When people recall their favorite Uematsu-composed soundtracks, the debate typically centers around classics like Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII. Although no one can refute that the FF series has been blessed by Uematsu’s touch, most don’t place FFX in their top 3. I stray from the pack in this regard, and not just because of To Zanarkand. The world of Spira is one in which technology has been pounded into the ground, leaving the world primarily tribal in its architecture and fashion. While not entirely guided by this theme, much of FFX’s soundtrack capitalizes on it. This setting is a stark contrast to previous Final Fantasy titles, which focus on medieval-esque landscapes and technology, with the occasional Mako Cannon. To help Uematsu in one of his last collaborations with Square, Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu contribute to the original soundtrack. Though primarily guided by Uematsu, much of the soundtrack’s departure from the norm is thanks to the substantive contributions of these then-budding composers. In previous reviews, I’ve repeatedly stated that tribal-style music doesn’t titillate my palette, but if anyone’s going to sway me, it’s Uematsu. Does the high definition remaster augment the already grand qualities of this work of art?
Conventional wisdom would say “yes,” as a high definition remaster does just that — augments. However, I had trouble discerning between the OST and the remaster. In fact, after listening to the remaster several times over, I decided to listen to the OST. Still not quite finding much difference, I did a few track-by-track comparisons and still struggled, though a few rich tracks rose to the surface. Keeping in mind that FFX debuted on the PlayStation 2, this doesn’t entirely surprise me. A more well-trained ear may find differences aplenty, but I noticed few enhancements throughout the lengthy, 94-track album.
Of all the tracks, the Battle Theme was the only one I instantly recognized as new. This is almost definitely due to the fact that we hear the Battle Theme in-game more than any other track and not due to the enhancement. This rework is astounding, adding sounds and garnishments lacking in the original. Overall, the theme is kept intact, but the remastered version contains a thicker body with its new instrumentation. In fact, the OST version is comparatively dull and heavy on the bass.
Consequently, the Fanfare must also sound enhanced, though most of us probably only recognize the first five seconds or so of this track. Here, the remastered version is clearly crisper, but feels less altered than the battle theme. Most of the sounds remain loyal to the OST.
Initially, Underwater Ruins seems almost identical to its “predecessor,” but a chorus eventually surfaces that one won’t immediately notice unless, again, one directly compares it to the OST. This track specifically signifies how similar the HD remaster is to the OST. In fact, this made me wonder if the performers focused on popular tracks rather than those less recognized. While the chorus adds a resonating flavor to the remastered version, everything else seems relatively the same.
Yuna’s Decision is a staple and yet another track left unaltered aside from the emphasis on treble vs. bass. Again, unless directly comparing the two, one might not notice any difference. At this point, I had to delve into Macalania Woods, my second or third favorite track in the OST. One of the most atmospheric themes I’ve ever heard, I can’t help but sit back, recline in my chair, close my eyes, and take in the verdant forest in my mind. Surely, the remastered version amplifies this sensation, ne? As stated several times over, the performers relaxed on the bass. Some layers to the sound make the track feel busy in a way not experienced in the OST. While this track is certainly fuller than the OST, that isn’t necessarily better. Like those who prefer 8- and 16-bit tunes to their modern counterparts, I find the OST version complements the aim of the track as it aligns with the game.
All of this is well and good, but what of Suteki Da Ne? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? My favorite of all the Final Fantasy vocal tracks, the HD Suteki Da Ne doesn’t disappoint. Actually, it can’t disappoint, because it sounds virtually identical. Aside from the, you know — bass. Okay, but what of the orchestral version? Certainly that has to be different. Nope!
By no means am I suggesting that the remaster is clunky or worse than the OST. In fact, upon some deeper sleuthing, I’ve uncovered beautifully crafted tracks, but I had to sleuth before coming to this realization. Does this HD soundtrack warrant a purchase for anyone who’s not into collecting or doesn’t already own the soundtrack? Unless you hold within your head’s grasp a pair of ultra-discerning ears, I can’t recommend a repeat purchase.