Takeharu Ishimoto, the newest member of Square Enix's official composing team, first came into the public eye at large with his score for 2007's surprising DS hit, The World Ends with You. Since then he's been composing mainly for PSP titles, notably Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and the two Dissidia titles. His scores have gotten quite complex and over time he has proven himself to be quite the capable composer. Now at the end of 2011, Square Enix's biggest and last major PSP exclusive, Final Fantasy Type 0, has finally been released after a lengthy development process, and features a full score by Ishimoto. The soundtrack was released in a regular edition and, complete with exuberant packaging and a promotional DVD, a limited edition. Does he help the aging portable system make its leave with a bang, or with naught but a whimper?
The soundtrack opens with a suite of three orchestrated tracks performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. "The Time of Beginnings" is a rather optimistic track that leads into the much heavier "We Are Arrived." This latter track is quite enjoyable, with rather impressive orchestration and a flowing, evolving melody that keeps the listener's attention rapt. The piece ends with a bombastic performance of the title's fantastic main theme. "The Conclusion to be Deduced" is a forlorn, soft piece with some more impressive choral work. Together, these three tracks serve as quite the enjoyable opening. "Sacred Fire" is the main theme proper, and the melody is rather endearing and memorable. Simple enough to get stuck in one's head and enjoyable enough for one not to mind.
Many pieces are of a militaristic nature, belying the theme and environment of the game. "Wings of Fire" is an early illustration, thrilling the listener with rather impressive orchestration that disguises the basic melody. Praise that can also be given for "When the Flag of Suzaku Raises" and the somewhat less thrilling "High Fly." "Arm of Steel" features some neat percussive effects supporting a rather nice and well developed melody, and features a darker arrangement in "Show of Force." "What Wriggles" is similar in nature, with a pleasing percussive line that supports the slowly yet surely developing melody.
There is an absolute preponderance of battle themes spread throughout the three discs. Surprisingly, each stands apart rather well from the others, from the somber tones of "Battle - The Spoilsport" to the exciting rock influenced "Battle - The White Weapon." "Battle - Dark Existence" paints a rather frightening atmosphere with its march-like percussion and slightly off kilter piano before developing into a softer string section. "Battle - Abysm" is notable for its somewhat wacky electronic effects, and the soft guitar serenading "Battle - Silent Fighting" quite decently supports the yearning melody, as it's replaced by one of an electric variant providing a great second half for the piece. There is some repetition several start with using the piano effectively as percussion, such as "Battle - Rescue Mission" and "Battle - Breakthrough" though each is worth the time to check out.
There are a good number of somber event tracks, and these are all quite impressive. The two character themes, individually heard in "Machina Kunagiri" and "Rem Tokimiya," and heard together in the aptly named "Machina and Rem" are profound melodically and paint a rather powerful picture. Along with the main theme, these are perhaps the highlights of the album. "Forgotten Memories," whose melody makes another appearance twice more in differing forms in both "Tender Tears and "Forgetting Heart" are equally as moving as the aforementioned, and the soothing violin and piano duet of "Lonely Heart" cannot be missed. Classic Final Fantasy tunes also make a comeback in some places. The famous "Prelude" theme makes an explicit appearance in "Guardianship of the Crystal," along with less obvious peppering elsewhere. The world map theme, "Trampled Soil," is introduced with a rather epic sounding "Chocobo's Theme," which is more pronounced in the following track, titled "Chocobo!" "Moogle's Theme" makes a single but welcome appearance in the fun and bouncy "Moggie" too.
The closing (listed) two tracks along with "The Time of Finis" also receive full orchestrations. The latter features choral work rather reminiscent of Yasunori Mitsuda's work, with a slight upbeat tone that heralds the end of the game. "The Flames of Suzaku," the final battle theme, is a little disappointing from its relatively short length, though it manages to be quite thrilling despite that. It isn't anything unheard of for a final battle theme, though this doesn't diminish its intrinsic quality. In particular, the main theme is arranged rather well. "Type-0," the lengthy credits theme, is a perfect note to end on. Touching on several themes from the game and fleshed throughout with impressive orchestral work, it doesn't disappoint.
There are five bonus tracks present. The first three are labeled as arrangements of "Machina Kunagiri," "Rem Tokimiya," and "Battle - Silent Fighting." The former receive quite enjoyable piano trio arrangements, whereas the latter features a rounder ensemble, with guitar and percussion, and an overall cleaner sound than its original. There are three unlisted tracks at the end of the third disc. The first of which is just 15 seconds of silence, the second and third being a curious vocal and its karaoke version, respectively. I'm not quite sure where these upbeat, peppy numbers originated from and and having more in common with The World Ends With You than Final Fantasy Type-0 they don't quite flesh well with the heavy, orchestral nature of the rest of the work.
The Final Fantasy Type 0 Original Soundtrack is a rather impressive achievement. There is nary a dull moment, and while not all the tracks are winners, even the relatively unimpressive ones keep the listener's attention. A point against it is the relative somber nature of the work as a whole. While this works and makes sense in context of the game, this is more orchestrated soundtrack from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and for better or worse those expecting the upbeat Ishimoto from The World Ends With You won't find it here (sans the oddly placed hidden tracks). That said, each track is an impressive achievement in its own right, and this is a soundtrack that shouldn't be missed.