This is a successful opus, with some very famous tracks. “One Winged Angel”, which accompanies the final boss battle, is probably the most notorious of the lot and has supplanted the sluggish, repetitive, would-be ominous “Those Chosen by the Planet” as Sephiroth’s official theme. “J-E-N-O-V-A” is another catchy villain’s battle theme: urgent with a slight acid-trip edge to it. It also benefited from a decidedly bitching remix in Advent Children. “Main Theme”, which serves as the world map music for about half of the game, strikes a poignant, sweeping note. It also has a faster variation called “Highwind Takes to the Skies”, which, as you may guess, is the airship theme. “Tifa’s Theme” is an exquisite, melancholy piece, sublimated as a piano melody in Advent Children. “Cid’s Theme” is a martial, defiant air, but has a slower, pensive variation in “Sending a Dream into the Universe”. “Cosmo Canyon/Valley of the Fallen Star”, with its vaguely tribal undertones, has a strangely soothing effect, while “The Great Warrior”, a regretful variation on this tune, accompanies a particularly moving scene in that same location.
A few other highlights: the haunting “Anxious Heart”, which is the theme song for Nibelheim and Gongaga; “Opening Theme – Bombing Mission”, which accompanies the first minutes of the game and segues from a grand reprise of “Life Stream” into a driving, faster melody; the twinkly ambience of “Interrupted by Fireworks”, which plays during the date scene at the Gold Saucer. And then, there are tracks I’m divided on. “Aeris’/Aerith’s Theme” is a lovely, sorrowful piece, but it’s completely spoiled for me by association. I’m also of two minds about “Wutai Ruins”: technically, I like its chant-like, heavily Oriental feel, but it gets on my nerves after a while. And then there’s stuff that’s just bad, like “The Nightmare’s Beginning”, Vincent’s theme, which plays in the basement of the Shinra Mansion and just keeps dragging out the same few lonesome guitar chords. There’s also “Parochial Town”, the theme for Mideel and Bone Village, which could be elevator music, or “Buried in the Snow”, the theme for Icicle Inn, which sounds like someone with a fit of hiccups trying to play an accordion.