Before I begin, I have a confession to make: I have never played a Final Fantasy game. I always watch friends play through the games, but it isn't the same as playing it yourself. Maybe as a result of not playing the games, I haven't warmed up to the series' music or Uematsu's work at all. I wasn't impressed by most of what I've heard in Final Fantasy VII and VIII, but Final Fantasy IX is a different story entirely. I know you're probably thinking: "Kenny, why haven't you played any of the Final Fantasy games?" Well, the answer is, I have a healthy disliking for traditional RPGs (I prefer Action/RPGs, such as the Zelda and Mana series). When I heard about a one-disc CD soundtrack containing music from the Final Fantasy IX game, I decided to go ahead and pick it up, and I'm glad I did.
The disc begins with the beautiful opening theme "A Place to Call Home". I actually prefer to have subtle, yet sweet beginning themes rather than, say, "Liberi Fatali" (though I do love "Liberi Fatali" mind you).
I'd never noticed that the characters in Final Fantasy VIII didn't have theme songs. Many had a problem with this, and is thus not an issue in Final Fantasy IX. Each character's theme really matches his or her persona really well. "Zidane's Theme" is really upbeat and peppy, while "Steiner's Theme" is big and oafish sounding. I particularly like "Vivi's Theme" (you gotta love that little fella!), as well as "Wicked Melody" (Kuja's Theme?). It is rather ominous, and sounds as if a whole stadium full of people are clapping for the man. And is it me, or does "Tantalus' Theme" remind anyone of the Pink Panther!? "Freya's Theme" is an excellent piece, very well composed. And Quina's Theme" too is really good and enjoyable to listen to.
I really like the village/town themes as well. "Village of Dali" in particular is rather touching and pleasant to the ear. "Black Mage Village" on the other hand is a lot of fun and carries a nice beat (those Black Mages have really grown on me!).
Now for my personal favorites! Once I saw that "Vamo' alla Flamenco" was on this disc, I knew I had to have it. Upon hearing it for the first time while watching someone play the game, I immediately thought of Flamenco dancers. So, I knew that "Vamo' alla Flamenco" had to be the name of the track. I recommend you guys go see Flamenco dancers perform if you ever have the chance. It is a wonderful experience. "A Song of Her Memory" also caught my ear. It is essentially the chorus to "Melodies of Life", but the singing is replaced with "La-lala-la...". It reminds me of Mitsuda's "Star-stealing Girl", but it is beautiful in its own right. "Not Alone" is simply beautiful. The title sums it up perfectly. It's like Uematsu was really trying to tell you through song that you are not alone. What a great song.
Other great tracks include "Behind the Door", "Melodies of Life", "Battle 1" (fans of FFVI will love this!), and of course "Prelude", the theme of Final Fantasy. "The Final Battle" sounds like a song out of Shadowman (whoever played that game knows how sadistic it was!). It is evil, and you can hear demonic sounds and moaning people in the background. It is uneasy at first, until the drums come in!
Overall, Final Fantasy IX: Uematsu's Best Selections is a great buy for anyone like myself: not a huge fan of Final Fantasy music, but willing to give it chance. The selection is really good, unlike the soundtrack included with Final Fantasy Anthologies (which had no chance of converting someone such as myself to a Final Fantasy music fan). When all is said and done, I have a newfound respect for Nobuo Uematsu, though I still feel that he's not fit to hang with Koji Kondo, Yasunori Mitsuda, or Hitoshi Sakimoto. Even still, I'm glad I purchased this disc. It actually felt good to walk into a videogame store and walk out with a soundtrack. I hope this is the start of new trend.