Having had the privilege of seeing two of the Distant Worlds concerts when they came to London previously, I have a special place in my heart for a lot of Final Fantasy music. Hearing them orchestrated, or arranged in general, usually brings me a lot of joy.
For the fifth instalment of this series, the vast majority of the tracks here come from Final Fantasy VI or X and later. The mildly undercooked version of V’s ‘Clash on the Big Bridge’ opens the album off. I say undercooked as it is over too soon and sticks to the original too much. From VI we have the creepy ‘Dark World’, the uplifting ‘Searching for Friends’ and the near 14 minute ‘Opera Maria and Draco’. Their technical ability is on point and its clear that the opera is the centrepiece for the album. As someone who really struggles with opera, I adore that it exists and is excellently put together, but it won’t be something I will regularly go back to. It has somewhat become a fan favourite and tour staple recently so I think most will be happy it is here. The real boon is that it is sung entirely in English.
IX’s ‘Unrequited Love’ is the token love track and does a fine job, whilst the brief but beautiful choir version of X’s ‘Hymn of Fayth’ is welcome. My main nitpick is that both of these tracks have had more elaborate renditions in both piano and orchestrated versions elsewhere which I prefer. This collection is very by the numbers and aside from ‘Cinco de Chocobo’, the rest of the album suffers from this.
You see, whilst XII’s ‘Saber’s Edge’ is powerful and regal, XII’s ‘Flash of Steel’ dramatic, XI’s Battle Medley, VIX’s ‘Heavensward’ elegant and XV’s ‘Ignis and Raves’ fun – they all sound too close to their originals. With the latest instalments, we aren’t dealing with MIDI arrangements from games, we’re dealing with orchestrations or elaborate sound samplers. The audio difference is small unless you change the arrangements or go for medleys. Whilst the medley approach here is nice and technically accomplished, something just didn’t click. It felt by the numbers and safe.
Fans of the Distant World series should and likely will lap this up. For me, with the later soundtracks, I feel unless the arrangements are significantly different or the instrumentation has changed, it feels a bit less…special. Beautifully played, but safely put together. If you’d like direct arrangements of your Final Fantasy music then pop an extra point on the score below.
Recommended track: Saber’s Edge
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