Penned by one Takeharu Ishimoto, the Crisis Core music consists of three main types of tracks: remixes of Final Fantasy VII music; pensive instrumental arrangements; and heavy metal numbers. The soundtrack also has the peculiarity of featuring identical tracks under different names, which puzzles me to no end. Is it so that they could justify selling it on two CDs?
Anyway, not all of the FFVII remixes are successful. Case in point: “The World’s Enemy” is essentially the Christmas version of “One-Winged Angel”. Three guesses as to which context it plays in. My point though, is that it really ruins an iconic track, with almost comical brass flourishes and jingling bells throughout. “First Mission” is a sped-up version of “Bombing Mission” and also plays during the opening sequence of the game, but I’d say it’s very close to being too sped up. On the other hand, “A Flower Blooming in the Slums” is a pleasant acoustic guitar rendition of “Aerith’s Theme”, and “A Closed Off Village” adds an ominous shuffling backdrop to flesh out the already eerie “Anxious Heart”. But then the very concept of remixing so much of FFVII’s music (because there’s more than the ones I cited) just adds to the game’s problem with lazy rehashing and doesn’t bode well for the composer’s inventiveness.
This is only reinforced by the fact that the original tracks are mostly bland. The instrumental category has two signature tunes, but they run the risk of overstaying their welcome, due to how often the game reuses them. It’s like the composer knew that they were his two best efforts and thus decided to pad out the soundtrack with them as much as he dared. First is “The Successor”, a melancholy piano tune which plays over the title screen. It’s then reprised in a slightly darker mood as “Burden of Truth” and “With Pride” (they’re identical), which play in Gongaga and some scenes with Genesis, and with a more anguished tone as “The Burdened”, which plays in Aerith’s Church. There’s also a synth version (“Dreams and Pride”…they could just have named all of them as a variation on ‘burden’ or ‘pride’ to save themselves some trouble), which is associated with Angeal, and a guitar version (“Under the Apple Tree”), which plays in Banora.
The second memorable tune is “The Price of Freedom”, which is actually quite lovely and probably my favourite piece on the soundtrack, with its plaintive violin segueing into a wistful guitar melody and an electric guitar boost later down the line. This is the track that kicks off the ending sequence, as well as an infamous scene between Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth. You’ll also hear it as “Sky-Blue Eyes” and “Duty and Friendship” (they’re also identical), a slower version with just violin and piano, which plays during Zack and Aerith’s date, and during a conversation between Zack and Angeal’s mother, respectively. There’s also “A Moment of Courtesy”, a more violin-focussed version, which accompanies Zack’s and Cloud’s first meeting in Modeoheim. You’ve also got a more guitar-focussed version in “Night of Seclusion”, which plays when Zack and Cloud escape from Nibelheim, and the messy “Melody of Resolution”, which accompanies some Genesis scenes.
Other noteworthy non-repeated tracks in the ‘non-metal’ category include “Moonlight Wandering”, which plays during the sniping minigame (among other things) and just calls for a lonesome cowboy to come ridin’ through, and the gloomy groove of “Wilderness of Desertion”, which plays around Gongaga. On the other hand, you have the featureless, plodding “Patriots on a Moonlit Night”, which plays in Wutai. There’s also “Why”, the only actual song on the soundtrack, which plays during the ending and sounds like generic cheesy pop.
I don’t like any of the metal tracks, because heavy metal is just not something I associate with Final Fantasy at all (despite the series’ growing willingness to include it in recent soundtracks) and because most of them are just tacky, screechy messes, like “The Summoned”, which plays when Zack fights summons. But the main offender would have to be “Encounter” because, as the name implies, it serves as the main battle theme. So you’ll hear it again. And again. And again. I find it too intense for random fights, and it just ends up giving me a headache after a while. There’s also “A Beating Black Wing”, which plays during some of the confrontations with Genesis and features guitar flourishes that sound distractingly like ‘honk-honk’, thus adding to my inability to take Genesis seriously.