Final Fantasy Tactics – 1997 Composer Commentary

Final Fantasy Tactics – Composer Commentary

In the Japanese version of Final Fantasy Tactics, a hidden sound test menu can be accessed by entering “BGMききたい” as Ramza’s name. Sadly this was cut for the non-Japanese releases. It’s too bad, as it contained composer commentary for each track and unused music by Sakimoto / Iwata, as well as several unique compositions for the sound novels (also cut) by co-composers Yuko Miura and Yukiko Mitsui.

1. Unavoidable Battle – This was the first battle theme I created. I actually made another before this, but it was too happy-sounding, so they rejected it. As a reaction to that rejection, I created this more pointed, exaggerated song. By the way, that rejected song was re-purposed and used for the Unit Introduction theme, which is played over the opening demo. (Iwata)

2. Run Past Through The Plain – This tune ended up as the third battle theme. The previous two battle themes were too “in your face”, I thought, so I decided to make a song with a central melody that was a bit more friendly. Somehow it ended up sounding like something you’d hear at a matsuri (local festival), though. (Iwata)

3. Back Fire – The title for this is actually “Chotto Otona no Daakuman” (“A More Mature Darkman”). Long story short, a few years ago for Tactics Ogre I composed a last boss theme called “Darkman Abikyoukan” (“Darkman Pandemonium”), and it was this up-tempo, kind of insane sounding song. This song for FFT didn’t quite reach that level of madness, hence the title. Um, ok, I guess that was a long story after all. (Iwata)

4. Random Waltz – This was the very first battle theme I wrote, and served as something of a test for the different sampling techniques I wanted to try out. As such, it’s very memorable for me. When I think back to writing this, it feels like it was 5 years ago, but in reality it was only half a year. (Sakimoto)

5. A Chapel – For this one, I tried to evoke the feeling that you were fighting in the midst of mother nature all around you. Or something, hehe. (Sakimoto)

6. Bloody Excrement – This one I wrote while thinking about FFT’s protagonist, Mr. Forest Bear.1 My original plan for this song was for it to feel like a pleasant, heartwarming tale of Mr. Bear’s family adventure, and you know, I have to say that I nailed it… Just kidding, that’s all a lie. Sorry. (Sakimoto)

7. Decisive Battle – This one feels… how to put it… out of step? With the historical period of the game. Instead of sword and sorcery, it sounds more like a muscle-bound action hero wielding a gatling gun in one hand. Apologies if it sounds a little phoned in. I’d do it differently now. (Iwata)

8. Night Attack – My older bro Sakimoto, when he first heard this song, said to me, “It sounds like something that a foreigner would make if he was trying to write something ‘Japanese’ sounding.” Damn, bro! That’s harsh! But yeah, it’s true that I have been playing too many Western games lately. I really did want the atmosphere to feel like a night raid, but the latter half of the song sounds like the soldiers are all dancing around or something. Bah. (Iwata)

9. Under the Stars – So yeah, every now and then I figure “I should write a normal song”, but when I do, oh my! The frequency range of the instrumentation is a little overstuffed.2 (Iwata)

10. Remnants – This song is called “zun zun”, but the original title was longer: “zun zurizuri zunzun”.3 It was too many letters so I had to shorten it. (Sakimoto)
I’ve included links to the individual songs, but if you prefer to have them all in one place, here is the full OST.

11. Antipyretic – This is used in scenes where Ramza’s principles come into conflict with the other characters. Can’t we all just get along? (Sakimoto)

12. Trisection – This one gives you a feeling of justice and righteousness, right? It appears to have been used in a lot of scenes like that. (Sakimoto)

13. Antidote – I think this one evokes the cold because of all the twinkling sounds I used. I love the snow! (Sakimoto)

14. Apoplexy – I made this when I was very sleepy. It’s like a bad dream. (Sakimoto)

15. Desert Land – A silent Western… in thermo-underwear. (laughs) (Sakimoto)

16. Espionage – “This one’s got some weird Musical thing going on, heh heh heh.” That’s what sound engineer Motoko Watanabe said about this song. Be warned, those who say such things are not safe from my sobat kick! (Rolling Sakimoto)

