Final Fantasy III
10th Anniversary Special
"Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version In-Depth Review"
By: Dragon God
Back in 1994, Square (now Square-Enix) had released their 6th title in their highly popular Final Fantasy franchise. Without a doubt, the game Final Fantasy VI/Final Fantasy III was a major technological achievement for its time, and even today, many fans still regard it as the finest Final Fantasy installment ever released. It featured State-Of-The-Art 2D graphics, some interesting Mode 7 effects, a gripping and memorable story, an equally charming cast of characters, some rock-solid gameplay, and last but not least, a fabulous soundtrack by cult favorite Nobuo Uematsu. Being given a good 2 years to work on the score, it allowed Uematsu to fuel his creative energies to its greatest potential. Let's see what makes the Final Fantasy VI/Final Fantasy III music so good.
1. Opening Theme
Starting off with ominous organ chords, this is the first track you've heard as you popped in the SNES cartridge, at first the organ compliments the stormy background as the "Final Fantasy III" logo appears on the screen. Shortly after the organ chords, a synthetic piano solo takes place, which soon gives way to the theme that accompanies the back-story. Bells, ominous strings, brass, flutes all help in making this intro sequence so memorable, but it doesn't end there… Then we have a calmer version of the main theme as we see the credits to whom made this gem and seeing the Magitek Armors making their way to Narshe. At the time, this theme quickly planted itself into the brains of any who played FFVI/FFIII; it was a majestic opener after all.
2. Colliery Narshe
The town of Narshe is located near cold; damp mines and given the wintry conditions, living there was a harsh ordeal. What better way to represent this cold than a slightly depressing town theme with unnerving strings and a bit of piano thrown in for good measure, complete with a breathing effect here and there.
Using a high-pitched flute sample and some strings, this theme was quite effective in portraying Terra's awakening from her initial knockout. It has a bit of hope to it as you realize Terra will play an important role in this story. It also serves as a variation to the main theme.
What better way to bring in Locke into the story than using an adventurous theme filled with pompous brass and epic strings? As the theme develops, you get the sense Locke isn't just any type of Treasure Hunter, but a kind-hearted one. The use of this theme during the rescue of Terra with the Moogles was particularly moving and helped give the player an edge during the skirmish.
5. Battle Theme
Here we go!! This energized theme has a lot to offer, from fine-tuned electric guitar samples to well-times trumpets and bass to frolicking strings; this theme really got the player into the right mood without becoming too tense or tiring to the ear. Easily a great example of Uematsu's experimental touches in this score.
The victory theme is pleasing as well, as Uematsu mixes electric guitar samples with trumpets and brass to create the feel of achievement with this rendition of the classic theme.
7. Edgar & Sabin
The theme for Edgar and Sabin has the orchestral treatment as it is filled with strong brass, emotional strings as well as some great use of a tuba. It gets the pompous feel of royalty going like nobody's business and compliments the serious attitude of Edgar as he plans to save his kingdom from the Empire.
What better way to represent Kefka's insane antics with this comical, yet devilish theme? Peppered with brass, strings and trumpets, we can sense the madman's plunge into insanity as the theme progresses. It is definitely one of the most memorable villain themes in the history of Final Fantasy.
9. Mount Koltz
In the mood for mountain-climbing? Then this adventurous theme is just what one needs to be adventuring in those high-tops and caves. Drums, some electric guitar, strings and a bit of brass all help into making this theme especially memorable once you meet Sabin and start discussing of the future demise of the Empire.
This theme is being used when the party starts planning their strategy in order to gain some advantage on the Empire. Mostly comprising of trumpets, brass and strings, and sounding tactical; it gets one in the perfect mood to pay extra attention to the conversations the Returners have before they split up for action.
Having a western-themed feel is odd for this warrior of Far-East origins, but the flute and guitar samples does bring out Shadow's good will to help out despite having suffered a tragic past. While he may have "killed" his emotions, this theme still contains a slight touch of gentleness.
12. Troops March On
Being militaristic to the letter, brass and drums move this theme on a single direction which doesn't stray much from its starting point. Being fairly short, it simply acts as decent background music for some cut scenes involving the Empire. It's nothing special, to be honest.
