Final Fantasy 14’s Soundtracks Are The Best In The Series
I have spent thousands of hours as the Warrior of Light. Slaying dragons, ending wars, leading revolutions, liberating the oppressed, and saving entire realms – I’ve done it all. I’ve been in on all the community jokes, the endearing sense of humor that fills Eorzea thanks to an incredible dev team. I’m a living encyclopedia on the game’s lore, repeating bizarre details to friends that they had long forgotten. I’ve attended in-game parties, celebrating birthdays and weddings all night long. There are all of these odds and ins that make Final Fantasy 14 such an incredible experience, but I think it’s this game’s series of eclectic soundtracks that will stick with me forever.
Masayoshi Soken scores almost all of it; his work spans the base game, three expansions, and each patch. Then there’s Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, the man largely responsible for FF14’s lyrical genius. The two of them are what truly make FF14’s world linger with me, long after logging off, and I think it’s their work together – as one of gaming’s most talented duos – that make FF14 a titan amongst other Final Fantasy entries.
While A Realm Reborn has some unforgettable melodies, I think it’s Heavensward that really takes my breath away. Outside of static cutscenes, I find so many RPGs – Final Fantasy included – forget that carefully scripted fights working in tandem with their score can make even more of an impression. Take Equilibrium, for example, carefully mending both the fight, lore, and lyrics into the battle with the goddess, Sophia. It highlights the devastation a Meracydian family faces during the Allagan war after the death of their father, and is punctuated by lyrics expressing Sophia’s desire for balance and justice.
In the fight, you’ll pay close attention to Sophia’s weights at each end of the arena, reacting to battle mechanics and shifting positions to maintain balance so as not to fall off the arena. While struggling to stay alive, the solemn voice of a woman sings, “A daughter’s desperate cries, unheard pleas. Forsaken, beaten, tried, on her knees. A prayer passes from her lips. Into her soul the Goddess whispers.” And then the verses kick in spoken from the boss, Sophia, telling a young woman that she must murder her mother to fix the imbalance caused by her father’s death, and she does. Sophia’s fight isn’t a major story beat, but it’s something you’re still able to learn about through Koji Fox and Soken’s work.
Sophia’s fight is a breathtaking display on all accounts, but it’s the music that steals the performance. FF14’s battle with Yotsuyu does this again later in Stormblood, somehow topping previous performances with its song Wayward Daughter. While the music plays, you see Yotsuyu’s visions of her abusive family, and then the lyrics deliver the full picture of her trauma. The song is carefully timed with the fight choreography, and if you listen while you fight the distraught Yotsuyu, it becomes a little harder to feel smug in your victory.
Then there are tracks like Tomorrow and Tomorrow from Shadowbringers, which may not have any fights expertly crafted to honor the arrangement, but it’s a touching tribute to you, the Warrior of Light, and the game’s resilient cast. Its haunting vocals and soft piano manage to strike a balance between sad, hopeful, and bittersweet that I struggle to articulate. But as you look back on the hours of fighting through Shadowbringers, the lyrics of “Stand tall, my friend,” and “May all of the dark deep inside you find light again,” send me into a fit of tears.
All of my ravings for FF14 are no dig at the other Final Fantasy games, either. They’re quite brilliant, and even in the absence of lyrical achievements or clever fight implementation, tracks from just about every mainline entry will land somewhere in a list of favorites. It’s not a slight, but a telling accolade I give to FF14 because of its musical team’s remarkable feats. With every new FF14 track, I’m searching for hidden bits of lore, paying extra attention to boss mechanics, looking for secrets the dev team may be hiding for those of us delighted in the smallest of details. Few games excite me that way, but as we head into Endwalker, I find myself studying its new trailer theme almost obsessively – trying to look for a wink and a nod anywhere.
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