Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.4: Back to Basics

June 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , , , , )

Pushing the Final Fantasy series to even further borders, Square released Final Fantasy XI in 2002 (before the merge with Enix). It was the first in the series to be an MMORPG, and it was released to strong critical reception. With its many areas and expansions, the game demanded a large music library, too large for just one composer to handle. Again, Nobuo Uematsu was helped out by Naoto Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka. The later expansions were done only by Mizuta, as the others left the project. With so many tracks, it was understandably hard to keep all listeners satisfied. In the game, the music was great accompaniment, but as a standalone listen, some of the soundtracks were harder to recommend.

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Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.3: Ten to Ten-Two

May 27, 2012 at 1:45 pm (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , , , , , , )

Although I had heaped much praise on the first six Piano Collections albums, all was not quite that well in the Final Fantasy world. While there was a clear progression with each album, keeping an arranger for three albums straight was bound to cause some stylistic repetition as resources became exhausted. For one unfamiliar with the source material, many of the songs between the albums could easily be mixed up on early listens.

Even more of a concern was the root of the music, Nobuo Uematsu, who had seemed to be running out of ideas. The music was always good on its own, but it was clear that many songs were drawing on others, even capturing entire phrases of previous songs and simply reworking them (a prime example of this would be Aerith’s and Celes’s themes). This seemed to reach its peak with the score for Final Fantasy IX, which contained elements of all of the Final Fantasy scores that preceded it. Sure, it may have been intended to be a throwback (there are many other elements of the game that also drew from predecessors), but there was no denying that these grounds were well tread, and growing stale. Surely, the series with the name “FINAL Fantasy” needed to come to an end.

But it was not so. Final Fantasy X was the first in the series to be released on the PlayStation 2, with critical reception on par with the previous entries. The music was noted as being fresh and well varied, but this was not due to Uematsu’s hand alone. For this project, they had decided to hire on two more composers to assist: Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu. Where Uematsu was known for writing pop-like melodies for his compositions, Nakano specialized in ambience and atmosphere, while Hamauzu handled some of the more foreboding, dramatic tracks. A few months later, a “Piano Collections Final Fantasy X” album was released, solely arranged by Masashi Hamauzu.

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Distant Worlds : music from Final Fantasy RETURNING HOME

April 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm (Soundtracks) (, , , )

Disc 1

  1. “One-Winged Angel” (Final Fantasy VII)
  2. “Victory Theme” (Final Fantasy Series)
  3. “Don’t be Afraid” (Final Fantasy VIII)
  4. “FINAL FANTASY I-III Medley 2010” (FINAL FANTASY I-III)
  5. “Love Grows” (Final Fantasy VIII)
  6. “Ronfaure” (Final Fantasy XI)
  7. “JENOVA” (Final Fantasy VII)
  8. “Dear Friends” (Final Fantasy V)
  9. “Vamo’ alla Flamenco” (Final Fantasy IX)
  10. “Aerith’s Theme” (Final Fantasy VII)
  11. “Chocobo Medley 2010” (FINAL FANTASY Series)

Disc 2

  1.  “Opening – Bombing Mission” (Final Fantasy VII)
  2.  “To Zanarkand” (Final Fantasy X)
  3.  “Those Who Fight (Let The Battles Begin!)” (Final Fantasy VII)
  4. “Dancing Mad” (Final Fantasy VI)
  5. “Blinded By Light” (Final Fantasy XIII)
  6. “Fang’s Theme” (Final Fantasy XIII)
  7. “March of the Dreadnoughts” (Final Fantasy XIII)
  8. “Fabula Nova Crystallis” (Final Fantasy XIII)
  9. “Saber’s Edge” (Final Fantasy XIII)
  10. “Navigator’s Glory – The Theme of Limsa Lominsa” (Final Fantasy XIV)
  11. “Twilight over Thanalan” (Final Fantasy XIV)
  12. “Answers” (Final Fantasy XIV)
  13. “Primal Judgement” (Final Fantasy XIV)
  14. “The Man With The Machine Gun (Final Fantasy VIII)
  15. “Terra’s Theme” (Final Fantasy VI)
  16. “Clash on the Big Bridge (Battle at the Big Bridge)” (Final Fantasy V)

Final Fantasy music has received a lot of concert treatment over the years all around the world. One of the more notable is the worldwide Distant Worlds concert series, which has gone on for many years now, even spawning two live albums. The concerts focus exclusively on Final Fantasy music, presenting the familiar themes with a grand live orchestra and even some gameplay and cinematic footage to help supplement the music, It all makes for a night of pleasant, perhaps even emotional reminiscing on many hours spent with the beloved characters that inhabit these games.

Helmed by conductor and arranger Arnie Roth, Distant Worlds made a stop in Japan after many years of absence from the country that spawned the series. Hence the title, Returning Home. The concert promised new arrangements from the latest entries in the series, Final Fantasy XIII and XIV. In attendance was the main composer for the Final Fantasy series, Nobuo Uematsu, as well as Masashi Hamauzu who has had input in many games, and was the composer for XIII. The concert was held on two nights, each featuring a slightly different setlist. For the DVD, we get performances from both nights, encompassing all of the songs that were played.

With heavy expectations, was Arnie Roth and his team able to deliver?

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