FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES Original Soundtrack
|Composed by||Хидэнори Ивасаки / Куми Таниока / Нобуо Уэмацу|
|Arranged by||Хидэнори Ивасаки / Куми Таниока / Kumiko Takara / Warehouse|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Official Release|
|Format||2 CD - 52 tracks|
|Release date||August 20, 2003|
Following in the footsteps of Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XI, the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube is quite a diversion from the series' roots in its musical approach. Kumi Tanioka decided to portray the environments of the game with traditional instruments and organic arrangements, while still retaining a strong melodic focus throughout. The resultant soundtrack sometimes suffers from its consistent stylings, but features numerous fitting, enjoyable, and fascinating tracks.
As a result of its early styles, the soundtrack boasts some excellent use of early instruments throughout — the serpent, recorder and hurdy-gurdy are all utilized, and even the kazoo and bagpipes are prominently used. While the liking of such instruments is often determined only by one's personal taste, their unique sounds ensure that they are never detractive from the soundtrack's overall quality and instead make it more distinction. Much of the soundtrack is performed by the original band of musicians known as ROBA HOUSE, who specialise in performing such early music and bring an authentic tone to the soundtrack. The use of pre-recorded sound in this way was a clear advancement in game music technology and pushed the GameCube towards its limits.
The ancient instruments are used to portray a wide range of settings convincingly. On "Echoes of the Mountain Peak", there is an adventurous 'scale the mountain' feeling present in this track, for instance. This is particularly well enforced by the tribal percussion beats that run throughout. While it verges on the repetitive at times, there is a wonderful bridge section created by the kazoo that eradicates this from becoming a more prominent flaw. In "Overlooking the Great Ocean" meanwhile, the strumming acoustic guitar creates a rugged feel ideal for representing the battered shores of the ocean. However, the wind melodies that sing over them create a much softer and airier feel. Both tracks are pretty simple in their approaches, but fit beautifully and bring some novelty to the series.
The consistent use of early instruments and minimalist styles throughout a soundtrack is always going to be quite a mixed blessing: while this gives an album a distinctive style, it also runs the risk of it becoming quite dull as a collective whole due to lack of diversity of styles. Unfortunately, this soundtrack considerably succumbs to the latter, as many tracks are barely distinguishable from each other or recognisable, particularly the endless array of setting and town themes. "A Gentle Wind Blows," "Moving Clouds on the River's Surface," and "Voice of Wind, Song of Time" are all tranquil setting themes, for example, and while perfectly likeable on their own, collectively they are totally unmemorable. How many times can one album use a recorder as an airy, I ask?
Thankfully, this album does have a fair diversity of styles despite the abundance of town and setting themes. There are experimental gems like "Meager Advance" and "Mag Mail," some beautiful new age themes like "Nostalgic Profile" and "To the Successor of the Crystal", and even the slapstick march "Goblin's Lair." Let's look at the enormous contrast between the numinous last dungeon themes for instance: The first, "Echoes in the Heart" is highly minimalist in nature — Tanioka sparingly places a few mysterious high-pitched piano passages to contrast against the heavenly accompaniment of a bell ostinato. The other two, "Light and Shadow" and "I Don't Want to Forget," use backing vocals to create a holy eminence similar to that of a chorale; however, they also use celestas, tuned percussion, and the high-pitches of the piano to create a certain amount of frostiness. Each takes very unique approaches, but work wonderfully individually and collectively.
The town themes are some of the most enjoyable tracks on the soundtrack from a melodic perspective. The leads in "The First Town" and "Prosperity and Tradition", for instance, capture the light-hearted nature of the game's town with their lyrical melodies and airy timbres. The folksy stylings give just the right mood here. That said, it can be frustrating that these tracks, "Magii is Everything," and "Annual Festival" all use the kazoo to play their primary melodies. The kazoo has a quirky effect at first, but it grows boring and predictable quite quickly. Like many others on the soundtrack, these pieces are great on an individual level but unremarkable on a collective one.
Still, the vocal themes are probably the most memorable additions to the soundtrack. "Kaze No Ne" serves as the ideal opening theme, adventurous and bold, while the much more subtle beauty of "Starry Moonlit Night" and its arranged is ideal for creating a bittersweet ending theme. Although Square vocalists have the tendency to sound a little shallow, Yae is not one of them, and she sings these themes with an airy worldly style. Her voice was the perfect choice for the album — it is so good not to be drawn through the mill with a pop diva yet again. Tanioka's instrumentals are pleasing too, with gliding flutes and rustic guitars. This ensures the success of "Endless Sky" and "Thoroughly Blue," the identical instrumental versions of "Kaze No Ne", in addition to several other versions of this primary theme running through the soundtrack.
