Final Fantasy XII’s portrayal of Ivalice is an expansive and geographically rich world that has a bounty of different terrains that ranges from deserts to grasslands. This Ivalice captures the adventurous feeling of freedom and exploration for its players with its cornucopia of things to do and sights to see, and you could be lost in it for hours.
Ivalice offers plenty of areas to explore with each area having its own atmosphere. What captures the essence of an atmosphere has to be an integrated effort from the look and feel of an environment. FFXII does that by having diverse looking environments and skillfully crafted ambient tracks to satisfy the mood for them. This entry will go into detail about one of the earliest tracks in the game, “Royal Capital Rabanastre”.
We begin to explore Rebanastre for the first time when the game shifts its POV to Vaan. The capital city is brimming with life under the desert sun as its diverse mix of inhabitants roam on the streets between the glowing, white walls of the city’s towering buildings. As the first location in the game that you’re allowed to explore, Rabanstre’s spacious size evokes a childlike curiosity to explore. The curiosity is supported by the light and cheerful melody from the track’s string and wind instruments that seems to guide you along the streets. Along the way, the sudden brass entrance changes the dynamic of the music and gives the track a stronger, braver feeling. But above all, the same playful melodic core still hovers around the track. Listening to this track while traveling could make traveling less of a chore and more of a leisurely thing to do.
The “Royal Capital Rebanastre” track sets the right mood for the starting location of the game. It could also be the gateway track that intrigues players to explore the rest of FFXII’s Ivalice and discover more atmospheric tracks from the soundtrack.
At the entrance to the Li'Telor region there is a forested area that is named “The Sanctuary of Zi’tah”. The tall, ancient trees towers over the forest floor and deprive it from most of the sunlight from above, thus giving the forest its gloomy darkness. Soft rain drips down from the sky, and the dark brown soil collects it below, trying to feed the sparse patches of flora that managed to grow in the darkness. The darkness and the fog that shrouds over the area make it difficult to see, but the eerie crystals that shimmers in the darkness gives attractive light to those trying to find their way around this lonely and quiet place.
Although the Sanctuary is visually a gloomy and lonely place, its background music, “Sanctuary of Zi’tah”, gives the Sanctuary a different impression. The track has a melancholic acoustic sound to it, but the melody has a touch of soothing spirit to prevent it from being too mournful and depressing. The track also gives a great impression of the feeling from within a sanctuary, a feeling of homeliness and serenity, through the track’s tone. It makes the Sanctuary of Zi’tah feel like the perfect escape where you could be alone and undisturbed.
In Final Fantasy X, the once powerful but now desolated ancient city of Zanarkand was the sacred final destination of a Summoner’s pilgrimage. It was in Zanarkand that the Summoner hoped to acquire the “Final Aeon”-a pivotal part to defeating Sin- as his or her reward for venturing through an excruciating trek to visit every temple in Spira. As the ending of Final Fantasy X ushered in the Eternal Calm, Zanarkand lost its significance and exists just as a relic. In Final Fantasy X-2, Zanarkand becomes a tourist attraction that caters to visitors wanting to glance into Spira’s past.
FFX-2 generally feels more lighthearted than its predecessor, and it shows that everywhere from its atmosphere to its soundtrack. Its soundtrack in particular is more upbeat with jazz, synth, and pop influences than the soundtracks from any other installment so far. “Zanarkand Ruins” is one of the tracks that I will be using as an example here.
In FFX, the track “Someday the world will end” evokes emotion as the melancholic but hopeful track follows the player through Zanarkand as the conclusion to Yuna’s pilgrimage arrives. In FFX-2, Zanarkand is seen through a different perspective as both a tourist site and also as a memory to the pilgrimages in the past. The new track, Zanarkand Ruins, surrounds the player in a relaxing and nostalgic feeling as the smooth jazz carries the player through the peaceful and serene ruins with its music. The new track feels suitable for the depiction of the Ruins of Zanarkand as now a peaceful place where the memories of a tragic past have gone to rest at last with the advent of the Eternal Calm.
“It all began when I saw this sphere of you.”
Two years later after Yuna and her cronies broke Sin’s cycle and ushered in the Eternal Calm, Yuna became a career sphere hunter because of an inspiration to find Tidus again. Her adventures lead her to be swallowed in conflict between rival factions, and she encountered a disgruntled citizen of Zanarkand who was the love interest of Yuna’s alter ego, Lenne. After an understanding of the couple’s history, Yuna organized a concert in an attempt to stop the turbulent war between the factions and call for peace. Yuna sings the song “1000 Words” as the feature song for the concert.