17. The Pervert – The boss music. Seriously though, when they first showed me the concept art illustration for the boss, lil’ old me almost fainted. I came up with my own keyword for it, “the pervert”, and wrote the song around that image. (Iwata)

18. Ultima, The Nice Body – Ajora’s map… keep rotating that map! Turn, turn, turn!4 (Sakimoto Rollin’)

19. Ultima, The Perfect Body! – This song was a real pain in the ass. I wrote the first half of it, but it felt somewhat weak and wimpy to me, so I wrote the latter half as a whole different song. Ultimately I ended up liking them both, so I merged them. I mean, I guess they fit. I think I may have done a poor job welding them together though. (Iwata)

20. I did it, first place! (yatta ze ittoushou)5 – I’d like to visit an onsen sometime. Some place with good seafood and sake. (Iwata)

21. Aww, 2nd Place (zannen nitoushou) – What do you mean “a bike?!” At least make it electric. (Iwata)

22. Job LvUp S – Lucky! (Sakimoto)

23. Generic Unhappiness (fukou bonyou) – Unlucky! (Sakimoto)

24. Job LvUp L – Super Lucky! (Sakimoto)

25. Mr. Bear Goes to the Ball – Today is Mr. Bear’s long-awaited day of the ball! Together with a young maiden at his side, he heads towards to the ballroom. But disaster strikes when he is discovered by the mean old Captain of the Guard, who throws rocks at Mr. Bear and tries to drive him away. Pushed to the brink, Mr. Bear’s fighting instincts awaken and in a blind fury he massacres all the humans—only to realize, in his bloodlust, he’s slaughtered his beloved maiden too. Behold, the Bloody Waltz of Mr. Bear, with tears in eyes… (Iwata)

Hitoshi Sakimoto, ca 1996.

26. Tutorial – Ah, the peaceful lives of the border guards. They’ve absolutely nothing to do. Wake up, have breakfast, eat lunch, tea at 3, eat dinner, back to sleep. (Iwata)

27. World Map – There’s nothing like a glass of milk in the morning!6 One strikes a fine pose standing there, hand on hip, gulping down a glass of milk. It’s good for your morning digestion too. It’s even better if you get up for an early morning run, and nab the fresh milk from an unsuspecting neighbor’s doorstep. A thrilling way to get the adrenaline pumping. (Iwata)

28. Shop – I think this song might have been the first time I used woodwinds in a normal, standard way. It felt like an “honest accounting” for myself too. Um, I don’t know what that really means, but… (laughs) (Iwata)

29. Warrior’s Hideout – “Uninspiring” is how I’d describe the mood here.7 (Sakimoto)

30. Fur, Meat, and Bones Store – Having recovered from the psychological trauma of the “Bloody Waltz” incident, and with a lovely new maiden in tow, one day Mr. Bear decided they’d take a visit to the local Fur Shop. When they entered the shop, the maiden let out a scream. “Aieeeeee!” There, hung up on the wall, was a fur pelt that was the spitting image of Mr. Bear! In fact, it was Mr. Bear’s long-lost young brother! Mr. Bear emitted a deep growl—the flames of revenge had been rekindled…! (Iwata)

31. Team Making – Now this one’s a bit more inspiring. (Sakimoto)

32. Brave Story – There’s a certain nonchalance about him.8 He only ever talks about his work, but he’s really a good guy. We expect great things from him. (Sakimoto)

33. Pub – What’s new? Ah, nothing much, the usual. Things are alright. Oh! You know that girl you were messing around with? She said next time she sees you, she’s gonna kill you. What did you do?! Whaaat?! That’s horrible! That’s no way for a human being to act. Oh look, here she is! (Iwata)

34. Character Making – Hmm, what’s this. Hm. Ehhhhh… mmm.. Hhmph. What is it though? Oh, I see now. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. (Iwata)

35. Job Report (kakutei shinkoku) – It was a challenging job, but we were blessed with fine weather, and everything went smoothly. Along our journey we encountered a chest, and steeling our courage, dared to open it… This job was a success! (Sakimoto)

