We’re at the end of Shadowbringers. We’ve gotten to the end of the story, all the content we can get, and I don’t know about you but by now I think everyone should realize; Soken is a genius in music design. I could even see him being the new Uematsu going forward. He’s a master of doing different genres. He makes whatever music he wants and knocks it out of the park. Ballroom, dance, opera, rock, butt rock jazzy, atmospheric, and the list goes on.
So I wanted to fall into the trap of making a top five list. I wanted to share what songs I find to be the absolute best in the game and with so many tons of pieces of music no person will come to the same conclusions. So let’s see what I can give everyone to pick apart. But let’s set some ground rules because I want to have some variety. This isn’t actually going to be a Top 5. Songs 5 through 2 will actually be my favorite songs per expansion in order of expansion, rather than which I prefer most or least of the top 5.
And then number 1 will be my absolute favorite song across the whole game, no matter what expansion it is from. For that reason let me say now there will be major spoilers in this video, so turn away now if you are not caught up with the story. Or turn away when you get to an expansion you’ve not yet completed, since I’m going in order. First A Realm Reborn, then Heavensward, into Stormblood, and finishing with Shadowbringers. Then my favorite track in the entire game.
So it’s close enough to a top five! Just not quite. And remember, this is just my favorites. Feel free to share your favorite songs down below. Don’t be a jerk about it though, be respectful to other people’s opinions. Also know I am not a music studier person. This isn’t Alex Moukala’s channel - and sorry if I mispronounced his name. Point is, if you’re here for correct music terminology and deep dives that make sense, this ain’t the place. But all right, so I’ma just get right into it now! This was a tough fight, but “Answers” is the clear winner for me.
This opening cinematic is one of the greatest I have ever seen. Perfectly timed to every swell of the music, conveying every emotion. That chorus as the sky is lit up by falling fireballs, the distant explosions as the sky lights up blood red, and then the zoom out shot. The people’s terror and the timing of the harp with the distant explosions. From beginning to end, the song and cinematic play hand in hand. The drop in tone with Bahamut’s reveal, the slow build up with Louisoux’s appearance, the final defeated moment as the sealing fails… In a series with Final Fantasy 6 in it - where the entire world is destroyed in the process of the villain’s actions - this is probably the most graphic display of destruction I’ve seen in games. And yet it doesn’t actually show that much. The size and scale of Bahamut, the explosions, and the war that raged below are cleverly framed. The size of the cities compared to the destruction being wrought. And what always gets me is the moment we see the Warriors of Light just… standing there. Watching. They’re not even attempting to formulate a plan or follow or even throw inconsequential spells towards the dragon. The absolute decimation we see them pull off just before Bahamut escapes, means absolutely nothing against such an impossible beast.
04:16 - The constant reminders of The Calamity in the game really are just put into perspective when you think back to this scene. That anyone at all survived is a miracle in itself.
04:33 - On a bit of a brighter note, I have a runner-up choice; Leviathan’s “Through the Maelstrom. ” It’s the perfect mixture of butt rock and genuine rockin tunes. And it does so much with most of the lyrics just being “Leviathan” shouted over and over. It’s just a fun song to listen to because of how all over it is at points. Easily one of my favorite primal themes in general, on top of being my favorite A Realm Reborn primal theme.
05:08 - Forward and back and then forward and back and then go forward and back, then put one foot forward! Forward and back and then forward and back and then go forward and back, then put one foot forward! Maybe it’s all the time I spent in A11S, but this song is so damn catchy. Similar to Leviathan, most of the song is the same line over and over. And yet every individual saying has a slight difference that makes you feel like it’s going to change at any moment.
All the meanwhile, the music builds with every iteration. New layer every loop, until it hits a crescendo and breaks free of the loop, if just for a moment. It’s like a short section of freestyle before falling back into the loop, with the call to the song name. I unleash “Exponential Entrophy. ” Forward and back and then forward and back— It also helps that I like all of the Alexander themes. “Metal,” “Locus,” “Brute Justice Mode,” “Mobius,” but Cruise Chaser’s uniquely difficult fight along with such a catchy tune always has me coming back for it.
It helps that the entire player base has been reminded of the existence of Limit Cut thanks to Diamond Weapon Extreme. A mechanic that got its start in savage and has now made its move into extreme content, and I find that hilarious for a multitude of reasons. Honorary runner-up for Heavensward is “Dragonsong. ” Uematsu kills it once again for basically all the same reasons as “Answers” but not quite as much. Unfortunately we did not get a proper opening cinematic for Dragonsong in the same way as Answers.
