Tag Archives: Blu-ray

Review: NieR Music Concert Blu-ray

The NieR soundtracks have been wildly popular, so it should come as no surprise that the music has enjoyed multiple tours throughout Japan and one-off performances as parts of other game music concerts. This Blu-ray features recorded performances from all seven shows from the 2017 Japan tour, and this is required viewing/listening for any NieR fan.

The performances feature vocalists Emi Evans, J’Nique Nicole, and Marina Kawano, but the unique voice of Nami Nakagawa is absent due to other obligations she had. That made the shows even more interesting thought as Evans and Nicole learned her songs and performed them with a different twist. Essentially every song with vocals was performed at the event, along with a hefty load of vocal drama read on-stage by the actual voice cast. The drama is presented in Japanese, and had members of the audience in tears by the end of it. Those looking only for the music will also be moved by the beautiful renditions of “Peaceful Sleep,” “Vague Hope,” and “Weight of the World,” where the audience is invited to join in. The duet version featuring Evans and Nicole on “Song of the Ancients – Atonement” is a real treat to see, and the child singer on “Pascal” is also super cute. To top it all off, they perform several tracks from the original NieR as an encore, which should leave any NieR fan completely satisfied.

As to the arrangements, there’s a wonderful string quartet along with composer Keigo Hoashi on piano. They have guest guitarists and of course the beautiful vocals. Various electronic elements are played from a source rather than performed live, which is a bit of a bummer, but the performers who are on stage are all top-notch. Keiichi Okabe himself emcees, and is visibly moved by the audience reactions. Having been in the audience for the final show (the default performance when you press “play” on the Blu-ray), I can tell you the level of excitement was through the roof.

Go grab it on CD Japan. The slip case is especially cool as it reflects the game’s Chaos Language depending on how the light hits it, creating a really cool effect. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO 2017 with Siena Wind Orchestra

We’ve covered a lot of Brass de Bravo, and shortly after Brass de Bravo 3 was released, Square Enix held a live performance at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. This is a Blu-ray recording of the concert, and it’s a riot. I’ve attended and viewed many concerts over the years, but this one looks like it was one to attend. The set list centers closely around the Brass de Bravo 3 album and focuses heavily on Final Fantasy V, VII, and IX, but the quirkiness of the event and fan participation really set it apart, and as such, I’ll focus mostly on the event.

There’s a full wind orchestra that is heavy on clarinets and saxophone, although other interesting instruments are featured, including the ephemera and more. I was lucky enough to watch alongside a saxophone player who was able to comment on the instruments while we watched. The event is emceed by none other than Nobuo Uematsu himself alongside Mami Yamashita. Uematsu has a great time and even performs on a few of the tracks. The fun begins with “Moogle Theme,” which opens with a man dressed in a moogle towel explaining rhythmic clapping and dance moves that the audience needs to perform along with the song. The moogle man is ousted by a pancho and sombrero-wearing man who takes the audience through even more ridiculous dance moves. The audience complies, which is a lot of enjoyable silliness to watch. During the Final Fantasy main theme, the audience is invited to play along with their own recorders, creating a pretty amazing sound as dozens of audience members join the orchestra. The second half sports some smaller ensembles, including a swingin’ “Dear Friends,” an intimate “Elia, Maiden of Water,” and a fun “Vamo’alla Flamenco,” complete with traditional Spanish tap dancing with the percussion section gripping roses between their teeth. They let the audience pick the final track, which was surprisingly “Festival of the Hunt” from Final Fantasy IX instead of “Battle on the Big Bridge.” The encore was another audience participation track: “Mambo de Chocobo.” This time, everyone who wanted to participate came up on stage with a variety of instruments… lots of shakers, a plastic trombone, a melodica running through a laptop, and more. It was completely wild and looked like a blast.

While the arrangements on some of these are straightforward, this concert footage is downright fun. If you’ve enjoyed any game music concerts on video, this is definitely one to get. Invite some friends over, have some drinks, and get ready for some laughs!

Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Heavensward: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack

Final Fantasy XIV has enjoyed several soundtrack releases up to this point (A Realm Reborn, From Astral to Umbral, Before the Fall), but I’ve been hearing for months that the music from Heavensward is the best yet. While Square Enix has trickled out digital EPs over the past year, they’ve released all 60 new tracks on Blu-ray disc. Masayoshi Soken again handles most of the composition, and I’d agree that the music is pretty fantastic.

Immediately out of the gate is “Heavensward,” a subdued vocal theme, followed by a chilling version of the series prelude theme titled “A Cold Wind.” One of my favorite tracks on the album follows, the epic 13:22-long “Solid,” which acts as a defiant anthem for the entire score and is weaved throughout. A defiant and extremely catchy melody is followed by ominous organ and brass stabs that then venture into uncertainty and majestic portions of the song. It’s a masterpiece as used here.

