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'Final Fantasy VII Remake' and the curse of remade soundtracks

Dust off your CD drive.
Mat Smith, @thatmatsmith
June 8, 2020
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FF7R
Square Enix

I listen to game music pretty often — and a large chunk of it is from the Final Fantasy game series, from the original right through to this year’s remaster of a decades-old game. Yes, Final Fantasy VII Remake, which has pulled me back into seeking out niche remixes, polished fan-made covers, and overpriced official albums from Square Enix itself. 

It’s the reason I bought the middleweight “limited” edition FFVII Remake. Alongside a lanyard (I’m not going anywhere that will require an ID for a while), this version came with a “mini soundtrack” CD with 12 songs of in-game music.  

While I had to dig out my USB CD drive to put the thing on devices I’d actually listen to, the sampler has a good mix of remade tracks from the original and entirely new arrangements. It had some of the major battle themes and catchier background songs but it’s not all the tracks I want. I want the rough, funky remix of “Oppressed People,” the Jenova battle theme that you only get to hear once in the closing chapters, and many more. 

Square Enix is very aware of the existence of people like me, willing to spend more money beyond the standalone game. We are the company’s whales. That’s why there’s a $77.77 official soundtrack, spread across eight discs. Remember this is the first installment of the remake. How many CDs will the entire project cover?

I haven’t (read: haven’t yet) gone that far but definitely wanted more. FF7R even has jukeboxes and collectible CDs scattered across the game, teasing even more songs, most of which are apparently on a limited-run jazz CD. I’m adding it to the shopping list, if only for the yacht-rock flavored main theme.

It’s hard to explain precisely why I like listening to game soundtracks — but there’s something comforting about it — especially with older games like FFVII. It’s familiar, and a lot of game tracks are also energetic without being overwhelming. I like the shot of adrenaline a battle theme can offer in the gym, or while on deadline. I often sort tracks into two sections: chill and … not chill. (RPG soundtracks, in particular, can really run the gamut there.)

FF7R
Square Enix

Take Final Fantasy VII’s soundtrack, which encompasses aggressive rock fight music, sinister choral arrangements, mournful character themes, and ridiculous surf rock. The popularity of the game took the original soundtrack even further still. This lengthy Wikipedia entry scratches the surface, but there’s the twee country music cover album, the prog-rock covers from the Black Mages, the orchestral Distant Worlds albums that pluck songs from the entire Final Fantasy oeuvre, or the soundtrack from the Advent Children CGI movie.

And then! If you do a quick search across YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music there’s a treasure trove of fan-made (and even more official) tracks inspired by the original FFVII. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a game that’s had so many of its songs remade, recast and reimagined. I think that’s why I’m obsessed -- there is so material out there. I just wish the physical versions were more reasonably priced. 

I’m very willing to trade my really handy lanyard for the aforementioned jazz album, if anyone’s interested. I can’t buy it in the UK.

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