For every fantasy, there must be a piano collections album. Final Fantasy XV kind of got two, a mini album that was distributed with the limited edition of the original soundtrack, and this standalone disc featuring ten key tracks from the game done up in solo piano style. I particularly enjoy the artsy track titles.
The album opens with the somber “Dreaming of Dawn -Somnus-,” which is slow, deliberate, and emotional, capturing the spirit of the original and acting as a perfect theme for the game. The popular “Waltzing Among Moonbeams -Valse di Fantastica-” is an elegant, upbeat, and full arrangement that takes a more energetic and adventurous direction towards the end. The battle theme, “Illusions of the Morn -Stand Your Ground-,” also gets a full arrangement with lots of variety, including a nice section where the bass drops out creating a neat effect and some nice “Prelude” runs. Another battle theme, and a personal favorite, “Veiled in Black,” is much more ominous than the original and features some beautiful runs and fluttering notes over the top of the main melody that are a nice touch. The swashbuckling “APOCALYPSIS NOCTIC” also nails the vibe of the original track (defiant, epic) with just a piano, which is a remarkable feat given the energy of the original track.
Fans were rightfully excited to see the announcement of a two-disc arrangement and unreleased tracks album for the award-winning NieR: Automata soundtrack. The first disc of the set includes the arranged tracks, while the second hosts the unreleased tracks.
While many of the arrangers aren’t well-known names, the arrangements themselves are fantastic. There’s the glitchy EDM-style “City Ruins” by AJURIKA which is lively but still chill, a soothing acoustic guitar take on “Peaceful Sleep” by Cheng Bi Meets Masato Ishinari, and a mellow and more mysterious re-recorded version of “Amusement Park” by arai tasuku feat. momocashew. “End of the Unknown” by ATOLS gets epic orchestral and then electronic synths in a spacey and cool arrangement, “Pascal” by Ryu Kawamura takes on a completely different vibe with its trippy synths and jazz breakdown, and “Copied City” by LITE is an acoustic rock version that I found highly enjoyable. There’s live pipe organ for “Mourning,” wonderful strings and accordion with a folksy vibe for “Song of the Ancients” by Jun Hayakawa with Atsuki Yoshida (EMO Quartet), and my favorite track, “Emil” by Morrigan & Lily with female vocal harmonies blended into a choir and an epic orchestral backing, reminding a bit of E.S. Posthumus. Rounding out the arrangements are an interesting blend of shamisen, brass, and flamenco guitar for “Alien Manifestation” and a gentle male vocal pop version of “Weight of the World.”
I think most fans will be disappointed with the unreleased tracks as they’re mainly robot voice snippets placed over existing songs from the soundtrack, including “This cannot continue” to “Birth of a Wish.” The biggest standout is the CEO duet of “Birth of a Wish,” which is masterfully done. Sato and Matsuda voice snippets are placed rhythmically into the track, creating a lot of fun and laughs.
Don’t let the obscurity of the arrangers or the lack of true unreleased tracks keep you away, though. The arrangements are quite excellent, especially “Copied City,” “Mourning,” and “Emil.” You can pick it up on CD Japan if you’re interested!
NieR is some of the greatest game music of all time. So fans were rightfully excited that Square Enix was releasing the soundtracks in vinyl format. There are two releases, one for NieR Gestalt & Replicant, and one for NieR: Automata. Then there’s the combination box set which we got our hands on here. The packaging is as exquisite as the music, so fans will want to keep an eye out on the Square Enix North American merchandise store and sign up for the waiting list on these. The box set is reasonably priced at $79.99 with the individual releases coming in at $42.99.