The entire score is great, but other standouts include deep and mysterious “Descent” with its ethereal bell tones, two slowed down and sleepier versions of the “Solid” theme titled “Nobility Sleeps” (probably my favorite track) and “Nobility Obliges,” the exotic “Coming Home” by Yukiko Takada with various woodwinds and even a bagpipe, the very strange gurgling English Western vocal track, “Unbending Steel” Uematsu’s emotional “Contention,” a world music-meets-DNB version of the “Solid” theme titled “Woe that is Madness,” the decisive “Order Yet Undeciphered” with organ, timpani, and a killer bass pad that lends a cool electronic edge to the track, the explosive rock-electronic “Unbreakable” with some awesome rock organ, and finally Uematsu’s closing vocal theme, “Dragonsong,” featuring the ever-lovely Susan Calloway on vocals and coming as a shorter and more emotional theme compared to “Answers.”

You can pick up the album on CD Japan, and I highly recommend doing so! I’d agree with many others in saying this may be some of the best Final Fantasy XIV music yet, particularly with the incredibly strong theme featured throughout.

Review: FINAL FANTASY XI Priceless Remembrance

Final Fantasy XI has enjoyed quite a run! It launched in 2002, and it was only this year that Square Enix issued the final major update. This Blu-ray release includes the final pieces of music written for the game as well as a few other surprises. The video content in particular adds a lot as it relates to the title of this release, offering a lengthy series of video footage from the many areas of Vana’diel with musical accompaniment. As somebody who didn’t get very far in Final Fantasy XI, it was nice to see some of the world of Vana’diel and listen to the corresponding music, finally lending the themes some context. A breakdown of what’s featured throughout the seven videos can be found on VGMdb.

In terms of new music, there are 16 tracks total. “Forever Today” is a sweet vocal ballad presented in three different forms, including the opening instrumental that takes a sweet and slow approach, an EP version with Rhodes piano and female vocals, and the original version with a more traditional orchestral backing. From there, “Worlds Away” offers ethereal bells and piano, “Monstrosity” presents upbeat electronic rock reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII, and “Clouds Over Ulbuka” is a tense orchestral piece. “The Price” is determined and decisive, while “The Serpentine Labyrinth” is dark and foreboding with string stabs, droning pads, and distant percussion. “The Divine” is also somewhat foreboding with its droning pads and metallic percussive hits in the background, conjuring up a ghostly atmosphere. “Distant Worlds” gets a lovely instrumental version, while “Iroha” sports dreamy bell tones that are sleep-inducing and lovely, “The Boundless Black” is ominous with its dissonant pads and industrial percussion, “Isle of the Gods” is majestic yet terrifying, and “Wail of the Void” is contemplative and enveloping with thick strings and beautiful piano melody. The final track, the powerful ballad “Rhapsodies of Vana’diel,” is presented twice, once with more Rhodes and female vocals and another that features a choir comprised voices of players of Final Fantasy XI. The track is intended to be tender and reflective of all the experiences that have been enjoyed by players over the years, wrapping things up with heavy references to the opening “Vana’diel March” and giving fans some closure.

In all, this is a well thought out release. I love the grandeur of the final pieces added to the game, and the various versions of the vocal themes are different enough to warrant their release. The video footage is also a nice touch, and will likely be treasured by longtime residents of the world of Vana’diel.

You can pick up the Blu-ray release at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY THE JOURNEY OF 100

Wow, I can’t believe Distant Worlds has hit 100! I caught one of the first few shows, and I’ve never been disappointed with a performance since. Their album recordings have also been fantastic, and in recent years, they’ve ventured into video. It’s great that they’ve made available their 100th show on Blu-ray for long-time fans and attendees like myself and those who haven’t been able to make it out to a show.

Arnie Roth conducts and hosts the show, recorded in front of a Japanese crowd. They play many of the classics, including the iconic “One-Winged Angel,” a lovely healing rendition of “The Prelude,” the rousing “Final Fantasy” theme, and the wondrous “Main Theme from Final Fantasy VII.” Some new arrangements come courtesy of Piano Opera Final Fantasy pianist Hiroyuki Nakayama, and are a real treat. “Balance is Restored” from Final Fantasy VI stands out in particular, visiting several of the game’s key themes, along with Susan Calloway’s rendition of Final Fantasy XII’s vocal theme, “Kiss Me Good-Bye,” “Roses of May” from Final Fantasy IX, an explosive “Torn from the Heavens” from Final Fantasy XIV (with Masayoshi Soken in attendance), singer Emiko Shiratori reprising her role as vocalist on Final Fantasy IX’s “Melodies of Life,” and an amazing battle medley covering Final Fantasy I – XIV which picks some often-missed tracks, including the final battle theme from Final Fantasy V and a jazzy rendition of the Final Fantasy VIII battle theme. The orchestra reacting to the fan reaction to “Swing de Chocobo” was cute, too, as well as the upright bass player really getting into the piece. Finally, the encore “J-E-N-O-V-A Complete” was also fantastic, really pushing the orchestra to adopt an aggressive battle sound.

