I’ve been thinking about Mistwalker’s The Last Story recently. Mostly because I’ve yet to play it and it’s been gnawing at me that I really should get around to it, but also because a couple of friends have also been asking me about it recently.

With the pedigree that the game has (directed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, scored by longtime companion Nobuo Uematsu), I was always going to be ordering the limited edition as soon as it was available. Which is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, a ridiculous backlog has so far foiled my intentions to immerse myself in its world. So consider today’s MM piece both an attempt to highlight some fantastic music, as well as give myself a kick up the rear!

My beautiful, beautiful limited edition… that I haven’t played.

Both Uematsu and Sakaguchi have described the creation of their Wii exclusive as something of a challenge to create a fresh experience; in gameplay terms for Sakaguchi (such as injecting third person elements in battle), and for Uematsu, in creating something that stands apart from his work on the Final Fantasy series.

Indeed, the composer’s original drafts for The Last Story were so typical of his work that Sakaguchi rejected them out of hand, calling them “completely useless”. The pair did not speak for a month, until Uematsu sent a file to the director, adding, “If this is not okay, I’ll quit.” It’s safe to say that Sakaguchi liked what he heard.

The music that makes up the soundtrack still bears Uematsu’s ear for a beautiful melody, of course, and one track in particular, ‘Toberu Mono’, reminds me, in broad strokes at least, of Final Fantasy IV‘s ‘Theme of Love’. But it’s so much more powerful than that, almost heartbreaking in its delicacy, before erupting into a triumphant crescendo.

The main theme lies on the other side of the musical coin. It’s epic, foreboding and its melodies conjure something closer to The Lord of the Rings in the mind’s eye. It’s noticeably different from much of the composer’s previous work, throwing in unexpected tempo changes to break up the otherwise-relentless forward momentum. That signature Uematsu melody style is in there, tying it all together, but it’s set in a darker style – it almost gives me a sense of a Western musical style with Japanese melodic sensibilities.

My favourite piece might just be ‘Chitsujo to Konton to’. I’m guessing it’s a battle theme, as it’s a very high-energy piece, mixing orchestrated elements, electronic beats and grinding guitar chugging away in the background. Halfway through, a soaring, brass and string-led tempo change drops back into a synth-heavy gallop that leads into a chanting crescendo. I can fully imagine the blood pumping in the heat of battle, keeping me on my toes as I try to outwit my foes (ooh, that rhymes).

While it’s certain that aspects of Uematsu’s trademark sound are in effect throughout the soundtrack of The Last Story, it does genuinely sound like a fresh take on what has come before from the now-legendary composer. Considering it made the cut, we can only assume Hironobu Sakaguchi would wholeheartedly agree.