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It is with great pleasure that we bring to you the latest and greatest (well, almost greatest) musical masterpiece from Squaresoft: the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack! This soundtrack was released in both regular and Limited Edition versions, so we're throwing in a special extra features section that explains the differences between the two versions. We've got pictures of the packaging (both regular and LE), screenshots from the special DVD included in the Limited Edition, and the lyrics to the main vocal theme, "Memoro de la S^tono"!
To view our previous reviews, check out the archives
17 years ago, back in 1985, music composer Nobuo Uematsu, now famous, started his career at Square, but it was only in 1987 that he scored Final Fantasy on the Famicom. The game was a success and Squaresoft became very well known for its top-notch quality games. Now in 2002, Uematsu scores the 11th title in the trademark series. Assisted by Naoshi Mizuta, who had scored Parasite Eve 2 in 2000, and Kumi Tanioka, who had written a decent number of tracks for Chocobo No Fushigina Dungeon 2 in 1999, Nobuo Uematsu continues to amaze his fans worldwide. Final Fantasy 11 gets to be the first online game for Squaresoft, and so far is not becoming as successful as its prequels, due to lots of server problems. However, one trait stays true for the entire series: The music is always excellent. Letís move on and discover what kind of music this MMORPG is gifted with. One thing to note is that this soundtrack is the first 2 Disc set since Final Fantasy 5 for the Super Famicom.
"Final Fantasy XI Opening Theme" ~ Legend - The Crystal Theme, Memory of the People, Memoro de la S^tono, Memory of the Wind" is a glorious way to open up the soundtrack, this is an orchestral piece of over 6 minutes of utter brilliance, it starts off with a few bars of the ever famous Prelude, then movie-like music moves in introducing a military and medieval theme, followed by a few piano keys then a live chorus sings a most beautiful song in Latin, followed by more lovely music, a very epic theme plays then rapid drums and trumpets make their way until the chorus returns for an encore, closing with more movie-like music. This track has to be heard to be believed.
"Vana'diel March" is the first song by Naoshi Mizuta, a lovely military march with a few bars of the Prelude here and there, yet another winner.
"The Kingdom of San d'Oria" is another theme by Mizuta, this time it introduces an instrument hardly used in Final Fantasy before: the bagpipe. It gives off a very special taste to the music, about halfway through, the drums quiet down to be replaced by a LOVELY melody, this passage gets to me every time, itís so beautiful. This is a very special track; it will certainly grow upon the listener.
"Ronfaure" is one of the tracks by Uematsu, the main instrument being the acoustic guitar, then a flute joins in, but then the guitar takes the lead role, itís quite charming and very peaceful. Iím guessing this must be a town theme.
"Battle Theme" is the first in FF history not to be composed by Uematsu, but rather by Mizuta. Donít panic!! Mizuta handles this extremely well, itís very enjoyable and not upbeat at all, although it is somewhat repetitive at first, it gets very good later on, Mizuta has more than one card up his sleeve and executes his song perfectly.
"Chateau díOraguille" is obviously a castle theme, but WHAT a castle theme it is, very serious and military-like, although a bit repetitive, but still good NOT to be skipped, the instrumentation here may sound odd at first, but it fits the mood perfectly.
"Batallia Downs" is an odd track to say the least, itís mostly a guitar and a bit of synth thrown in for good measure, itís a quieter remix of Chateau díOraguille now that I think of it.
"The Republic of Bastok" is the first track by Tanioka, itís a bit more cheerful but still retains the medieval feel felt in the soundtrack.
"Gustaberg" is another track by Tanioka, this time Japanese tones are heard here, the melody builds up slowly and sounds like an area or a dungeon theme, itís very interesting to hear, I canít explain it further, sorry. ^^
"Metalworks" rebrings us the military drums and an enticing melody makes its way into the track, itís quite epic and an overall fun listen.
"Rolanberry Fields" is definitely an area theme, itís peaceful, long and manages to keep the player interested as he/she makes his/her way in that particular area.