My only criticism would be that the MP3s are not hosted on this Blu-ray disc! Still, I enjoyed watching it from start to finish. Given the recent Distant Worlds III album release didn’t feature many of these new arrangements, I’m hoping we’ll see yet another Distant Worlds CD release in the future with these new arrangements on them so I can listen on the go.

The Blu-ray is definitely worth your time. The booklet is stuffed full of comments from the creators, all in English as well as Japanese. Grab it from CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: BEFORE THE FALL: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack

Square Enix has released another massive collection of music from Final Fantasy XIV, this time from several recent content updates. Fans were impressed with the initial soundtrack offering some months back, so it’s a bit of a surprise to get another collection totaling over four hours of music so soon. But who can complain when the new music composed mostly by Masayoshi Soken is so good!

There isn’t as diverse of a range presented on this album: it’s mainly darker and more ominous than the previous album release, but there’s a lot to love. Many of my favorites include the rock tracks that were performed by The Primals on their From Astral to Umbral arrange album, including the contemplative “Thunder Rolls” and the grungy rock “Oblivion.” Other favorites include the melancholy choir piece, “A Light in the Storm,” the exotic and ambient “The Edge,” the atmospheric and dreamy “The Warrens,” a dark organ and choir version of the vocal theme “Answers,” and the explosive orchestral track “Hamartomania,” which sounds like something out of Metal Gear Solid. That’s in addition to several references to classic Final Fantasy tunes that fans of the series will enjoy.

My favorite thing about this soundtrack, which is presented on Blu-ray disc, is that it hosts some bonus content, including live performances of piano and The Primals sets from this year’s Final Fantasy XIV festival in Japan. The footage is quite substantial, and includes some interesting moments, including Soken himself creating makeshift percussion out of cardboard boxes while he plays a track on piano and performing a duo on one piano for another.

Final Fantasy XIV fans will want to check this out. There is over four hours of music to enjoy in addition to the fantastic concert footage. Pick it up on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Final Symphony music from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X

Final Symphony represents one of the most ambitious undertakings Thomas Boecker and Merregnon Studios have attempted to date. While their “Symphonic” series has been a smashing success, with productions dedicated to the works of Chris Huelsbeck (Symphonic Shades), Nobuo Uematsu (Symphonic Odysseys), Square Enix (Symphonic Fantasies), and others, Final Symphony brings together an assortment of Final Fantasy titles and presents them in a grand classical tradition. Prepare to hear your favorite “tunes” from the Final Fantasy series elevated to a new level with expert arrangements by the team at Merregnon Studios (Roger Wanamo and Jonne Valtonen) and by Masashi Hamauzu himself.

After an original playful opener, “A Circle Within a Circle Within a Circle,” the album launches into an epic 18-minute suite from Final Fantasy VI titled “Born with the Gift of Magic,” which opts for a narrative angle by telling the tale of Terra and her conflict with the empire, her past, and with the tyrant Kefka. There’s a lot of turmoil embedded in the music, and my favorite moment is the mysterious take on “Another World of Beasts.” There’s a piano concerto arranged by Hamauzu that masterfully combines various themes from the game into a coherent musical experience, and a three movement symphony dedicated to Final Fantasy VII that also adopts a narrative format, focusing on Sephiroth, Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and the epic showdown between them. A few pieces are shorter in length, including “Suteki da ne” from Final Fantasy X, “Continue?” from Final Fantasy VII, and a clever “Fight, Fight, Fight!” which sports battle themes from across all three titles presented in a unique way as they battle with one another to be heard.

The release comes housed on a Blu-ray disc which can be watched in a Blu-ray player, showing off photos from the recording sessions while you listen to the sometimes-beautiful, sometimes-intense performance by the London Symphony Orchestra. The MP3s are also housed on the disc, so you can take the music with you on the go. The included booklet is written in Japanese and English, and includes bios for all of the artists as well as a wonderfully-written listener’s guide that explains the creative decisions that went into the music, allowing the casual listener like myself to understand what’s being represented by the various musical passages.

I referred to the original scores as “tunes” at the start of this review because this presentation is so steeped in the classical tradition that it makes the source material sound almost like child’s play. That’s not to say it’s without merit, as nothing can top the nostalgia provided by the original sound source, but if you ever want to impress your classically-trained music friends with what game music can be as heard through the lens of true classical music, show them Final Symphony. It feels like the adult way to enjoy Final Fantasy music.

Final Symphony is out in September and can be pre-ordered from CD Japan.

Review: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster OST

I admit that I never gave the Final Fantasy X soundtrack much of a chance back when it was released. I played through the game, and to this day, it’s one of my least favorite games in the series, so it makes sense that I didn’t come back to the soundtrack very often. However, the re-release of the soundtrack in an upgraded “remaster” version to celebrate the game’s HD re-release has given me the opportunity to really dig into the music and appreciate it as a stand-alone product, and I must say that I actually like it a lot after listening.

Hit the jump for full impressions. Continue reading Review: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster OST