The trailer includes some stellar shots that make parallel of the loneliness of the Warrior of Light, to the loneliness featured in the song, and other moments. But quickly pivots into just random story scenes of Heavensward. This is a beautiful piece about the Dragonsong War, of Hraesvelgr and Shiva, the pain and sorrow the dragons all feel for the betrayal at the hands of man. And when you deep dive into how dragons work, you realize just how deep the emotions run.
Humans are emotional creatures, but next to dragons we might as well be just stones at the side of the road.
07:48 - The base theme of the Four Lords is a bit bland, but it’s there to warn you of what is to come. Then Byakko blows you up into the sky in a tornado, blasts you to bits when you land, and finally takes things seriously. The theme just explodes at this point into this funky as hell track and you can feel this in both his mechanics and the music. He’s using more tricks and the music follows this new pace. Then when you take a moment to look into the lyrics it all clicks into place.
The story of this series is that the Lords are surrendering themselves to the “aramitama” so that we might cleanse them. In this state their emotions are massively multiplied. And here his anger and sorrow at being labeled a doombringer are amplified. The voice given to Byakko is even the sound of pure fury. The song also speaks of the samurai Tenzen. All of the Lords owe their lives to Tenzen. So not only are the songs of the Four Lords about regret and pain.
but how thankful they are to Tenzen. This is the small slice of the nagitama that remains when the aramitama takes over. This small mention in the song, one line is all that keeps them clinging to sanity. On a razor’s edge. So that if you fail, they will be taken over by the aramitama forever. On top of all that, this is the first song that really made me consider. Uematsu would soon after Stormblood came out announced he was taking a break due to health issues.
From this point forward Soken would take the reigns for just about all the music in the game - including the main theme - which up to this point had involved Uematsu. Sure he was always doing the majority of it, but come Shadowbringers, Uematsu was not the one who wrote the main theme’s music. It was Soken. And that’s when I began to listen just a little bit closer and pay more attention to who the man behind the music was. And speaking of; breaking the tradition of including the main themes of expansions.
The honorary mention here is “Gates of the Moon. ” I would choose “Dancing Mad” but that’s cheating by being an FF6 song. “Gates of the Moon” meanwhile follows a similar trend with “Amatsu Kaze. ” It has so many musical layers and is just generally funky to listen to. So upbeat for what is a counter attack on the enemy’s stronghold. It’s also a bit of irony. The Moon Gates were a major obstacle to overcome in the planning stages. Now the thing driving us forward, this amazing little track, is named after those very walls.
Walls that separated us, are now the walls we’re breaking down.
10:52 - I remember before Shadowbringers came out, the little preview video they gave us that would also be used as the benchmark test video included a little ditty that people immediately pegged as the dungeon boss theme. Then like a day later the full version was quote unquote “leaked” and soon after someone made a 40 minute long loop of it. I must have listened to that full video like 50 times in the lead up to the expansion. Those same feelings I had about “Amatsu Kaze” were amplified tenfold with this theme.
It has multiple different phases, tons of layers, full of emotion, and yet is still an amped up battle track. And this is just for the normal final bosses. It’s not even meant to be a unique thing. You’ll hear it every Shadowbringers dungeon just about. Something this dynamic, this amazing, for a boss track you’ll hear all the time. Between this and the Shadowbringer’s main theme, it was clear Soken was a master of his craft. He hadn’t just come into his own, he was far beyond that.
Which speaking of the main theme, that’s my Shadowbringers honorary mention. I love this theme. The opening is beautifully sung, then entirely switches gears once the guitar kicks in. It’s a trick I’ve enjoyed many songs for. And “Shadowbringers” is definitely no different. Also unironically “What Angel Wakes Me. ” I’m serious. This is a fun song and I do enjoy it a lot. It’s playful and that’s half the point of Titania as a fight. Spirits of dead children and such.
Their lines even include “Let’s play in the forest!” I dunno. It’s fun! Falalala! But now for my number one.
13:00 - It takes a lot of guts to do what the entire dev team for 14 did. When you think “Final Fantasy” there were a few key people who immediately spring to mind. While Uematsu was the name behind the music, Yoshitaka Amano was the name behind the artwork. So striking a style, you know exactly who made a piece of art when it’s an Amano piece. Arguably it’s a very samey style - usually in the faces - and yet there’s a clear, clear brilliance to every piece he makes.
And then comes Amano’s design for the Warrior of Light. If there was a “Mr. Final Fantasy,” this design is that man. So striking and memorable, in games like Dissidia this is the design they go for with ~The~ Warrior of Light - the living embodiment of Final Fantasy itself. The living embodiment, that we must now kill. To me this is a boss that not only pays respects to their elders, but says we are more than our forebearers. We are our own entity. And I would agree.
