteki da ne” and “Otherworld”, the game’s vocal theme songs, mirror this sentiment. “Suteki da ne” is easily one of the most beautiful vocal themes I’ve ever heard in a video game. I’ve listened to more video game vocal themes than you can imagine, so this is serious praise coming from me. The sweet singing, the entrancing melody, everything about the song is fantastic.
After hearing a song of great beauty, the soundtrack shifts gears abruptly into a song of aggressive harshness. I appreciate the experimentation into heavy metal with “Otherworld,” and it goes very well with that first Blitzball scene, but it’s not as good a song as it could have been. The main riff is solid, and there is some delightfully dissonant soloing during the bridge and choruses, but the overall tone is too processed and compressed, leading to a somewhat nasal sound. I feel the same way about the guttural, growled vocals. They are so processed and compressed that they sound almost auto-tuned. What I also disliked was that the spoken vocals during the bridge took away from the cool solo that was going on. And do not get me started on the paper-thin lyrics. Metal is one of my favorite genres of music, particularly death metal, and I like my guitars and vocals with a fuller, crisper, and more organic sound. I think the razor-sharp sound of Fear Factory’s album “Demanufacture” is what “Otherworld” should have tried for instead of the muddy mess it is.
A few of the songs on this soundtrack are pretty forgettable. I’m not really into MMORPGs, and I was not into “Distant Worlds.” “Kiss Me Goodbye,” like Final Fantasy XII, had potential but was just really boring. “Eternal Love” does not deviate from the typical vocal theme song formula, much like Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t let you deviate from your on-the-rails paths all that much. Most surprising is “Tsuki no Akari.” I thoroughly enjoyed Final Fantasy IV, yet I can’t remember a darn thing about the song. In fact, that’s how I feel about all the songs I mentioned in this paragraph. I listened to them all multiple times, both at home and in the car, and I cannot for the life of me remember a single thing about them. They’re just “there.”
“Kimi ga Iru Kara (Long Version),” from Final Fantasy XIII, stands out to me for all the wrong reasons. The melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, and even the vocal patterns sound formulaic to me. I’ve heard this sweeping “epic” video game ballad type song a million times before. It’s very cookie-cutter, and that does not sit well with me, because Final Fantasy is not supposed to be a cookie-cutter series. This is too bad, because Final Fantasy XIII has one of the series’ most stunning soundtracks.
“Answers” is not a good track either. It starts out with a bunch of “epic” sounding clichés all smashed together with no rhyme, reason, or transition. Following that, the majority of the song is a semi-operatic piece that sounds absolutely cheesy to me. The song has no cohesion, no discernible hooks, and is either confused or utterly boring.
With the exception of the first few tracks, Final Fantasy Vocal Collection is not a very good album. I feel like saying the five words everyone says about various bands that have been around for a while: “their old stuff was better.” Seriously, the older vocal themes presented here are worlds better than the more recent ones and are the few I would cherry pick to permanently remain in my iPod.