Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.5: Branching out

June 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , , , )

In 2003, a crossover game of sorts was released called Kingdom Hearts. It was a bit of a controversy at the time for fans of Final Fantasy, as it was to be a mix of characters from Final Fantasy and Disney. Given the different target audiences for both series, it was understandably a cause of concern that one of the groups was going to be altered so that they could cater to the other group’s audiences (although it should be noted that many people were easily fans of both series). Thankfully, the concerns must have been heeded by the developers, as the game was released to strong critical reception and sales, being able to cater well to both audiences. It later went on to feature several spin-offs and sequels, each moderately or well received. Even at the time of writing this, it looks like there are a few years and iterations left for series.

More than what was found in Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts focused heavily on the development of the characters and their relationships, with friendship being a recurring theme between the games. Characters in the games gained a strong sense of unity, loyalty and trust, but also experienced losses, separation, and loneliness. With all of these emotional aspects, an appropriate score was required to help portray these feelings. Yoko Shimomura composed for majority of the series, only being helped later for Kingdom Hearts 3D. Not only was Shimomura able to cover the ground for these emotional needs, she also provided appropriate backdrops for the various Disney worlds that the characters visited, so well that one might’ve thought that they were in the original movies. While most of the music was never particularly complex, the melodies were easy to remember, and the arrangements were full and diverse.

It was no surprise, then, that Kingdom Hearts was chosen as the first branch in the Piano Collections franchise. Released after the first three games (Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, Chain of Memories), the album featured a selection of songs voted by fans. Featuring four new arrangers and pianists, the album was able to separate itself stylistically from the previous Collections, but also managed to be a unified work. As a whole, the album was well received, but it was certainly a flawed work.

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Piano Collections – NieR Gestalt and Replicant

May 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm (Soundtracks) (, , , , , )

1. Song of the Ancients
2. Kaine
3. Hills of Radiant Wind
4. Snow in Summer
5. Emil
6. Grandma
7. Repose
8. Gods Bound By Rules
9. Shadowlord
10. The Wretched Automatons
11. Ashes of Dreams

In the last few years Square-Enix broadened their Piano Collections series to include the Kingdom Hearts series, a welcome move that produced decent results, which were damped perhaps a bit by the choice of arrangers. This year they opened the door to include NieR, which had a universally acclaimed soundtrack, even spawning two arranged/tribute albums. With a new set of arrangers and performers on this Piano Collections, did the album live up to the great expectations following it?

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Nier Piano Collections – USTREAM Report

March 20, 2012 at 5:52 am (Soundtracks) (, , )

1. Song of the Ancients
2. Emil
3. Hills of Radiant Wind
4. Gods Bound By Rules
5. Grandma
6. Kaine

I hold the Nier soundtrack in pretty high esteem. I hold the Piano Collections series in even higher esteem. What do I do when there is a mash-up of the two? Wake up at 4:30a.m. on a school day for a live streaming of the album, no questions asked.

Well alright, maybe a few questions asked. Leading up to the night, there were a good number of previews available for listening on the main website for the album. Was I impressed? Undoubtedly the pieces were as emotional as ever, but they were certainly not as complex or as varied as the piano collections arrangements I’ve come to know. Indeed, almost all of the previews sounded like their OST counterparts transcribed note for note to piano. Would that make some people happy? Certainly.

But not me. I wanted to hear improvisations on the themes that would bring new life to the pieces. The two piano tracks were heard on the 15 Nightmares arranged album was a perfect example of what I was looking for. I still hold that not matter how good this piano collections may turn out, the sheet music book should still contain as a bonus the sheets for those songs as well. They are GORGEOUS.

Despite the shortcomings of the samples for the Nier Piano Collections album, I still decided to brave the early hours of dawn to hear them played. What did I think?

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NieR Gestalt & Replicant – 15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks

June 6, 2011 at 7:51 pm (Soundtracks) (, , , )

1. Song of the Ancients (Lost Androids Mixuxux)
2. Blu-bird (Hansel and Gretel)
3. Shadowlord’s Castle (Iron First mix feat. DJ-BKO)
4. Emil (Ultimate Weapon No.7)
5. Shadowlord (Crying Yonah version)
6. Emil (Piano Version)
7. Kaine (Duet Version)
8. The Wretched Automatons (A Cappella)
9. Song of the Ancients (Piano Version)
10. Shadowlord (Music Box Version)
11. The Legend of NieR: 8-bit Heroes

After a stellar Original Soundtrack that captivated me despite not having played the game, I was greatly anticipating this release. NieR 15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks came out not long after the game did, and features a handful of arranged tracks as well as remixes found in the “15 Nightmares” DLC content (or “The World of Recycled Vessel” in America). It was also streamed live at release (almost at the same time as Utada Hikaru’s WILD LIFE concert, and I’m convinced they delayed the album stream by an hour so it wouldn’t overlap). At the end of the stream, there was also a special performance of a piano arranged version of “Shadowlord(?)” that has not been released elsewhere. Nice little touch.

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NieR (Gestalt and NieR Replicant) Original Soundtrack

May 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm (Soundtracks) (, , , )

1. Snow in Summer
2. Hills of Radiant Winds
3. The Incomplete Stone
4. Blu-bird
5. Cold Steel Coffin
6. Grandma
7. Song of the Ancients / Devola
8. The Wretched Automatons
9. City of Commerce
10. Song of the Ancients / Popola
11. The Prestigious Mask
12. Temple of Drifting Sands
13. Gods Bound by Rules
14. The Ultimate Weapon
15. Deep Crimson Foe
16. Dispossession / Piano
17. Dispossession / Strings
18. Dispossession /Pluck
19. Dispossession / Music Box
20. Yonah / Piano
21. Yonah / Strings
22. Yonah / Pluck
23. Yonah / Pluck 2
1. The Dark Colossus Destroys All
2. Song of the Ancients / Hollow Dreams
3. Kaine / Salvation
4. Kaine / Escape
5. His Dream
6. This Dream
7. Repose
8. The Lost Forest
9. Song of the Ancients / Fate
10. Shadowlord’s Castle / Memory
11. Dance of the Evanescent
12. Shadowlord’s Castle / Roar
13. Emil / Karma
14. Emil / Sacrifice
15. Shadowlord
16. Ashes of Dreams/ ENG
17. Ashes of Dreams / FR
18. Ashes of Dreams / DER
19. Ashes of Dreams / JP
20. Shadowlord – White-note remix – (Bonus Track)

I should say this first. I never played Nier. But I stumbled across the main website for it one day, and the background music was absolutely captivating. I did a little more searching, and soon decided to make th purchase. I don’t intend to play the game (despite owning a PS3; I even had the chance to buy it new for $10), but I will definitely keep up with it, because the music is just gold.

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