The wood flute used here adds a distinct flavor to the track.
"The Federation of Windurst" has a tribal and festive sound to it, must be a town theme, it sounds almost Celtic at a certain point.
"Heavens Tower" is a dungeon theme perhaps, but it gets repetitive quick, itís a good thing the melody, although short and simple is enjoyable. This track is over 6 minutes longÖ. You might want to skip it after a minute or twoÖ
"Sarutabaruta" is mostly a guitar and flute based theme, but more instruments are added as it progresses making it worthwhile to listen.
"Battle in the Dungeon" is one of the battle themes reserved for dungeon battles, itís a bit more enjoyable than the normal battle theme, although shorter; it gives me the urge to go out and fight.
"Sauromugue Champaign" is pretty much in the same style as Heavens Tower, itís too repetitive for my tastes so Iíll skip this one.
"Mhaura" is another guitar and flute based theme, but it is very peaceful and interesting, reminding me of Mitsudaís work in Chrono Cross.
"Buccaneers" is pretty much an ambient theme, itís all drum and some loud sound, itís very annoying.
"Battle Theme #2" is a better area theme in my opinion, much more epic and hardly repetitive, it could be used later on in unknown regions.
"Voyager" is again a wonderful guitar-flute theme, it could be the overworld map theme, if there is to be one, that is, itís really interesting.
"Selbina" is the last track on Disc 1, but this is very very good, Mizuta hires Jim Edigger, an Irish, to play the fiddle, it really gives off a wonderful effect.
"Prelude" is a lovely way to start out Disc 2, although this version does not contain the part with the flute in it, itís ok, but short.
"Regenaracy" is a faster version of the Prelude with some bells thrown in for good measure.
"Hume Male" is the theme to the Male of the human race, itís mostly a military theme and represents their strength quite well.
"Hume Female" is simply the theme for the ladies of the Human race, itís modern and upbeat, almost disco-like, but with some piano keys here and there.
"Elvaan Male" is another military theme, I guess it represents the Elvaanís strength or some other attribute, itís pretty good.
"Elvaan Female" is another track with a lot of beat and has the disco-feel as well, thatís odd if you ask me.
"Tarutaru Male" is less militaresque and more mischievous, itís kinda goodÖ kinda.
"Tarutaru Female" has this really bouncy music backed up by a corny sound effect, makes me smile.
"Mithra" is certainly a disco piece; itís quite good, reminds me of the 70ís age music, itís funky, not to mention cool.
"Galka" is another military piece (jeez, ainít that enough of military influence already ?!), I donít know what to say bout this one.
"Airship" starts off with a nice guitar, then some really nice synth follows, making it a very good airship theme, what more do you want me to say? 8P
"The Grand Duchy of Jeuno" is an interesting regal piece, reminding of the late medieval times, this sounds like something out of Koichi Sugiyama, itís scary. Very good use of violins here helps enhance the music even more.
"RuíLude Gardens" is another classical-based theme, the lovely violins here really gives it a feel that itís a track fit for a King. :P
"Recollection" is a lovely piece, it must be for some heartwarming events cuz it certainly captured my heart. :P Itís quiet but sooooooooooo beautiful.
"Anxiety" exudes just the very feeling that the title suggests, it has a worrying feel to itÖ. Iím really wondering where this piece is used.
"Battle in the Dungeon #2" is another excellent battle theme, although more fast-paced than its previous version, but it is shorter, still enjoyable though.
"Blackout" is a 44 second piece that sounds very forebodingÖ. It could be the game over theme.
"Mog House" is the first Moogle theme not to be composed by Uematsu, but rather by Mizuta, it sounds very different, but itís still nice, but not great.
"Hopelessness" sounds like something out of FF8, remember the Deling Sewers?? Although itís more mischievous, but does sound similar anyways.
"Fury" is a very epic theme, must be used in really big eventsÖ hmmÖ. This one really leaves me wondering where it usedÖ.
