Jon Turner Mar 3, 2022 (edited Mar 3, 2022)
I have to make an honest confession. At the time Final Fantasy VII was released, I was pretty much a Nintendo only fan. I was resentful of SquareSoft abandoning Nintendo to go with Sony at the time, and because of that bias, I did not give the soundtrack a fair shake when I got it as a gift in 1997. I considered it one of Nobuo Uematsu's weakest points.
But that was before I realized how unfair I was acting. Over the years I became less of a Nintendo only fan and (especially during the WiiU years) when I got a PS3 did I start to play FFVII, and I realized what a jerk I had been back then. Ironically, more than 20(!) years after its first release did the game finally hit Nintendo Switch, and I gotta say this about the music.
While I don't think it reaches the same iconic highs as Final Fantasy VI, my personal favorite, and IMO, the pinnacle of the FF scores, FFVII is still a very impressive achievement for Nobuo Uematsu. The highlight, of course, is "One Winged Angel", but there are several other tracks that deserve shout-outs. The dynamic 6-minute main theme for FFVII is not only hauntingly gorgeous, it's also an impressive show of Uematsu's musical range. And "Aerith's Theme", while in some ways derivative of the opening harp strings from FFVI's "Aria di Mezzo Caratterre", is nonetheless absolutely pretty. Another highlight is the opening track, which begins with a quiet isolated chime and crescendos into a grand overture. It's one of Uematsu's finest openings of this type. Then of course, there's Sepiroth's dark, menacing theme, "Those Chosen By The Planet." Punctuated by bell chimes and heartbeat style percussion pounds, this tune, which is later stated in full bombast in "One Winged Angel", conveys absolute corruption and dread. The "Bike Chase" is also catchy and jazzy.
Do I consider this my favorite Final Fantasy score? No. I still have a few (minor) quibbles. One of them is the sound synthesis. At the time of its release, there were other PlayStation soundtracks that were taking advantage of the system's audio capabilities, while FFVII's feels somewhat like a marginal step up from the (still amazing) synthesis of FFVI, resulting in some tones that come across as very harsh. This is particularly grating in tracks like "Tifa's Theme", which, although pleasant, is marred by a grating "oboe" like whine. I just found it a bit jarring. Luckily, Mr. Uematsu got a bit more confident with the audio capabilities after this one, hence why his subequent scores for FFVIII and IX both sounded far more impressive and advanced on a technical level.
My second criticism has to be the ending theme. Part of that may have been because of how spoiled I was by the absolutely amazing "Ending Theme" from FFVI, what with its epic structure and phenomenal closure, that this one seemed a tad more "tame" by comparison. Granted, that ending theme is a tough act to follow, but compared to both most of the other tracks on the soundtrack and its predecessor, the "Staff Roll" track is a bit of a minor disappointment.
Overall, however, Final Fantasy VII's score has aged far more gracefully than I gave credit for back in 1997. Even with the somewhat lacking ending theme and only marginally better synthesis compared to its predecessors, Uematsu continues to show his talent in creating instantly recognizable and memorable melodies, and there are a lot of tracks here that rank among the very best. How did I go from being a detractor of this soundtrack to a fan? Well, it took time and a transformation on my part, but I'd say it was worth it.