Most of the battle themes are also unthinkably dreary. I swear that my dead goldfish could inject more life into a boss battle than "Monster's Dance ~Rondo~", for instance. The fast-paced ostinato in the harmony creates some excitement and the rondo-based form brings some variety during the developments. However, the bland and seemingly thoughtless melodies fail to create the gripping atmosphere strictly needed here. Thankfully, the two final battle themes make up for this. Dominated by the unlikely bagpipe, "Sad, Monster" is slow and brooding for the most part, but develops in a way that is wholly satisfying. "Unite, Descent" is also spectacular with its multi-tiered development, blending tribal drum beats with renditions of the main theme.
Upcoming musician Hidenori Iwasaki is also an asset to this release. In addition to ensuring stellar programming, he was commissioned to write one track for this album, "Eternal Oath". It develops chillingly from the delicious low-pitched wind sounds in the opening into a fully-fledged ambient soundscape. The ambience he creates here is not at all bland or dull — unlike a few other tracks on this album — but rather deep and enigmatic. While I do not discredit Tanioka, the additional diversity that a different composer provides in just one track is simply incredible.
While I believe it is often wrong to ponder on the olden days of the series' music, the fact that Nobuo Uematsu's classic "Cripper Tripper Fritter" from Final Fantasy V was revived in not one, but two arrangements, is definitely a good thing. "I'm Moogle" is as catchy and lively as ever with Tanioka's ancient touches, and fits snugly into the rest of the soundtrack. "My Den" is a much more experimental an arrangement, but is even more effective. It amazes me how the Moogle theme still manages to be the catchiest in a soundtrack containing two discs worth of otherwise new themes — this shows just how wonderful Nobuo Uematsu's melodies can be. It's just a shame there was no "Ancient de Chocobo." Don't you think it has a certain ring to it?
Overall, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is a remarkable but inaccessible achievement. This soundtrack has many features unique to the series: the streamed early instrumentation performances, the beautifully sung vocal tracks, and the minimalistic ancient stylings. That said, these styles are a considerable departure from Nobuo UEmatsu's more pop-influenced approach and may alienate some listeners. It lacks the diversity in styles present in most game soundtracks and the individual themes may bland and indistinctive when listened to as a collective whole. While this soundtrack will take some time to appreciate, many will find it a fulfilling and enjoyable experience, particularly in conjunction with the game.
The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack is certainly different from the other, well-known Final Fantasy albums. Instead of series' favorite Nobuo Uematsu, composer Kumi Tanioka was put in charge of this soundtrack. Though not as well-known and loved as Uematsu, she proves she can pull of a stunning soundtrack full of feeling and emotion.
While not exactly what expected, the inspiration woven into Tanioka's melodies has a distinct older feel, particularly because of the unique choice of instruments used. Unlike the synth or orchestrated albums Uematsu delivers, Tanioka uses a brilliant array of ancient instruments. The whole album is pre-recorded using these instruments, with greater quality and more emotion and dynamics than a computer generated album could ever compare with. This is certainly the highest quality soundtracks released as of yet in terms of sound quality and realism. The choice to allow Tanioka to helm this project was obviously well thought out, as her pieces match nearly perfectly with the game they are paired with. The older feel compliments the medieval atmosphere of the game itself.
Being a multiplayer RPG with customizable characters, there are no character themes. Therefore, the game is mostly comprised of dungeon and location themes, including towns and the overworld. Because of that, most of the themes are more ambient in nature as opposed to thematic. A few themes, such as "Kaze No Ne" and "I'm Moogle" are more melodic in nature and fill the gap left by the ambient themes for more distinguished melodies.
The album starts off with one of the most repetitive pieces I have ever heard: "Echo of Memories." While its appropriate for the title screen of the game, the track gets irritating very fast, with no development and no change throughout the piece. However, this is easily the worst piece on the first disc, and its absolutely wonderful from here on out. "Kaze No Ne" is the next piece on the album, and it certainly makes up for the dull "Echo of Memories." The vocalist's mature voice and talent surpasses those of past Squaresoft divas Emiko Shiratori and Faye Wong. While the past vocal themes have been rather hackneyed pop/love ballads, Tanioka provides a very relaxing and refreshing theme with a distinct feel. The use of older instruments gives the piece an ancient feel, and Yae's soothing, mature voice harmonizes very nicely with the instrumentation. This piece is absolutely one of the best pieces, if not the best, on the album. The next two pieces, "Serenity" and "Today Arrives, Becoming Tomorrow" are simple, peaceful themes. They are very easy to listen too, however, they become repetitive very quickly due to little development and choice of instruments.