"Tough Battle" has to be the Boss theme, although itís all drums and indeed repetitive, only in the end does it get interesting, but I still think itís a worthwhile effort, as it still sounds serious and epic.
"Sorrow" is indeed a sad theme, used for sad eventsÖ obviously.
"Sometime, somewhere" is another mischievous theme, slightly upbeat but quite enjoyable.
"Xarcabard" is an odd titleÖ. The music isn't very interestingÖ. Might as well skip before I fall asleep.
"Despair (Memoro de la S^tono)" is a slightly creepy remix of the Choral part of the Opening theme, minus the Chorus. Itís just ok, not great.
"Castle Zvahl" is certainly the final dungeon, itís mostly an ambient piece, but the melody keeps on changing every minute and 1 loop is nearly 9 minutes, thatís a record in my book, with the exception of Dancing Mad and Ending Theme from FF6. Anyways, itís very interesting to listen as it progresses.
"Shadow Lord" starts off with a chorus, then creepy music makes its way into the track, then the track repeats, itís nothing special if you ask me.
"Awakening" is the final boss theme, Kumi Tanioka takes care of it, and she delivers wonderfully, this has to be the best final battle theme so far in the series, with Decisive Battle and One Winged Angel not far behind. It starts off with a bit of drum and a chorus in the background, then a quicker drumbeat and some violins make their way, later on the drum pounds with a thunder-like BOOM, the beat continues, but then an interlude slips through with a bit of flute, then it slowly begins to build up to yesÖ the DRAMATIC PEAK, like Hamauzuís work in Todesengel and Decisive battle, itís a very epic point in the song that simply leaves the listener awed by its beauty, then the track starts the second loop only to fade away quietly, this took 5 minutes in totalÖ
"Repression (Memoro de la S^tono)" is an arrangement of the Choral piece in the Opening Theme, without the chorus, but it still manages to impress.
"Vanaídiel March #2" is a reprise of the first theme, although sounding better and more militaresque. This is the ending theme, folks.
I hope youíve enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it. Youíre interested in getting this CD set? No probs, since itís new, you wonít have any trouble finding a copy, any online store will do.
What an honor it is to be reviewing Nobuo Uematsu's latest contribution to the musical legacy of the Final Fantasy series. But let's not forget the other two composers who poured their heart and soul into this soundtrack: Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka. In order to give credit where credit is due, next to each track name I have included the composer's initials in brackets.
1.1. [NU] FFXI Opening Theme: Even though Final Fantasy XI is online-only, it's still an FF game, and could we ask it to start out with any piece other than the traditional Prelude? No, siree! The first movement of the piece, "Legend - The Crystal Theme", is a modified version of the Prelude, unmistakably the modern incarnation of that harp classic. It begins the same way it does in all the Final Fantasies, but the later harmonies become completely different from those in the traditional Prelude, leading into the second movement, "Memory of the People". This short, marchy tune sets the scene for the world of FFXI, and you get the feeling that a momentous conflict is just on the horizon. Already we can see a whole new level of depth in Uematsu's music, as this sounds more like the soundtrack to a movie than a game. But he doesn't stop there. The powerful third movement, "Memoro de la S^tono", is the flagship song for this CD set and the main theme of the game. Much of it contains choir vocals (with lyrics in Esperanto) which add a great tone of sadness and despair to an already emotional song. The harmony just sweeps you off your feet, but without becoming trite or melodramatic like some movie music tends to become. Since it is the main theme, it's important that the melody be simple enough to recognize yet complex enough so that it doesn't get tiresome. Memoro de la S^tono's melody does just the trick. But the other parts of this movement are great too, such as the large instrumental section which serves as an interlude between vocal sections -- the narrative composition makes it just as emotional as the vocals. Finally, the fourth movement, "Memory of the Wind", closes the opening piece on a happy and optimistic note. The final few measures are a return to the Crystal Theme, completing this outstanding track in a rondo-like fashion.
