Final Fantasy VIII - Original Sountrack

Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack
Final Fantasy 8 Original Soundtrack Cover
Tracks 74
Length 249 minutes
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Remember the first time you heard the Super Mario Bros. theme? Or The Legend of Zelda overworld song? They are classic bits of music that have been replayed and remixed hundreds of times. Some games would undoubtedly not stand out as much in the nostalgic corner of our mind without their tunes to accompany them.

A focus on quality game soundtracks seems to be on the rise, with indie titles Bastion and Jamestown both featuring a robust cache of songs that not only sound great while playing the game, but seem appropriate to listen to any other time of the day. There was a time at the end of the SNES ere and throughout the PS1 lifetime that video game soundtracks were huge. Through a combination of audio CDs becoming cheap to buy and MIDI files even cheaper to trade, games like Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country, and Final Fantasy VI laid the groundwork for game music relevance.

Which brings us to Squaresoft's 1999 JRPG, Final Fantasy VIII. Nobuo Uematsu, longtime Final Fantasy composer, spent years writing music for the robust but limiting NES and SNES consoles before finally chewing his teeth on CD audio with the PS1. But Final Fantasy VII, while featuring a quality soundtrack, turned out to be merely preperation for Final Fantasy VIII. Here's my review of its Original Soundtrack.

Note: I have a track list below where you can listen to every song.

Final Fantasy VIII's soundtrack begins and ends with two of the series' most defining tracks. "Liberi Fatali", the attention grabbing, big orchestra, choral piece immediately sets the stage for both the game and soundtrack. Extensively used in advertising, "Liberi Fatali" has become the defining song of Final Fantasy VIII and also opened up every Final Fantasy concert in the Dear Friends tour. This and "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" were Uematsu's first foray into recording actual voices for a soundtrack and were met with huge success.

The album ends with a short, minor-key rendition of "The Prelude" followed by the game's opening credits piece. While every numbered Final Fantasy has featured a different story, set of characters, and setting, there are two mainstays to the series: there's always a character named Cid, and "The Prelude", a simple appregio, will be found somewhere. Uematsu slips it in right at the end, a melancholy reminder of the album preceding it.

Everything in between, and there is a lot: 74 total songs spanning four hours of music, is a lesson in how to write music for a 60 hour game. The biggest impression it leaves on me is just the sheer variety of sources Uematsu draws from. "Find Your Way" and "Tears of the Moon" have a deep, haunting feel to them while "Shuffle and Boogie" and "Mods de Chocobo" (the game's second twist on the semi-regular Chocobo theme) have a ridiculous amount of upbeatness to them.

Final Fantasy 8 Squall Rinoa

An interesting aspect of the album is that Uematsu barely wrote any character themes at all, instead composing quite a few romantic songs with the mega popular title "Eyes on Me" tying them all together thematically. If "Liberi Fatali" defined what Final Fantasy VIII was all about to the outside observer, "Eyes on Me" defined it for the fan of the game. Sung by pop artist Faye Wong, the song sums up Final Fantasy VIII simply: it's a love story.

The heavy romantic aspect of the game was also a first for the series, and gave Uematsu the opportunity to spread his wings even more. He wrote a waltz with "Waltz for the Moon", "Roses and Wine" which highlighted a lost love, and multiple titles with the "Eyes on Me" theme including "My Mind" and "Love Grows", and then managed to weave it into the "Ending Theme".

But what would a Final Fantasy game be without the battle song, and Final Fantasy VIII features not one, but two excellent fight themes. The main theme is "Don't be Afraid", a highly energetic drum and horn piece that seemingly counteracts the game's sometimes dull battle system (just ask a fan about Drawing). The second is "The Man with the Machine Gun", an even higher paced, almost techno sounding song that plays when the game's alternate party is battling. It's one of the game's real hidden gems that you don't get to hear nearly enough.

Final Fantasy games before Final Fantasy X have also presented an overworld theme, which you'll probably hear just as much, if not more than the battle theme. Final Fantasy VIII's is called "Blue Fields", and gives the feeling of light steps and exploration. It's an important song in the album, as it needs to be anything but annoying.

Part of what gives the album such a unique sound is the extensive use of the harp. Almost every orchestral track features it either prominently or as background support. It's a beautiful sounding instrument, even when produced from a sythensizer.

Final Fantasy 8 Squall Seifer Gunblade

Before we get to the ending, my least favorite song is "Compression of Time". Unless you like to hear the same five notes over and over again, "Compression" is well worth hitting the skip button over. Coincidentally, it's played during one of the most controversial and confusing parts of the game, where many gamers throw up their hands in either disgust or bewilderment. It also clocks in at nearly five minutes, which is a ridiculous length for an already four hour soundtrack.

The final six tracks on the album take us from the boss fights through the game's ending and full circle to Final Fantasy VIII's opening credits. "The Legendary Beast" has a heavy beat and hammer-striking-anvil sound that I love, transitioning into "Maybe I'm a Lion", a title that speaks as much to the song itself as it does to some of the themes of the game. "The Extreme" brings back the witch's theme: "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec", followed by "The Successor", which shows of Uematsu's skill at writing pieces for the piano.

"Ending Theme" is a sweeping, 13 minute epic that flows naturally through all the major musical themes of the game, including "Eyes on Me" and "Liberi Fatali". "The Prelude" finishes off the game's credits and ushers us softly into the album's final song, "Overture", an almost military sounding drumbeat title. It doesn't feel out of place at the end of the album, however, and is a nice, simple cap to what was just a four hour marathon of music. A highly recommended marathon, and my favorite video game soundtrack.

Track List

Disc One

  1. Liberi Fatali
  2. Balamb Garden
  3. Blue Fields
  4. Don't be Afraid
  5. The Winner
  6. Find Your Way
  7. SeeD
  8. The Landing
  9. Starting Up
  10. Force Your Way
  11. The Loser
  12. Never Look Back
  13. Dead End
  14. Breezy
  15. Shuffle or Boogie
  16. Waltz for the Moon
  17. Tell Me
  18. Fear
  19. The Man with the Machine Gun
  20. Julia
  21. Roses and Wine
  22. Junction
  23. Timber Owls

Disc Two

  1. My Mind
  2. The Mission
  3. Martial Law
  4. Cactus Jack (Galbadian Anthem)
  5. Only a Plank Between One and Perdition
  6. Succession of Witches
  7. Galbadia Garden
  8. Unrest
  9. Under Her Control
  10. The Stage is Set
  11. A Sacrifice
  12. Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec
  13. Intruders
  14. Premonition
  15. Wounded
  16. Fragments of Memories
  17. Jailed
  18. Rivals
  19. Ami

Disc Three

  1. The Spy
  2. Retaliation
  3. Movin'
  4. Blue Sky
  5. Drifting
  6. Heresy
  7. Fisherman's Horizon
  8. ODEKA ke Chocobo
  9. Where I Belong
  10. The Oath
  11. Slide Show Part 1
  12. Slide Show Part 2
  13. Love Grows
  14. The Salt Flats
  15. Trust Me
  16. Silence and Motion
  17. Dance with the Balamb-fish
  18. Tears of the Moon
  19. Residents
  20. Eyes On Me

Disc Four

  1. Mods de Chocobo
  2. Ride On
  3. Truth
  4. Lunatic Pandora
  5. Compression of Time
  6. The Castle
  7. The Legendary Beast
  8. Maybe I'm a Lion
  9. The Extreme
  10. The Successor
  11. Ending Theme
  12. Overture