Tag Archives: Masashi Hamauzu

Review: WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY Original Soundtrack

I haven’t been keeping close tabs on World of Final Fantasy as a game, but I have been greatly looking forward to the soundtrack, particularly after learning Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu would be at the helm and after hearing the samples from the Tokyo Game Show sampler this year. The album doesn’t disappoint. There are wonderful melodies throughout, fantastic arrangements of songs from across the Final Fantasy series, and great production values.

It’s hard to call out just a handful of songs, but I’ll do my best here. The opening theme, “Innocent²,” is a beautiful vocal ballad with strong Celtic and pop vibes, reminding me of the infectiously upbeat Genki Rockets. It’s actually by Ryo Yamazaki, and it’s incredibly well done. “World of Beauty,” one of my favorite tracks, sports swelling strings and contemplative piano before moving into a triumphant and uplifting section that screams adventure. There’s Hamauzu’s signature strings and piano throughout with the playful “Lann’s Melody,” the glitchy futuristic electronic track “World of Nine Wood Hills” which sounds like an IMERUAT song complete with vocals presumably by Mina, and an upbeat orchestral rock tune with chugging bass and dancing piano called “World of Battle” which was previewed on the aforementioned TGS sampler. Other favorites include the dreamy lullaby, “Refreshing Melody,” the mesmerizing “Labyrinth of Dragons” with its repetitive layers, twirling piano, and Mina’s voice once again, the slow night variation of the main theme, “Moonlight Melody,” the tense espionage music in “Confrontation Melody,” the upbeat and folksy “World of Sunshine,” the spooky and ethereal “Labyrinth of Trees,” and the closing vocal track, “World Parade.”

And those arrangements I mentioned? They’re many in number, and some of my favorites include “Snow -F,” a very contemplative and slowed down version of the iconic Final Fantasy XIII theme, a lovely regal strings and harpsichord version of “Castle Cornelia” and a killer rock performance of “The Scene of Battle” from the original Final Fantasy, a super hero version of “Edgar” from Final Fantasy VI with rockin’ guitar, string stabs, and big brass, “Don’t be Afraid” from Final Fantasy VIII with a heavy electronic bass and surfer rock guitar, and “The Sending” from Final Fantasy X with its Japanese instrumentation worked in with glitchy electronics.

In all, this is one of the best Final Fantasy albums I’ve heard in some time. Hamauzu and team have done a wonderful job with the original tunes and the arrangements alike. I could even go for some arrangements of the original themes! Piano Collections, anyone?

Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: The Orchestral SaGa -Legend of Music-

The SaGa series has been around since 1989 and is much beloved, particularly in Japan. Given that several of the games in the series didn’t make it outside of Japan, it’s not as well known as say Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but it has a strong musical heritage featuring some of the best composers and music that JRPGs have had to offer. This live orchestral arrangement album is the latest reminder of just how great this music is, and JRPG fans ought to take note if they haven’t already.

The two-disc album opens with a 12-minute-long SaGa series medley that touches on the lovely main theme from the Game Boy SaGa titles as well as the more widely-known Romancing SaGa main theme, and everything in between and after. This is a perfect showcase of the majesty and energy of the SaGa series soundtracks. The album presents various medleys of two or more tracks, visiting numerous sets of battle themes for which the series has come to be known (see our reviews of the SaGa battle arrange albums). There’s a little bit of everything including the subdued final dungeon medley from Romancing SaGa, the sweet and fluttering opening medley from SaGa Frontier 2 that sounds like Christmas morning, and the playful Feldschlacht medley also from SaGa Frontier 2 that elevates the fairly well-known theme to a more serious level with an added drum set and jazzy vibe. There’s exotic and bombastic with the Asellus medley from SaGa Frontier, and finally, epic rock percussion and guitar in a battle medley from Romancing SaGa that ends things with a bang.

If you haven’t given SaGa music a chance yet, here’s your opportunity. It’s not going to get much better than the live orchestral treatment, and true to what series fans would want, the heavy focus on battle themes should get you caught up in no time. The album’s available on CD Japan (standard version), and you can even order the bonus Square Enix shop version that includes an extra disc with a couple piano arrangements on special order.

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: Distant Worlds III: more music from Final Fantasy

Distant Worlds has always been exceptional, from the live concerts to the album recordings. I figured after the first two albums and the live Blu-ray concert recordings, however, that we wouldn’t be seeing more from the series. Then came along Distant Worlds III with a mixture of new arrangements and old ones that have been hard to come by.

Can Distant Worlds do it a third time? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Distant Worlds III: more music from Final Fantasy

Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call and Remix Selections

Theatrhythm is one of the most exciting things to happen to Final Fantasy or rhythm games in the past several years. It was the sort of idea that I could imagine throwing around with friends and never expecting to be made, but here it is. I loved Theatrhythm, and even dabbled in some DLC on my mobile phone, so I was again surprised and excited to see that it had done well enough to warrant a sequel of sorts.

Curtain Call brings more of the same, or rather, a whole lot more. There are some great additions to the music roster, which boasts over 210 songs, and a lot more to see and do, so check out my brief review below. Continue reading Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call and Remix Selections

Review: LIGHTNING RETURNS:FINAL FANTASY XIII OST PLUS

I quite enjoyed the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII OST. While it didn’t feature the catchy pop music that made Final Fantasy XIII-2 so endearing, it did sport its own unique blend of electronic ambiance that provided for a great listen.

As has been customary for the Final Fantasy XIII soundtracks, Square Enix released an additional disc of trailer music, instrumental versions, cut tracks, and variations on themes presented on this PLUS album. Is it worth picking up?

Read our review below. Continue reading Review: LIGHTNING RETURNS:FINAL FANTASY XIII OST PLUS

Review: M. Hamauzu Piano Works

After Masashi Hamauzu’s abrupt departure from Square Enix following the completion of the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack, Hamauzu’s name has popped up through his unique music duo, IMERUAT, and for various arrangements he’s done in the videogame industry. This album, however, marks his first solo effort since that time, taking a nod from his past SaGa Frontier piano album and Vielen Dank to bring together a collection of short piano pieces.

Read our impressions below. Continue reading Review: M. Hamauzu Piano Works

Review and Unboxing: IMERUAT’s Propelled LIfe

I love IMERUAT. For the uninitiated, IMERUAT is a duo comprised of Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, who banded together after Hamauzu’s departure from Square Enix upon completing Final Fantasy XIII. The band combines Hamauzu’s signature compositions, heavy with piano and electronic soundscapes, with Mina’s whimsical singing style, and the result is nothing less of superb.

After an incredible debut with Black Ocean in 2012, Propelled Life comes as six-track EP, giving fans a much-needed fix of some IMERUAT goodness. But more about that below. Continue reading Review and Unboxing: IMERUAT’s Propelled LIfe

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