Final Fantasy XII OST

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SVWC-7351~4 (reprint SQEX-10343~6)
Released On: May 31, 2006 (reprint November 7, 2012)
Composed By: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Hayato Matsuo, Masaharu Iwata, Nobuo Uematsu, Angela Aki, Taro Hakase, Yuji Toriyama
Arranged By: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Hayato Matsuo, Masaharu Iwata, Kenichiro Fukui, Yuji Toriyama, Robin Smith
Published By: Aniplex (reprint Square Enix)
Recorded At: Sony Music Studios Tokyo
Format: 4 CDs
Buy this album from Play-Asia

Disc One
01 - Loop Demo
03 - Opening Movie (Theme of FINAL FANTASY XII)
04 - Infiltration
05 - Boss Battle
06 - Auditory Hallucination
07 - Secret Practice
08 - A Small Happiness (*)
09 - The Royal City of Rabanastre / City Ward Upper Level
10 - Penelo's Theme
11 - The Dream to be a Sky Pirate
12 - Little Rascal
13 - The Dalmasca Eastersand
14 - Level Up!
15 - Naivety
16 - Coexistence (Imperial Version)
17 - Signs of Change
18 - Mission Start (*)
19 - Rabanastre Downtown
20 - Mission Failed (*)
21 - Quiet Determination
22 - The Dalmasca Westersand
23 - Clan Headquarters
24 - A Small Bargain (*)
25 - Giza Plains
26 - Parting with Penelo
27 - The Garamsythe Waterway
28 - An Omen
29 - Rebellion
30 - Nalbina Fortress Town Ward
Total Time:

Disc Two
01 - The Princess' Vision
02 - Clash of Swords
03 - Victory Fanfare ~FFXII Version~
04 - Abyss
05 - Dark Clouds (Imperial Version)
06 - A Promise with Balflear
07 - Game Over
08 - Nalbina Fortress Underground Prison
09 - The Barbarians
10 - Battle Drum
11 - Theme of the Empire
12 - Chocobo FFXII Arrange Ver.1 (*)
13 - The Barheim Passage
14 - Sorrow (Liberation Army Version)
15 - Basch's Reminiscence
16 - Coexistence (Liberation Army Version)
17 - The Skycity of Bhujerba
18 - Secret of Nethicite
19 - Dark Night (Imperial Version)
20 - A Speechless Battle
21 - The Dreadnought Leviathan Bridge
22 - Challenging the Empire
23 - State of Emergency
24 - Upheaval (Imperial Version)
25 - The Tomb of Raithwall
Total Time:

Disc Three
01 - The Sandsea
02 - Esper Battle
03 - Sorrow (Imperial Version)
04 - Seeking Power
05 - Desperate Fight
06 - Jahara, Land of the Garif
07 - Ozmone Plain
08 - The Golmore Jungle
09 - Eruyt Village
10 - You're Really a Child...
11 - Chocobo ~FFXII Version~
12 - An Imminent Threat
13 - Clash on the Big Bridge ~FFXII Version~
14 - Abandoning Power
15 - The Stillshrine of Miriam
16 - Time for a Rest
17 - White Room
18 - The Salikawood
19 - The Phon Coast
20 - Destiny
21 - The Sochen Cave Palace
22 - A Moment's Rest
23 - Near the Water
24 - The Mosphoran Highwaste
Total Time:

Disc Four
01 - The Cerobi Steppe
02 - Esper
03 - The Port of Balfonheim
04 - Nap
05 - The Zertinan Caverns
06 - A Land of Memories
07 - The Forgotten Capital
08 - The Feywood
09 - Ashe's Theme
10 - Giruvegan's Mystery
11 - To the Place of the Gods
12 - The Beginning of the End
13 - To the Peak
14 - The Sky Fortress Bahamut
15 - Shaking Bahamut
16 - The Battle for Freedom
17 - The End of the Battle
18 - Ending Movie
19 - Kiss Me Good-Bye -featured in FINAL FANTASY XII-
20 - Symphonic Poem "Hope" ~FINAL FANTASY XII PV ver.~
21 - Theme of FINAL FANTASY XII (Presentation Version) (*)
Total Time:

* Not used in-game

[back cover]
Below the Limited Edition slipcase is this beautiful case.
There's also the cover to the book packaged with the Limited Edition.

