Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack
- "One of the weaker additions to the series, but not without its creative merits."
- "The decline begins."
- Release date: 2002-06-05
- Catalog number: SSCX-10069
- Publisher: DigiCube
Disc 1 (75 minutes)
- FFXI Opening Theme
- Vana'diel March
- The Kingdom of San d'Oria
- Battle Theme
- Chateau d'Oraguille
- Batallia Downs
- The Republic of Bastok
- Rolanberry Fields
- The Federation of Windurst
- Heavens Tower
- Battle in the Dungeon
- Sauromugue Champaign
- Battle Theme #2
Disc 2 (75 minutes)
- Hume Male
- Hume Female
- Elvaan Male
- Elvaan Female
- Tarutaru Male
- Tarutaru Female
- The Grand Duchy of Jeuno
- Ru'Lude Gardens
- Battle in the Dungeon #2
- Mog House
- Tough Battle
- Sometime, Somewhere
- Despair (Memoro de la S^tono)
- Castle Zvahl
- Shadow Lord
- Repression (Memoro de la S^tono)
- Vana'diel March #2
One of the weaker additions to the series, but not without its creative merits.
Reader review by Jockolantern (2003-04-02)
After the grand successes of the Final Fantasy IX and X soundtracks, Final Fantasy XI's soundtrack was much anticipated and heavily hyped. Not surprisingly, Nobuo Uematsu once again snatched up two young, up-and-coming video game music composers to help him out with the majority of the composing, just as he did with the Final Fantasy X OST. Instead of Junya Nakano and Masaishi Hamauzu though, Uematsu picked two much lesser known composers: Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka. The resulting mixture is a soundtrack that falls somewhere between Final Fantasy IX and X, having some familiar strains from both games, but never matching up to either in terms of quality. This isn't to say that the soundtrack is bad... quite the contrary! Final Fantasy XI OST features some wonderful town themes, powerful battle themes, and the best opening theme out of the entire series to boot. The soundtrack fails in a few key areas, but still delivers a fun, engaging, and ultimately attractive addition to the series that can wear the Final Fantasy crown proudly.
The soundtrack opens with what is quite possibly the most beautiful opening theme of the entire series, combining a sweeping opening movement with a gorgeously emotional choral section throughout. The middle of the piece introduces a typical Uematsu "crisis" motif and the track is finished off with a beautiful restatement of the main theme, ending on the last soft harped notes of the "Prelude." After that, listeners are introduced to the first of the two Vana'Diel marches, which opens up the soundtrack quite nicely with a triumphantly energetic march motif. The second "Vana'diel March" at the end of disc 2 is even better, in my opinion, holding a more spirited, uplifting, and bombastic tone to it.
The best thing about the soundtrack can be summed up in two words: town themes. "The Kingdom of San d'Oria" is a bright and spirited march puncuated with some great bagpipe motifs. "The Republic of Bastok" is a wonderful piece filled with some fabulous orchestrational techniques and a booming underlying percussive rhythm. "The Federation of Windurst" reminds me of Klonoa music in many ways, from its wonderfully bizarre percussion to its light main theme carried out by soft woodwind-type instruments. Some other great town themes are "The Grand Duchy of Jueno" (a spirited classical piece with some delightful string/harpsichord passages) and "Ru'Lude Gardens" (another very classically influenced, heavy violin piece). Some of my other favorite tracks include "Metalworks" (a fun, adventurous march), "Voyager" (a very Mitusda-esque piece), and "Castle Zvahl" (bashed as one of the most boring pieces on the soundtrack, but is actually a deliciously long and dark piece featuring some very dischordant and low thrumming string passages and some other good low key orchestrations).
Of course, no Final Fantasy soundtrack review would be complete without an analysis of the battle themes present on the soundtrack. Railed upon as the worst part of the soundtrack by many, the battle themes are actually, in my opinion, some of the best yet composed in the series! Mizuta's style for both "Battle" and "Battle in the Dungeon" themes carry a very heavily weighted bombastic approach with some absolutely fantastic string and brass instrumental techniques. "Tough Battle" is also an excellent track, with a much more ferocious attack sound. The final battle music, "Awakening", is the only battle track Kumi Tanioka gets to do, and she does a splendid job of crafting a very dark, rhtyhmically pulsing battle motif.
However, the soundtrack is not without its faults. For one, each track of music is all based along the same motif most of the time (although each motif is carried through slightly different orchestrational changes throughout the pieces), so the music can tend to get a little long-winded and draggy sometimes. I suppose this is just Mizuta's style, but it does tend to get tiresome to a point. Another down point would be that Uematsu's small contribution to the soundtrack only includes three really good tracks, "FFXI Opening Theme", "Ronfaure", and "Airship"; the rest of his music ranges from the "typical Uematsu we've already heard before" to the downright drab and uninspired. It's not bad, but definitely some of his weakest compositions yet.