1.2. [NM] Vana'diel March: At a first glance (or listening, rather), this song seems to be unnecessarily repetitive. The low, heavy bass does indeed repeat a lot, but hey... this is a march after all. :P After a melodic passage by a single trumpet, the Crystal Theme makes a short appearance. From this point on, the piece takes a turn for the better, developing the melody into a great piece of composition. One of the best marches I've heard in awhile.
1.3. [NM] The Kingdom of San d'Oria: Oooh, another march! This one is definitely more military-like than the previous track, and more repetitive too. Its strongest feature is the instrumentation, from the melody-carrying bagpipes to the atmospheric string interlude. The interlude, especially, provides a nice break from the conventional march form.
1.4. [NU] Ronfaure: A Rennaisance-Faire feeling permeates this track. The choice of instruments is perfect, down to the tambourine and mandolin (at least I think it's a mandolin). The woodwinds and other instruments provide a primitive, but highly effective, harmony, just the sort of thing you'd expect to hear in Ye Olde King's Court. Every so often, a small solo or duet will kick in, providing a nice bit of variation.
1.5. [NM] Battle Theme: This is the first upbeat song in the soundtrack, definitely worthy of an FF battle theme. While not as catchy as some of the earlier battle themes in the series, the composition and instrumentation are still very good. The cellos that kick in about a minute into the song add a deliciously sinister touch. A pity that this song is only two minutes long.
1.6. [NM] Chateau d'Oraguille: Back to another military marching song. The main instruments used here sound like a combination of brass and woodwinds, which makes an interesting (albeit very repetitive) atmospheric effect. An organ-based segment in the middle contributes some good harmonic progression, but sadly, the rest of the piece is rather bland.
1.7. [NM] Batallia Downs: The slow acoustic guitar and the accompanying woodwinds let you know that this is a mellow song, almost bordering on ambient. It's very calm and soothing, yet still has enough melodic variation to stay interesting.
1.8. [KT] The Republic of Bastok: Kumi Tanioka's first contribution to the FFXI OST is a great one. She uses the whole orchestra to its full potential in a testament to the symphonic style. The early melody, carried by an oboe (or clarinet?), has a slightly exotic sound to it. This later undergoes a series of progressions, changing with the rhythms and harmonies accordingly. It's a narrative piece that has "adventure" written all over it.
1.9. [KT] Gustaberg: Another exotic contribution from Tanioka, "Gustaberg" begins almost as an ambient piece, but by the end you realize that it is quite the opposite. It's a very emotional song, heavy on the guitars and percussion. Let the wonderfully unusual harmonies wrap your mind up in a blanket of music. Ahhh... that's the stuff. ^_^
1.10. [KT] Metalworks: The woodwinds and strings in this track work together in such a beatiful harmony, it's easy to let the other good qualities of the song pass you by. Even though it's yet another military march, the composition gives this piece its own unique feel. The harmonic progressions give quite an inspirational mood.
1.11. [NM] Rolanberry Fields: This one is kind of like track 1.9, very guitar-oriented and soothing. I like the choices of the other instruments, and the fact that they intertwine amongst each other gives an extra dimension to the harmony.
1.12. [NM] The Federation of Windurst: For this track, Mizuta tries his hand at making a festival-style song, which bears some similarity to Uematsu's "Ronfaure" (track 1.4). This song employs a wider variety of instruments, and puts them to better use in my opinion (especially the percussion).
1.13. [NM] Heavens Tower: Wonderful instrumentation makes this the ambient gem of the first disc. As much as I enjoy the composition and variation in the other tracks, it's nice to hear a non-narrative song that sounds good -- not in spite of its repetition, but because of it. The bulk of it is carried by non-traditional instruments such as big bell chimes and a wooden xylophone.
1.14. [NM] Sarutabaruta: Strings and woodwinds team up once again, although the effect isn't quite as good in this piece as it is in "Metalworks". Some of the instrument combinations seem kind of awkward, and the narrative quality of the track suffers from too much repetition.
