Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers Music Collections

"A highlight reel of modern and fantasy musical styles." Recommended

Rankings

Artist Credits

Tracks

150 minutes total

Disc 1 (75 minutes)

  1. Moonlight Serenade [0:44]
  2. Crystal Bearers Ramble [2:48]
  3. The Sacred Haven [1:46]
  4. Zu Ambush ~ Sky Dive! [2:00]
  5. Trouble Up Ahead [1:57]
  6. An Unlikely Guest [0:54]
  7. Unknown Enemy [1:45]
  8. Emergency! [3:43]
  9. The Royal Army [1:34]
  10. Alfitaria Capital City [3:32]
  11. Althea [1:26]
  12. Together On The Run [0:31]
  13. Getaway [3:25]
  14. Ruins [2:36]
  15. The World Is Changing [2:09]
  16. Lett Highlands [2:48]
  17. Catch And Throw [2:43]
  18. The Pioneer Spirit [2:42]
  19. Neighborhood Tinkerer [1:54]
  20. Bridge Town [2:12]
  21. High Commander [1:03]
  22. Chase The Hostile [2:13]
  23. The Lost Tribe [1:07]
  24. Bahamut Strikes [1:50]
  25. Bahamut's Rage [1:48]
  26. Prison Sands [2:33]
  27. Snarky Tough Guy [2:04]
  28. Surfin' Layle [2:28]
  29. Selkie Guild [2:28]
  30. Costa Faguita [2:36]
  31. Girls, We Have To Win! [2:25]
  32. Belle Handles It Solo [1:03]
  33. Crystal Locomotive [2:32]
  34. Authority [1:08]
  35. Hide and Seek [2:31]
  36. Dig! Dig! Dig! [1:24]
  37. Jingle Medley [0:41]

Disc 2 (75 minutes)

  1. Beyond The Horizon [2:31]
  2. Raging Ambition [1:54]
  3. The Awakened Beast [2:27]
  4. Snowfields [2:58]
  5. Freezing Heat [2:21]
  6. Rivelgauge Monastery [2:19]
  7. Vineyard [2:33]
  8. Queen's Garden [2:52]
  9. Kickerbaul [2:21]
  10. Chocobo [1:52]
  11. Infiltration [1:58]
  12. Althea's Waltz [3:09]
  13. Moonless Starry Night [1:47]
  14. Veo Lu Sluice [1:37]
  15. A Moment Of Repose [1:07]
  16. Existence And Oblivion [2:30]
  17. Moogle Woods [2:30]
  18. Aerial Prison [2:34]
  19. Blockade Buster [2:22]
  20. The Taint of Power [1:27]
  21. Narrow Escape [3:46]
  22. Quiet Lament [1:25]
  23. A Hero's Resolve [0:41]
  24. Hidden Tales Of Adventure [2:42]
  25. Ephemeron [1:53]
  26. For The Kingdom [1:11]
  27. Destiny [2:36]
  28. Final Showdown [3:04]
  29. Indomitable [3:06]
  30. This Is The End For You! [3:38]
  31. Kuule taa unelmain [1:47]
  32. Majestic Theme [3:22]
  33. Leave It To Me! [0:53]
  • Released Dec 9, 2009 by Square Enix (catalog no. SQEX-10175~6, retail 2800 yen).
  • Track 2.24 newly composed by Kumi Tanioka. Tracks 2.13 & 2.14 originally composed by Kumi Tanioka and arranged by Ryo Yamazaki. Track 2.10 originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu and arranged by Kumi Tanioka. All other music composed by Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki.
  • A digital download release of the album that includes three extra tracks is available on iTunes.

Reviews

A highlight reel of modern and fantasy musical styles.

Recommended

Editor's review by Adam Corn (2010-02-02)

The composers of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles ~The Crystal Bearers~ Music Collections smartly disregard what expectations listeners might have of a Final Fantasy score right from the outset. How many Final Fantasy soundtracks - even Crystal Chronicles ones - begin with a jazz serenade and a ragtime number? And while there may be no shortage of RPG town themes done as Celtic music, none to my knowledge combine a Celtic jig with funk like the insanely addictive "Alrigaria Capital City". From the rambunctious frontier-Western strings and acoustic guitar of "Getaway" to the folksy banjo and harmonica rock of "The Pioneer Spirit", The Crystal Bearers jumps from style to style with a frequency and a competency matched by few soundtracks.

