Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.7: Looking out ahead, filling the gaps

June 25, 2012 at 11:06 am (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , , , )

So what’s left? I’ve covered all of the official entires into the Piano Collections series (11 Final Fantasy Piano Collections, 3 other Piano Collections, 2 Piano Opera), and a few others from related games. It seems like a lot of be going on with.

There are however, some curious absences and possible future entires into the series that I should discuss.

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Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.6: the Other Collections

June 16, 2012 at 6:18 pm (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , )

2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series. One of the earliest announcements for the celebration of the milestone was the long awaited “Piano Opera Final Fantasy I-III”. Officially falling into the standard Piano Collections category, the title change likely referred to ‘opera’ as the plural form of ‘opus’ which usually means a musical work. The release finally gave attention to the earliest entries into the Final Fantasy series, which were skipped over in the Piano Collections series.

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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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Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.2: the Other Shiro, Mr. Hamaguchi

May 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , , , , )

Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997 to critical acclaim around the globe. It was hailed as a landmark game that was more or less revolutionary in its utilization of the available technology. The music was received just as well, with the audio capabilities of the PlayStation bringing out new elements and dimensions to Nobuo Uematsu’s music.

Where, then, was the Piano Collections album?* With the previous games, the Piano Collections album was released less than a year later. Perhaps the OST was deemed strong and fleshed out enough on its own that a Piano album was not necessary? Whatever may have stalled it, it didn’t stop the release of Final Fantasy VIII two years later, which was released to more widespread acclaim. And not even a year after that, a “Piano Collections Final Fantasy VIII” was announced and published. Like the reprints of the previous albums, this album (and all hereafter) were also released with the CD and sheet music separately. The first-press of the CDs came in a slipcase, while the later re-issues come in regular jewel cases without the slipcase.

There was a lot of speculation as to why there was no piano album release for “FFVII”, and at this point there is still no clear answer. What we do know is that they went on and released an album for “FFVIII”, and it was fantastic.

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Square-Enix Piano Collections pt.1: Shiro Satou’s Triad

May 16, 2012 at 11:19 am (Editorials, Soundtracks) (, , , , , )

Square-Enix’s ‘Piano Collections’ series is in its twentieth year now. Featuring piano arrangements of songs from popular game series, the series has been through many arrangers, performers, and styles. Many websites offer reviews for each album, but I thought it would be good to talk about each album with respect to the other albums as well, since they can differ a lot from each other. Many people also have differing opinions based on their music background, and many arrangements have certain classical influences. Here, I will talk about these albums on all grounds, although not by going through a track-by-track review.

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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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POTION2 : Relaxin’ with FINAL FANTASY

March 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm (Soundtracks) (, )

1. Unrequited Love (Piano Collections FFIX)
2. Memory of Distant Days (Love Will Grow)
3. GAIA (Love Will Grow)
4. Once You Meet Her (Pray)
5. Nao Chora Menina (Pray)
6. Home, Sweet Home (Dear Friends)
7. Theme of Love (Celtic Moon)
8. Legend of the Great Forest (Dear Friends)
9. Into the Darkness (Celtic Moon)
10. Celes’ Theme (Piano Collections FFVI)
11. Fisherman’s Horizon (Piano Collections FFVIII)
12. Melodies of Life (Piano Collections FFIX)
13. Love Will Grow (Love Will Grow)
14. Eyes on Me (Acoustic Guitar Version) (New Track)

Let me just say that I’ve only ever played FFVII-X-2 and IV and VI on GBA, so for many songs I cannot compare to the originals.

POTION2 is a compilation album from various FINAL FANTASY arranged albums, and it is the second in the series (and the only one I have). I had never heard any other arranged albums other than the piano collections, so this was definitely a spin for me. And it was cheap at the particular store I got it at, so I figured I’d just get it.

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