1.15. [NM] Battle in the Dungeon: Like "Battle Theme" before it, this track blazes with passionate narration. Surprisingly, there are very few instruments used here. While I normally don't endorse battle themes pumping up the bass or employing other such cheap tricks, I must admit I would have liked to hear some more power from this one. The composition is good, it's just that the instruments need a little more "oomph".
1.16. [NM] Sauromugue Champaign: Slow ambient, but nowhere near as good as "Heavens Tower". The bulk of the song, while suitably moody, doesn't really do anything special. About 3 minutes into the song, however, there is a short harmonic section which makes listening to this track worthwhile.
1.17. [NM] Mhaura: It begins as a guitar and flute duet, displaying some of the most beatiful melodies and harmonies ever to grace the FF series. The skill of the players is absolutely amazing, giving this track such unbelievable emotional power. Beware of the middle of this song, because it catches you off-guard with a dissonant sour passage played by an odd-sounding instrument. Rather than diminish the song, however, the sour part actually enhances it with a unique kind of contrast. And then it's back to the beatiful part again. ^_^
1.18. [NM] Buccaneers: Not really too much to say about this track. It's got some dissonant chords and some heavy drum work going on. Perhaps Mizuta was building up to something better but got too tired to finish the piece, since it sure sounds incomplete.
1.19. [NM] Battle Theme #2: The second battle theme carries on the tradition of the first, down to the agitated strings and the brass melody. Unfortunately, it's a sound we've heard before, with not too much to distinguish it from its predecessor. Even the compositional quality present in the first battle theme is in short supply here.
1.20. [NM] Voyager: Now this is something different. There is some good polyrhythm going on here, something which I have not seen in a game soundtrack for quite some time. This song's melody really does something for me, as does the harmony.
1.21. [NM] Selbina: Reminiscent of an Irish jig, this track features a fiddle and one of those characteristic harmonies associated with that style of music. Another piece for our collection of "songs from around the world".
2.1. [NU] Prelude: Well, I'll be a Chocobo's uncle! It's the Prelude again, but something's different... the double harps remind me of the Prelude from the original Final Fantasy. No review necessary here, it's too much of a classic. ^_^
2.2. [KT] Regeneracy: This track has big harp arpeggios just like in the Prelude. While there isn't much going on compositionally, the atmospheric string harmony and the ringing bell make for some interesting mood-setting.
2.3. [NM] Hume Male: Now here's a couple melodies you can really sink your teeth into. Rarely have I heard such perfect symphonic cooperation between the instruments as in this track. Very inspirational stuff, with the sole drawback being its short length.
2.4. [KT] Hume Female: It's dancy, it's got a playful jazzy melody, it's got some very nice composition, and it's... one minute long. :(
2.5. [NM] Elvaan Male: While "Hume Male" was filled only with hope, "Elvaan Male" has a different mood to it. To me, it seems tainted with bitterness, optimism having given way to fierce determination. I like the harmonic work, though the melody could have been better.
2.6. [KT] Elvaan Female: Apparently the females in FFXI are very lively, if these themes say anything about their personalities. This one is pure dance, though I find its sheer catchiness makes up for its repetition.
2.7. [NM] Tarutaru Male: An odd one, this piece is. Odd instruments, odd harmonies... something tells me these Tarutarus are weird creatures.
2.8. [KT] Tarutaru Female: This happy-go-lucky bouncing ball of music is straight out of a Disney movie, I swear. Not that it's cheesy, it's just really REALLY happy.
2.9. [KT] Mithra: Heavy bass and cosmic-sounding synth instruments make an interesting combination in this piece. Be sure to give it a careful listen, as the composition is better than you might expect from hearing just the beginning. Strange, but very cool.
2.10. [NM] Galka: Here we get our first taste of despair since "Memoro de la S^tono". The harmony is dissonant and quite tragic-sounding, and has many of the same qualities that permeate track 2.5. The composition is a little skimpy, but it sets the mood just fine.
