What a little hodge-podge of a soundtrack! Because it would be near-impossible to write a sensible review of this thing without going track-by-track, I’m doing the dirty deed and writing a track-by-track review. Don’t kill me, please. Thanks.
Well, maybe first an explanation on what this thing is. Maybe you aren’t up to date on how Square (Enix) releases games…if you know that, skip this paragraph. Otherwise, keep reading. First, Square releases their (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts) game in Japan. Then, they release it in America, with English voice acting, and maybe a couple of extra features. Finally, the game gets *re-released* in Japan with the English voice option, the extra features Americans got, and then a boatload of even MORE features, so that the game will sell. These super-duper-extra features never see the light of day in the United States.
This may cause some bitterness for the Americans reading this right now. That’s very understandable. I’m bitter too. Let’s talk about what all is on this soundtrack, and we’ll find out how bitter we should or shouldn’t be.
The first two tracks are the English versions of the two vocal tracks from Final Fantasy X-2. If you’ve played the game, you’re quite familiar with these songs. They weren’t on the OST, but they’re now in the International version, so here they are on the soundtrack. These are performed by Jade from Sweetbox, rather than Kumi Koda, who did the Japanese vocal versions. A lot of people prefer the Japanese vocals, but I personally really enjoyed the English vocals. My guess is that whichever one you heard first, you liked more.
Okay, so when a game is re-released in Japan, the “International” title is added. This “Last Mission” talk is a whole new story. Square Enix went far enough out of their way to add a whole new quest, plus a monster capture and fighting arena, to the game. These are the bulk of the soundtrack, instrumental tracks 3 through 8.
Most people were absolutely disgusted with the X-2 OST. I had originally believed this was due to people’s tastes…Matsueda and Eguchi worked great together on Racing Lagoon after all, but Final Fantasy doesn’t have a setting that reflects the type of music Matsueda makes. However, upon closer inspection (read: when I played FFX-2 for myself) I realized that even for these talented composers, it wasn’t their best work. It felt like they were trapped: they knew how to do jazz, techno, fusion, that sort of thing, and they were being put in a mold that didn’t accept it. They got caught somewhere in the middle, and the result was mediocrity and a little bit of cacophony.
In these tracks, I believe Matsueda and Eguchi return to their natural element…these songs remind me of the Racing Lagoon OST, but higher quality, and that makes me very happy. I put up samples of my three favorite songs (3 4 and 5)…but the other three are also good.
This “natural element / Racing Lagoon” thing I’m talking about…it’s just REALLY good modern jazz technique with techno/fusion work on the side. Track 3, a slower piece, features good piano work (with which Matsuda consistently performs beautifully). Yeah…this song is simply beautiful. It retains the qualities of “Eternity” (the opening track to X-2, one of the few that got compliments from most fans), but has its own melodic twists and a new feel with the strings, synth, percussion, and piano.
Track 4 definitely reminds me of the opening to Cowboy Bebop. There’s the latin auxiliary percussion, the erratic melody from the horns, and the light touch of the piano. This is a common style of song-writing…but in this form, it’s executed very well. The addition of woodwinds (which was a X-2 trademark) is what really does it in for me…I love hearing them come in at JUST the right spot. This song is probably my favorite on the OST.
The next track is…well, listen to the sample. We have the wah-wah guitars, the fast chord changes, and more erratic horn melodies jumping in here and there. This song in particular has the Racing Lagoon feel that I cherish oh so much. My favorite parts of this song are the breaks where the piano gets a chance to shine for just a few measures.
Of the three “Last Mission” tracks, track 6 is the most bland. It runs at a moderate tempo, it has a lot of synth that runs through without making sense…in short, it sounds more reminiscent of the X-2 OST than of anything else Matsueda and Eguchi have ever done. That, indeed, might be bad news. However, in listening to the track outside of the game, I’d still say it’s a quality composition.
“Monster Creation”, which is track 7, is another jazzy song where piano takes the center stage. This equates to me enjoying the track by default, since I love piano pieces. I don’t think this song compares to the genius found in my three favorite tracks, but it’s still higher quality than most of what was on the original Final Fantasy X-2 OST.
“Flash Over”…first of all, I don’t even KNOW where this song would play in the game…maybe as a battle theme, I don’t know. It’s fast and pulsating, like a battle theme, and there are some weird Middle-Eastern/Asian instrumental influences in this song, but it’s generally just another tense techno/fusion piece. Nothing remarkable, but it’s an enjoyable listen.
1000 Words Orchestra is another English vocal, it’s the version that is heard during the credits for the English FFX-2. I really, really, always prefer the orchestra versions of an FF ballad to the pop version. This is no exception. Takahito Eguchi did the orchestral arrangement, and I applaud him for doing such great work. When I beat X-2, this was one of the key highlights of the experience for me. I really think it takes the song to new heights, despite the lows reached by some of the…drab…tired…inane…lyrics…
The final track, “To You” (or “Kimi he” in Japanese), is Yuna’s new theme. I assume they put it in Final Fantasy X-2 International + Last Mission, since it’s on the OST…but this is the exact same version of the song put on Final Fantasy X-2 Vocal Collection – Yuna, which I have already reviewed. Of the two tracks on THAT single, I didn’t like “Kimi he” so much…but it’s alright. It’s performed by Yuna’s Japanese voice actress, Mayuko Aoki.
You’d think a 10-track OST would be short, but with looped instrumentals and four vocal ballads, this CD clocks in at 45 minutes, which is a significant amount of time (how many American pop music CDs just barely make this mark?). In this album, you find a mix of English vocals, Japanese vocals, and instrumental BGM that’s a sure step up from the X-2 OST. I give semi-strong recommendations for this CD: if you owned and kept the Final Fantasy X-2 OST, you’re a fool not to add this CD to your collection.