Review: PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY VII/VIII/IX

We waited a long time to get a piano collections album for Final Fantasy I – III. It then came as a bigger surprise that Square Enix was taking the Piano Opera concept and making it a series, revisiting Final Fantasy titles that had already enjoyed Piano Collections albums in the past. This installment covers the next three games in the series, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX.

Read our impressions below.

As with the PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY IV/V/VI album, this installment also features many of the same pieces that were featured on past Piano Collections CDs, which was a gripe among fans. I’m surprised they didn’t remedy that this time around, but there’s still new interpretations by pianist Hiroyuki Nakayama to enjoy. Many of the tracks are 3-4 minutes in length, aligning them more with the Piano Collections series, as in my mind, an opera should be a little more substantial.

The album opens with the beautiful “Ami” from Final Fantasy VIII, complete with a great rhythm and some nice fluttering moments in the high notes. “Words Drowned by Fireworks” from Final Fantasy VII is equally pretty, with a nice swelling atmosphere, while the memorable “You Are Not Alone” gets some lovely interpretative segments in between the familiar melody line. Aside from “Roses of May,” which feels much like previous versions of this theme, “Melodies of Life” from Final Fantasy IX gets a slower, more emotional, and even angelic arrangement.

From there, we get into darker territory. There are some battle themes represented with “Still More Fighting,” which is powerful and decisive with its big bass and nice runs, and “Man With the Machine Gun,” which is slow and melancholy at first, but picks up steam midway through. “Cosmo Canyon” starts off slow and contemplative, and despite being on Piano Collections Final Fantasy VII, is one of my favorites here. “Liberi Fatali” is an interesting choice, and sports lots of bass and a bombastic arrangement, which was really surprising to hear on piano. “Festival of the Hunt” is one of the darkest tracks on the album, and most intense with its rapid tempo and emphasis on bass notes, while the highly-anticipated “Opening/Bombing Mission” is really quite amazing to hear live on piano. It’s surprisingly full and complete despite being only piano.

Overall, I enjoyed this album a lot. Yes, it would have been great to have an entire album of tracks that had never received the piano treatment before, but I suppose Square Enix knows that not everyone owns all the original Piano Collections albums, and thus wants to include some standards along with the new. The album is still available on CD Japan if you’re interested.

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