Masashi Hamauzu takes over the reigns from Hitoshi Sakimoto as composer for the much-hyped and long awaited thirteenth installment of Final Fantasy. The soundtrack for Final Fantasy XII was markedly different from the works of previous Final Fantasy stalwart Nobuo Uematsu and as such was judged perhaps too harshly by critics who felt it too far removed from the formula. Still, it was a rich and compelling listen with lush themes and movements. XIII is no different. Hamauzu has crafted a darker score, peppered with electronic tracks that add a pop element not seen since Uematsu's Final Fantasy X score (which Hamauzu contributed to).
At over 4 hours and spanning 4 cds, it is just as epic in length as previous Final Fantasies. It's a lot of music to take in and I mention this because until the game is released (March 9th for us Western folk) I won't be able to judge it in its proper context. That being said, as a standalone album of classic, electronic and pop music it's fantastic. "Snow's Theme" for example is a slow rock track which easily conveys the coolness of the character. Similarly the choral piece "Ragnarok" is almost effortlessly majestic. It sounds like a track from a Halo soundtrack but with much grander overtones.
The main battle theme "Flash" is a wonderfully crafted merging of all the styles on the album capturing the mood of the game completely. It's one of the finest FF battle themes in the whole series. It appears again in piano form during main character "Lightning's Theme" which is perfectly moody yet wistful, showcasing the duality of the character. "Afro Blues" is an unusual track, a swampy harmonica and guitar drawl that makes for a nice break from the orchestrated drama of the overall album.
It's a fantastic score from Hamauzu and hopefully the game is deserving of such grand music.
For the iPod playlist: "Snow's Theme", "Eternal Oath", "Flash", "Lighning's Theme", "Fang's Theme"
Verdict: ***** (5/5)