Tag Archives: Orchestral

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: LORD of VERMILION III Original Soundtrack

While I’ve never had the pleasure of playing Lord of Vermilion, I have been on top of their multiple soundtrack releases. The series itself is interesting in that it’s an arcade card-based title with some beautiful artwork from a number of contributing artists, and likewise, the music has been handled by a number of composers, with Nobuo Uematsu on the first game, Hitoshi Sakimoto and Basiscape on the second, and now electronic artist Tachytelic on the third.

I can’t say I know a whole lot about Tachytelic, but if you’re a fan of electronic music, dubstep, and electronic-orchestral hybrids, this album may be for you. The opening theme is the original by Uematsu redone with a trip-hop drum beat, exotic vocals, and dubstep stylings. A few of my favorites include “Elder Tower” which combines dubstep elements and epic fantasy orchestral with a cool ascending brass and string melody, “Red String Break,” which sports ominous pads and break beats on top of some lovely string work, and the trailer-esque “Over the Pride,” with its slow build and intense climax. “ANGER Z E N N O” is a heavy drum ‘n’ bass track with angry flaring synth lines that almost sound like guttural speech, “Tentacle Dread Hot Beat” (probably my favorite track) with its epic descending string line, and the cinematic tracks that include the emotional “Tear,” the spooky “Another Space,” and “Worry.” There are two ending themes that combine electronic and orchestral elements. I love the choral elements in “Red Flamers” and the killer bass and piano work in “Wind to Wind.”

In all, the Lord of Vermilion III OST offers a new sound that makes a great addition to the eclectic franchise. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Tachytelic in the future. You can grab the album from CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: FINAL FANTASY EXPLORERS Original Soundtrack

While we’ve grown accustomed to Naoshi Mizuta scoring many of the smaller spin-off Final Fantasy titles over the past several years, Final Fantasy Explorers opts instead for composer Tsuyoshi Sekito, who’s probably best known for his rock-oriented work on The Last Remnant and various contributions to many Square Enix titles.

He delivers a fairly impressive mix of sweeping orchestral themes with the JRPG-standard rock-flavored battle music, which plays to his strengths. The regal orchestral main theme is big and bombastic, and is worked throughout many of the tracms, and there are a few Final Fantasy series references featured throughout in addition to the battle themes from Final Fantasy IV through IX tucked away at the end of the album.

There are playful marches, adventurous suites, droning ambiance, flamenco, accordion-laden Western, and tense espionage themes. The rocking metal take on the chocobo’s theme is a lot of fun, and one of my favorite tracks comes as an exotic piece with an unusual oboe melody that stuck with me. The then there’s epic rock throughout, particularly in the final battle theme, that should please fans of the epic battle themes of yore.

In all, Sekito delivers a fairly fun and upbeat Final Fantasy score that should please JRPG enthusiasts. It’s been a while since we’ve heard an entire score from Tsuyoshi Sekito, so his fans will definitely want to check this out. It’s available on CD Japan.

Review: Arcadia no Aoki Miko ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

We unfortunately don’t see a lot of mobile games that are coming out in Japan. One such game from Square Enix, Arcadia no Aoki Miko, remains a mystery to me, but Square Enix has released a soundtrack album featuring music by Naoshi Mizuta, and I think RPG fans may be surprised by what they hear.

Check out some impressions if this somewhat brief album below. Continue reading Review: Arcadia no Aoki Miko ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Review: Bravely Second End Layer Original Soundtrack

The Bravely Default soundtrack was widely acclaimed. It featured rock artist REVO providing some fantastic themes that earned the score a lot of praise in 2014. With Bravely Second on the horizon, Square Enix is going big once again with the soundtrack, this time by hiring ryo, the producer of one of my personal favorite acts in Japan, supercell, to score the game.

Can lightning strike twice? Does ryo have it it takes to give JRPG music fans what they so desire? Continue reading Review: Bravely Second End Layer Original Soundtrack

Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO

I’m probably not the only person who thought this album was going to be a brass album. It’s called Brass de Bravo, after all. What you’re going to get, however, is more along the lines of a small ensemble with, yes, a fleshed out brass section, performing mainly orchestral arrangements. Apparently there was a live performance featuring a brass group in conjunction with the Siena Wind Orchestra, which explains this sound. Fortunately the fun selection of arrangements and suites make up for the confusing album title, so let’s dig in. Continue reading Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO

Review: Bayonetta 2 Original Soundtrack

Listening to a Bayonetta soundtrack is always a huge undertaking. The first game’s soundtrack was five discs, and not to be outdone, Bayonetta 2 also clocks in at five. Still, much with the games, there’s a lot of quirkiness and charm found within the eclectic mix of electronic, orchestral, and jazz themes presented.

To go along with this large collection of music, there’s also a number of contributing composers from Platinum games and elsewhere who make this soundtrack what it is.

Does the Bayonetta 2 soundtrack surpass the first game’s effort? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Bayonetta 2 Original Soundtrack

Review: Dark Souls II Original Soundtrack

A lot of people were surprised to see Motoi Sakuraba take the helm of the Dark Souls series after Shinsuke Kida’s powerful score to Demon’s Souls. Would he take the franchise in a more progressive rock direction that he is known for, or stay true to the epic orchestral stylings that Kida established in Demon’s Souls?

I was personally surprised and delighted to see him take the latter approach. The Dark Souls soundtrack had a lot of standout music, and I was wondering if he could pull off a repeat with Dark Souls II.

The soundtrack album was included with limited edition versions of the game, so fortunately it’s pretty easy to find out! Continue reading Review: Dark Souls II Original Soundtrack

Review: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

I’ve finally dug through the 400+ songs featured in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. I was particularly pleased with the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS soundtrack that I reviewed a couple months back, and the Wii U soundtrack is a staggering three-to-four times bigger.

Now, while many of those tracks are original soundtrack versions and returning arrangements from Melee and Brawl (which are excellent themselves), there’s still new arrangements to enjoy.

Let’s have a listen. Continue reading Review: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Review: Hideki Sakamoto Trio

Hideki Sakamoto hasn’t been in games that long, but he quickly became one of my favorite composers with his work on the Yakuza series, Echochrome, Toukiden, and a number of other titles that are obscure outside of Japan. His knack for memorable melodies paired with his use of live instruments and high production values is a perfect combination, and it’s for this reason that I’ve eagerly looked forward to his various arrangement projects, from his Hideki Sakamoto Orchestral Works featuring a full orchestra to TEKARU, his rock band that tackles many of his game themes. Now we get a more intimate trio approach, and like his other projects, it doesn’t disappoint.

Read more below. Continue reading Review: Hideki Sakamoto Trio