Let’s be honest here. Final Fantasy X-2 probably isn’t on many people’s lists of “favorite Final Fantasy games, and it isn’t because it technically wouldn’t count for such a spot due to being a spin-off. It’s a hit-or-miss entry for some, but there’s one thing it should be applauded for: Final Fantasy X-2 goes all-in when it comes to the music. Certainly, it’s suspect to see Yuna go from priestess to pop star, but Square Enix did it’s best to make it more plausible with catchy tracks.
Did you ever really think about “Real Emotion” and “1000 no Kotoba/1000 Words,” Final Fantasy X-2’s two theme songs? It’s understandable if you didn’t. They’re a lot like the game; you love them or hate them. (I’m in the love ‘em camp, by the way.) The bubblegum pop might not be for everyone, but a lot of effort went into the Japanese and English variations of the tracks.
Koda Kumi performed “Real Emotion” and “1000 no Kotoba” for the Japanese release of Final Fantasy X-2. She’s been contributing to the Jpop scene since 2000. This means “Real Emotion” and “1000 no Kotoba” was actually a pretty big deal for her. She’s only released one album before being brought on to perform Yuna’s songs. They were her tenth and eleventh singles and “Real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba” was the first single she had that broke into the top 10 of Oricon Weekly. That didn’t happen again for her until her third Feel My Mind album in 2004, reached the seventh spot.
“Real Emotion” and “1000 no Kotoba” ended up appearing on plenty of Final Fantasy albums. We’re all familiar with the Final Fantasy X-2 mixes of the Koda Kumi original, since they were in the Japanese version of the game and on her Grow into One album. Additional singles offered multiple remixes of each, as well as English versions that never appeared outside of Japan. In total, there are six versions of “Real Emotion” and nine of “1000 no Kotoba” released in Japan.
Remember that English version I mentioned a moment ago? That’s not the one we heard outside of Japan. Those were Koda Kumi’s English versions of the songs. The “Real Emotion” and “1000 Words” we know were performed by Jade Valerie, also known as Jade Villalon. She was tapped to perform the songs outside of Japan. At that time, she was part of Sweetbox, but she’s since embarked on a solo career.
The Sweetbox Adagio album is one of the places where you can find the less common arrangements of “Real Emotion” and “1000 Words.” These are the full versions of each song, coming in at four minutes and six and a half minutes. We’re only hearing snippets of each in Final Fantasy X-2. Even the Final Fantasy X-2 International + Last Mission Original Soundtrack only offers the full length, orchestral version of “1000 Words.”
To compare, Final Fantasy X’s two themes didn’t receive the same level of care. Rikki, the vocalist behind “Suteki da ne,” is a famous singer in Japan, but Square Enix didn’t put together an English version for the worldwide release. “Otherworld” was performed by Bill Muir after the band he was part of, xtillidiex, broke up. That’s all he’s done since.
Square Enix put a lot of effort into Final Fantasy X-2’s theme. It’s a game that commits to the bit. It’s like the company said, “Our heroines are going to have a Songstress job? Well, let’s get some real singers on board to do these singles right.” And “Real Emotion” and “1000 no Kotoba/1000 Words” definitely received more attention than Final Fantasy X’s theme songs. Next time you play the Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster, be sure to listen a little closer to the vocal arrangements.