Forget the previous theme, this character theme is one of the best, as it captures Cyan's tragic story to perfection. The sad flute at the beginning, along with the drums and strings fleshes out the depression and guilt Cyan goes through his development as the story progresses. By the end, the theme takes a more hopeful route and proves even the greatest depression can be conquered.
14. The Unforgiven
This theme plays during tense moments where matters are pressing, such as when Sabin saves the party from Vargas or when Cyan goes to fight the Imperial Camp on his own, blinded by his rage. It does the job to get the adrenaline going as you face off vs. countless foes.
15. The Mystic Forest
Another great theme, strings, guitars and flutes gives it an ethereal quality as it represents areas where unnatural things occur, like the Phantom Forest for instance. One of the more interesting dungeon themes here.
16. Mystery Train
The track starts off with the sounds of the Ghost train parting, and then moves to an impressive piano/brass/drums theme, which carries the slight feel of a Haunted area, yet stays comical at the same time. The track ends with the sounds of the Ghost train coming to a stop.
17. Wild West
Drums, tropical elements, some strings and an Asian type of flute gives the piece an obvious "untamed wild" feel which fits the unpredictable Veldt perfectly. While being a decent piece, the fact it plays continuously even during battle themes gets it to become aggravating over time.
A realistic violin sample starts up the piece, which is closely followed by a saddening flute and strings; which brings out a tragic yet an innocent feel throughout the piece as it gets Gau's personality and past.
19. The Snake Path
The Snake Path was an interesting sequence as the party was making their way underwater. The theme carries a care-free feel as well as an adventurous tone, which fits this little venture just fine. It's all in the strings that give this piece character.
20. Kids run through the City Corner
With this calm town theme, we get treated to gentle passages of flute, guitar and strings, which show the busy yet quiet atmosphere of a normal town before it got occupied by the Empire. What better way to stroll around town and make purchases than with this?
21. Under Martial Law
Uneasiness is the feeling this theme wants to portray, as Locke needs to sneak by the Imperial soldiers in order to get some news of great importance. Wasn't there a soldier just a bit away?
Like Cyan, Celes shares to an extent a similar development, but its subtleness has more "Oomph" to it, just the thought that she was to be executed if Locke hadn't rescued her is enough to get sentimental with this piece.
23. Save Them!
One of the most exciting themes in the game, it was used during really urgent scenes, such as when the party had to protect Bannon and the Esper at all cost from Kefka and his cronies. Cymbals, drums, tuba, strings and trumpets all played a major role to create the right tension during those trying times.
24. The Decisive Battle
One of the highlights with FFVI/FFIII was always confronting the creative and challenging bosses. Uematsu had chosen the perfect instruments to get this theme going. Electric guitars, strings and drums were the mix which made it so memorable and always got me looking forward to the next Boss encounter.
We close the 1st disc with a stressing theme which playing during one particular scene which I won't spoil. About halfway, we get a quick peek of the main theme played at a quicker pace, which fits the given situation.
The overworld theme to the World of Balance is arguably one of the most memorable themes for any RPG, and for good reason. It features a steady development as it shows the beautiful landscapes of the world and reaches a majestic climax which portrays the epic quest the party goes through. I can honestly find no fault here, because there is none to begin with.
2. Coin Song
This is a sad remix of the Edgar & Sabin theme which reflects their tragic past as both of their parents have passed away in tragic circumstances, which drove Sabin to choose exile over the throne. The flutes, strings and xylophone pull at the player's emotions effectively during those depressing flashbacks.
3. Techno de Chocobo
Uematsu tries his hand at a techno arrangement of the classic Chocobo Theme, which is actually a mixed bag. The theme itself is intact, but the swaying effects and "Cho-co-bo" vocal effects just doesn't fit the theme at all there. Uematsu should stay away from Techno as this shows it's just not his style.
4. Forever Rachel
As with Coin Song, Forever Rachel is a sad version of Locke's theme, which plays during the flashbacks at Kohlingen. T'was a shame he lost Rachel in this fashion, which brought him to be burdened by guilt. This theme also gives an insight on Locke's struggling with this guilt. An effective and interesting variation which says a lot on its own.
5. Slam Shuffle
With Zozo, Uematsu wanted to bring a mischievous feel to this thief haven by creating a light jazz number. A piano, saxophone, tuba and beats give it the appropriate effect as you try to get it done with this town as quickly as possible.
