Because this was the first soundtrack I had purchased before the I played game itself, and the fact that Nobuo Uematsu had no part in this soundtrack, I was skeptical as to how much I would enjoy this change of pace. As it turns out, just as Final Fantasy X-2 looks to have taken a complete change in direction from the previous installments, this soundtrack does the same. As a result of this new direction, many fans of Uematsu's masterpieces may be very well disappointed, if not disgusted, by this soundtrack. I was among these people as I listened to it for the first time. It started out beautifully with "Eternity - Memory of Lightwaves", a piano solo I immediately wanted the sheet music for. Next came "Real Emotion", a jarring transition from the first track. I believe this upbeat techno-pop vocal song is FFX-2's introduction music. It is definitely nothing comparable to Liberi Fatali or FFXI's Opening Theme. Surprising, I really enjoyed this song by the time it was over. If you liked "Hikari - Simple & Clean" from Kingdom Hearts, I think you'd like this song.
Unfortunately, disc 1 pretty much went downhill from here. The disc is full of either somewhat boring ambient songs or techno, jazz, and synthesized music. The three YuRiPa battle themes sound more like a dance party than battle music. It was at this moment I realized this was definitely not a Final Fantasy soundtrack, and decided not to treat it like one. Once I stopped comparing it to Final Fantasies past, the soundtrack actually became really good. "Sphere Hunter - Seagull Group" has a great bass and brass combo melody in it and is one of the highlights of disc 1. Other notable tracks on the first disc are "Zanarkand Ruins", a really peaceful and serene piece, "Sphere Hunter", an electric organ kind of light rock piece, and "Besaid", which is somewhat reminiscent of FFX's "Besaid Island" with its piano and drum tropical feel. Like I said, you won't find many strings in this soundtrack like in previous Final Fantasies.
Disc 2, however, is where the soundtrack really starts to shine. It starts off with "Seagull Group March", something which at first was extremely repulsive to my ears. But after a few listens, I actually fell almost in love with the song (it's now one of my favorites). It's nothing like Melodies of Life or Aeris' Theme for sure, instead the song is really upbeat peppy and just has an overall feeling of having fun in it. I can only imagine where this song appears in the game. It sounds mainly like the title says, with a marching band beat to it, but it's scattered with all kinds of random noises: fireworks, roosters, shouts of "Ya-hoo!", something that sounds possibly like a baby crying - stuff that really brings us to the point of one of the soundtrack's greatest points...
The synthesizing is amazingly good. Being a brass player, I was stunned by how realistic the brass sounded, from the tuba to the trumpet falls. FFVII's brass sounds absolutely terrible after listening to this. At many moments it was hard to believe this music was even synthesized, all the instruments are just that good, even better than FFX and Kingdom Hearts.
Back to the soundtrack, disc 2 has some absolutely breath-taking moments. It's a complete change from disc 1's upbeat party music. This disc actually sounded like it could fit in a Final Fantasy game. "Great Existence" has quite an ominous, menacing tone to it and is quite fitting overall. "Anxiety" actually almost scared the pants off me. The song is incredibly freaky, almost satanic in nature. I don't know how to quite describe it, but it's actually kind of cool when you get over the possessed nature of it. It sounds almost like a horror movie actually. Rikku's theme probably fits her better than Yuna's or Paine's themes, and I liked it, but it could be because I'm somewhat partial to jazz music. One thing a hardcore Final Fantasy fan may find really hard to digest is the Chocobo theme. It is not anything like the typical XXXX de Chocobo we're used to (in fact, it's not even named with a "de Chocobo" derivative). I guess that's a result of Nobuo's absence. I didn't mind it all that much after standing up and shouting, "This isn't chocobo music!" but it does get kind of repetitive after, say, 10-20 seconds of it.
Now, after making it through the fun, happy songs, and the demon-possessed tracks, comes the real magic behind this soundtrack, the main reason it's worth a purchase. "Eternity - Memory of Lightwaves" makes a reprise in pop form, which I actually like even better than the piano version. "1000 Words" is similar to Melodies of Life or Eyes on Me, except that it's in Japanese, of course. If you liked any of the love themes from the previous games, you'll like this one (assuming it even is a love theme). Next comes a whole cornucopia of intense, powerful tracks that sound very likely to be final boss music. This is where the strings come into the soundtrack. "Destruction" is in my opinion a masterpiece, very powerful and frantic with well-placed and unexpected orchestra hits scattered throughout. I liked it a lot more than the boss music from the original FFX. There are at least two more tracks together with this one that follow a similar pattern, which brings up the major drawback of disc 2. "Destruction", "Demise", and "Struggle to the Death" all sound quite similar, with a slight key change put in for variety. But the redudancy really rears its ugly head on "Nightmare of a Cave" and "Vegnagun Starting". Nightmare of a Cave starts with a frantic piano solo followed by an intense orchestra. But two tracks later comes Vegnagun. This song starts with the exact same piano solo, and I mean to the very note. However, the rest of the track is a very cool, intense organ and choir piece which definitely makes up for the first 15 seconds.
The ending theme of this game is of the same calibre of any Final Fantasy. It's a very moving symphonic piece along with an orchestra version of 1000 Words (just as Suteki da Ne made an orchesta return in the original). The soundtrack comes to a close with "Epilogue - Reunion" (which is a very suspicious title I might add, and I hope didn't spoil anything). Anyway, this final song is very soothing and beautiful, and a very nice way to end the soundtrack. (The Final Fantasy Theme and Prelude are nowhere to be found, but oh well, this isn't your average Final Fantasy, and I didn't expect to find them anyway.)
All in all, I think this soundtrack is worth a buy if only for disc 2's array of very good music. If you like techno dance music, disc 1 is also for you. At times many songs start to sound extremely redundant (such as the piano solo mentioned earlier), but there are enough great tracks to keep any fan pleased with his or her purchase. It's a different path from what we've come to expect from a Final Fantasy soundtrack, but it's in no way a turn for the worse. I would've preferred Nobuo Uematsu, that's for sure, but the composers did a very good job on their own. Come into this soundtrack expecting really good, original music, rather than specifically Final Fantasy music, and I think you'll be quite pleased with what you hear.