As mentioned, with Final Fantasy VI, Uematsu made a very large turn for the more morose musical style of scoring, and with FFVII, the composer takes that concept to a whole new level. FFVII is by far the darkest and most brooding of the Final Fantasy games, which is reflected in it's soundtrack. With a game that features a dreary, depressing story line involving a large destructive corporation that rules the world with fear and oppression, the soundtrack cannot help but take on an extremely depressing tone. This is not to say that it doesn't have it's lighthearted moments, many tracks feature a very light or even comical atmosphere, and some are the most beautiful that the composer has ever produced. In fact, the Main Theme of this particular Final Fantasy is probably the best overworld theme ever conceived for a videogame, and all composers would be hard-pressed to do better in the future because of it. This is also the most intricate and complex Final Fantasy score thus far (as of August 3, 2000).
People who can't stand even a remotely dark atmosphere in the music they listen to had best stay away, but most should welcome this with open arms. So, I now present the review for my second favorite soundtrack in the FF series, Final Fantasy VII:
I don't think that there is any fan of the Final Fantasy series that doesn't know this piece by now (except those who have only played FFVIII). This particular version has a brand new conclusion added to the end, which is a welcomed bonus.
In the main titles, Aerith and the large, industrial city of Midgar are presented in a very sweeping view, which is actually a teaser track for the "lifestream" theme that will be heard later on disc three. This suddenly changes to the first piece of action music: Bombing Mission. This track is quite good, and gets the player geared up well for what's to come by displaying a very large sense of urgency. It has lots of low and heavy percussion and piano.
Remember what I said in the intro about this being the most dark and brooding of the Final Fantasy scores? Well this track is the first to prove my point. It features more of the low and heavy stuff from the previous track, only it is much slower, displaying the evil of the ShinRa corporation's destructive Mako reactors.
Another dreary and very ambient piece. This is probably my favorite track out of the entire score. Though it continues the depressing nature of the soundtrack so far, it is very elegant and thoughful. I can't envision any fan of videogame or movie music not greatly appreciating this lovely track. In fact this is the perfect one to go to sleep to. *snore...*
Now we're treated to our first character theme. This light and emotional piece is meant to portray the main character Cloud's childhood friend, Tifa Lockheart. It does a wonderful job, and almost sounds like a lullabye.
I have no idea why this was even included on the soundtrack. I don't even know why it's considered a character theme at all. Barret is one of the most important characters in the game and this piece only plays during one very short segment at the very beginning of the game. It almost sounds like German beer-drinking music and is closely related to Umaro's theme from FFVI. Boisterous and irritating. Skip it.
The first "hurry" music for the game is played, and it's even entitled "Hurry." It gets the listener excited, but is probably one of the weaker tracks overall. The other hurry tracks are all much more interesting.
This is an interesting "sneaking around" track, as you may have guessed by the title. It's got a nice beat played on high-hat with some light string and woodwind accompaniment. This track really gets the player into the feel of the game.
The leitmotif symbolizing the dreaded ShinRa corporation. It's very similar to 'Mako Reactor' with the low percussion and piano. The theme is used several times throughout the entire soundtrack, though this is the best rendition of it. An excellent track.
We finally get to hear the ingenious battle theme. This is fast paced and exciting and easy to listen to several times. Uematsu goes the orchestral route with this piece and pulls it off wonderfully. If there was ever a great "ordinary" battle theme out of the entire series, this would have to be the one!
No! NO! NO! Why has the melody following the fanfare been changed from times of old? Why? ...as you may have guessed, I was a little distressed to hear that the classic melody had been exchanged for a less memorable and slightly irritating "pick up your earnings" motif. I survived, and fortunately the melody is not gone, but will appear on disc 3. Keep a lookout for it!
We finally get to hear the first playing of Aerith's theme, best character theme on the entire soundtrack, closely related to Celes' theme from FFVI. This isn't the best arrangement of it, but it does sound lovely even in this minimalistic incarnation. Be sure not to miss this track.
This really isn't so much a theme as it is a motif. It's got a jazzy beat with a cool guitar pattern playing over everything. According to fans, this seems to be one of the more popular tracks.
This is similar to 'Lurking in the Darkness,' very ambient. Though this has a rather jazzy beat, it seems rather dull, but you hear it a lot in the game and it doesn't become irritating as fast as you might think.
