Some of my all time favourite arrangements of game music have been from the Final Fantasy Piano Collections however that series started from the fourth game. Piano Opera appears to bridge that gap with thirteen tracks from the opening three games.
“Prelude-Opening” from the original game kick-starts the album with familiarity and panache. The fabled prelude arpeggios are still as dreamy as ever and the main theme although done before, still feels relevant and grandiose especially with its shrill climax. “Main Theme” initially broods in a monotone pulse before breaking out into an expressive and impressively complex rendition of the over world music. I felt like each note was the air sailing through my hair on the airship. It has a majestic flow to it that sweeps you away. “Town Medley” then gets into the new shift for this collection as we whiz through a more sedate but well put together trio of town tracks. The way they effortlessly blend into each other is a great achievement. “Mount Gulg” changes tact and gets all bombastic and dynamic with its arrangement as it spits out its iconic riffs in different fashions. “Matoya’s Cave” is also given a great arrangement too which gives a well-played song a new lease of life. Both these tracks are great examples of why I love this series.
Final Fantasy II moves to the centre now as “Main Theme” for the second game gives a solemn and reflective rendition. “The Rebel Army” then gets regal and militant with a bouncy but authoritative take on the track. It still has some beautiful quiet sections but it’s like it saves the energy for the main riff to then pound it out. “Tower of the Magi” is a more abstract arrangement. It flows on and off for the first half as the power of the ivories builds and tapers before it gets into the actual melody just before half way. The melody just builds and builds and builds into a quirky frenzy before then sulking off in a brooding mass of bass notes just like how it came. A real pleasure to see a riskier track performed. This section then ends with “Battle Medley” which is utterly mesmerising from start to finish. Each battle theme rolls into each other perfectly and the piano mastership is spellbinding.
“The Boundless Ocean” kicks starts the final third with Final Fantasy III being the focus. It’s an understated delivery and a quiet moment on the album although it’s certainly not slow or spacious with its big piano rolls up the octaves. It just feels very much like you are swimming or gliding. “Crystal Cave” too starts off quietly plinking away as it slowly prepares you for the main melody which stays eerie and refuses to break out of the higher register. It certainly makes for a different feel that was previously missing from the album. “Eternal Calm” then gives us a beautiful ballad melody to wish away on. Even when the pace gets into a beat of sorts there’s a stillness in the happiness. Beautiful. To close the album out in style “This is the Last Battle” lays down a furious gauntlet of ivory flicks, bass note flashes and eerie minor chords gently tinkering away. It’s such a diverse track and you know the frenzy is coming at some point and when it does you feel every note.
As always, Final Fantasy Piano Collections are of an exceptionally high standard and this is no different. A must have for any VGM arrangement collector and instrumental piano music fan. Superb