Review: Final Fantasy Vinyls
The plural of “vinyl” is, in fact, “vinyl.”
Now that I got that out of the way, Final Fantasy Vinyls (sigh) is a a 5LP box set featuring music from the first ten Final Fantasy games. Each song was hand picked by series composer Noburo Uematsu and specially remastered for this vinyl release.
The box set came out in Japan in November. I was lucky enough to snag one while I was there, and I’ve been meaning to review it ever since. However, I wanted to review both the vinyl and the downloadable MP3s that came with it, but I was unable to redeem the codes due to them being on a Japanese website, and me speaking/reading/understanding zero Japanese.
Twitter to the rescue! With the help of one Matthew Keehan, I was able to get my downloads in order, and now I am finally able to present to you my thoughts on this box set.
And after all that wait, what do I think of it?
Eh, it’s okay I guess.
First the good. This box set looks great. The hard, sturdy case that holds the records has a great matte finish, with the Final Fantasy Vinyls title embossed over it in glossy black print. It’s very minimalist, that’s for sure, (and my pictures really don’t do it justice) but I think it fits the source material well. Square/Enix was obviously aiming for a “prestige” look with this release, and going this route certainly achieved that better than just slapping some images from the video games on the front cover.
Things continue to look good once you open the box. Each vinyl comes in its own heavy-duty sleeve, each glossy and just as simplistic as the main box. The records are color coded (but not actually colored) and it’s a nice setup. It all looks really classy, if nearly impossible to photograph. It’s a great presentation all around, and it really gives the music the sense of gravitas and respect it deserves.
It’s just too bad the records themselves don’t.
There are 42 songs included on this box set. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, tracks from game music albums tend to be on the short side, so actually, while you’re getting 42 individual tracks of music, the total run time for all of them is rather brief at just under two hours. Do the math there, and that’s only about 22 minutes of music per record.
This box set draws from ten games, and the best they could do was a measly two hours of music? And they spread it out over FIVE LPs? That amount of music could fix on three records, easy. Why spread it out over five records? And more importantly, why do it so poorly?
Look at all that dead wax! Even if I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they left the inner grooves of the records blank to avoid inner groove distortion, that’s still too much dead space. Most of these records are literally only half full. If they were going to go that route, and were really intent on making the collection five LPs for some reason, they should have gone ahead and had them play at 45 RPM. That way they’d take up more of the records’ space and sound better too, as 45 RPM records have a higher fidelity than records spinning at 33 1/3.
Thankfully, what’s here does sound great, both on the vinyl and on the downloadable MP3s. Even the classic NES tracks sound richer and more lush than before, blending in seamlessly with their more recent counterparts. It’s a great mastering job and I hope that more music from the Final Fantasy series is given this treatment.
I’m really torn on this release. On one hand, it looks great and the music that’s here sounds amazing. But on the other, with the skimpy tracklist that’s spread out needlessly over 5 LPs, it’s really a rip-off, especially at the prices that dealers are trying to sell it for now online (over $400 in some cases!).
If you’re a die-hard Final Fantasy fan and you absolutely love the music from the series, then this barely squeaks by with the slimmest of my recommendations, but only if you can find it at a price close to its original retail of $120. Anything more and you’re just asking to be ripped off. I don’t think this is the kind of thing that’s going to skyrocket into the $1,000 range anytime soon either, so even if you’re buying it at that price strictly as a collectible it’s probably a bad call.
It sure does look nice though.