36. In Pursuit – This wasn’t used for a battle report, was it?9 Really, you want to use it for a battle theme? Huh? Are you sure the mood fits? Hahahah! Well, that was my intention all along! Buwahahaha. (Sakimoto)

37. Ovelia’s Worries – I’m losing so much hair! *sob whimper sob* (Sakimoto) 10

38. Treasure – “Have I ever had so much fun?” I wondered nervously to myself, just before I #(&*$ up. (Sakimoto)

39. Ritual Picture Book – The nightmare deepens. On the CD, this was combined with Apoplexy into one song. (Sakimoto)

40. Algus’ Theme – At first, this was song supposed to be used for some kind of minigame. But I guess that got removed, right? Anyway, my image while composing this was the journey of a drop of rain from a mountaintop, down to where it joins a river… childish, I know. (Iwata)

41. Data Screen – Let me sleep! It’s my bedtime goddamnitttt!!! (Sakimoto)

42. Attack Team – Hmm, when I hear it now, it reeks of the countryside. I still love it though. The truth is, I wanted that first melody to be played on the bagpipe, but for certain reasons it didn’t happen. (Iwata)

43. Battle’s End – Looks like we won, Sir Hiroshi. Once again you have bested a great many foes! (Sakimoto)

44. Final Battle Fanfare – Now this is the stuff. Seriously. Who knew I could write such a bright, cheerful tune brimming with hope! It kind of feels like paying your respects at the first sunrise of the New Year, doesn’t it? Or maybe a public bathhouse on Mt. Fuji. Mm, maybe I made it a little too warm and cozy. (Iwata)

45. LvUp S – Uppy! (Sakimoto)

46. Treasure Discovered (Zaihou Hakken) – Yappi! (Sakimoto)

Masaharu Iwata (2018)

47. Generic Happiness – Sora Man C~11 (Sakimoto)

48. Generic Unhappiness – What?! (Sakimoto)

49. Heh heh heh! – You know, I feel like it’s weird if all I ever write are macho, stoic, knuckle-dragging masculine songs. Yeah, there’s something weird about that. Yup. That’s why I tried writing a more light-hearted fantastical song with this one. Or something. I got some goosebumps from it. Blegh. (laughs) (Iwata)

50. Game Over – The pain, the horror, the sadness. Why?! (Sakimoto)

51. Chapel – This song was created for a scene right after you begin the game, where our hero Mr. Bear is praying at the church. Mr. Bear just woke up from his winter hibernation, and his appetite is something fierce… (Enemies Attack!). Ouchhh. (laughs) (Sakimoto)

52. Enemy Attack – His instincts reawoken, Mr. Bear starts attacking the humans around him! What’s wrong Mr. Bear?! Wasn’t this supposed to be a Family Adventure…? Why, Mr. Bear, oh god, why… (Act 1 Complete) (Sakimoto)

53. Cadets – A little bad guy doing a little dance. (Sakimoto)

54. Anxiety Before the Battle – They love each other passionately. It takes all types, I guess.12 (Iwata)

55. Suspicious Atmosphere – People who feel an irresistible urge to stab someone, people for whom the nails in their voodoo doll constitutes their “life work”, people who can’t stop sending unhappy letters, people who can’t help themselves from pinching children’s cheeks…… those psychologies are not my own, but my mind can produce similarly suspicious music. Though I admit, I do give the side eye to the person who dashes into the elevator at the last second… (Iwata)

56. Cry of Pain! – Where Mr. Bear has trod, the grass no longer grows… (Sakimoto)

57. Strategy – Let us pray for a bountiful harvest next year. Maybe some heads? (laughs)13

58. Requiem – During the development I discovered a bug in sound programmer Hidenori Suzuki’s drivers. I watched him struggling to fix it, Ashita no Joe style, and this song was my attempt to capture that desperation of his. The atmosphere is such a match it scares me. Please, Suzuki, don’t kill yourself. (laughs) (Sakimoto)

