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4 Discs + 4 Hours = Final Fantasy 8 OST
Final Fantasy 8 - Soundtrack
Member Name: AverageJoseph
Final Fantasy 8 - Soundtrack
Advantages: Memorable, Nostalgia, No. of Tracks, Cheap
Disadvantages: Repetative, Fillers
With the eighth installment of the Final Fantasy series comes yet another stunning soundtrack to accompany it. Like its predecessors, 8's OST is composed by Nobuo Uematsu, using MIDI file samples on a synthesizer. To palm off the work done hear due to its sound format would be a grave mistake as it still stands as one of the best soundtracks in video gaming, regardless of its digital instrumentation (Outside of this album, there are both orchestrated versions and piano arrangements). Of course it isn't expected to garner too much of a prestige air as it is only known and loved when played alongside 1999's journey of FFVIII - creating appropriate atmospheres, making light of comical situations and matching the emotions and feelings from the characters, environments and situations. In my opinion, it is not only the last of the great soundtracks featured in a FF game (due to the departure of Uematsu), but one of the last of the finest OST's in production and like the game itself, spans 4 discs. Obviously detailed every song would be going overboard so I have noted the highlights and most memorable tracks. Rest assured this was a difficult task only choosing a set amount.
The first of the 74 tracks that starts with the introduction FMV in game, viewing a calm tide hitting golden sands, is 'Liberi Fatali', which features a female choir eerily chanting "wecos lusec fithos vinosec". The silence soon fades when strong, bassy strikes of cellos charge fourth, urging on the rest of the orchestra - wind, string and brass. A male choir harmonises with the former and stur up the song as it gains more and more momentum with the booming sound of war drums. The climactic ending comes to a close with the chant, whirling melodies and eventually a soothing piano chord. One must realise that this song matched with the introductory video (which sees your main character battling it out in a sword fight and glimpses of the future) is a striking beginning to get engrossed in - or at least, it certainly had me gawping, bleary eyed after such an intense prelude for what is to come. Second track 'Balamb Garden' is just that, the tune played when wandering about a vast college (known as a garden in game) - it is a sunny theme with flutey notes and all round peaceful vibe - well made considering you'd be hearing it a lot. The world map theme 'Blue Fields' is a strange one, strange that it is odd sounding thanks to uncertain tunes played by mimicked wind instruments. However what made this slightly disappointing is that it isn't as bold and epic as FF7's map theme - then again, its uncertainty does suit your cluelessness in an unknown world and it doesn't grate when wandering.
After some fight scene/victory music there is 'FInd Your Way' - a creepy one that has a hopping, echoed piano, scaling up and down, copied by the string section. This with the slow paced harp plugging away makes it a decent song for excavating the 'Tomb of the Unknown King'. 'SeeD' (The group of combatants which you are assigned to in game) has a marching beat to it thanks to slamming bass drums and the rolling snare. A sharp electric guitar squeal changes the mood completely as if some sort of revelation has been exposed. It all bodes well for making your misson as a SeeD, incredibly built up. What follows the boss battle, escape and FMV tunes is 'Breezy'. SImilar to the second song, its a low tempo upbeat number played on an acoustic guitar. At under 3 minutes long its a fine track that really makes its location in game so realistic - a cobbled street, blue skys and the ocean. In fact I recall the first time hearing it when a hotel owner stated "The sea breeze sure feels good. The whole town, filled with the wonderful aroma of the sea......And......That is why my car rusts. That sign's not lookin' too good, either." - Brilliant. With most FF's having fun mini games (8's being a card game that I'm addicted to) I can easily say I LOATHE the track 'Shuffle or Boogie' since I must of heard it a thousand times and lost to it just as much.
Can a song called 'Walz of the Moon' possibly be bad? No of course not, but when you witness your main character make a fool out of himself on the dance-floor, colliding into other dancers and his partner... well it becomes more of a hilarious reminder of your own dancing abilities than a classy walz. 'Tell Me' though is a serious one. Sorrowful strings and rising woodwind instruments combine for an devine song. Perfect for the scenes where people are spilling their emotional guts (to which your characters is a heartless jerk!) Delicate glints from glockenspiels and a melody that occurs often in the game make it one of my favourites. 'Fear' can't be glossed over as it has a distinct feel to it, with sharp piano keys, an organ and pulled strings - it stands out. A brief piano concerto that doesn't go over 1 and half minutes, is a heartwarming and even saddening piece that again bares witness to more comedic elements in the story - a nervous Laguna strolls up to the 'piano lady' only to get cramp in his leg and waddle about in agony - which prompted Kiros to say "I'd say you're about a -3 on the manliness scale."