Most of the tracks following the initial beginning pieces are location themes. These themes are started off by "The First Town." While the title isn't particularly inventive, the piece itself is a welcome change from the stereotypical town themes present in most RPG's. However, this piece also suffers from the common problem of little development; however, due to the larger ensemble, it doesn't get irritating as quickly as the preceding "Echo of Memories" and "Today Arrives, Becoming Tomorrow." "Twilight in Dreamland" is one of the better location themes in the game, with soothing mallet percussion parts and a mellow flute melody carrying the piece. The rustic feel presented is a welcome motif in this piece, and this is one of the better examples of Tanioka's unique style. The piece never loses its charm, and manages to stay fresh throughout the entire length.
One of the more experimental location themes, "Promised Grace," also happens to be my personal favorite. The instrumentation here is outstading, with wonderful woodwind harmonies and percussive and bass sounds to provide a firm foundation for this piece to grow upon. It also manages to stay fresh throughout, and never does it get too repetitive or annoying. Another great thing about this piece is the distinct style; it has a very jazzy feel to it, which I can't adequetly describe. It remotely reminds me of old Irish pieces, but I'm not sure on its origin. Its very unique, and I have yet to hear anything close to this style. In contrast, perhaps the worst location theme present is "Goblin's Lair." The militaristic drum and bass line take away from the other sections of the piece, and are a little too overbearing for my taste. The choice of instrumentation in this track wasn't as wise as the majority of the album. The instruments don't harmonize together very well, and the drum and bass line are way too repetitive to positively add to the track.
Aside from the location themes, the first disc has a few more highlights. The boss battle theme, "Monster's Dance~Rondo," is a very unique piece that is well composed and recorded. The instant percussion and bass give it a very upbeat tempo from the start, and provides a solid foundation for the woodwind melodies to harmonize against. Though it inspires a sense of urgency, however, it doesn't convey danger very well at all, with its cheery melodies and overly upbeat tempo. One of my favorite Final Fantasy themes makes an appearance in this soundtrack. "I'm Moogle" is a very upbeat, happy piece used to convey a sense of friendship and peace. Its played and recorded well, however it has little development and can get very irritating very quickly. "My Den" is a more unique, enjoyable rendition of the Mog theme. Its a very laid back, slow piece with lower instruments playing and a friendly string strumming the foundation for the catchy theme. Overall, the first disc is very enjoyable, with few tracks disappointing. It has great variety, and some of the best tracks on the album are present on the first disc. "Kaze No Ne" and "Promised Grace" are my favorites from the first disc.
The second disc starts off with a great piece called "Endless Sky." It's very unique, much like the rest of the album. This piece is also, if I'm not mistaken, the music for the trailer of the game. Its one of the better tracks on the album, and is basically and intrumental version of "Kaze No Ne," with high woodwinds taking the friendly melody with support from mallet percussion and low strings. One of the more unique earlier tracks on the second disc is "Sleeping Treasure in the Sand." The combination of instruments is very different, but it succeeds well for this piece. The shaker and low strings go great with the higher woodwinds and strings to form an interesting ensemble that is very enjoyable to listen to. Unfortunately, not all the second disc is great, as the repetitive "Echo of Memory" makes a return late in the album as "Echoes In The Heart." This time, I find it even worse, due to the piano projected throughout the annoying bell motif. It adds nothing but randomness to the piece, which is not a good thing in this case. Overall, I must say, this is the worst track on not only the second disc, but the whole album itself.
The final boss themes, "Sad Monster" and "Unite, Descent," are absolutely extraordinary. They are very unique for boss themes, and play the role quite well. "Sad Monster" is the first of the two battle themes. It starts off slow, and soon an intimidating drum beat is added, along with small mallet percussion flairs. Soon, the piece adds bagpipe to the melody, and it is wonderful. It's one of the best uses of bagpipe, especially in a piece like this. Throughout, the piece feels intimidating and dangerous, however, it lacks a sense of urgency. The piece survives well without the urgency, as the feeling of danger is so great it makes up for it. Late in the piece, a pipe organ plays a creepy melody that, unfortunately, is very short. It is great while it lasts, and makes a nice "climax" to the piece. Overall, this is a great battle theme that is worth waiting through the whole soundtrack to listen too.
