Final Fantasy III is probably one of the weakest soundtracks in the series. After giving the whole thing a detailed listen-through, I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the tracks, aside from a handful such as “Battle 1″, “Eternal Wind,” “Go above the Clouds,” and “This is the Last Battle,” “The Crystal Tower,” – and of course “Elia, the Maiden of Water” (though the DS remake seems to have done a much better job of the original score, which seems overly ambitious for the NES 2A03 sound chip). Anyway, Elia is a girl of great purity who lives in the dark ocean below the world. We only see her for about 10 minutes before she’s killed by a kraken, her frail body already destined for the great beyond (Final Fantasy III wasn’t high on the writing either). Anyway, most arrangers seem to agree that “Elia” is one of the best songs on the album as it has been featured in a vocal collection as well as a flute arrange from Legend of the Eternal Wind. Thankfully, the DS version of the soundtrack seems to have done a better job.
I feel a little repetitive using yet another piece from Pray, but honestly, the album is that good. It’s one I really wish they would publish on iTunes. It has been out of print since 1994, too, which makes it hard to come by. The rendition here is “Once You Meet Her,” Risa Ohka gives a solid performance with lyrics that actually move beyond a description of the game to something a little more universal – praising the beauty of a mysterious young woman. Perhaps a little fantastic, but capturing of the romantic and fleeting nature of this young maiden (who the narrative doesn’t tells us much about anyway and kills off far too quickly for us to develop any kind of emotional attachment). Miss Ohka sings “Once You Meet Her” in English, which is both a relief for Western audiences as well as a testament to her abilities – she can also sing in French and Japanese (of course).
My other favorite rendition is from Legend of the Eternal Wind, a drama/arrange album performed with live instruments. This version is a flute and harp arrange that is sparing but perfect. The track is titled “The Water Maiden” and was reprinted in the US as part of Final Fantasy – N Generation (N for ‘Nintendo’). The DS soundtrack does a great job of replicating the feel of this version.
While you’re at it, check out the enchanting “Voyage – Endless Great Ocean“, one of the best actualization of the original song. Miss Ohka’s deep and powerful voice rolls with the strings like ocean waves, all sung in her original Japanese; it’s an emotional voyage into aural bliss.