2.11. [NU] Airship: This piece uses some electronica instruments in the melody, which is a great contrast to the traditional instruments which handle the harmony, such as the acoustic guitar. Intertwining instruments and counterpart melodies run free here, and the effect is like no other.
2.12. [NM] The Grand Duchy of Jeuno: This track borrows heavily from the old Classical style, and possibly from the Baroque as well. Plus it makes use of the harpsichord, a piano-like instrument rarely heard in game soundtracks. The harmonic progressions are great, and the composition puts many true Classical pieces to shame.
2.13. [KT] Ru'Lude Gardens: More Classical goodness, this time from Tanioka. The song manages to outperform the previous track, though not by much. Not satisfied with simply using Classical instruments, the composer employs counterpoint and other techniques straight out of 18th century Europe.
2.14. [NU] Recollection: This track plays with a segment of the instrumental interlude in "Memoro de la S^tono", expanding the passage into a full song of its own. Fairly minimalistic, this piece is nevertheless very dramatic and emotional. The melody is good enough to stand on its own as a compositional accomplishment, but the harmony makes it just that much better.
2.15. [NU] Anxiety: A delicious variety of ambient styles are present in this piece, each passage more moody than the one before it. It begins with some piano chords in creepy minor keys, followed by a slow, dissonant progression of chords. After that, prepare to have your spine tingled as you hear a haunting melody which bears an uncanny resemblance to a creepy song from FF VII (if you've heard it before, you'll recognize it instantly). What is really amazing is that Uematsu manages to put variation into a song like this, and still stay true to its ambient nature.
2.16. [NM] Battle in the Dungeon #2: It's now the fourth battle theme in the soundtrack, and Mizuta decides to go for a style different than the one he used for the previous three. Smart move, in my opinion. This one's got a lot more going on compositionally, and the overall feel is more inspirational and battle-like.
2.17. [NM] Blackout: I have a feeling this is the "game over" music. It's short, ominous, and reeks of death. Death! DEATH!!! >=>
2.18. [NM] Mog House: Once again, Mizuta manages to put together a very nice guitar piece. While its very mellow throughout, there is a great deal of variation and composition present. It's got a pleasant melodic theme which gets expanded upon in several different sections.
2.19. [NU] Hopelessness: A special technique known as pizzicato (plucking violin or cello strings) is used in this piece, giving it an unsettling, slightly eerie mood. The harmonic progressions are this track's best feature, making the mood more than simply "mysterious".
2.20. [KT] Fury: Scattered throughout this track you will find fragments of the main theme. These fragments are buried within a dissonant ambient orchestra. And orchestra it is indeed, for there are almost too many different instruments to count. But not too many -- even though the instrumentation is top notch, the bizarre harmony is what I like most about this one.
2.21. [NM] Tough Battle: This song reminds me of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", a work so intensely dissonant that you'll never be able to sing in tune ever again after hearing it. :P But I jest. "Rite of Spring" is fantastic music, and so is this track. Even if you can't appreciate the musical quality, you can still appreciate the terrifying mood it invokes.
2.22. [NU] Sorrow: Uematsu takes the soundtrack back to a more conventional tone with this piece. I always hear tiny hints of past Final Fantasy songs hidden in this one. It's a complex emotional piece, with the violins in the second half almost contradicting the keyboard in the first half. We see multiple facets of the mood called "sorrow".
2.23. [NU] Sometime, Somewhere: Creeping, creeping along, creeping is the nature of this narrative track. Well-timed instruments tug at your senses in just the right way, so that you keep looking cautiously over your shoulder. Short but sweet.
2.24. [NM] Xarcabard: This mysterious song is a moody one, but I would consider it more narrative than ambient. It's extremely drawn out, so you'll have to listen closely to get the full effect of the harmonic progressions.
2.25. [NU] Despair (Memoro de la S^tono): The track name tells you exactly what this remix is based on. You thought the instrumentation in the original was good? Listen to this one, and be prepared to have your proverbial socks knocked off. Of course, if cosmic electronica is not your thing, you may not think it's that great. But the composition of the arrangement is awesome enough by itself.