The second battle theme, "Unite, Descent," is superior to its predecessor, with a more dangerous, urgent feel. This feeling keeps up throughout the entire theme, until it eventually gets to a mystical part with harp arpeggios and choir that has a very holy feel to it. After that section is done, it continues with the original melody, which is more than welcome. The piece also uses parts of "Kaze No Ne," which is very unique, considering "Kaze No Ne" is a slow, friendly piece. However, it works well for the piece, and gives it familiar feeling. This piece seems to survive due to its excellent feelings of danger and urgency, and unique melodies that most battle themes lack. And while its not as epic and grand as most final battle themes, its a welcome, refreshing change from the usual formula.
The ending theme, "Starry Moonlit Night," is another superb vocal theme sung by Yae. Its very simple and peaceful, with a friendly feel to it. The piece consists of Yae's voice, light bass, and basic string parts, later adding some flute. Its very relaxing and calming, and is very easy to listen to and enjoy. Overall, while I don't find it as catchy and enjoyable as "Kaze No Ne," its still incredibly enjoyable, and ranks with the best vocal themes in the series. The last track of the album is an arrangement of "Starry Moonlit Night." Its certainly very interesting, and has a very holy feeling to it. Towards the end of the piece, it gets quite active, adding in drums and even electric guitar! While I wasn't quite expecting it, it works very well and operates nicely as the end to the album.
When I first heard this album, I was immediately impressed by its very unique style. I had heard very little music like this before, and it was a refreshing change from the previous Final Fantasy soundtracks. Through several listens, it definitely ranks with the best of them. I have high hopes that Tanioka will compose another album for a Final Fantasy game. It would be great to hear how she grows and changes with different material, such as character themes and event themes, moreso than ambient themes. The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Original Soundtrack is truly a gem that recommend to all. Though it may not seem your style at first, give it a chance and listen to her unique style. With its incredible diversity and unique instrumentation, this is one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard in any game.
*Disc1 M-15: Composed by Hidenori Iwasaki
*Disc1 M-26 & Disc2 M-3: Original Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Disc 1 M-2
"Sound of the Wind" Opening Theme
Lyrics by Masahaku Kataoka
Composed and Arranged by Kumi Tanioka
Strings: Masatsugu Shinozaki's Group
Percussion: Ikuo Kakehashi
Ancient Instruments: Garyu Matsumoto (ROBA HOUSE)
Tessey Ueno (ROBA HOUSE)
Disc 2 M-22
"Starry Moonlit Night" Ending Theme
Lyrics by Masahaku Kataoka
Composed and Arranged by Kumi Tanioka
Cello: Hiroyasu Yamamoto
Wood Bass: Shinji Tanaka
Ancient Instruments: Garyu Matsumoto (ROBA HOUSE)
Tessey Ueno (ROBA HOUSE)
Disc 2 M-24
"Starry Moonlit Night ~Arrange Veresion~"
Lyrics by Masahaku Kataoka
Music by Kumi Tanioka
Arranged by Kumiko Takara, Warehouse
Guitar: Natsuki Kido
Bass: Hirohiko Ohtsubo
Marimba, Vibraphone and Percussions: Kumiko Takara
Percussions: Yasuhiro Yoshigaki
Chorus: Yae, Warehouse
Music Programming & Arrangement: Hidenori Iwasaki
Sound Programmer: Minoru Akao
Sound Tool Programmer: Satoshi Akamitsu
Ancient Instruments (Almost all music):
Garyu Matsumoto (ROBA HOUSE)
Tessey Ueno (ROBA HOUSE)
Rheguma Tomita (ROBA HOUSE)
Kazuaki Nagai (ROBA HOUSE)
Mafumi Ohmiya (ROBA HOUSE)
Recording Engineer: Shinichi Akagawa
Recording & Mixing Studio: CRESCENT STUDIO/STRIP
Recording Coordinator: Fumio Takano
Mastering Engineer: Masao Nakazato
Mastering Studio: ONKIO HAUS
Echo of Memories
Sound of the Wind
Today Arrives, Becoming Tomorrow
The First Village
Moving Clouds on the River's Surface
Twilight of Dreaming
Echoes at the Mountain Peak
In the Sorrowful Darkness
Prosperity and Tradition
If it's Three People...?
Oath in the Eternity
End of the Tale
Maggie is Everything
Both Amidatty and Eleono
A Gentle Wind Blows
Voice of Wind, Song of Time
Make a Resolution
Monsters' Dance ~Rondo~
Water of Life