This is basically a continuation of the previous track. Nothing very important, but entertaining all 'round.
Okay, now this really should have been left off. It's extremely irritating. It has a very silly atmosphere and isn't really worthy of anyone's attention.
Anyone who's played the game (and there are a lot of you) knows that the main character, Cloud, suffers from severe mental problems. This track is meant to portray his lonliness in parts of the game that reveal his connections to the villain Sephiroth.
I didn't care for the previous track that had a silly atmosphere, but this track is different. It's very enterataining and portrays one of the earlier, less important villains in the beginning of the game.
We hear another arrangement of the ShinRa theme. This track plays when you're (would you believe?) infiltrating ShinRa Tower. This has a rather sneaking feeling like 'Lurking in the Darkness.' This can get rather boring, just like the scene that it accompanies.
The boss battle music. Rather than take the orchestral route of the ordinary battle theme, the composer decides to go with a Rock song for the bosses. This proves an excellent choice, as the track really get the player into the heat of battle.
Red XIII's theme is only heard in this arrangement in one part of the game, another superior version is played on disc three, so this track isn't extremely important, but fans of the character may like it.
Vroom! Vroom! We're escaping from Midgar city and we need Cloud's help. This fun techno track plays when the main character steals a motorcycle to escape the ShinRa baddies. This is definitely one of the better tracks you'll hear in Final Fantasy VII.
We finally get to hear an arrangement of the main theme. Though it's nowhere near as graceful as the other arrangements you will hear in the game, this is still such a wonderful theme that one can't help but be moved by it. A wonderful track to end the first disc.
Wow, what a theme! This is probably one of the best tracks in Nobuo Uematsu's entire canon. This soaring six-minute theme begins with subtle, distressing chords, which are eventually replaced by a lovely melody (the theme itself). The theme goes through many small changes, even being shortly replaced by an almost scary section. There's one part in this track that features a clarinet solo that reminds me of Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Carol Ann in the movie "Poltergeist." This track is not to be missed!
Borrowing a title from FFV's soundtrack, this is a nice easy-going town theme, similar to "Kids Run Through the City Corner" from the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack.
The last "sleep" theme that I've heard from the series. FFVIII unfortunately did not have one of these tracks, but I just can't wait for FFIX later this year (2000)!
A very dreary playing of the main theme is heard. If you can believe it, I actually did not like this soundtrack that well at first. It wasn't until nearly two years after I had first played the game that I decided to give it another spin. I discovered how much I was missing by not buying the soundtrack, which can mainly be attributed to my hearing of this particular track after pulling the game out of mothballs.
A nice farm theme is played. This is closely related to the chocobo theme, which is about to recieve much more than it truly deserves.
If I had to choose one theme that is overplayed in this soundtrack, it would definitely have to be the chocobo theme. In this game, these huge birds are just irritating, an the overuse of the theme is tantamount to going through the pains of breeding them in the game.
More chocobo... If anyone thinks that James Horner copies music, then you should hear this track. It contains a full playing of the song "Wipeout" and gives no credit to it's writers, the Surfaris.
The chocobo theme played in 5/4. 'Nuff said.
This very ambient track plays in various caves and is related to cave themes from the other Final Fantasy Soundtracks. FFV and FFVIII's cave themes come to mind immediately.
This music plays when you engage in battle at Fort Condor. It has a very militarisic feel.
A triumphant and militaristic march is played for President Rufus Shinra, ruler of the known world.
I've read some reviews on the internet that say that this is an annoying track, but I like it. It has an insanely comical sound that I would find hard not to appreciate. This plays when your party is disguised as ShinRa soldiers on a ship crossing the ocean.
Oooohh... Mysterious... I like this unnerving track. It's just too bad that the synth doesn't do it any justice. A nice and very ambient track.
This is definitely one of the composer's more creative battle tracks. It has a rather techno atmosphere although it is actually intended to be orchestral. This has very interesting use of low hard-slamming piano chords. If you like game music then this is a very good track. If you're not a fan of game music, then you may not like this at first, but I'd be willing to bet that it would grow on you if you let it.
If you get killed, this music plays. It's ended with a small arrangement of the prelude. FFVII is a very easy game, so you probably won't be hearing this track very much.
This very easy-going bossa nova plays in the town of the track's namesake. This features some nice percussion with guitar and xylophone.
