Final Fantasy Tactics


Music composed by

Hitoshi Sakimoto
Masaharu Iwata


Disc One-42 tracks-75:14
Disc Two-29 tracks-75:49

The true essence of a musical masterpiece.

There is indeed a small, fleeting hope of possibility that some immense epic of majestic scope could accurately impart the symphonic grandeur and all its subsidiary facets of musical color and character of Final Fantasy Tactics OST…but I wouldn't count on it. What I can do is assist in creating a vague scheme of the internal components this soundtrack uses to construct its distinctive prismatic design of beauty and power within. I have invested time nowhere else musically as well as I have here, and it has proven its dynamic value countless times over and over every time I listen to it. The journey begins in a slow, beautifully assembled harmonic passage and flows seamlessly into a powerful exposition of the main theme, and when it ends, the stunning silence mercifully allows the listener some time to recover their breath before the next track begins. This commencement sends you drifting into a world of deep fantasy driven by intense battles, beautiful melodies, and brilliantly scored scenes of utterly extraordinary delight. The developing plot is vividly paralleled by the animated music until the very end that leaves you begging to return to the world you seemed to have been forced out of too soon.

Given the circumstances, when a soundtrack is divided among multiple composers I will always expect that the styles stylistically and technically represent a firm distinction between the involved musicians, rather than each contributing a mechanical imitation of each other's work to ensure the soundtrack displays uniformity. While I respect an effort to formally keep a soundtrack within such bounds, I am more impressed by the variety each composer has to offer regardless of how contrasting the styles are. In Final Fantasy Tactics OST we have Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto who, while indeed focusing on keeping the soundtrack in the general neighborhood of plausible orchestral arrangement, manage to assert either of their own styles in a unique blend of their respective compositional qualities.

Masaharu Iwata's first song, "Backborn Story", is the second track on the first CD, and scores an unfolding prologue of gorgeous imagery in-game, while relating just as much beauty with the music alone. From the resounding tam-tam and layered bagpipes to the brisk, desperate section following, you won't need the words to understand the peril taking place. "Character Introductions", while an enjoyably fast and spirited piece, is somewhat repetitive for its length. Iwata's style is often noticeable throughout the rest of the soundtrack, especially the sound of his string parts. He creates scenes well from anxious to evil to bright, all quite effectively. He doesn't use nearly as much reverb as his colleague, and his instrumental inner countermelodies and harmonies derive a lot of clarity. His melodies in general aren't particularly inspired, nor do they bring a strong personality to the pieces he writes, but a strong musical worth is certainly instilled into each of his compositions nevertheless. His battle music is decidedly his best work on the soundtrack, ranging from energetic brassy attacks to dark, venomous movements for the particularly evil creatures discovered in the game. "Under the Stars" is a different sort of battle piece, with its calm progressive segments of pain and sorrow relating an anxious feeling of fight. His technique is fairly good, and clearly above-average on the overall palette of videogame music composition. A good example of his better technique would be the distressingly dissonant horn duet in "Count's Anger", or the fluctuating plucking of strings and their furious bowing in "The Pervert" (I've never been able to address that song straight-faced due to its rather conspicuous title, but who's to blame for a misinterpreted grammatical issue of the Japanese translation?). "Ultema the Perfect Body!" is the final battle theme and, with that standing, is fairly disappointing; I've always preferred something more blatantly furious, yet controlled for a final battle piece. All in all, Iwata has built a moderately sound structure here.

Hitoshi Sakimoto has gripped my musical attention for the last year or two and I'm sure will continue to do so for a good, long time. It's really quite a challenge to describe his compositions - there never seems to be a proper word for what is potentially (and definitely, in my own opinion) the greatest music ever to accompany a videogame. The opening track is instantly magical in nature, and its stunning splendor is rekindled a few tracks later in "Prologue Movie", beginning with a slow progression of beautifully flowing harmonious textures and then suddenly introduces one of my favorite musical motifs of all time as it restlessly presses the listener into a livid, enraged passage of power and fury. "Trisection", the first battle theme in the game, is quite possibly my favorite of his with its tremendously powerful basses and double basses crafting addictive transitions from one section to another. "Mission Complete" somehow abruptly leaves the thrill of victory behind as a mystifying harp and string bass take over, painting the other side every war victory inevitably bears - an icy recollection of the battle fought and its cost. "Hero's Theme" is an elegant reprisal of the main theme carried by a solo harp, and is very pretty to say the least. "A Chapel" grants a graceful passage of winds, strings, harp, horn, and bells that lead into a magnificent climax with a stunningly majestic harmonic phrase. Songs like "Remnants" and "Tension 1" appropriately relate the unimaginable anxiety their respective scenes must impose on the characters in the game. "Random Waltz" is a masterfully orchestrated piece, with its exceptionally lively instrumental phrases. "Ovelia's Theme" is easily one of the most beautiful pieces of all time. Its melody grabs your heart with singing tenderness, and its slow, deliberate repeat invokes genuine emotion with is gradual sorrow. It's reprisal on the second disc is not quite as charming, but in fact colder - but that just adds another side to the excellent theme. "Zalbag, the Holy Knight" invites a horn section and solo trombone to share a well-written solo.

Pieces such as "Antipyretic", "Battle on the Bridge", and "In Pursuit" are so wonderfully arranged that it makes them easily some of the highlights of the second disc with their pulsing progressions. I shiver to the pounding, extremely violent yet calm development of "Bloody Excrement" and the richly dark tones of "Espionage". "Antidote" is quite possibly Sakimoto's most creative and innovative piece on the entire soundtrack with its smooth harmonic development and unusually-engineered sleigh bell sound with a curious delay. Sometimes the intonation of his pieces is blurred and blended by the rather elevated amount of reverb employed, but by all means is artistically acceptable and results in an even more enigmatic quality to deepen the complexity of his music. A great example of this is in "Requiem", where hauntingly beautiful strings create a chillingly potent emotion in the listener. The ending theme, "Staff Credit" begins with a painfully gorgeous chord development, and evolves into a cantering restatement of the main theme. It then subsides to remind the listener of the dark tones of the soundtrack, transitions to an innocent snippet of the main theme again, and then finishes in a full, dynamic climax of symphonic power.

Hitoshi Sakimoto delivers a remarkably rich musical texture to Final Fantasy Tactics and proposes a profoundly refreshing alternative to the average game OST. As for wishful thinking…if only he scored films - and at that, more games! I cannot find as much musical maturity, diversity, and devotion elsewhere. Conclusively, Sakimoto puts a tremendously vast spirit and love into his music, and for that I'm indebted to fate that he came to the profession of composition.

Summarily, Final Fantasy Tactics OST is an immediate, astoundingly memorable classic of videogame music - in fact, any music for that matter - and is a collection no music lover should overlook. I cannot recommend Tactics enough, and I leave it in the whimsical hands of the listener to decide if they too wish to submit to the sweet musical power of the soundtrack. I have never regretted a thing about it, and I implore all fans of videogame music to devote some time as I have and take a minute to try it out. And all you need is that first minute - then you're there, in that marvelous world of fantasy, and you'll never want to go back.

- Joe Schwebke


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FF: Tactics