Despite the wide criticism the soundtrack seems to be receiving for its apparent "lack of originality", "boring motifs", and "bland sound for a Final Fantasy OST", the Final Fantasy XI certainly matched all my expectations, even if it is probably the weakest soundtrack in the series since Final Fantasy VII. It will take time and patience to let the music grow on you, but I can promise you that eventually the music *will* grow on you, one way or the other. Mizuta and Tanioka cooked up some very exciting pieces of music, including some of the best town and battle music yet heard in the series. Despite the abuse leveled against it, it's a Final Fantasy OST not to be missed by any fan of the series.
The decline begins.
Reader review by Joe Schwebke (2003-04-02)
It didn't take me long to realize what I was experiencing through the first listen of this soundtrack. To be frank, I expected a great deal more, especially with the hope of less-experienced Kumi Tanioka (Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon II). No such luck complied. In short, what we have in Final Fantasy XI OST is a collection of bland melodies, dull chord progressions, and aged tapestries of musical technique born of empty inspirations and conservative innovative freedom. This two-disc disappointment has only a handful of gems, and none are noteworthy enough to secure this new installment musically.
Naoshi Mizuta's (Parasite Eve II) work on FFXI is far different from that of PE2, considering FFXI is melodic and symphonic as opposed to the dissonant and smooth ambience of the other. Sadly, in short, he only manages to bring a few tracks to notable life enough to be enjoyable. The first track by Mizuta, "Vanadiel March" is a fairly straightforward march (duh) with a lead trombone that catches a lot of attention with its wistful melody. Following that song is a very, very dreary bagpipe-powered march of the most tedious kind. The first battle theme (note that all battle themes, excluding the final, are by Mizuta) is an impact of brass with a string rhythm very similar to that of the FFVIII battle theme, "Don't Be Afraid". The song has a couple clever chords and changes within, but not enough to make it a strong winner. All the other battle tracks sound fairly similar in that uniform style, always with a prevalent melody instilled.
Aside from his brassier, more fanfare-like and marching tunes, Mizuta's tracks featuring acoustic guitar and exotic percussions seem to present his abilities the most efficiently. "Rolanberry Fields" starts with a complacent guitar and marimba. A pan flute joins in with one of the few decent melodies of the game, then progresses to an easy-moving section with a consistent, but effective background rhythm in four. "Sarutabaruta" is a simple guitar/woodwind/shaker movement until mid-song when pan flutes and acoustic bass improve on the song's initial mediocrity. "Mhaura" is sad and pretty, but truthfully sounds like it could fit perfectly on Uematsu's Phatasmagoria album, which may or may not be an attractive characteristic. "Buccaneers", "Tarutaru Male" and "Selbina" are examples of Mizuta's more well-thought out pieces, especially the third with its rising and falling guitar and violin, almost feeling celtic, and "Tarutaru Male" has a very nice flowing snare drum rhythm generally pleasing to hear.
On the downside, some of Mizuta's tracks are simply boring and redundant, with little or no new ideas blooming anywhere. "Heaven's Tower" is a great example of Mizuta's lack of creativity with a no-brainer bell rhythm and a melody not any more interesting. His two other male representations besides the Tarutaru on disc 2 aren't anything spectacular either, and sound almost patriotic, and for me patriotic music is only tolerable in very acute moderation. "Castle Zvahl" is a worthless track... but don't get me wrong: if it was condensed to half its length, throwing out unnecessary repeats, it'd be a good gloomy piece. Despite his weaknesses in innovation, Mizuta does have some intelligent things going on occasionally throughout the soundtrack as mentioned earlier. He's got some nice ideas, but many fail to develop properly.
I recall being very disappointed up to track 7, until I saw the next track would be by newcomer Kumi Tanioka. Hope swelled within my mind as I hungered for my initial musical expectations to be satisfied - especially when I looked back to the two additions to Final Fantasy X's soundtrack, which were such a vigorous successes in my opinion. After hearing the track, the hope vanished. It wasn't bad, just not what I was waiting for. Luckily, most of Tanioka's tracks to follow do not have the same unexciting progressions as Mizuta's and many imbue a very mature flavor into the soundtrack. "Gustaberg" begins with a sustained high string note, with a marimba, flute, and clarinet slowly pushing the song into a lovely, flowing guitar pattern with rapid light percussion and melody carried by various woodwinds. "Hume Female" is a loose, lively piece with an excellent piano solo (one of which could've been far better if the solo were augmented with some blues chords). "RuLude Gardens" is a small string ensemble arrangement reflecting the pleasantries of a more classical/baroque-influenced style. "Fury" is a pulsing, dramatic succession of brassy dissonance and flourishing cymbals. "Awakening" is the final battle, and is fairly uptempo, with rushing strings coupled with mellow sections powered by constant drums and brass chords to ensure the drama. Commonplace in many final battle music setups these days is the eventual section where calmness is the focused emotion, and slowly the urgency emerges in an unfolding sequence - this one is no exception. In general, I find Tanioka's tracks to stick out as the more creative ones. I feel that her music is essential to the regeneration of the album from lesser tracks by the other two composers.