The compositions that adhere more closely to RPG norms are similarly impressive. After the soundtrack's eclectic intro, the New Age "The Sacred Haven" tones things down, while the soothing "Moogle Forest" creates a lush musical environment for the staple Final Fantasy creatures. The venerable chocobo theme gets a charming country arrangement that benefits from a resistance to following the theme note for note. "Ephemeron" and "Kuule taa unelmain" provide some of the most beautiful combinations of soft female vocals with orchestra since Kameo Original Soundtrack, while "Snowfields" and "Existence and Oblivion" are quiet and atmospheric but no less enchanting. Throughout the score composers Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki's demonstrate their skill at arranging their compositions for live instrumentation, which includes everything from a mid-sized orchestral ensemble to fiddle and tin whistle to electric and acoustic guitar.

The score shows inspiration at times from both its namesake series and the film music world. "Althea's Waltz" brings memories of Final Fantasy VIII's "Waltz for the Moon" (but with more expressive live instrumentation), while you can hear traces of Danny Elfman in "The World is Changing" and John Williams in the orchestral fanfare "Queen's Garden". The only track that borrows too freely is "Althea", in which the combination of light percussion with acoustic guitar and cello is uncannily similar to the pretty "Eating Alone" cue from Shrek.

Though the variety of styles and the consistently high quality with which they're implemented is a great strength of the soundtrack, I can't help but think that the composers have dipped their fingers in one too many pies. Specifically, the dark rock tracks that serve as battle themes - most frequently at the score's climax - feel out of place. They're fine for what they are, but it's easy to imagine arrangements of the very same themes done in the jazz and orchestral styles that the composers manage so well - styles that would fit more in line with the rest of the score.

Despite having 70 tracks crammed onto two discs, The Crystal Bearers Music Collections flows surprisingly smoothly. Some low-key tracks in the last third of disc one drag just a bit but are capably crafted nonetheless, and shortly into disc two the soundtrack regains its stride with some fantastic compositions. I just wish the composers had more time to devote to certain tracks. Take for example "A Moment of Repose" - its soft orchestral synths and elegant vocals are remarkably poignant for a 67-second track, but give it another minute or two to develop and it would be a true classic. Of all the releases from 2009 this is the one I'd most like to get an arranged album for, just to hear Iwasaki and Yamazaki expand on their work.

There's no need to wait on an arranged album, though, when the original soundtrack is as good as this is. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles ~The Crystal Bearers~ Music Collections is a virtual highlight reel of modern and fantasy musical styles, one that rarely makes the listener wait very long for its next impressive achievement.

Decidedly different, but it offers a little bit of everything.

Essential Listening

Reader review by Jon Turner (2010-01-29)

Prior to "Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - The Crystal Bearers", Crystal Chronicles soundtracks have often been scored by Kumi Tanioka, who brought an ethnic, relaxed tone compared to the grand, epic approach Nobuo Uematsu provided the main series. As The Crystal Bearers game charts a new direction for the sub-series, it seems fitting that its score would do the same. Front Mission veterans Hidenori Iwasaki and Ryo Yamazaki rise to the task, providing a mixture of crisp, lively orchestral tracks as well as other syles of music - jazz, techno, heavy metal, bluegrass, even country. Such a concoction could end up either disastrous or miraculous; thankfully, The Crystal Bearers falls into the latter category. It's one of the best soundtracks I've heard from Square Enix in a long time.

From the beginning, Yamazaki and Iwasaki make it clear that this is not going to be the sort of "Final Fantasy" soundtrack you would normally expect. Hot on the heels of the piano-trumpet "Moonlight Serenade", the album starts off with a lively, toe-tapping bluegrass rag, "Crystal Bearers Ramble", carried by an ensemble of clarinets, trombones, banjos, and piano. This is followed by the game's title music, "The Sacred Haven", an epic New Age piece with small fragments of the famous Final Fantasy prelude.

From there, Crystal Bearers bounces from one style to the next with an exuberant spirit that suits the imaginative settings and makes for a fascinating, attention-grabbing experience throughout. "Alfitaria Capital City", for instance, ingeniously mixes lively Celtic bagpipes with funky bass guitars and percussion, while tracks such as "Girls, We Have to Win!", "Kickerbaul", "Snarky Tough Guy", "The Awakened Beast", and "Blockade Buster" delve into rock and metal territory, with organs, synth drum kits, electric guitars, and groovy bass taking turns in providing action-oriented cues. "Crystal Locomotive" makes for a very nice lounge jazz break, but better still is "Hide and Seek", which is played in a comical yet easygoing manner that stays with the listener long after it's over.