I really don't understand the title of this track. It really doen't have anything to do with the music. This desolate track plays in the town of South Corel.
This track, very similar to the preceding, is rather dull and plays before you ride the cable car to Golden Saucer.
To get out of the dreary atmosphere of the tracks leading up to this, we hear a bright carnival-esque track. This is fun to listen to and successfully keeps the disc interesting. Unfortunately, in the game, you're about to run into...
This annoying character theme represents the annoying character Cait Sith. It's a riduculous jazz piano piece.
This dreary track picks up where 'Mining Town' left of. This is basically just boring ambience and I usually skip it.
As I mentioned, the second disc is probably the weakest, except for the main theme. Fortunately we are treated to almost nothing but good music from here on out. Almost...
This is the full playing of Red XIII's theme. It is heard in the town of Cosmo Canyon. As I understand it, this is one of the composer's favorites.
This track begins with a few notes straight out of the main title. Instead of the sweeping main title variation, though, we are treated to the full playing of the "lifestream" theme. It's soothing and very lovely.
A slow and somber version of Red XIII's theme. There's not much to say about this, but it is played at a rather important section of the game. Important concerning Red.
The spoiled thief ninja, Yuffie's theme... This is a nice heartfelt melody that hardly sounds anything like it would accompany a ninja. Oh well, it's still a great track; fun to listen to.
Now we come to a very oppressive piece. This is the theme for the principal villain Sephiroth. Unfortunately this track sounds a little too ordinary, like it could fit just about any villain you could mention. Including just about every other Final Fantasy villain.
I guess that you could say that this is Vincent's theme. This plays in the basement of the ShinRa mansion in Cloud's home town, where Vincent has been kept as an experiment by the evil scientist Professor Hojo.
Now this is one of the best character themes ever. Cid's theme embodies all of the power and heroics that he symbolizes and even goes through. This is a very patriotic and tear-inducing theme. It almost sounds American.
This cinematic version of the main theme plays as Cloud and cohorts, along with their new ally Cid have escaped from the ShinRa on a plane called the Tiny Bronco. This is a very lighthearted and exciting piece that conjures up images of the scene that it accompanies.
This is the town theme for Yuffie's home village of Wutai. It sounds very eastern and fits the village that it accompanies like a glove.
This is another "sneaking around" track that plays when you find that Yuffie has stolen your materia. This is a rather annoying track, actually...
Don't let the title fool you, this is not another arrangement of the Chocobo theme. Instead, it is an encouraging track that plays just before you race your chocobo. But just guess what comes next...
Another chocobo theme arrangement! This time it's not as listenable as it is like hillbilly chase music. *Yahoo!*
Earlier I said that the classic Final Fantasy victory fanfare would play and I wasn't kidding. This gives a short, extremely simplistic playing of the classic melody.
Same as the previous track, only this time it's in minor mode.
I just love this. This track plays when Cloud is on a date with whoever he ends up with at Gold Saucer. This is incidental music for the play that they are in. It has a very light and comical tone.
This is graceful and very romantic, one of the best on the soundtrack. This is sort of a culmination arrangement of all of the female character themes. Quite wonderful.
The melody used in this ambient track was borrowed for "The Castle" track in Uematsu's follow-up soundtrack for Final Fantasy VIII. Though I hate to admit it, this is not as good as it's FFVIII counterpart. It's still a nice listen though.
Now we're back into very oppressive territory. Like the track 'Anxious Heart' though, this has an oddly soothing quality. This plays when you enter the forgotten capital of the Cetra.
Oh, how lovely. This is such a beautiful piece; the best character theme on the soundtrack. This great track unfortunately conjures up sad memories about a certain part of the game though. This might be difficult to listen to for people who have played the game, but people who have not played the game will still find it beautiful. Bravo, Mr. Uematsu!
I almost fell in love with this. Atmospheric tracks like this that display frigid temperatures are some of my favorites. Although I like this track very much, the best ever track to accompany a snowy ambience can be heard in "Secret of Mana" ("Prayer of the Arctic Circle").
I HATE this track, and I'll tell you why: Up to this point in the game, the incredible main theme has played on the overworld map, but unfortunately the game designers decided to replace that track as soon as the Weapons are released in the game. I found this extremely aggitating when I went onto the world map expecting to hear the main theme, only to be bombarded by this horridly boring thing. It does contain a few small statements of the main theme near the end, but not enough to keep it interesting. You can't avoid this in the game, but fortunately you can avoid it on the soundtrack. Skip it. Trust me.
