The Treasures of Aht Urhgan is the third expansion for Final Fantasy XI. The release of the soundtrack marks a fifth disc of OST material, tying with Final Fantasy IX for the “most music used in-game” award in the series.
Like its two predecessor expansion OSTs, the Aht Urhgan OST is composed solely by Naoshi Mizuta. Mr. Mizuta’s work is a fresh change of pace from much of Uematsu’s work, but without taking the sound in a vastly different direction. It still sounds like videogame music, rather than a film score (it is my opinion that S-E and other RPG makers are having their soundtracks sound more and more like film scores, and that gives me mixed feelings).
Within the world of Vana’diel, Aht Urhgan is the “near-eastern” continent. Its culture is a merge of Mediterranean and Arabic sights and sounds; the music reflects this well. From the opening track, which is the town theme for Al Zahbi, you immediately know you’re in for a treat this is indeed foreign to both Americans and Japanese.
“Eastward Bound…” is the new music for riding on boats. The synth that carries the melody is quite strange, but the piano keeps the chord structure together, and it all falls together to be a brisk and smooth ride.
I sampled some of my other favorite songs, including a new chocobo theme and some battle music. The battle themes are all outstanding, save for the “besieged” music, which is mediocre in my eyes.
A few of the tracks near the end of the disc are a disappointment, simply because they’re the sort of bland drones you’d expect to hear while a villain says a bunch of mysterious incoherent junk. Also disappointing is the lack of a bonus track: the only thing I really did like from the Promathia soundtrack was the performance from the Star Onions (which led to the fully arranged album being released a year later). I had nearly expected a track of this sort to be found, but no such luck. Clearly I’m not cut out to be a Corsair (that was a terrible inside joke).
If you’re still up on your Final Fantasy music, especially this particular online game, I definitely recommend this wonderful soundtrack. Nearly every song has its own memorable feel, the syncopated rhythms and use of familiar synths keep the listener well entertained, and each song averages a good three minutes (some are as long as five minutes). Soft or hard, slow or fast, many of these songs capture one’s imagination. Again, Mizuta’s soundscape, the musical palette, remains much the same, but the melodies are new and interesting. Don’t let the nauseating purple color on the packaging dissuade you: this thing is good.