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All Sounds of Final Fantasy I & II :: Review by Nick

All Sounds of Final Fantasy I & II Album Title: All Sounds of Final Fantasy I & II
Record Label: Datam Polystar
Catalog No.: H25X-20015 (1st Edition); PSCR-5251 (Reprint)
Release Date: December 21, 1988; March 25, 1994
Purchase: Buy at AnimeNation

Overview

December 21, 1988 was the day that gave birth to the release of the original score that pretty much shaped what we know and love today. Yes, I am talking about All Sounds of Final Fantasy I & II, Nobuo Uematsu's first album in the magical world of Final Fantasy. This soundtrack includes every piece featured in the games Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II, and pretty much marked the beginning of a very successful stream of soundtracks after. How did Uematsu fair on his first score for this beloved series? All shall be revealed.

Body

The soundtrack opens with some fairly decent synth work from Minoru Akao; "Welcome to Final Fantasy World" is an arrangement consisting of various key themes featured in the first game. Michiaki Kato takes the stage here and manages to capture the essence of the Final Fantasy world. This epic arrangement sets the scene for the grand adventure that follows. The real Final Fantasy journey begins with the popular "Prelude" which is simple and fairly straight to the point. If you ignore the simplicity of the piece, you are forced to admit that it does remarkably well in capturing the mystic feeling of the game. The other simple themes featured in the first half of the disc like "City Theme," "Shop Theme" and "Menu Screen" are also charming and cute in their own way. Fans that are familiar with the themes featured in a lot of Final Fantasy soundtracks will relish in pieces like "Opening Theme," "Main Theme," and "Matoya's Cave." A personal favourite of mine that is featured on the first half of this disc is "Sailing Shop," which consists of a very catchy tune, similar to the one featured in "The Floating Castle." This is really chip tune music at its best. To truly appreciate the melodies featured in this half of the disc you have to break down all the fancy synth you know today and go back to the basics. It certainly forces me to shift my head from side to side in glee, especially when I listen to the classic piece "Battle Scene," which is easily threatening. To create a threatening theme with the limited sound quality that the NES system had to offer is no easy task.

"Prelude" marks the opening of the second half of the soundtrack, which is dedicated to all the sounds of Final Fantasy II. This rendition of the "Prelude" theme sounds slightly different from the former version, which just goes to show how adaptable it really is. The second half consists of few battle themes; there's "Battle 1" which features a fast paced riff and a catchy tune, and "Battle 2," which is slightly more threatening and boss-like. The interesting thing about this battle theme is that it relies heavily on bass and fancy scales; a remarkable battle theme indeed! Fans of Final Fantasy scores will be pleased to see the inclusion of "Rebel Army Theme" and "Main Theme," which were both featured in the Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite. Both themes are worthy of being crowned as the best themes on this album. "Main Theme" captures a very mysterious aura, similar to the one in "Magician's Tower" which also weaves a very mysterious feeling. Final Fantasy fans will also be happy to be able to listen to the very first version of the "Chocobo Theme," which is only 22 seconds short but captures the fun loving feeling that we all know and love. The only gripe I have with the second half of this soundtrack is the amount of filler tracks included; "Dead Music," "Fanfare," and "The Revived Emperor" are prime examples. I feel they could have been dealt away with and more "unreleased tracks" could have taken their place; for example, the awesome "airship" theme which really makes the listener feel as if they are flying through white clouds with the breeze in their hair. To mark the end of the second half, Michiaki Kato puts together a lovely arrangement of themes featured in the second half of the disc. The synth sounds very rich here and it is certainly a welcome change to the chip music we had heard before. Each track featured in this arrangement transitions nicely into the next.

Summary

To sum up, this album is a very special one, but it is certainly an acquired taste. You have to have the patience to sit through just over 50 minutes of pure chip tune music. The highlights of the soundtrack are of course the two key arrangements included. Of course the reason why fans would be attracted to this album is the fact that it was Uematsu's classy entrance into the world of Final Fantasy, and that his compositions on this album are very enjoyable. Ranging from cheerful melodies to dark and brooding ones, Uematsu gives birth to a range of themes that have really shaped what the Final Fantasy series is so well known for. I highly recommend it for Uematsu fans; you certainly will not be displeased. Indeed, if you prefer music with decent sounding quality I suggest you look at Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite! This features key themes from this album but performed by a live orchestra instead of the low quality sounding NES sound chip.

Overall Score: 7/10