A player of the game would think that this track would be oppressive. Oddly enough this track is quite light and very listenable. A respite from junk that was heralded in the previous track.
To close the third disc, we have a track that goes on symbolizing the mental problems of the main character. This is very much like 'Who Are You?' on disc one, only this track is based on the main theme.
This track, similar to 'Fortress of the Condor' on the second disc, plays when your party visits the ShinRa-occupied town of Upper-Junon. The militarization of the town is what inspired the title of this track.
This suspense music plays when the Weapons attack Junon. This is very exciting and employs a section of Sephiroth's theme, just to let the player know that Sephiroth is involved with the attack on the ShinRa.
The music that plays when you are riding in your airship. This is a huge and triumphant playing of the main theme.
This music plays when you are underwater in your submarine. This is very beautiful and atmospheric like so many tracks before it. This is very similar to the submarine theme from FFV.
This is a nice jazzy theme that plays in a few towns throughout the game. It is very similar to 'Oppressed People' on the first disc, only this particular track is much lighter in tone.
We sink back into desparate, longing music. This is like the earlier, more dreary tracks like 'Anxious Heart' and 'You Can Hear the Cries of the Planet,' only this is much less enjoyable. This music plays when you find out that something bad has happened to the main character, Cloud.
This is a nice accoustic guitar solo that plays as Tifa helps Cloud get through his mental troubles about midway through the game. This is a very reflective piece as the past memories of the characters are displayed while it is utilized.
This incredibly heart-pounding "hurry" track sounds almost identical to "The Unforgiven" from the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack. That's not to say that it's a direct rip-off, but it is extremely similar.
All of the characters have had a softer arrangement of their theme (with the exception of Barret), so we might as well give Cid one. As you may have guessed, this is a soft arrangement of Cid's theme.
This is a gigantic exclamation of Cid's heroic theme!
Um... This is kinda dull. This plays when you go into certain caves to find unusual materia.
ShinRa's last hope is to fire a giant mako cannon at Diamond Weapon and enter Sephiroth's domain. Unfortunately for ShinRa, Weapon fires first, killing Rufus, the president of the company, though they were successful in breaking the barrier that protected Sephiroth. Now your characters can head for the final cataclysmic battle.
This is the final dungeon music. The melody is totaly unattached to the rest of the soundtrack, but the overall feel of the track is one of determination. Determination to reach your goal and finally defeat Sephiroth. Failure is not an option.
The first in the trilogy of final boss tracks. This is a strong battle theme, very closely related to it's counterpart, 'J-E-N-O-V-A.'
You've finally reached Sephiroth. This is probably the weakest of the three final battle tracks. It features a short playing of Sephiroth's theme.
This is probably the technical highlight of Nobuo Uematsu's entire career. A final, gigantically gothic track based on Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." Though the famous 1930's opera has been an inspiration for many composers, Nobuo's work goes above and beyond the call of duty, even utilizing a genuine choir chanting lyrics from Orff's original work. This is probably the third most powerful battle theme that Uematsu has ever written, just behind "Dancing Mad" and "The Fierce Battle" from the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack. If you're a fan of the battle themes from the Final Fantasy series, then it might be necessary to purchase the entire soundtrack just for this one piece. It's one of the highlights of twentieth-century music. And just for those who are wondering, the original is better that it's fully orchestrated counterpart on FFVII Reunion Tracks. It's just infinitely more powerful.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack goes downhill from this point. The final conclusive track is really nothing to write home about. It contains reprises of the major character themes from throughout the game, and closes on a large, sustained chord from the main theme as the lifestream disintergrates METEOR. A decent, but otherwise standard track.
The end credits feature a few more reprises of themes, including the game's main theme and the series' main theme. Pretty standard stuff.
As I have said, in technical terms, this is the second best score in the Final Fantasy series and it's definitely worth the time of fans of game music, and possibly fans of movie music as well. You can order this from AnimeNation. I fully recommend this to fans of Final Fantasy, others may find plenty to like, but be warned that the synth quality is definitely less than wonderful, which you may find objectionable. You may want to give the game a spin first just to see if you like the music. I recommend the game more than I recommend the soundtrack, as a matter of fact.
Nice 4000 word review, huh?