6. Spinach Rag
With a title like that, it's hard to tell what this theme is meant for. This fun piano piece is used in the Auction House, which has its own goofy moments. Although when you waste too long trying to get those Magicites, the piece does get annoying.
Finally we move on to the biggest part of the score, the unforgettable Opera Scene. Uematsu doesn't hold back on the orchestral treatment as we are treated to a lush symphonic suite which alone is reason enough to purchase the soundtrack. Anyways, Overture has a nice brass opening, a delightful piano solo, and some more brass, before we hear that synthesized male vocal, which gives the piece "camp" value. It's odd to anyone who hasn't played FFVI/FFIII (but then again, WHO HASN'T???). The piece moves on to more exquisite brass samples which ends with a flute solo.
8. Aria de Mezzo Carattere
And here is the most touching track (aside the Ending Theme, but that's another story), unlike the previous vocal intrusion, this one doesn't detract from the piece, and ups the enjoyment by a considerable amount. Being a remix of Celes' theme, it captures the initial sadness but also beings a hopeful tone as the act progresses. This track alone makes the OST worth buying.
9. The Wedding Waltz~Duel
The Waltz section of the theme is the usual classically-inspired piece which gives the right mood when things are calm and everybody acts nicely… then the ominous chord rears its ugly head as the party learns of Ultros' plans to squash Celes. The theme then changes to a "hurry hurry" tone while keeping the classic feel. Gotta love the vocal work smack in the middle, gotta love synth. The theme closes with the sounds of Ultros and your party falling down.
10. Grand Finale?
One of the most hilarious moments in the game, Ultros challenges you while this happy go lucky theme plays. The theme just brings out the comical tone as you fight the dumb Octopus within a minute or maybe less.
Setzer's theme brings out his adventurous yet carefree attitude immediately, but also has some heroic segments by the end. Drums, trumpets and strings do their part in also to feel for Setzer despite his initial "I don't want to help" scene.
12. Johnny C. Bad
I have absolutely no clue why this piece has that name, but it surely has a catchy rhythm to it. Uematsu tries his hand with Jazz again and succeeds without major troubles. As far as I can recall, this theme was used in the Colliseum.
13. The Empire "Gesthal"
The theme for the town of Vector is a dreary one, bells and strings starts it up as drums and trumpets soon join in. The slow, brooding piece matches the Emperor's treacherous nature as he succeeds in nearly taking over the world.
14. Devil's Lab
Ok, I take back what I said about "Techno de Chocobo" as Uematsu redeems himself with this electronic piece. Sounds of metal and rushing "stuff" create the rhythm while the trumpets and strings take the back seat here. Definitely fitting for a factory of this kind.
The 1st Airship theme has all the good qualities to make it stand out. A good instrument set, a solid composition and equally solid sound quality. The strings, trumpets, bass and drums evoke the feel of a flight through the skies.
The comic theme unfortunately isn't as enjoyable. Xylophone, weird sounds and toy cranks doesn't really capture the mood at all. Definitely one of the rare blunders on this score.
Mog's theme is a remix from FF5's "Creeper Fitter", arranged in a smooth jazz fashion. Beats, tuba, trumpets all give Mog his "cool" vibe. How can you not like the lil' fella, anyways?
Strago's Theme serves as the music for Thamasa, the village of the Mage Warriors' descendants. For Strago himself, this theme is just laid back and doesn't really have any extra qualities to it, it's just there. It isn't part of the blunders, though
Relm's Theme is definitely a nice one, though I find the bagpipe sample a bit grating. What follows is more bearable, the strings and guitar just creates the right aura to represent a girl with knowledge, yet is still young.
20. Another World of Beasts
This theme is one that really marked me for some reason, the strings and flute gives it an eerie feel, yet we can sense a bit of mysticism within. The theme portrays the powerful and ancient nature of the Espers. It is mostly remembered when Terra meets with the Esper after the 1st battle against Kefka in Narshe.
1. New Continent
The theme for the Floating Island starts off with strings until an electronic noise interferes, and then the strings are accompanied by the electronic beats, which creates an interesting rhythm. There's nothing technological about the island, so I'm wondering why Uematsu composed this theme this way.