Completing the fourth generation of Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XII is bound to become a prominent title in the minds of the fans of Square-Enix's flagship franchise. Whether the response is positive or negative, the game will sell many copies, and become the subject of many debates. That, then, is one standard that this soundtrack had to live up to: the legacy of the 11 games prior, and their much loved (for the most part) scores. However, as Final Fantasy XII's score, the lengthiest since FFIX (not including FFXI's various expansion OSTs), was not composed by the composer whose name was previously synonymous with Final Fantasy, Nobuo Uematsu, it has to live up to another, separate standard as well. That is the standard of Hitoshi Sakimoto's previous work.

I will say up front that I am a fan of Hitoshi Sakimoto, and the Vagrant Story OST is one of my top five favorite video game soundtracks to date. Sakimoto's style is distinct, and seems to work well with any kind of instrumentation and mood, from the light, airy melodies of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, to the dark and oppressive ambient atmosphere of Vagrant Story's caverns, or even the electronic rhythms of Breath of Fire V. Sakimoto has worked on games for every major video game system in nearly every genre imaginable. Although it was not what he began his career with, the element that Sakimoto has seemed to grow most comfortable with is the synthesized orchestra; he can manipulate the full scale of the orchestral sound with a true fluidity, utilizing every single instrument group with seeming ease. For Final Fantasy XII, then, I will not deny that I had very distinct expectations beforehand of what the sound used should be. What I got was different, and possibly even better than what I could have expected.

The style here is different, and definitely separate from Sakimoto's works. As he is a composer who focuses on a soundscape, that soundscape has a different texture with each work. Final Fantasy XII's soundscape is reminiscent of many of his other works, but unique within itself. To describe, listen to "Auditory Hallucination." For the most part, it is similar to something from Vagrant Story, but listen closely to the way the melody shifts in a short section around 1:15, shortly before the loop. The track almost seems to reverse mood in an instant: dark all throughout, but suddenly regal and almost beautiful. This distinct use of tone shift is, I think, a key in grasping the texture of Final Fantasy XII's soundscape.

The theme heard briefly within that track is in fact the "Theme of the Empire" which is presented in full on the second disc. This is not uncommon for Sakimoto. He manipulates themes, seemingly at whim; they can change tone, key, or style, and be worked in anywhere. There are three key themes within Final Fantasy XII, and a few sub-themes. The three are the theme of the empire, the theme of the liberation army, and the main theme of Final Fantasy XII. All three of them appear in the "Opening Movie (Theme of Final Fantasy XII)" track, but separating them into their components is extremely difficult on first listen.

The "Opening Movie" track itself is spectacular. Although the tone shifts may seem abrupt, it is natural for something that has to synchronize with on-screen imagery. The track opens with a simple yet commanding militaristic drum line. This segues into a fanfare, then into a quieter section, then into an action cue, and so forth. It is nearly 8 minutes long, but in spite of that, and its disjointed sound apart from its accompanying visuals, it is a gripping way to open the soundtrack. (Yes, I realize that two tracks precede that one, but they are much shorter, and less likely to draw one in).

For those who enjoyed the varying percussion sounds of Vagrant Story and the electronic rhythms of Breath of Fire V, there are numerous tracks on this album with similarly intriguing percussion lines, from "Battle Drum," or "Speechless Fight" which are mostly percussion, to "The Tomb of Raithwall," which is similar stylistically to a section of BoFV's "Commerce Disposal Area". The majority of the time, the percussion is used for atmosphere, and to that purpose Sakimoto's composition works wonders. A good example is "The Zertinian Caverns".

Apart from the oppressive gloom of caves, battles and tombs, there is quite a bit of light music in Final Fantasy XII. In a very sharp contrast to "Auditory Hallucination," which it directly follows, (Sakimoto, please use track gaps sometimes) "Secret Practice" is a very light track. In fact, following after a slow, gloomy track, the exuberant nature of the music almost seems like too much at all once at first, but it proves to be enjoyable nonetheless. "Royal Capital Rabanastre/City Upper Ground" is an exceptional piece of music in of itself. It's light, but not the least bit cheesy; the melody is memorable and exquisite, and the various sections work together very well indeed.