Nobuo Uematsu officially has eleven tracks on the album. Super. The opening track is performed live and, introduced with the simple harp prelude, is very majestic and epic in nature. Uematsu's abilities - even in these waning days for him - seem to shine most with warm bodies powering them. A choir is prominent in various sections throughout the track, beautifully accompanying the winds and strings. "Longfall" is the first of Uematsu's utterly uninspired and predictable tracks with overly simplistic percussion reflecting the extent of his rhythmic bounds, with a guitar strumming chords that you always seem to know before you hear. Throw in some woodwinds to harmonize the trite melody, and you've got yourself a great stereotypical Uematsu track... almost. The song manages to somewhat assert itself when some syncopated bass drums bustle in to deepen the complexity a touch. "The Prelude" starts disc 2 with a few new chord paths. "Airship" is, while not super-inspired, a rather enjoyable track in my opinion. It starts with a nice guitar progression and catchy melody and develops with a very minor incline into the basic Uematsu-style airship music with a steady drum pattern supporting synthy leads and ostinatos. Simple, but cute. "Recollection" is very basic with a peaceful harp, strings, and flute, gradually working up to a somewhat graceful climax. "Anxiety" is surprisingly very nice, conveying said emotion with remarkable accuracy. Perhaps because it's something Uematsu's been battling profusely since FFIX. It's not even that cliche of a song, and is a high point for his work here. Other tracks of his have some clever ideas - clear advancements over FFX for sure - and are endurable.
The one very good thing I can say about Final Fantasy XI OST is the superb sound programming. The samples are all very convincing for synth, and sometimes it's even difficult to tell the difference, especially with instruments like the acoustic guitar. But, go figure, they've got this excellent sound equipment and hire a second-rate team to utilize it.
I think that, at a glance, there is a better way to sum up the FFXI soundtrack than what I've been discussing and analyzing thus far. The fact is, this soundtrack is made up of decent music for the most part, and occasionally secures an enjoyable listen. However, it simply lacks the memorability of those that many including myself have come to expect from Square. So, a nice listen, but nothing groundbreaking, nothing dramatically new. I believe that this is the first of the Final Fantasy soundtracks I simply will not enjoy looking back to. Not as much as previous ones, anyway. It may be due to my overall profiling of Square soundtracks - in just about every one I find a grandly unique and colorful array of gorgeously creative and innovative music of all styles. Perhaps fans will find FFXI to be a nice change, perhaps not. And let's not forget that FFXI is an online game, and maybe that had an effect on how the producers wanted the music composed. Though, in my own opinion, because it's online shouldn't call for any less effort in composition. Plus, this soundtrack is small - about half the size of the estimated four discs for a PS/PS2 Final Fantasy title. In addition, Uematsu generated a lot less music here than he did for FFX. Which may be a good thing, as since FFX (and for many, since earlier soundtracks) his capabilities to produce quality music are simply fading.
Save your money for an FFXI game subscription!
Reader review by Robert J. Funches (2003-04-02)
Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack contains two CDs and only one in five tracks were written by Nobuo Uematsu himself, with only a few gems on this soundtrack worth listening to.
Don't expect the usual FF tracks to turn up. As a warning, there is NO chocobo theme and "Mog House", track 18, does NOT contain the original Mog theme. As a sidenote, they were NOT written by Uematsu. And unlike previous FF soundtracks, you won't find a recurring theme until the second CD.
The opening theme is the most elaborate of all FF soundtracks. Fully orchestrated, it opens with the famous harp prelude and then into "Legend~The Crystal Theme," featuring one of many march themes throughout the soundtrack. There are also two variations of "Memoro de la S^tono," a haunting vocal piece powerfully written by Uematsu. If there's one track you ever listen to from this CD, the opening theme should be it.
What follows are marches. Lots of marches. There are so many that it seems to be what annoys listeners the most. And surprisingly enough, the Vana'diel March (track 2) isn't the theme; in fact, no one piece really carries a theme throughout the entire soundtrack. The Vana'diel March does appear again at the end of disc 2, but it's practically the same. The opening theme does come back in any of the Uematsu-produced tracks; it's funny how some of the best tracks actually follow FF soundtrack formula!