59. The Cardinal’s Anger – The view from Square’s office here is phenomenal. If this wasn’t my place of work I could probably really enjoy it. (laughs) But when I see that morning sun coming up through the window after another all-nighter, my body feels so frightfully tired. The normally invigorating morning air is wasted on my weary self. Heh, sorry, there’s no punchline to this little story. Welp, on to the next song. (Iwata)

60. Advent – Fellow esteemed Developers, I’ve gathered you today for… just kidding, this is an execution.14 (Iwata)

61. Memories – Ramza’s theme in a major key. A small moment of happiness. (Sakimoto)

62. The Queen’s Arms (joousama no ude) – A little ennui. (Sakimoto)

63. Cry of Pain – The villain, just before going mad. (Sakimoto)

64. Terror 1 – I always write my music at home, and then upload it to the Playstation at the music room in Square’s offices the next day, but for this song, I created it entirely at Square. The music room has this weird phenomenon, where if you make a call on your cell phone, every few minutes the reception will get really horrible. It made me wonder, are there magnetic waves of some sort swirling around in here? The melody in this song is a reflection of that thought. (Iwata)

65. Terror 2 – Excerpts from Mr. Bear’s Journal of Madness:

“Hehehee! I’m not the same Bear I was yesterday…
I can’t help it, it’s my instincts…
It’s your fault! For approaching me so carelessly…
I’m not the same Bear I was—I’m not even a normal Bear anymore, hehehe!
I’ll &$%* with humans, anyone, I make no distinctions now.
Yeah my Japanese is weird, but what do you expect, I’m just a Bear.” (Iwata)

66. Ovelia’s Theme – This is Queen Ovelia’s theme. Contrary to what you might expect, she was actually a very good person, so I felt very sorry for her (the reason is a secret). (Sakimoto)

67. Alma’s Theme – In the course of making Final Fantasy Tactics, Alma’s character changed two or three times. She was a bear at first. (just kidding) (Sakimoto)

68. Delita’s Theme – This one feels a bit gloomy, and it’s suffused with a feeling of suspicion to everyone around him. Seeing Delita’s actions, there was a moment where I felt something in common with him. The four main character themes here were all supposed to be derived from a common theme… “supposed to” is the key word. (laughs) (Sakimoto)

69. The Queen’s Pet – My work’s done for the day. (Sakimoto)

70. Dycedarg’s Theme – This was originally meant to be used as Dycedarg’s Theme, but it ended up being used more generally to symbolize the nobility’s power. It’s brimming with that oyaji (old man) soul. (Sakimoto)

In December 2011 an amateur orchestral group held an event where they arranged some FFT music for orchestra, and Sakimoto and Iwaharu showed up as surprise guests.

71. Zalbag, the Holy Knight – This, too, was originally meant to be Zalbag’s theme, but instead it became the theme for whenever things start to take a turn for the better. (Sakimoto)

72. Thunder God Cid – It’s really Joe Shishido’s theme. (kidding!) (Sakimoto)

73. Hero’s Theme – Ramza’s theme, in a reminiscing key. FYI, this was another song where I discovered a small bug in the driver. Poor Suzuki turned pale when he found out. That made me a little happy. (laughs) (Sakimoto)

74. St. Ajora’s Theme – It’s the music for when Ajora is saying, “Come here, come here”. Of course, Mr. Bear couldn’t resist her wiles. For some reason this song was very popular with female listeners, I wonder why? The joy of spotting the pattern in it, maybe? (Sakimoto)

75. St. Ajora’s Theme Deluxe – Ajora finally reveals her true self and takes action! Wake up Mr. Bear, this is no time to play dumb! (Sakimoto)

76. Tension 1 – Just simple tense music, unrelated to any of the other musical themes. Mr. Bear was spellbound… no, just kidding. It’s just some tense background music. (Sakimoto)

77. Battle on the Bridge – This was really “Tension 2”. I tried to weave in a number of different musical themes, and bring out a sense of urgency and tension. (Sakimoto)

78. Shock! Despair – The music has this Toccata in Fugue feeling, but I think I might have made it a little too girlish sounding…? (Sakimoto)