2.26. [NM] Castle Zvahl: Remember how I said "Heavens Tower" (track 1.13) was the ambient gem of the first disc? Well, here's the gem of disc two! Throughout much of the song, the harmony is maintained by constant organ chords. Yes, constant, as in: held down for minutes at a time. After a cacophanous series of these chords about halfway through the piece, the organs drop out, and the low oboe (or bassoon) takes over the melody while other instruments fill in the harmony. Then the organs come back along with some atmospheric strings, but they play nice this time, backing up the the melodic instruments with a lesser amount of dissonance. The quality of this piece is on such an abstract level, it's difficult to explain why I like it so much. Give it a listen and discover for yourself.
2.27. [KT] Shadow Lord: As a short mini-theme for the ultimate baddie in FFXI, this sounds good. As a song though, it is far too short and simplistic, even for an ambient piece. I do like the choice of instruments, however (as always).
2.28. [KT] Awakening: You'll really feel things start to heat up with this track. It's not incredibly ferocious, but it's getting there. The heavy drums and droning chorus get you into the battle mood, but there are a few interesting calm interludes that demonstrate this song's compositional qualities as well. Note the brief cameo by the Prelude near the end.
2.29. [NU] Repression (Memoro de la S^tono): It all comes down to this, the climactic re-emergence of the main theme. The low bell chimes and other new instruments make this remix an emotional one, though I wish it were as compositionally good as the previous remix (2.25).
2.30. [NM] Vana'diel March #2: A lot like March #1 (track 1.2), but this time it boasts a richer harmony and a feeling of completeness. Rightfully so, as this closes the soundtrack as well as the game. As it stands, it's pretty good. Perhaps if Uematsu had done this one, it would have been better.
One of the most surprising aspects of this soundtrack is that Nobuo Uematsu only composed 11 out of the 41 tracks. For some, this might seem like a crime against the sacred traditions of FF-dom. I disagree. First of all, the artists work so well together that you often cannot tell who the composer is without looking at the liner notes. Secondly, the fact that each composer does not have to come up with several dozen pieces means that they can go for quality over quantity. Without having to worry about filling up space with second-rate music, Uematsu (as well as the others) can focus their efforts on making their few pieces the best they can possibly make them.
But can Uematsu's lessening influence on Final Fantasy music be a sign that he is ready to pass the torch on to another composer? As saddening a thought as that may be, we all know it's going to happen eventually (unless Square decides to end the series soon). Having heard the work of Kumi Tanioka and Naoshi Mizuta, I am sure that his successor(s) will be more than capable of continuing his legacy.
Anyway, about the soundtrack itself. You probably noticed I rated most of the songs very highly. I liked this soundtrack from the first time I listened to it, and my opinion keeps getting better with every listen. While not my favorite soundtrack, I would certainly count this one among the top five. None of the songs here except the Opening Theme ("Memoro de la S^tono") are really going to blow you away, and you won't find yourself humming very many of the tunes you hear. But every song in this collection is a winner, at least a 7 out of 10. And most are even better than that, many worthy of a perfect 10 out of 10.
Should you buy this soundtrack? Absolutely. There's such a variety of music here, you should find something that you like -- yet it all is coherent and part of a larger whole. Be prepared to give these discs some serious attention, though. You will miss out on much of this soundtrack's goodness if you let it play idly in the background while you are doing something else. Now go out and get it, it's a Final Fantasy OST and should be in very plentiful supply.
One final thought: FF XI has been causing a lot of controversy because of its online nature, as you probably know. How can Square stay true to the series if they make it mutliplayer? One could ask a similar question about the soundtrack: how can the music stay true to the series if Uematsu is composing less and less of the music? That second question has already been answered -- we would miss Nobuo if he were to leave, but the FF musical department is in good hands. Perhaps the answer to the first question is something similar. I have faith in the series and its music, no matter how it changes. People say that the more things change, the more they stay the same.