Six of the best Masayoshi Soken tracks

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I dunno, I write about Final Fantasy XVI and mention that Masayoshi Soken is doing the soundtrack, and suddenly I’m in the mood for some Soken music. So I thought I’d indulge myself — and you, dear readers — with six of my favourite Soken tracks to date.

Quite a few of these are, of course, from Final Fantasy XIV — but let’s not forget that Soken has worked on a number of other games in his career, including one or two that might surprise you…

Bob-Omb Dodge: Level 2 (Mario Sports Mix)

Yes, Soken worked on a Mario game! Working alongside Kumi Tanioka (best known for her work on the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series), Soken put together an astonishingly good soundtrack for the oft-forgotten Wii title Mario Sports Mix, which was actually developed by Square Enix.

There’s some definite hints of Soken’s distinctive style throughout Mario Sports Mix’s surprisingly extensive soundtrack, particularly in terms of how he enjoys blending classical-inspired orchestral sounds with more modern timbres such as electric guitars and electronic synthesisers. Bob-Omb Dodge here is a personal highlight.

Blue Stream (Front Mission 5)

Admittedly something of an acquired taste, but quite a notorious entry from this soundtrack, regardless. While the majority of Front Mission 5’s soundtrack was composed by Hidenori Iwasaki, this track, which is intended to be an in-world sports advertisement, was the work of none other than Soken himself.

Combining a catchy rock riff with some rowdy, almost drunken-sounding singing by a vocalist group known, not entirely inappropriately, as The Poors, Blue Stream will certainly make an impression the first time you hear it. And you might be surprised how long it remains stuck in your head afterwards.

Thema of Love (Ikenie no Yoru)

This track, heard on the title screen for Japan-only Wii horror title Ikenie no Yoru (Night of Sacrifice) is the work of Soken and his collaborator on the project, Ai Yamashita (Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town). It’s an evocative, moody piece that captures the feeling of the game’s key art very nicely, combining atmospheric sounds of footsteps in the rain with a light, somewhat mournful piano motif.

It’s a shame we never got this one in the west — it sounds like an interesting horror game, in which a group of five unarmed teenagers explore a creepy mansion and attempt to avoid being touched by ghosts. The original Wii version made use of the Wii Balance Board in some creative ways as part of its control scheme!

From the Ashes (Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn)

Right, I’ve done my duty by highlighting some pre-FFXIV stuff that Soken has done, so it’s FFXIV all the way from hereon! We begin with this incredible track, which brings in the main A Realm Reborn theme and presents it in a chilling, mournful setting to accompany the battle against Phoenix.

This battle brought the narrative thread established in Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 to a pretty conclusive end, so it was a big moment for those who had been following the game from its very inception. For those who joined with A Realm Reborn, it was still a significant moment — albeit one that a lot of people didn’t get to see until later, thanks to it being part of the notoriously challenging Binding Coil of Bahamut series of 8-player raids.

Freefall (Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward)

Bringing Heavensward’s main plotline to a close, Freefall forms part of a three-phase boss fight against the dread wyrm Nidhogg. After the chillingly calming opening of the fight, accompanied by the mournful vocal number (and main theme of the expansion) Dragonsong, Freefall kicks in as the drama of the fight really begins to escalate.

It’s the sort of moment that will give you goosebumps all over your body the first time you encounter it — it’s just a shame that the very nature of Final Fantasy XIV means that this dramatic boss fight is mostly a cakewalk these days thanks to how well-geared most players are.

Nightbloom (Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood)

Bringing one of the most heartbreaking, tragic story arcs in all of Final Fantasy XIV to a close — seriously, I involuntarily teared up just thinking about it — this theme forms the opening of the Warrior of Light’s climactic battle against Tsukuyomi as part of the Stormblood expansion.

Like many of Soken’s best themes in Final Fantasy XIV, this song is very much its own thing, but also incorporates the main motif of the expansion it’s part of. The whole fight is one of the most emotional experiences in the entire game, and I defy anyone who hasn’t been skipping cutscenes not to be deeply affected by this whole narrative arc and how it comes to an end.

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Pete Davison
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