79. And I Ran Away – Ta-daaaa! Too strong? (Sakimoto)

80. Mysterious Ajora (nazonazo ajora) – I had originally planned to write serious commentary for all my songs above. But when I saw Mitsui’s comments below, well, they egged me on and I couldn’t help myself. (laughs) By the way, people have told me my music is kaleidoscopic, but that the dominant colors are green and black. (Sakimoto)

81. Battle – When I write battle themes, there’s a tendency for them to feel a bit detached, like someone watching the battle unfold from afar. I’m afraid it’s true that if I were a soldier, I’d probably try to hang there in the back and keep my head down! A coward like me can probably never write a real rousing, life-or-death battle theme… (Yukiko Mitsui)

82. Battle Ver. 2 – A battle theme where it feels like you’re going to win. I kind of get a picture in my head of an army, 1000 strong, flying their flag on an open grassy field. The sky is clear, an early morning perhaps. This is another situation where I’d prefer to be hanging back by some rock, blowing the battle horn or something. Of course, even those soldiers sometimes get hit by stray bullets. (Yukiko Mitsui)

83. Walking Theme – Long ago, when I lived in a castle, at 2PM I would go for my daily walk, and this song was always playing in the garden. The fountain was gurgling, the birds gently chirping… what? Where do I live now, you ask? Well… here’s a hint: it begins with “ho” and ends with “ya”. Everyone gets it wrong, but it’s within Tokyo, and they recently discovered a kofun grave there. (Yukiko Mitsui)

84. In the Forest – This is my favorite song. A cold forest, a dark forest, a scary forest… my image for it gradually morphed until ultimately settling into its present shape. You know how sometimes you’re wandering through a forest, being mocked by the birds and the wind, and then you finally emerge from the trees into a clearing only to behold: another forest in front of you! It’s like, the greatest foe is not our enemies, but being alone… (Yukiko Mitsui)

85. Bad Hormones – As the title suggest, I wrote this during that time. I wanted to forget about FFT for a bit, and hoping for a change of mood, I switched on my TV, and what do I immediately see? A commercial for FF7! Ahhhh…! after I pulled myself together I went back to composing. I tried changing the key I was working in, and changing the sounds/textures. Whenever I have to do routine, non-creative work, my bad mental hormones always come out, so I decided that day it was for the best to stop writing and go shopping. (Yukiko Mitsui)

Thanks to @PunkrawkBbob, here are all the unreleased songs from FFT in one convenient place, including Mitsui and Miura’s sound novel compositions!

86. Revenge – The first song I wrote for FFT. It was Christmas night, and I remember thinking to myself, everyone is out there enjoying this evening while I’m sitting here working on this song about revenge! But I was very much enjoying myself. Now that I think about it, this song is probably the most “Yukiko” of all the ones I wrote. Especially that chord on the 21st measure…?! I’m all about harmony… for me the order of importance goes harmony > melody > rhythm. (Yukiko Mitsui)

87. Yamanaka Lake of Terror – One night I had to take a taxi to Yamanaka Lake Studio by myself. We were driving through the pitch black mountains, when all of a sudden, the driver stops the engine and turns off the lights! I felt an indescribable terror in that moment… was I about to be murdered?! After about a minute he said something and re-started the car, but this song was my attempt to recreate the fear of that 1 minute. It was scary… (Yukiko Mitsui)

88. Love Love Happy – It’s amazing how the harp sound here so clearly evokes moonlight and the sound of the ocean. I wonder what harp strings are made of? Perhaps whale whiskers that have soaked up the moonlight? What a fantastic thought. Wait. Do whales have whiskers…? As it turns out, the correct answer is that harp strings are made of sheep guts (for the lower strings) and nylon (the higher ones). (Yukiko Mitsui)

89. Stillness of Night – My image for this was a person walking home on a moonlit night, listening to the sound of insects around them. The air is cold, and there’s no one around, but when I think of you my heart warms… well, anyway, this was the last song I wrote for FFT. I was in high spirits as I headed towards Square’s offices, but at Meguro Station someone called out to me and asked if I wanted to be an AV star, and my mood suddenly turned blue… (Yukiko Mitsui)