What every single person on the team has done from small art pieces, to dialogue, to art, to music - every person on this team put their souls into something truly amazing. From the death of Final Fantasy XIV 1. 0 rose A Realm Reborn and everything up to now. And they all deserve applause for their work. But that’s just the conceptual level of this fight in a meta aspect. It goes even deeper than that with the conceptual level of the in-game lore. One brings shadow, one brings the light.
While there is the fight of ideals for XIV to break out on its own, Shadowbringers as a whole has been a fight of ideals. One brings shadow, one brings the light. In our battle against Emet Selch - Hades - the fight was not just of that between two opponents. It was the ideal that we people have a right to live, that we are strong enough. And we literally brought the light to him - that of all the Light Wardens - while Hades brought the shadow. And yet in all our journey through Shadowbringers, up to that point we were the “Warrior of Darkness.
” But now we get that true fight. While Elidibus is ever the thrall of Zodiark, an agent of darkness, here he is an agent of light. The Warrior of Light himself. And so we must bring to bear our fight for darkness on this light-blighted world. One brings shadow, one brings the light. But that’s not all. There is what this song is about. There are many interpretations I’ve seen. This is the song from the Final Days of Amaurot, this is Elidibus talking to us… But what I think this is, is Azem having a conversation with Elidibus. With lines such as “brother, stay this descent into madness” and the time thematic of the song with Elidibus responding in turn. This is another fight of ideals. Elidibus versus the Warrior of Light, but also Elidibus versus Azem, and Elidibus versus Emet Selch. To begin, we first must see the end. The end to the Ascians and the true beginning of the age of man, manipulated from the shadows no more.
But we’ve finally gotten to the track itself. It takes the major opening to Shadowbringers and repurposes it to mean something entirely new. The clock ticking in the background. The bassline being insane! And then the lyrics kick in and there’s like, six layers all going on at once. It’s a cacophony but nothing treads on the other layers. That guitar just never lets up and when it does, we’re getting these extremely punctuated piano notes drawing out the weight of the lyrics being sung.
It all works perfectly and as part of the fight, you can feel the desperation of the encounter. And then he begins to summon Warriors of Light to fight you all through the encounter! We may be a team of eight, but he has a venerable army at his command, on top of embodying the greatest hero ever known to this world. Casting limit breaks, high level magic, and so much else at you. The music flows from section to section. It’s also sung so perfectly. The desperation can be heard here as well and it’s just… god… This isn’t just my favorite music track, it’s my favorite moment in the whole game. Everything of this game comes to a head here, and yet this still isn’t the end. We have an entire expansion around the corner. The true end to this saga, and I can’t imagine anything topping this moment. For as amazing this game is to me, this single moment defines the entire experience for me.
19:12 - Special honorary mention to “Sultana Dreaming,” my usual credits music. This is a nice track here. So peaceful and captures the majesty of Ul’dah as a city. But what songs do you all like? Maybe you’ll actually know music terms! I know leitmotif… and not much else! But I sure can appreciate the genius of these music tracks, and I cannot wait to hear everything Endwalker has to offer on the music end. The amazing main theme is just one song of a whole series of tracks.
19:52 - And then that was supposed to be the end of the video. I was gonna do my normal outro… But I wrote this video far in advance. I knew whatever 5. 55 came out with, it would not beat “To the Edge. ” If anything I’d replace “Insatiable. ” And then the 2021 Fanfest happened… and Soken revealed to all that he was hiding a secret from the fans. From his own co-workers. He had cancer. “To the Edge” was not written from the office or his home due to the pandemic… he wrote this song from a hospital bed. He announced at the same time that he has gone into near full remission. It looks like he will beat the disease and hopefully will live a long life. He thanks his close friendship with Yoshida and all of our kind words and reactions to this amazing song. And watching the announcement, it’s as if Yoshida had it way harder. Soken mostly kept his composure while Yoshida could barely speak. The amount of passion these men have for this game is clear, and how much Yoshida truly cares about his team.
It truly shows why this game - for all its flaws - is different. Now all my words I wrote here, the video leading up to this final section, all the praise I gave Soken… seems to be meaningless. I already said how I’m not musically trained. I’m at best a casual listener of music, so I can’t properly delve into how amazing every little detail is. But I could at least show how much I love the music. But now knowing how this song came to be… I don’t think any amount of musical training could have trained me to properly appreciate this song.
There are no words I can write that fit, so instead you have this section. Normally at the end of these things I thank my patrons, but I hope you all agree that this video doesn’t fit for that. This video belongs to the amazing team behind Final Fantasy XIV, to Yoshida, and most importantly to Masayoshi Soken.
22:11 - Welcome back Soken. .