“1000 Words” takes the player through a lyrical journey to explore the relationship between Shuyin and Lenne. The song starts out at the Thunder Plains, where a congregating crowd of all factions listens to Yuna singing under the dark, stormy night. She taps into her Songstress attire and attempt to summon the memories of Lenne for everyone to see. Shuyin and Lenne was a couple back in Zanarkand a thousand years ago, but they were in the midst of the Zanarkand and Bevelle war. Lenne was a Summoner and was to be recruited to fight for Zanarkand because of her skill. As Yuna continue to sing her song, old Zanarkand begins to materialize and absorbs the spectators from their real lives to place them into a projected image of the lively Zanarkand. The spectators observe life back in Zanarkand, where the passerby walks on the busy streets under the dazzling lights that brighten up the dark sky. The spectators will then view a frantic Shuyin standing in front of Vegnagun, and he is eager to activate it in order to stop the war. Lenne comes to stop him, and the two shared an embracing hug before they were gunned down by the authorities. Lenne died, but Shuyin lived on without hearing her last words for 1000 years. Lenne sang the song, 1000 words, as a duet with Yuna and for saying sorry that she was not able to express how she felt about him throughout these years.
This track is usually the most mentioned track when people are talking about X-2. I think that this track is neither good nor bad, but I would not consider this track to be in the ranks of other vocal tracks like “Eyes on me”.
At the southernmost point of Spira there is a naturally beautiful Island named Besaid. The lush landscape fosters under the warm, brilliant sun. The cascading waterfalls add cool refreshing water to the translucent lakes that shelters breathtaking radiant life under its surface. Reminisces of an ancient city are dispersed across Besaid and reminds the inhabitants of the island’s past. In the quaint and serene Besaid village that’s far into the island, the islanders enjoy their lives in peace. The track, “Besaid Island”, fully completes the atmosphere of a tropical paradise.
Besaid Island has layers of instruments, but the piano for the melody and background stands out. The melody gracefully glides over a steady percussion and a light, airy wind instrument sound. The piano slows down during the bridge, only to be picked up by a sudden introduction of a rolling snare drum. After the snare drum intro, the dynamic will be hastened and the percussion will become heavier until the synth drops the dynamic down to the regular, slow pace again. The finishing part of the song will be touched with a celestial like sound before it returns to the beginning again.
Besaid Island has always been one of my most favorite places in Spira. My fascination with the Island began when I first played the game and I was left almost breathless by how picturesque the lake scenery was when Tidus swam across it. The place was just very well done to capture the mood and feel of a tropical island, and the track helped immensely to complete that image.
Beyond the dark forests of Macalania Woods there is a secluded snowfield that is home to the sacred Macalania Temple. The Macalania snowfield area is like walking into a snowy dream. The ground is glazed with the light, gentle snow that falls from the unobstructed bright sky. The gentle breezes that brush across the land smooth out the snow with each stroke and gives it a picturesque complexion that is free from blemishes and flaws. A giant crack from a plot induced conflict left a gaping hole in the whole image of an otherwise serene and enchanting place. Nonetheless, the soundtrack that is titled “Illusion” (some sources have it as “Phantoms”) accompanies this location and completes the dreamy atmospheric feel of the area.
“Illusion” first plays during a cutscene before the player could reach Macalania Lake, but the track will play perpetually at Macalania Lake. The track opens softly and maintains a calm, slow rhythm throughout the course of the track. The bridge of the song is where the music will start to take the player on a smooth dream like ride through its mesmerizing ambient sound. The ride will then drop the player off when the second bridge is done, and that’s when the light keystrokes will guide the player back to the start of the song again. The soft howling of wind in the background resembles the sound of gentle winds that sweep across the land. Listening to this song and also traveling through the landscape feels as if the player has stepped into a dreamlike state where there’s nothing but you in a peaceful, snowy field and the dreamy music that accompanies it.
This is the track that got me back into FFX’s soundtrack after years of leaving the game, and is a surprisingly underrated track that I think should be brought up more often in soundtrack topics. Some of the people that have listened to this track compared it to the “Phendrana Drifts” theme from Metroid Prime because it sounds almost similar.
After Ashe witnessed the potency of the powerful substance known as Nethecite when it was used for war, Larsa advised Ashe to travel to Mt. Bur-Omisace to seek advice about stopping the approaching war between Arcadia and Rozzaria. Ashe must seek out the power to destroy Nethecite and spare Dalmasca from becoming the battlefield for both of the clashing empires.
Ashe and her party must first ascend the Paramina Rift to get to Mt. Bur-Omisace. The track, “Seeking Power”, is the atmospheric background music for the Paramina Rift section. The Paramina Rift is a mountain path that has been carved through the massive iron gray mountains of rock and ice. Snow will occasionally fall through the bleak, gray skies to be collected on the ground below where it would accumulate enough to swallow any traveler’s feet in its cold depths. The ascending path is lonely, and you’ll only be accompanied by your suspenseful thoughts and the treacherous creatures that are around you as you struggle up the mountain.