Keep in mind that the other two composers, Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka, did more than 75 percent of the soundtrack, and many of the songs don't change their melody until you hit the middle half, and I personally found myself going to the next track before that happened. The music isn't really ambient, but some of it does lack movement. Tracks 8 and 10 on the first CD are some of the few exceptions. All of the battle themes are a little on the lackluster side; a few real instruments wouldn't have hurt, and might have helped to push these pieces along. The last track on disc 1, Selbina, is a personal favorite, but I'm partial as a fiddler myself.
Disc 2 opens with the prelude; this one really has nothing to comment about; the FFVII prelude beats this one out with a long shot. There's also a lot of generic character themes, for species that you can choose in FFXI. Hume (Human) Female will catch you off guard with a soft rock kind of sound that doesn't exactly fit this soundtrack. Then again, so will Elvaan Female and Tarantu Female. Sorry, ladies, but I have to say that the female themes sound completely out of place.
Other pieces like the Baroque sounding Ru'Lude Gardens (track 13) will catch your ear in a funny way, but I'm sure that there's an appropriate spot in the game where it's used. Track 14, Recollection, will make you recollect the FFXI theme. It's also produced by Uematsu himself, and it's a quiet piece, not something to dance to, but it is just as powerful as the opening theme.
Battle in the Dungeon #2 will sound familiar; it's found in many of the promos for FFXI. It's much better than the other battle themes, being fast-paced and having good substance. Near the end is Castle Zvahl; it sorta makes you think why they would write a nine-minute piece. If music loops, then why write a piece for exploring the whole darn castle?
The second CD closes out very well. Track 28, Awakening, has "pure evil" and "Sephiroth" written all over it, and it's very difficult to tell if it's been orchestrated, but it does feature vocals. Repression, featuring "Memoro de la S^tono, is also good, but it would be a lot better in orchestral form. The Vana'diel March, in its second iteration, is much better, but again, it needs to be sped up slightly, and an orchestration to bring the CD to a big close wouldn't have hurt. Nonetheless, it's a good finish to what has been dubbed as a mediocre game "because it's online."
So still wondering if you should shell out money for this soundtrack? I personally own the limited edition from Japan, so I can laugh at everyone else because I have a really cool looking portfolio and a special edition DVD (you will need a region 2 player for it) with lots of video clips, and I'd recommend the limited edition, not the normal edition, if you're an avid FF soundtrack fan. Other than that, you might be better off saving your money to pay for a few months of FFXI and PlayOnline; you'll need it.
The most disappointing Final Fantasy score to date.
Reader review by Zack Benito (2002-09-16)
Gamers already doubt Final Fantasy XI, the game. "Final Fantasy just doesn't work online," gamers are saying. Well, if the game is anything like the soundtrack, then fans will be advised to stay away from it.
Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack is the most uninspiring Final Fantasy score in the series. There is only one spectacular track and the rest are all nothing like the Final Fantasy style we are used to. Maybe this is because of the two new composers that Nobuo Uematsu selected to help him with this score, Kumi Tanioka and Naoshi Mizuta.
The soundtrack opens with the most beautiful opening theme I have ever heard in a Final Fantasy game. Uematsu composed this one and it is probably his best work. The theme starts off with the quiet melody of the prelude, then a beautiful vocal melody begins and it continues with more melodies performed by instruments. This is a classic Nobuo Uematsu track!
After the Opening Theme ends, I am expecting a great soundtrack. However, the rest of the tracks are unimpressive and quite boring. I was extremely disappointed with the Battle Themes. They are more on the "ambient" side than the "energetic" side. The FFXI Battle Themes could put you to sleep!
Then, there's a track called Mog House, which I assumed had something to do with the moogles we saw in Final Fantasy VI. I was expecting that classic melody to play, but I expected wrong. The melody was nowhere to be found in the song! Instead, I got some ambient guitar melody.
Sadly, there is no classic Chocobo Theme. I could not believe that! The Chocobo Theme is usually found on every Final Fantasy soundtrack, how could it not be put on this one?
Moving on, the worst track on the soundtrack would have to be the nine-minute and forty-second long "Castle Zvahl." I haven't heard a song so boring and so repetitive like this one. The melody is beyond ambient; it's more like a lullaby to get you to go to sleep. For nine minutes, the song goes on with the same dull melody.
After listening to the soundtrack, I went on the internet to read about it. I learned that Uematsu only composed 11 out of the 51 tracks. This led me to believe that the two new composers Kumi Tanioka and Naoshi Mizuta absolutely ruined this Final Fantasy score. None of these songs stick in your head like the other Final Fantasy songs did, the soundtrack is more on the ambient side and it's just an absolute disappointment. If you were planning on buying this soundtrack, I recommend you save your money. It's not worth it. I can only hope that this is not the future of Final Fantasy scores.