The smoothest piano collection rearrangement of game music in 2020.
Every year I go searching for a very specific niche in game music – the piano rearrangement album. Final Fantasy was the series that initially led me to this craze but other games have dabbled in it too and some of my favourites include Brandish, Ni No Kuni, Stardew Valley and Kingdom Hearts to name but a few. It is often an RPG focused niche so when other game styles pull into the piano collections bar, I pay extra attention as they can do just as well.
AYAKI is vastly experienced, being one half of Prescription for Sleep, a piano and sax jazz arrangement duo. Freed from that trapping and its sedate by design feel, AYAKI’s performances on ‘Piano Collections Wizard of Legend’ are sublime. Able to provide more expression, romance, sway and drama into his playing, these tracks are perfectly pitched. They provide the main melodies for the excellent ‘Wizard of Legend’ game but in a whimsical and romantic piano light. AYAKI’s arrangements are luscious and layered. With musical partner Norihiko Hibino on production, there is an innate warmth to the piano and that helps convey the romantic pastel feel of the music.
This pushes through to the performances themselves. ‘Lanova’s Treasures (Museum)’ is bursting at the seams with heart as AYAKI knows exactly how to pace a melody, lean into pauses and spaces and use speed to his advantage. ‘Prepare for Chaos (Plaza)’ uses that pace and complex arrangement style to the opposite end. Instead of feeling like a battle piece, it feels like a joyous overworld adventure piece. I imagine cute characters skipping through grass wide-eyed and ready to launch into the world headfirst with positive vibes only. Those positives vibes often feel homey too such as the beautiful ‘Shuu’s Spire (Air)’ and the rousing ‘Atlas’s Terrace (Earth)’.
AYAKI isn’t afraid of going virtuoso on us though and for that, I am truly grateful. ‘Freiya’s Cage’ is a superb brooding jazzy track the transitions from something curious to something sinister and darker as the piece develops. ‘Zeal’s Forge (Fire)’ pounds up and down the octaves like a high-speed acrobat in a way that subtly wows you. I’m pretty sure it has one of the highest notes per second ratio at some points in the performance. The dark side of the arrangements do not pop out often but when they do, they feel earnt and meaningful.
After heartfelt arrangements of the Boss, Final Boss and Ending pieces that leave you feeling bittersweet but ultimately wholesome, the final surprise is an original piece. ‘Realizing One’s Potential’ closes out the album in a reflective and quietly uplifting manner. A bit like laying your head on your pillow after a hard days good dungeoning!
‘Piano Collections Wizard of Legend’ is my favourite piano collection arrangement of game music in 2020. There were several contenders but AYAKI absolutely nails the romantic mood of the arrangements. Complex, flowing, gracious and powerful – these kinds of niche albums can be fantastic gateways for classical music lovers to enter into the game music scene. This is a fantastic place to start.
Recommended track: Lanova’s Treasures (Museum)
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