90. Relief – When I write a song like this in between dark, heavier pieces, it’s like a much-needed breath of relief. On this occasion, I was in need of something especially heartwarming, so I went to see the movie Fly Away Home. The first scene, with a car accident, used this quiet song in the background, and I thought to myself, “ah, yes, there are many ways to use BGM…” I started out watching it with a calm, detached attitude, but before I knew it I was all tears. Animal movies, you know… (Yukiko Mitsui)

91. Sky Travel – This is super niche, but I actually have synaesthesia and see colors with certain tones: Do is red, Mi is pink, and so forth. This song I approached from reverse: the sky is blue, and blue is Fa for me, so I’ll compose it around that note. If anyone else out there sees colors with sounds, please tell me about it! From what I’ve read it’s about 1 in 100 people. (Yukiko Mitsui)

92. Brain Slicer – So yeah, it was the end of March when they asked me to write comments for these songs. It had been 2 months since I finished writing the last song, but I had long since spread my wings and flown away, as it were, and couldn’t remember which songs were actually selected. All I could remember is that there were a lot of rejections.  (Yuko Miura)

93. In our Limited Time – Now, have you ever thought about the concept of “time”? What is time? For some the days fly by, the years quickly turn over… hmm, I don’t know, I just can’t put my finger on this feeling. Along the same lines, no one can know for sure, of course, but given that someday in the future we all must die, I think time is the increment in which we measure our lives. What will you do with yours…? (Yuko Miura)

94. I feel like I’ve heard that one before – Encountering a song that you feel like you’ve heard somewhere before… it happens a lot, right? I know I’ve heard this somewhere, I know it! And when you happen to discover that connection, it’s a great feeling, isn’t it? The Earth is old, and there’s nothing truly new under the sun. We only make tweaks and adjustments on the inventions that have come before us. And so it is with this song, too. (Yuko Miura)

95. Little Wing – It was incredibly difficult for me to find a good orchestral sound for the bassline which sets the rhythm for this song. It was one of those moments where I was confronted with the shallowness of the well from which I draw my ideas as a composer. And admitting that will certainly make people think I’m an idiot, I’m afraid… But it’s true. There’s something “cool” about game development for sure, but for FFT, I couldn’t help but feel like the uncoolest piece of the puzzle. This song flies though, don’t it? Hence the title. (Yuko Miura)

96. FearAfter – This kind of thing happened a lot during the writing of these songs, but I put most of these together in the wee hours of the morn, around 2 AM. My mind kept going back to a famous horror game I once played, and that feeling of fear was on my mind while I composed. That was 9 years ago so probably most people wouldn’t know the game. If you’re in your 30s and above you might know it. Yeah, that’s the one. Where you have to divide your party as you explore, and the indescribable feeling of fear that wells up in your chest… that’s the one.15 *shiver* (Yuko Miura) 

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  1. One of many “in-jokes” the composers seem to have enjoyed, that’s never really explained.

  2. Probably a reference to the numerous high-frequency sounds used in this song.

  3. A reference to the rythm of the opening motif.

  4. Probably a pervy joke about turning the map to see Ajora’s scantily clad body from different angles.

  5. These are unused tracks that did not appear on the official OST either. The only way to hear them is through the in-game music test; I don’t believe they’ve been uploaded online.

  6. The Japanese title given in the sound test is “Morning Milk”

  7. Possibly a joke about the Japanese title, “shokugyou anteijou”, or Public Employment Agency

  8. The Japanese title of this is “Arzalam’s Room”, so the jokey comments here are likely about him.

  9. The Japanese title is “Battle Report” (senkyou houkoku)

  10. The Japanese title is “Ovelia’s Hair”

  11. No one, including Japanese players, know what this means.

  12. The Japanese title given here is Hymn to Love.

  13. The joke title here is “Harvest Dance of the Ra Tribe”

  14. The Japanese joke title is “Beheading Time!”

  15. From the time and her description of the game, I think she’s talking about Sweet Home for the Famicom, which had a famous movie tie-in too.

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