For my money, one of the most interesting aspects of a game’s creation is the composition and orchestration of its music. With Final Fantasy, that’s doubly the case because for me, and I imagine for so many others, its soundtrack is one of its best parts. Be it lo-fi channels, new arrangements, compilations, piano versions, or something else, Final Fantasy music makes its way into many of my playlists.
That’s why I was so excited to chat with composer Masayoshi Soken about his score for Final Fantasy XVI. You might recognize his name as he’s also the composer of Final Fantasy XIV. Still, if you don’t, there’s a chance it’s a name you come to remember following the release of FFXVI because after spending more than three hours of hands-on time with the game in Square Enix’s Tokyo, Japan, office, I’m confident we’re about to get a banger of a score.
Final Fantasy XVI Composer Masayoshi Soken
In talking with Soken, I wanted to speak to him about some of the major themes and melodies of any Final Fantasy game – things like the Prelude, the main theme, the Victory Fanfare, and more – and he had plenty to say. In this four-part series, I’ll be breaking down different aspects of the music that excite me and hopefully you too.
The Music of Final Fantasy XVI Part 2 – Creating The Victory Fanfare
Much like the familiar Final Fantasy melody called the Prelude (which you can read about here), the series’ Victory Fanfare is also a well-known jingle. And similar to the Prelude, it shifts to match wherever it appears. Composed by famed Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu for the original 1987 release of Final Fantasy I, it has since appeared in nearly every Final Fantasy game. If you don’t recognize its name, there’s still a good chance you’re familiar with the melody.
Check out the Final Fantasy Victory Fanfare below:
I was curious how Soken created a new Victory Fanfare for FFXVI. He’s done it before, and you’ll hear it often in FFXIV, but it resembles its classic counterparts more than anything else – deep brass instruments, some bright trumpets on top, and a booming chorus laid lightly behind it all to give it that extra oomph of gravitas. His Victory Fanfare for FFXVI sounds aptly more medieval and gothic. Unlike FFXIV, the booming chorus does most of the melodic work with impactful percussion accenting it. It’s quite different but fitting for the themes of revenge, war, and finding oneself amongst it all demonstrated in the game thus far.
Soken tells me that getting FFXVI’s Victory Fanfare to where it is today comes from a lot of learning through composing the music of FFXIV.
“As you know, I am working on Final Fantasy XIV as I work on Final Fantasy XVI [and] have been working on Final Fantasy XIV for a long time,” Soken says. “And I learned a lot by working on Final Fantasy XIV and I learned a lot of tricks that I could do to make certain songs sound a certain way. I kind of stumbled upon that if I use more male choice voices, [you get] a darker sound of the music.
“When having to create the Victory Fanfare for Final Fantasy XVI, knowing that this was a dark game, I immediately thought, ‘Okay, if I use a male choir, you’re going to get that type of dark, heavy sound and so I didn’t really have to think too much about it because it was just something that came to me from my past experience on Final Fantasy XIV.”
The Iron Kingdom of Valisthea
That said, Soken reveals that creating the Victory Fanfare we’ll hear this June wasn’t so easy. He says his first draft was outright bad.
“The first draft I made was absolutely terrible,” he tells me, laughing as he reminisces on it. “Because I wanted it to be perfect, I think I ended up working on it right until master, and I think I probably made about 30 different versions of the Fanfare.”
Right before master, though, which is game development speak for the final version of the game that goes gold, Soken says he found the one that worked perfectly. That’s the one we’ll hear in-game this month. If you’re a fan of Soken, you might be surprised to learn something he wrote is “absolutely terrible” because, let’s just call a spade a spade – his scores rule! But apparently, this process isn’t unusual. “It happens a lot,” he says.
Something I find especially interesting about the Victory Fanfare is that the chorus features lyrics, and FFXVI localization director (and one of the main faces for the game’s press so far) Michael-Christopher Koji Fox wrote most of them.
“I worked a lot with the head of localization on 14 and now the localization director on Final Fantasy XVI [Koji] – we worked together a lot on creating a lot of the tracks that I make,” Soken says. “And whenever I decide to put a chorus in a song, I can always go to Koji and ask him to write the lyrics for me. That’s what happened on the fanfare as well.”
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