on 30 March 2012
Here it is, the official, original soundtrack to 1997's record-breaking RPG classic, Final Fantasy VII made by Squaresoft. Created by veteran video game composer Nobuo Uematsu, the FFVII OST spans across 4 compact discs, averaging about 20 tracks each and adding up to a whopping 85 in total.. thats 4 and a half hours of recreational wonder. This is the real deal, the reason why more and more video game publishers simultaneously release soundtracks (The Limited Edition of 'Dark Souls' is a prime example). However not many people hold video game scores in high regard, the fact that they only really cater to those who enjoyed the game and go on further to hunt down the original music. It goes without saying that Final Fantasy VII is nothing without its soundtrack and vice versa. For me, FF7 was my first FF game and the most influential video game that undoubtably made its mark - I acquired this soundtrack several years later solely to reminisce, for around £30 brand new on eBay back in the mid 00's. So best not to consider this product unless you have experience with the game or just plain love MIDI file instrumentals.. That said, this review is based on the products involvement with the game and its fans, not a stand alone review.
Straight out of the sleeve, the OST comes in a reactor like design with background stills from the game and a small booklet for you to peruse. Its in Japanese but it has some nice images and character illustrations in there. The order of songs is as you experience them in game, so its fitting that the very first song on the massive album is 'The Prelude', an introduction that, looking back, pretty much says "You have no idea what is about to happen". Only heard on the New Game/Continue screen (and after game completion) is a soaring, bubbling, crystal like sound of synth goes up and down the scales, gaining more momentum each time, eventually met with cellos and violin like sounds that raise this song up in stature. The song is largely based on the older FF intros, seen as far back as games on the Nintendo systems. Straight after that is the song that officially starts the game known simply as 'Opening - Bombing Mission'. This track accompanies the initial FMV that greets you in a new game, flashing the title and sharply forces you into battle with rife drum loops, a high tempo and even more orchestral noises mimicking entire string sections and also a bit of brass. Conveniently, the whole of the first disc is based on one location in the game - Midgar - a gigantic conglomerate metropolis, polluted by the company that runs it.
Throughout the discs are the character themes, each one helping you gain further insight on the characters personalities. Some, like 'Tifa's Theme' are fairly slow paced, with echoed bells and delicate woodwind melodies, others like 'Barret's Theme' are more heavy on the brass section and feel like the beginning of a big mission. A common fan favourite, and well recommended theme would be that of Aeris (or Aerith), whose theme occurs a couple of times, changing drastically later on. The first disc sets also has the many tracks you'll get used to hearing in the game, such as 'Let the Battles Begin!' the general fighting music for the random encounters, and 'Fanfare' should you manage to be victorious. You truly get all the songs head in the game, that means you get songs reminding you of all the places you've been, the landscapes you trekked across and enemies and rivals you encountered along the way. Another famous song is 'Fight On!' known mostly as the boss theme - its the first song to feature are rock sound with guitars (synthesized but still..). While there was nothing bad about the tracks that led up to this one, its still refreshing to hear as it reminds you of the major battles you fought in throughout the game. 'Crazy Motorcycle' is a top example of escape music in style - I'd recommend looking this one up, even better if you find the FMV sequence that accompanies it.
Like the way the disc began, it ends brilliantly in 'Dear to the Heart', a farewell to Midgar, wandering song that doesn't feature much in the game, but is treasured all the same. Disc 2 ushers you in to the games world map song labelled as 'F.F.Vii Main Theme', one of the longer songs and one of the best - again its well recommended, perhaps with far greater urgency than any of the others, its orchestral journeying magic with ups and downs and only a glimmer of hope left in its ending. Theres a reason why it was made to be heard over and over again on the world map - it never gets old. The second disc starts to fill up with a few chocobo songs that are fine a few times but get a bit irritating being overly jolly. There are a few shorter tracks as well that last from 10 to 30 seconds, like the brief interlude heard when characters rest or sleep and the games game over music. Like the first though, it has an almighty boss song in 'J-E-N-O-V-A' - a storming, pupil widening race against the clock. Admittedly I have skimmed over some less memorable songs, but it largely comes down to personal preference as what may have been exciting for you (as a gamer) could be mediocre to the rest. The 3rd disc, probably my favourite list of songs, showcases all kinds of music mentioned (character themes, environments, FMV's and one off experiences).
'Lifestream' the song that follows the description of the Gaia philosophy, is one of my all time favourites, which is surprising because it is quiet, slow paced and simple - atmospheric. It gets better instantaneously as the next track 'Great Warrior' is a fan boy addiction. Anyone who has played the game remembers it as it only plays once through the games entirety. Since you've stuck with me for almost a thousand words, it won't surprise you that this is another song I urge you to check out. 'Cid's Theme' is what you'd imagine to be the soundtrack if you were to save the planet from certain destruction, its full of vigor and duty with deafening harmonised trumpets, snare drums and a super catchy melody to make this a badass theme.. a bit like the character I suppose.. Unfortunately the best disc has the worst songs too, with the victory and defeat tunes from chocobo racing, yet again a source of frustration. Thankfully, 'Interrupted by Fireworks' helps you forget the dross with magical imaginary, pagoda skylines. The final disc, shortest disc has the rarest, most scarcely heard songs on it, as the game would reach its pinnacle. Some songs are re-workings of others, with a different intent and others are largely FMV related. The final handful of tracks are based on the dying moments of the game, boss locations and battles, especially the most well known boss theme in video game history 'One Winged Angel' (which is features real vocals) and its crudely underrated counterpart 'Birth of a God'.
'One Winged Angel' is a swirling vortex of violins, cut off by the Romaji vocals, sang with real verve for the games main antagonist, Sephiroth. Imagine a meteor hurtling through space, destroying planets in its wake, colliding with the sun and causing it to super nova - that rather adequately describes the song. All thats left after this is the the ending FMV score 'The Planet's Crisis', the longest of all the songs at over 8 minutes long, and the 'Staff Roll' of credits at the very end of the game. To describe the first is to mar the occasion of the games end and the 2nd is a frequently occurring instrumental that appears on many FF games. Despite all the songs being made via MIDI sounds, the soundtrack is still a shining light amongst the dark and dreary background music heard in the new games today.. and it needed to be with a game that had no voice, only script.. I hope I haven't bored you too much and maybe peeked your interests even slightly with my nostalgic ramblings, as I have had a blast re-listening to the pure escapism that is Final Fantasy VII's Original Soundtrack.