Right off the bat, heavy drums and flutes along with strings play the opening back-story theme with an ominous tone, you can tell something bad will happen… and it does. Perfect for the cut-scene it accompanies.
3. The Fierce Battle
The theme for the major Bosses takes a slight orchestral route, as the pounding drums, brass, flutes and electronic melody gets the point you're facing something big and much tougher than what you've faced before. And with super-bosses like the Atma-Weapon and the 3 Statues, any other theme couldn't have served as well as this.
4. Rest in Peace
The game over theme which has the strings doing their part in getting you sad if you lose does what it's supposed to do.
5. Dark World
As the wind blows, organ chords move on slowly accompanied by a piano, which creates the feel of a desolate wasteland nicely. Points to the bells at the right times, and the strings passage at the end, which effectively depresses you.
6. The Day After
This is the town theme for the World of Ruin, while it has a slightly somber tone; it also carries a hint of hope as life goes on even in this world. The strings and flute, along with the guitar helps in creating a slight aura of cheerfulness.
7. Searching Friends
One of the most beautiful and touching pieces, it serves as the secondary overworld theme and the secondary Airship theme. The flute, strings, bass all convey a feeling of hope, as the party reunites little by little. It is one of the few themes that really moved me emotionally. Easily one of the highlights aside the Opera sequence.
A bizarre and corny theme; drums, bass, and trumpets gives off a really weird mood, which likely fits the "off the wall" character of Gogo.
A sad version of Setzer's theme, mostly played by a guitar, strings and a flute; which plays during a flashback involving Setzer's girlfriend. The sequence itself is saddening, so Uematsu just hit the right combination of instruments to pull our emotions.
10. The Magic House
The theme for Jidoor in the World of Ruin, it's mostly mischievous. The strings, flute and piano just give it an unusual sound. This theme was actually a rejected dungeon theme for Final Fantasy II (The Japanese Famicom one).
Umaro is a slow-witted yet strong character, but doesn't really have much of a back-story or any personality traits to speak of. The theme just does its job.
This is one of the rare blunders; Uematsu simply uses some bells, a choir, some strings and makes a theme out of it. Nothing special, move on.
13. Last Dungeon
Kefka's Tower certainly got a memorable theme to it; Uematsu uses some electronic effects, trumpets, strings and drums. All of it meshes into a cohesive whole and helps in giving it an epic tone. It isn't nothing compared to what follows, though.
14. Dancing Mad
Ok, this is it, the last boss theme. This is, without a doubt, one of Uematsu's greatest achievements. A fully fleshed out 12 minute long battle theme, divided into four tiers. The first tier has the menacing organ chords, along with bells, evil breathing sounds, and a gripping female choir. The second tier still has the organs doing their share, but this time a male choir joins in, along with rapid drumbeats. The third tier is more laid back than the rest, starting with a bell; the organ is still going, playing a slightly creepy melody. The final tier is where things really get interesting, drums, electric guitar, organ and bass work together to create an engaging battle theme like no other, and at the end of a loop, we get to hear Kefka's infamous laugh. That alone makes it so awesome, as if it weren't awesome enough to start with. Right there, we know Dancing Mad is but the very best final boss theme in quantity and quality.
15. Ending Theme
It is by no doubt Uematsu's strongest, most emotional achievement ever, from the wonderful character medley, to the revitalization of the world to the ever poignant version of "Final Fantasy". I mean seriously, this theme really has it all. This is one 22 minutes of pure musical enjoyment I never tire of. Do I need to say more? I doubt it =P
16. The Prelude
And the FFVI OST closes with this classic piece, being fairly simple, the strings do their part in revitalizing this theme which gets better and better as it ages.
So you've managed to read all through that huh? Congratulations!! Anyways, anybody who played Final Fantasy VI/III knows how well the music worked in the game. It has been and still is Uematsu's most consistent soundtrack to date. And even after a decade since its release, it is still being praised by fans worldwide. It is a testament of Nobuo Uematsu's skill as a composer, and it shall be remembered for many more decades. Interested in buying this bible of quality RPG tunes? No problem!! Virtually everywhere online that sells VGM goods (http://www.gamemusic.com as a starter) has it for a decent price. There's no reason not to buy this classic. It should be part of everyone's music library, whether they like VGM or not. It's that good!