Onto disc 2 now with 'My Mind' and its a girly one that could've been dubbed as 'Rinoa's Theme' as it often pops on when she shows up. It makes use of the glockenspiel again, along with the slow drawn out string notes but what really makes this track work is the jazzy guitar riff slapping some funk all over the place. 'Succession of Witches' chills you to the bone with its super high pitched organ notes and the mantra of "wecos lusec" from the first song. This is largely a track that follows the events of one of the games antagonists - a sorceress. Since there are a fair few songs from videos and similar themed ones (another garden, city, piano and chant) I skip onto disc 3 which starts with 'The Spy'. This one had me jiving and nodding along thanks the that solid bass line that runs through to the core of the song. It delightfully mixes all sorts of instruments like jazz guitar wackiness, a bright saxophone and gasping string section. It definitely goes with whats happening on screen that for sure - the sabotage of a missile base. 'Drifting' is one of the most depressing songs on the entire soundtrack thanks to the surprising events it caters for and teary synthetic strings. To explain just what makes it that much more meaningful is too sour the games climactic plot and brilliant adventure.
A name like 'Fisherman's Horizon' prompts a top tune for an amazingly well designed location - a manmade floating island in the middle of the sea connected by a single train line. One of the slower songs, it uses some spirited and exotic blow flute and harmonica playing with milky piano notes behind them. This song makes you imagine blue skies and peace of mind, clearly another favourite. Better add 'Love Grows' to that long list too because its a right tear jerker. Like several other tracks, its uses the ever recurring, but never maligned, familiar melody. 'The Salt Flats' may sound dull and dreary like the location, but its has a magical sound thanks to echoing chords from all sorts, a frolicking piano, confusing bass and melancholy choir. To end the 3rd disc is 'Eyes On Me' - the first full song which features english vocals in a Final Fantasy. Beautifully sang by Chinese pop sensation Faye Wong, it has become one of the most famous video game related songs ever recorded. It gets played during one special moment in the game, one which I just cannot spoil, worthy of a listen to get an idea of how magical the game really is. The closing line is a classy one "Shall I be the one for you, who pinches you softly but sure? If frown is shown then, I will know that you are no dreamer"
5 songs into disc 4 and you'll find a real crazy song in 'Compression of Time'. As the title suggests it gets rather appropriately trippy - utilizing several contrasting melodies and mixed instruments. Yet somehow it works.. on a bizarre level. To ear there are 4 different melodies going on including an alternate bass line. It truly sounds like someones decent into madness, or indeed decent into time compression. 'The Castle' is worth a mention as it is a fascinating piece made by a madman. A zippy riff hogs the spotlight for a good 25 seconds, but seeing as it is featured in the final dungeon area of the game, it can't be a jolly, spirited tune and predictably it turns into a nightmarish symphony. Reminiscent of Bach toccatas and his use of organs, it has spiky notes that spritely show off for a complex tune. However what gives it that extra mental jib is the occasional breakdown afterwards. Hopping from 2 notes only, then hearing smashing, clicking sounds and a massive bongo boom. Out of place indeed, but so, so creepy, the work of a lunatic mind. Onto the final boss music. A memorable one would be 'Maybe I'm a Lion' - made famous by its shaking intro, manly karate cry of "HWIYA!" and use of rock guitar and bass. No where near as relevant as FF7's 'One Winged Angel' but still a mighty contender to a short list of best boss themes.
'The Extreme' is a much better take on a boss with that chant making its chilly appearance again, it starts with dizzying harp and piano notes swirling around, disorientating as you would be trying to prepare for your final battle. Just as the pleasantries of the first minute and a half end, the bass kicks off, drum beat counts in and both piano and string sections set off on a rigorous routine. The short glimpses of choirs and and lone piano make for good mid-way conversations and the percussion is always welcome to pick up the pace afterwards. One last concerto in 'The Successor' is a solemn end initially. Rather simple but still dignified and mesmerisingly wondrous, it changes the tone halfway through and becomes an upbeat, hopeful melody to close out one of the last songs you'll hear. At 13 minutes and 20 seconds bluntly named 'Ending Theme' is the longest song on the collection, one that goes through a broad range of instruments and emotions - a worthy end to the game as well as the soundtrack. It also features an extended version of 'Eyes on Me' this time with greater instrumentation and vigor. Although half the song is actually the end credits, it is crammed together into one track instead of two even though there is a clear end for the first.
Nearly 2000 words later and hopefully I have provided somewhat of a gist as to what is in store for anyone who plays Final Fantasy VIII, let alone give the soundtrack a listen. For those interested in this OST, it can be found for around £30 online which isn't too bad as it is rather an obscure item and spans 4 discs. Inside the case you get a booklet with a few FMV stills and cool pictures of characters. Its in both English and Japanese for credits, a Q&A for Nobuo Uematsu and track listing. Those who haven't played VIII... well, you're missing out on a genuinely charming, if slightly adolescent, masterpiece.
Summary: 2000 word rambling worship for a supreme OST