I mentioned earlier that the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack was not what I had specifically hoped for. I love Sakimoto's emotional, beautiful music, like BoFV's "A Small Departure." So, looking at Uematsu's work for the series in the past, I had immediately, unintentionally, formed an expectation that the XII soundtrack would have an abundance of such material. In this one way, I was disappointed. Not that what is here is bad; in fact, it is excellent. Some of the short cut-scene stings are very good in this exact manner. "Time of Rest" is a beautiful, calm, and epic track: exactly what I wanted more of. However, I do not mark this a deficiency, because the overall quality of the soundtrack is so high.

Being a Final Fantasy game, Sakimoto was required by tradition to use some of the series's musical trademarks: the chocobo theme and the prelude. There is even a new version of "Final Fantasy," the first since FFIX. Sakimoto's arrangement is nice for variety, because the same arrangement had been used in both VIII and IX, but it's nothing groundbreaking. The prelude only appears twice: at the very beginning of the first and last tracks on the album. However, Sakimoto's chocobo themes on here (two of them, one of which was not used in the game) are excellent arrangements: completely faithful to the melody and spirit of the originals, and yet infused with Sakimoto's unique melodic sensibilities. It's something I would never have considered, but I'm very pleased with the result. But on top of all that, Sakimoto does something even better: an arrangement of FFV's "Battle on the Big Bridge". This arrangement takes the synth rock style of the original and transforms it into a fully orchestral piece. It's a great addition to an already strong soundtrack. I think that Sakimoto should do more arrangements of Uematsu's music in the future, since their styles seem to complement each other very well.

Hayato Matsuo and Masaharu Iwata wrote a handful of tracks each, as well. Of Matsuo's 6 tracks, my favorite is "Seeking Power," with its exceptional use of piano, percussion, and brass in a very uniquely layered piece. It's even quite emotional at points. It reminds me, in a slightly odd way, of Front Mission 3's "Army Base," which is one of my favorite Matsuo tracks. Both of Iwata's tracks are great, but I think I prefer "The Sochen Cave Palace."

"Kiss Me Goodbye" is Uematsu's only contribution to this album, and it's a solid song. The style is kind of like "Eyes on Me," and the song's composition reflects that, but I definitely prefer this one. This is probably partially due to Uematsu's years of experience in composing vocals after Final Fantasy VIII. The lyrics, in English, aren't that bad either. They're the same type of clichéd "farewell" love song lyrics, but at least they're coherent, and decently written. I do, however dislike the fact that the lines rhyme.

However, this, and the few arrangements listed above, is the extent of Uematsu's influence on this album. His track record with the series, while far from spotless, was impressive, and I don't think people will ever stop associating the series with him, or prospectively even worse for his subsequent career, I don't think people will ever stop associating him with the series. It's a double-edged sword. I think that Uematsu's contributions to Final Fantasy were important, both to the series and to his music, but I also think that he should move on.

So how is Final Fantasy XII's soundtrack? It is excellent, with very few reservations. Did Sakimoto surpass Vagrant Story here? I see this as the wrong question--he created them with separate soundscapes entirely, and each stands very well on its own. "But is it a true Final Fantasy soundtrack?", many Uematsu fans will wonder. This question is much harder for me to answer. I think that Sakimoto's Final Fantasy is a lot different from Uematsu's Final Fantasy, and that means that the music will not necessarily appeal to fans of "Final Fantasy music". With Masashi Hamauzu lined up as composer for Final Fantasy XIII (with Uematsu doing another vocal), the definition of "Final Fantasy music" will become consistently more vague. And yet, in spite of that, the series music, considered as a whole, will become equally more rich and diverse.

Reviewed by: Ben Schweitzer

Big, bombastic, but somewhat lacking in substance, Hitoshi Sakimoto brings a fully (synth) orchestrated score to the table. With only one composition contributed by Uematsu (the vocal theme), this soundtrack marks a completely new era for the Final Fantasy series. I, for one, have a lot of mixed feelings about it.

Opening with the prelude and the Final Fantasy "main theme," we are given the impression that there is much tradition to be heralded with the newest installment in the series. However, both songs get a twist that lead to a whole new sound by the time the opening movie track is played. Clocking in at 7 minutes, the opening movie theme is one of the better (and more traditionally tonal) compositions Sakimoto offers. Simply put, I liked it.

