Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today I’m going to gush about just how amazing Final Fantasy VII Remake’s music is, and specifically a few of its new tracks that weren’t in the original.
It took me a while to get into Final Fantasy VII Remake (YouTube / longplay / VGMdb), and even longer to come around to its complex arrangements of the original’s often stunningly simple and deeply affective PlayStation tracks. But eventually both won me over. The music, like the game, is layered like sheets of sedimentary rock that take years of history and put it neatly on display for you to appreciate, analyze, and digest in the present. Here’s the new version of “Shining Beacon of Civilization” which first plays when Jessie explains the layout of Midgar to Cloud following the game’s opening bombing mission:
If you’ve read any of my previous Morning Music entries you know I’m a sucker for melancholy tracks and “Shining Beacon” nails the techno dystopia of the original while drawing out the emotional resonance of watching the same human tragedies unfold again and again after decades of replaying Final Fantasy VII.
But I said I was here to talk about some of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s original scores, and so I shall. The years since the 1997 game’s release saw Square Enix composers Masashi Hamauzu and Mitsuto Suzuki get to spread their wings with more projects of their own. Their work on the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy in particular was a high-water mark for the series’ music after original series’ composer Nobuo Uematsu’s departure in 2004, and both have brought that same flair and growing sophistication to Final Fantasy VII Remake. Here’s Hamauzu’s “Moonlight Thievery,” which plays early on in the game when you’re tasked with breaking into Jessie’s parents’ house to steal her father’s Shinra keycard.
It’s chill and relaxing and yet there’s so much going on, from drums and maracas to harps and chimes. The remake is all about exploring the roads left untraveled in the original, and “Moonlight Thievery” is perfect table-setting for galavanting off in Midgar’s suburbs and seeing the other side of the corporate metropolis’ class divide. After all, there’s a reason Shinra has so much free reign to destroy the planet and grind poor people to dust: It makes the lives of lots of other people extremely comfortable.
Then there’s “Train Graveyard.” I was originally put off since in the original “Shining Beacon” plays throughout this section. For the remake, though, Hamauzu’s new track is ideal. It shows off his superb and subtle piano work, and his penchant for lifting up even the gloomiest tracks with shimmering harp plucks and bell pings. It reminds me a lot of his underrated work on Dirge of Cerberus.
Suzuki’s contributions are a little more quirky and upbeat. His jazzy twist on the “Wall Market” theme is completely different from the original, but excellent nonetheless. My favorite though is “Collapsed Expressway,” which plays as Cloud and Aerith make their way through the tunnels connecting Sector 5 to 6. The kokyū strings kick it off, followed by a breezy ambient electronic section, with the melody ending in a synthy frenetic breakdown that makes it feel like you’re playing through the slums of an ancient arcade (fitting since this is the section where Cloud has to navigate old robotic arms akin to a crane game to help clear the way).
Okay, that’s a lot of tracks, but there’s one more I have to mention before I leave you: “Due Recompense.” It’s based off of Nobuo Uematsu’s original composition for Wall Market called “Oppressed People,” with the new version arranged by Naoyuki Honzawa. It is so different from the original I’m counting it as a new original piece of music, and it’s a bonafide banger:
It’s dancy and full of mini-vocal samples, with all sorts of other good stuff mixed in there as well. The regular version is a nice downtempo beat to walk around Midgar’s underside to, but the battle remix takes it to another level. More club music in my Final Fantasys please. I demand no less than an entire DJ-ing mini-game once the sequel takes us to the Gold Saucer.
And that’s it for today’s Morning Music! How did I write about a bunch of new Final Fantasy VII Remake music and not mention Uematsu’s “Hollow,” the only new track he composed? I don’t know. Shame on me. It’s excellent. The man’s a master. Imagine creating one of the best video game soundtracks ever and then coming back decades later to add an equally amazing and just as fitting new, fully arranged song to it. I can’t either. And yet he did it. What Uematsu track is getting you through the day?