|Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack is a video game soundtrack. You will find the track list plus an extensive track-by-track analysis below the standard review. It is my hope that you will gain a better understanding of video game music by reading exactly what it has to offer as it is different from American film music.|
Measuring up to other sound compositions in the rest of the series, part 9, while still not nearly approcahing the incredible mastery of mature thematics we've witnessed in Final Fantasy VI, Uematsu-San has created a soundtrack that I place slightly ahead of my previous second-favorite Final Fantasy VII and light years ahead of the previous round in the series, Final Fantasy VIII.
I'd like to take a quick recap of every FF score that the true fans have experineced so far:
Final Fantasy: The horrendously mediocre sound system that the NES was equiped with was simply not an excellent tool for composers to work with. With just three lines upon which to write including percussion, this highly under-developed tool did not provide the means to make a truly outstanding score possible. Never the less, the origin of Final Fantasy brought one fact to attention: This new composer of twenty-seven years was an absolute master of melody. The soundtrack included such favorites as "Matoya's Cave, The Prelude" and the ever popular main theme which has become a nostalgic staple ever since its inception in 1987.
Final Fantasy II: While not much different from the original, the second installment added some fine new themes to Mr. Uematasu's repetoir.
Final Fantasy III: Still similar to the previous scores, yet Final Fantasy III was a new direction for the series, this score replaced the few mildly pleasing tracks with a barrage of over forty in total. A monumental acievemnet for its time.
Final Fanatsy IV: A true turning point in the series. After being upgraded to the new Super NES, Final Fantasy brought forth cinema and broke new grounds in video game story-telling, and the upgrading of the sound system tested not only the melody skills of the composer, but his arranging skills as well. With a psuedo-pop flair, Mr. Uematsu made the music of the series into a true hit. Not just in Japan, but somewhat in the US as well. Final Fantasy IV is responsible for introducing many fans to the series.
Final Fantasy V: While not introducing anything astoundingly new, Final Fantasy V was another hit among fans. I personally don't think much of this soudntrack, but I place it just ahead of FFVIII because of its absoulutely bombastic thrill ride of an end credits march: "The New Origin."
Final Fantasy VI: The *absolute* culmination of everything that had passed and would come to pass in the FF series. Part VI is peppered with robust arrangements and nearly countless heart-breaking themes. All neatly woven together in a unique tapestry which I proudly hail as my favorite musical work of the twentieth century. Purchase the soundtrack for Final Fantasy VI immediately. You won't be dissapointed.
Final Fantasy VII: The seventh installment in the series is responsible for introducing more fans to Final Fantasy than any other. This is my favorite game in the series and it contains one of the most incredible tracks of Mr. Uematsu's career: "A One-Winged Angel." This has recently lost its place as my second favorite FF score to part IX. However, I still believe that this is the most complex score in the series. This is also by far the darkest and most brooding of FF scores.
Final Fantasy VIII: Probably the most controversial of all scores in the series. FFVIII is, IMO, the weakest Final Fantasy soundtrack to date. Although it contains a few good tracks, the lack of anything greatly substancial hurts this score tremendously. It's not horrid, but it could've been better. A lot better.
Which brings us back to the topic at hand: Final Fantasy IX. The newest offers us a new look at the old light-hearted greats of the series earlier years on the SNES combined with the new-found maturer sensibilites of the composer. Though to be honest, this soundtrack has one major pitfall: The main theme is severely overused. I thought that FFVIII's "friendship" theme was overused but sheesh! This problem is even more apparent in the game itself than on the CD. And because of the great length of the score (160 songs in all, 110 are which represented on the soundtrack) many tracks degreade into pointless, meandering background garble.
One of the extra added enjoyments is that some tracks from earlier scores have been updated and placed back in. Such as the "Gulug Volcano" track from the original Final Fantasy and, wonder of wonders, the good old FF prelude is back. This time in genuine orchestral glory, which really counts for something this time around. Unfortunately the same thing can't be said for the series main theme which has been given nearly identical arrangement compared to FFVIII's version and has bad only some slightly beefed up orchestration, but otherwise it is simply repeating itself the same as in previous outings.
Making a return to the series is the use of leitmotif to represent the various characters. None are quite as memorable as those featured in Final Fantasyu VI, but most funciton quite well within the context of the game and are a slight step ahead most of the character themes that are found in FFVII. The main "Melodies of Life" theme, which doubles as a chracter theme for Dagger and the love theme makes a special pop ballad appearance at the end of the score. Two appearances actually. Both of which are quite good, but I prefer the version used in the end credits sung in Japanese. The English version seems to be missing something. Though the end credits song doesn't funciton as well in the game as FFVIII's "Eyes on Me," it has a substancially more powerful performance, courtesy of Emiko Shiatori. Her voice is more inspiring than that of Chinese pop sensation Faye Wong, who sang the corresponding vocal piece for the previous installment in the series.
As I've stated, this is now my second favorite Final Fantasy score. I doubt that any fans of the series will find anything too horribly wrong whith it, and newcomers to the series will find plenty to like as well. There are many orchestral pieces in the score, and unfortunately only a couple are featured on this album. To complete the full set of music you must purchase FFIX OST Plus separately, which I don't own yet, but plan to purchase in th near future. The long-running series has almost always been blessed with outstanding music. I'm glad to see that it's not coming to an end just yet.
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