Tag Archives: Final Fantasy VII

Review: SQUARE ENIX MUSIC Presents Life Style: cry…

Square Enix launched a neat album series at Tokyo Game Show 2015 called Life Style. It started off with volumes to accompany driving and and relaxing (which fits in well with what we’re doing with Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies), and 2016’s event saw “cry” and “up” editions added to the series. I really love the concept of game music for daily living, as I have various playlists set up for this exact thing, and Square Enix has quite a catalog to pull from when it comes to compiling music for this purpose, as evidenced by the fact that I can’t source most of the tracks on this album.

This volume is intended to contain “sad” themes, of which there are many in Square Enix’s catalog. Starting from the top is the aptly titled “Drowning in Despair” with strings and piano, followed by a new arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme” with twangy acoustic guitar, strings, and bells. I can’t say it’s very suitable for crying, as it’s more beautiful than anything, but perhaps the source material may make somebody cry. The same follows for the healing “Now I’m Near the Best,” the sinister “A Son’s Loss,” the lullaby-esque “Sleeper’s Wake,” the contemplative “Lament,” and the mysterious “Movement in Green” (from Final Fantasy X). Getting into more cry-appropriate material, however, “Casualties of War” works in low tones with harp and male choir, “Ashes of Dreams” (from NieR) is a melancholy ballad sung by Emi Evans, and “Noel’s Theme -Final Journey-” is reflective with its female vocals about loneliness and regret. The closing track, “The Girl Who Stole the Stars” (from Chrono Cross) is a fitting closer with its somber strings and female vocals.

It would appear as though Square Enix stuck to modern releases, which I suppose is best for a “life style” album that you will play wherever it suits you. 8-bit and 16-bit tracks may not always go over well in all locales.

What drew me to this series outside of the concept was the artwork. Each volume sports vibrant colors and blown up pixel art on a thick cardboard folding sleeve. There really isn’t much else going on with the packaging, but the design is quite pleasing to the eye. The albums have unfortunately been sold exclusively at events, and are not available online. Keep an eye out on used markets where they can be picked up for cheap if you’re interested, though!

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: The Death March

The World Ends With You and Crisis Crisis: Final Fantasy VII composer Takeharu Ishimoto is back with his live band featuring female vocalist Stephanie and a standard rock ensemble. While the group has performed music from The World Ends With You in the past, this album revisits all sorts of Ishimoto material, including tracks form Final Fantasy Type-0, Dissidia Final Fantasy, The World Ends With You, and both Before Crisis and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII along with some original tracks.

There are excellent vocals throughout, with catchy chorus sections and some lovely orchestral-infused ’90s rock and grunge and ’80s-style synth work. There’s a nice aesthetic across the board, from the dark and moody opening track from Type-0 and the catchy guitar riffs and synth strings from Dissidia 012’s “God in Fire” to several tracks from The World Ends With You including “Revelation” with its ’80s atmosphere mixed with grunge vocals, two versions of “Hybrid” with glitchy grunge and Japanese acoustic takes, and a super-slow reverberating version of “Calling” which is my favorite version of the song yet.

The original tracks are also fantastic, with the haunting vocals of “DOO,” the dancey “MUSIC,” the industrial “Strange days” (my favorite track) with chugging pistons and aggressive layered guitars, the Nirvana-esque “Bubbles” with its weird and memorable lyrics, and several others.

Fans of ’90s alternative rock and grunge should appreciate this album. The arrangements of Ishimoto’s compositions are fantastic, and there’s lots to love from the originals as well. Stephanie is a very effective vocalist with a lot of range, and should provide adequate entertainment throughout.

Pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

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. Continue reading Review: PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY VII/VIII/IX

Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies (SMRC-1006)

It’s out! Ten tracks from across the spectrum of gaming, arranged and performed by GENTLE LOVE (Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI) for maximum relaxation and sleep. The album’s official website now contains the full track list (also below), and you can now purchase the album via Loudr.

Also, don’t miss the exclusive interview over on The Escapist where we discuss the potential for a second album. Send your feedback and suggestions to jayson[at]scarletmoonproductions.com!

Finally, check out the beautiful launch trailer at IGN today! Continue reading Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies (SMRC-1006)