The rest of disc one, however, is a bit of a yawn fest. I hate to speak in such slang terms, but I'm not awed enough to speak with reverence about this soundtrack. There are songs that stick out as pleasant compositions, ones that remind us of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story (Sakimoto's other cherished works from Square). The rest of disc one, however, has a lot of songs that ramble. Many songs all over the four-disc set are guilty of this sort of "rambling," in my opinion. The melodies go somewhere, but...where? Modulations in key, overuse of secondary dominants and diminished chords, it sounds much like some of the less enjoyable compositions from early 20th century composers.

The second disc has a lot of fast-paced songs, but these are not the sort you'd expect from Sakimoto. Some songs focus entirely on rhythm and percussion and abandon chords and melody entirely. Others experiment with chordal structure and patterns so much that even advanced theory students will find themselves at a loss of understanding how these compositions came to be. This isn't the Sakimoto I remember.

However, even with my complaints, there are plenty of great songs on the first two discs. "Nalbina Fortress Underground Prison" is one of about a dozen songs to feature a synthesized choir effect that I quickly came to love. The percussion here is effective without dominating, and the lack of a stand major/minor chord progression doesn't upset me in the least. The harp and flute are used in ways other than the standard glissandos and trills we've heard from previous Sakimoto soundtracks.

Something new added to Sakimoto's standard instrumentation is the xylophone. Many songs feature prominent xylophone parts that send the listener for a frantic musical run-around. This, too, I appreciated.

The third disc takes a turn back to the more standard Sakimoto compositions, but even these seem to be watered-down versions of what we knew to be the glory days of the Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story soundtracks. If you wish to criticize me to comparing the new Sakimoto to the old, go ahead and criticize me. After multiple listens to this soundtrack, I just can't get over it. I had high expectations for this soundtrack, and I was let down.

What stood out on disc three? Arrangements of old Uematsu tunes were quite well-done. The new chocobo arrangement is very different from anything I'd ever heard before, and I was quite pleased. I felt like I was in a concert hall listening to this song. Also impressive is the remake of the Final Fantasy V Gilgamesh battle theme, "Clash on the Big Bridge." I never would have guessed that Sakimoto would be able to adapt this composition to his 20th century orchestral style, but he did so very well. It makes me wish Sakimoto had re-arranged even more of Uematsu's classic tunes.

Of the four discs, disc three had my favorite compositions on it. The use of more "standard" composition techniques, chord progressions, and tonal melodic patterns made me feel that I was right at home.

The fourth disc brings a somewhat climactic end to the experience, though I was still left unsatisfied. Many of the near-end dungeon and battle themes sounded like the music from disc two: booming, imperial, full of energy, but still lacking in focus and structure. Of course, harp glissandos are found every fifteen seconds, and the low strings and brass wrack the sound system to the point where one must either turn down the bass or the volume entirely. One of my favorite songs on this final disc was track 11, "To the Place of the Gods." The soft vocals, the strings, the piano: this was a song that I felt to be superior to even my most favorite songs from Sakimoto's older soundtracks. It was a light in the darkness for me.

The soundtrack ends with some of the obligatory themes we saw on the singles that were previously released. Angela Aki's "Kiss Me Good-Bye" is a lovely ballad that stands in stark contrast to Sakimoto's compositions. Taro Hakase's Symphonic Poem "Hope" is a short but multi-versed instrumental ode that is not easily forgotten.

Speaking of, my chief complaint about this soundtrack is that it is difficult to find a place in one's heart and mind for many of these songs. Some are fleeting, and others are dark and looming, but very few are "sticking with me" so to speak. I know it hasn't been long, and my opinion could change after experiencing the music within the context of the game: in fact, I'm sure the music sounds great with the game. But as a stand-alone work, I'd much rather be listening to either Sakimoto's older works or the soundtracks to older Final Fantasy titles. Why, you ask? I've said a lot already, but let me narrow it down to this...

Is Sakimoto a masterful writer? Yes, without a doubt. Is this four disc, 100-track soundtrack a marvel and a great achievement? Yes. Does that mean I have to like it? No.

There you have it. It's great work, but it simply didn't suit me very well. You may find yourself holding a different opinion, especially if you can handle experimental, chaotic, diminished, and unresolved tonal patterns played by traditional instruments. The limited edition may only be available for a short while, so if you want this soundtrack with a load of beautiful packaging, get it quick or hunt for it on eBay. The standard edition will be much more widely available.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann