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Why Are Iconic Songs Missing in The Official Final Fantasy Digital Albums? March 15, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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For years, gamers have held the musical score of the Final Fantasy games in high regard. The series composer, Nobuo Uematsu, deserves major credit for that honor. There isn’t a gamer anywhere that wouldn’t stop and recognize when they hear Prelude, or tear up when they hear Aerith’s Theme. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy VIII’s Man with a Machine Gun is a regular song on my workout playlist and Final Fantasy X’s Blitz Off is my driving jam. I guess you could say the soundtrack to Final Fantasy is the soundtrack to my daily life, it is just iconic. Anyways, I could go on listing all the great songs composed for the series over the years, but that’s not what you’re here to read about.

For all the love gamers have for this great music, there is not much Square has done to capitalize on that love. In the US, it was difficult to find official music releases for Final Fantasy games. Music CDs imported from Japan will play fine in US stereos, but they are historically sold at high prices (about double what we pay in the US), and international customers are required to pay additional fees (shipping, import) to obtain them. In the US, you could say the best option to get Final Fantasy game soundtracks is to purchase them through a digital music store such as iTunes. This has been a great option for long-time fans that Square Enix has only recently made available, and while the albums are typically priced about the same as they would be if they had been purchased in Japan (around $24 US), it is usually due to the fact that the soundtracks contain enough songs that would back in the day require releasing the album on at least two or more CDs.

The problem with buying a Final Fantasy album on iTunes is that unless you go through the provided set list track by track and compare it to the setlist included in a game like Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, there’s no guarantee EVERY song from the game will be included in the official soundtrack. I first learned about this issue after finishing Final Bar Line on my Nintendo Switch this past weekend. Many of the game’s tracks, some of which had been locked behind the Deluxe Pass, are not included in their respective game’s official album release. To say I was not happy to discover this was an understatement. If I’m paying for a game soundtrack, no matter how good the game is or how much I care about if. I expect it to have EVERY song from the game that I remember, especially if they’re charging double the price for it.

So, what is missing from the major releases? I think the biggest one I’ve found to be missing was the iconic Final Fantasy VIII song Eyes on Me. I know the song has had its detractors, particularly from the one known as Spoony, but it was a major song that tied into the love theme of the game. It also has continued to be included in the game’s multiple remasters and rereleases over the years and has been included in several Theatrhythm games over the years.

Sadly, neither the English nor the Japanese versions used in the game could be found in the game’s official digital soundtrack release. This is a major omission, as it is a known fact that Eyes on Me was heavily imported by FF8 fans back when it was new, and has become nearly as iconic a game song as Simple and Clean from Kingdom Hearts.

The next major song omission I’m going to talk about is only going to be recognized by the international Final Fantasy audience, and that’s the omission of My Hands from Final Fantasy XIII. This incredible song, performed by Leona Lewis, was added by Square’s international localization team. It is a heartbreaking song chosen to play during a bittersweet moment of triumph, and in the US it plays during the game’s final cutscene.

While many critics, particularly MarzGurl, don’t consider this a Final Fantasy song due to the fact it was added by the localization team and isn’t in the original Japanese release, I absolutely do for two reasons. The first is the reason I already mentioned, the second is the fact the song was heavily pushed in the game’s marketing. My Hands would get used in FFXIII‘s television commercials. So, in the US at least, this song is iconically intertwined with the game. Take a look at this official trailer for yourself and tell me this is not one of the best game trailers of all time.

Moving on from the PS3 generation, let’s now talk about the last generation. In the lead up for Final Fantasy XV, Square localized an HD remaster of a Japan-only PSP exclusive, Final Fantasy Type-0. Like most players, I became aware of this game when the HD version was released and bought it to check out the demo for Final Fantasy XV that was included. However, after I was done with the demo, I found a cool game that was paced like the PSP games I loved. In Final Curtain Call, I discovered the soundtrack included the song Zero. It turned out this is a licensed track performed by the band Bump of Chicken and while there was a major physical release for the game’s album back in 2011, the current digital album release does not include Zero. What a shame.

And let’s not forget that as of the time this editorial is being posted, NO complete Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack album exists for digital purchase on iTunes. Because of that, there is no option to get ANY original track from that game which essentially revolved around music and pop diva life in general. That means Real Emotion, We’re The Gullwings or my favorite Final Fantasy song, 1000 Words, cannot be purchased on iTunes at this time. That’s right, neither the English nor the Japanese versions of the climatic song, which was used in one of the best cutscenes produced in any FF game, can be legally purchased for digital download in the US. If you don’t know why I’m so upset about this, I’m going to put the scene the song is used in below just so you can watch it for yourself.

Some of these omissions could be chocked up to a rights issues. I do not accept that answer, especially given the high price of the albums in the current digital market. If they wanted to stop people from buying them outside of the album, iTunes does include the option for publishers to mark ALBUM ONLY tracks. Heck, the Theatrhythm games haven’t been able to include the English version of 1000 Words either (despite the fact the US version of the scene it was used in was separately created for English-speaking regions and is the version everyone in the US and Europe remembers).

My final disappointment is with the fact I haven’t seen a single Theatrhythm game include Leona Lewis’s My Hands from Final Fantasy XIII or the Florence and the Machine cover version of Stand By Me used in Final Fantasy XV. That said, Stand By Me can be found for sale on iTunes as a special singles release and is FANTASTIC!

Theatrhythm Final Curtain Call is out now for Switch and PS4.