As mentioned, "Crystal Bearers" occasionally adopts a style of music not used in any Final Fantasy score I've heard to date - country music. That's right, banjo-and-guitar driven, tambourine and drum accompanied, "wild west" style music that one would expect to hear in a cowboy flick makes its appearance in the Final Fantasy series. Such tracks as "Eastern Wildlands" and "Catch and Throw" blend seamlessly into a score that already stretches into as many musical styles as imaginable, and add an imaginative, rustic setting to the title.

For environment themes, the relaxing, joyful melody of "Lett Highlands" is provided by both guitar and flute solos, "Costa Faguita" throws in some island steel drums for a tropical flair, and "Snowfields" employs both a panpipe and a gentle harp for a wintery setting. My personal favorite of such themes is "Moogle Woods"; underscored by an electronic bass, shakuhachi, and steel guitar, it's a very soothing piece that may remind listeners at times of "Zora Hall" from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If there's any track that would describe a forest of friendly fantasy critters, it's this one. Other location pieces such as the somewhat gritty "Bridge Town", the jaunty "Vineyard", the hymnal "Rivelgauge Monastery", and even electric guitar-driven experiments like "Prison Sands" and "Aerial Prison" come across as distinctive and stand well on their own. Just as effective is the creepy and haunting "Existence and Oblivion", whose piano solos and eerie chime noises provide the feeling of being lost in time and space.

The central theme for the main characters is introduced in "Sky Dive", a bombastic yet heroic anthem performed by a full orchestra that sets a tone of excitement and adventure. (The recording quality of this and other orchestral tracks is crystal clear and crisp.) While somewhat cliche in its jauntiness, the theme does an exceptional job of tying the score together, its subsequent appearances remaining fresh and lively. The theme for the compassionate princess Althea is transformed in disc 2 into a glorious, Strauss-like waltz, a mixture of "Rosetta's Comet Observatory" from Super Mario Galaxy and "The Wedding" from Final Fantasy VI. Other themes include an ambivalent, mysterious leitmotif for the shadowy Yuke, a theme for Goldenrod (aka Amidatelion) first introduced in "Mysterious Encounter", and an epic yet tragic theme for the game's eventual antagonist, high commander Jegran, which comes in full force in the climactic tracks "For the Kingdom" and "Destiny".

For fans of vocal music, cues such as "An Unlikely Guest", "A Moment of Repose", and "Epheremon" provide the dulcet tones of Donna Burke (albeit usually only sporadically). Her voice adds an emotional power, giving the overall effect of the vocal material from Howard Shore's "The Lord of the Rings". This is especially true in "Sacred Haven ~Kuule taa unelmain~", which transforms the opening title into a brief but haunting ballad sung in Finnish. Also noteworthy is "Raging Ambition", which features dramatic outbursts of a chorus while the orchestra crescendos with suspense.

Longtime Final Fantasy fans will be drawn to occasional references of tunes from previous entries. As mentioned, several notes of the "Prelude" are hinted at in "The Sacred Haven", the jovial Chocobo theme is rendered in a pleasant duet of panpipe and guitar, and in "Theme" (one of the three tracks exclusive to the download release), the famous Final Fantasy fanfare is briefly stated. Followers of the Crystal Chronicles scores will recognize two of Kumi Tanioka's tracks composed for the initial entry: "Hidden Tales of Adventure" and "Moonless Starry Night", the latter of which is transformed into a jig. Interestingly, these and several other tracks employ ancient instruments from the same musical group that was brought in for the first Crystal Chronicles score.

Probably the only false notes for Crystal Bearers are the three final battle themes "Final Showdown", "Indomitable", and "This is the End For You!". All are bombastic heavy metal-oriented pieces, which may be a bit jarring for listeners not expecting that style of music. It's a bit disappointing that this triumvirate doesn't reach the dramatic heights of say "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII or "Dancing Mad" from Final Fantasy VI. (The concluding tracks "Majestic Theme" and "Leave It To Me!" do compensate, though, with a grand finish.)

Overall, The Crystal Bearers Music Collections is an outstanding entry to the Final Fantasy series of soundtracks; it's clear that Ryo Yamazaki and Hidenori Iwasaki let their creativity run wild with the making of every track included. The album contains a whopping two and a half hours of music, every second of which recaptures the atmosphere of The Crystal Bearers to a tee and delivers a truly memorable listening experience (regardless of the quality of the game itself). Joining Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Secret of Mana, The Crystal Bearers is among my favorite of Square Enix's soundtracks, and it's definitely one of the best game scores of 2009.

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