Final Fantasy VII Remake

Nobuo Uematsu , Tadayoshi Makino, Shotaro Shima, Yoshitaka Suzuki, Mitsuto Suzuki, Masashi Hamauzu, Yasunori Nishiki and Yoshinori Nakamura

" The Final Fantasy VII remake is an overall wonderful marriage of old and new music "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

The Final Fantasy franchise began with its first game release on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment system in 1987. It was a highly influential role-playing game with impressive music by Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, a true pioneer of video game music. At the time of Uematsu’s Final Fantasy 1, he had to deal with limited storage capacity of cartridges, which had a huge impact on the overall music. If only, the nerve wracking, but fascinating process on how to get music on a cartridge, is one of those things that made it very different from scoring for film or television.

With each new generation, things improved, and as the Final Fantasy series switched from Nintendo game systems to Sony’s Playstation, Uematsu was given the opportunity to compose and record music of a CD quality for the 1997 Final Fantasy VII, but he didn’t. The Playstation system still had its limitations, but its capacity was a huge leap from the previous generation of games from the 16 bit Super Nintendo. The more advanced graphical side of game ‘prevailed’ over the storage of the music; the lower the quality and size of the music, the more capacities could be used to make the game graphically better. It goes without saying, not all developers knew how to exploit the power of Playstation to its fullest around the same time of development as Final Fantasy VII. Reportedly, the composer noticed the greater he tried to produce music, regardless of its writing merits, of a greater size and audio quality, it had a considerable effect on the game; longer loading times and several other issues. Uematsu decided to score the game using older midi-like techniques. Regardless what you think of a remake, significantly updating the music was justifiable.

The 2020 Final Fantasy VII remake features a lot of elements from the original, as well as introducing new story lines. Nobuo Uematsu’s original score is relived in new arrangements, while he also composed a new theme called Hollow. Besides Uematsu, Tadayoshi Makino, Shotaro Shima, Yoshitaka Suzuki, Mitsuto Suzuki, Masashi Hamauzu, Yasunori Nishiki, Yoshinori Nakamura and Naoyuki Honzawa are given credits as a composer and arranger. The mix of old and new makes for an incredible update.

In 1997 the magical sweetness, including the synthesized arpeggio piano, rolling harps, intimate woodwinds and lush string melodies, were emotionally attractive, as much as they are in the remake. But I must admit the live instruments now provide an even richer experience. as heard in cues such as Prelude (not the terrible disco version) and the incredible variation on the best theme from the original game in Flowers Blooming in the Church.

However, the modern approach really becomes fruitful in the adventurous, darker pieces of atmosphere and action cues, which are absolutely stunning. There is a series of obvious musical references to other scores, which is especially noticable in the orchestrations and the use of the brass section. Scorpion Sentinel is a thrilling, relentless cue of orchestral power with soaring strings, dynamic brass, vocals and timpani, wonderfully orchestrated to meet modern standards. It’s incredibly dynamic, fast and loud. Shotaro Shima was responsible for the arrangement and delivers the best variation of this piece of music, which is also treated as a rock opera elsewhere with more dominant electronics and electric guitars. If you compare the cue with the arrangements by other composers, for example Yoshinori Nakamura' Midgar Expressway, it's even more evident that this is the Japanese take on the Burly Brawl.

With all these different people involved in the scoring process, it’s difficult to ascertain whose contributions are the best. Yasunori Nishiki' Corporate Archives is a short, imaginative and relaxing arpeggio piano cue that stands out, as well as the previously mentioned arrangements of Shotaro Shima for the stunning Scorpion Sentinel. But I think that Mashashi Hamauzes strikes a special chord with the beautifully string laden piece of sadness, as heard in Return to the Planet, easily the most evocative cue of the entire score. There are plenty of other fantastic pieces of music, too much to describe.

The music is also heavily influenced by a variety of other genres, from pop, rock, dance jazz to electronic music. Some blend in terrifically with the orchestral components, others are great joyous standalone pieces. A variety of jukebox cues are quirky and addictive, even when they use outdated synthesizers. But this being a modern score, the outdated sounds are terrible when they dominate entire serious pieces of score with a dramatic intent, or just as deplorable standalone pieces.

To me, the music of the Final Fantasy franchise truly came to live through the enormous amount of musical releases, which is representative of the immense efforts by Japanese labels. Truly one of a kind. I have fond memories of a variety of releases offering a different view of each of these scores, especially the Celtic Moon variations on Final Fantasy IV and some delicious orchestral arrangement albums. As I am writing this, thus far the remake has received a 'mini soundtrack', an impressive 7 disc release, an orchestral arrangements' album, an acoustic arrangements soundtrack. a 'Shinra' tracks' soundtrack and a concert tour release. The 7 disc release by Square Enix includes at least 3 hours of absolutely brilliant music, but also offers material that is (slightly) for the acquired taste. As an introduction, I recommend the Orchestral Arrangements album, which is sublime from start to finish, while the mini soundtrack offers 45 minutes of stunning music and about 15 minutes of insignificant music.

The Final Fantasy VII remake is an overall wonderful marriage of old and new music, of highs and lows, but an impressive effort by all composers and arrangers.

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Released by

Square Enix music (regular release 2020)