This track captures both the atmospheric feeling of the area and also the feel of the plot as well. The title, “Seeking Power”, is relevant to the point in the plot when Ashe begins to seek power from learning about the Nethecites in order to save her homeland, Dalmasca, from war. The track also conveys the feeling of loneliness but with a touch of suspense through its notes. The piano portion plays light, short flighty notes that sound as if they are footsteps that provoke your curiosity to listen and see where it leads. As the track nears its ending, the music sounds more mysterious, and then it suddenly ends with heavier notes as if the suspenseful buildup has finally reached its conclusion.
I definitely feel like this is one of the better atmospheric tracks in the game. It fits the setting with the right mood and also the title is relevant to the story.
The Ivalice series has its own distinguishable roster of summonable entities named “Scions” .The Scions have made an appearance in the Tactics spin offs (but not summonable in FFT) and also in Final Fantasy XII as well. They appear as “Espers” in FFXII, and although summonable, they must be defeated first to be claimed. This entry is for talking about the background music named “Battle with an Esper” that plays whenever the player engages the Espers.
The soundtrack debuts when the player fights the first Esper, Belias, in the Tomb of Raithwall. Before the battle starts, the player is greeted with a slow, marching tempo that attempt to inspire fear by using dramatic percussion and scaling trumpets as the hook to draw the player in. The chorus will take turns being in the foreground as the main theme of the track plays. As the track moves on, increments of the dramatic tone can be heard, and it matches the rising tension due to the crescendo of the match between the player and the Esper.
This track has a strong and dynamic feel with great dramatic tones in its sound. The use of the trumpets and the vocals are great at creating a dramatic effect that hangs over the battle and making it sound like an epic battle between you and the Esper. I personally haven’t liked a boss track this much since FFVIII’s “Force your way”.
You have been across all of Spira for the sake of your pilgrimage. You have been through disasters, faced corruption, and saw the suffering that Sin inflicts with your own eyes. But you still strife to complete your pilgrimage because the Final Aeon awaits you. As you cross the desolated ruins of the real Zanarkand, memories of the pilgrimage drifts and swarms around you like the pyreflies hovering above. The track, “Someday the dream will end”, accompanies you on this journey together.
This track will play at certain scenes before the Zanarkand Ruins, but I feel that the track is the most relevant when it plays on the overpass to Zanarkand Dome. The track opens with a sad flute melody, but it becomes more optimistic as the piano and the synth starts to joins in. The main body of the song will be more uplifting because of the change in the dynamics. The track did a fantastic job of sounding optimistic while not being overly dynamic and loud. It feels as if the track is commemorating all of the sadness accumulated from the pilgrimage, but giving you optimism that things will be looking up from now on.
I feel like this is just an unforgettable track in the game and in the series overall. It brilliantly fits the mood for all of the scenes that it plays in because of its strong emotional appeal and pleasing melody.
“Listen to my story. This may be our last chance”.
When you first started the game you might have wondered why the party was silently huddling around a campfire while sad music played in the background. You’ll then accumulate the experiences that they have through the pilgrimage, and then suddenly be able to connect with the significance of the opening scene. The track, “To Zanarkand”, helps to connect the player with this particular scene through its music
“To Zanarkand” is the main theme of the game and is the parent of a few other tracks in the soundtrack. “To Zanarkand” is most noted for being the accommodating track to the opening scene, and it also plays in other parts of the game as well. This track features a captivating piano melody that is melancholic but beautiful at the same time. What surprises me the most is that the track is fairly simple compared to the complexity of other tracks that are mostly multi-layered, but sometimes simplicity still works to achieve the desired effect. The track strongly manages to capture the moment with its slow pace that carries soft notes ladled with sadness. The rising and falling of the notes are also gracefully done and the ending of each loop ends with a nice touch.
“To Zanarkand” is one of the most mentioned tracks when fans are discussing the soundtrack. I guess that it just shows that Nobuo has managed to compose a simple and truly memorable track for this game. “To Zanarkand”’s melody has also been the base for other tracks like “Movement in green” and “Suteki Da Ni” where you can hear some similarities in the notes.
Thank you for reading my Top Ten.
I know that there are numerous other tracks in the PS2 era and that ten slots can’t represent them all. If your favorite track has not been mentioned in the Honorable Mentions section below then please tell me, but don’t discredit the list because of it.
If you have any other comments and/or suggestions, please PM or visit me on the Top Ten board.
Suteki Da Ne
Someday the dream will end
Movement in Green
Hymn of the Fayth
Theme of the Empire
Kiss me goodbye
Clash on the big bridge
The Dalmasca Eastersand
The Phon Coast
List by highwind07 (05/20/2013)
Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.
Would you recommend this Top 10? Yes No You must register to leave a comment. Submit