All those songs you know and love arranged for acoustic guitar, piano, violin and flute.
Final Fantasy arrangement albums are the subgenre of game music that gives and gives. I’m already a sucker for piano arrangements and so this new foray into ‘acoustic’ arrangements feels like the next step along. Expanding to include acoustic guitar, a string quartet and the odd flute or clarinet – this selection is a divine mix of relaxation and passion. Consider this the purist classical arrangement that doesn’t need the full orchestra. Each track is beautifully remade and emotionally performed. It is a new star in the game arrangement genre.
One of the things that elevate the entire album is that half the tracks are medleys from areas of the game. Already merging themes from the original to create the remake tracks, this pulls into unique transitions and evocative mini solos. ‘Prelude Medley’ doesn’t even hit the rolling piano and main theme until a few minutes in as it prepares you for greatness. When that main theme does hit, the string quartet absolutely rinses everything out of it across a near eight-minute magnum opus. ‘Sector 7 Undercity Medley’ follows a similar vibe, borrowing from many themes and segueing epically between them.
Things get really heated with the battle themes. Don’t let the lack of perceived power of numbers put you off – a string quartet and duelling pianos can rock your world with ease. ‘Let the Battles Begin – Fight On Medley’ is the perfect example of this but so is ‘Ghastly Medley’ which borrows from Spanish flamenco vibes to really up the ante. It is so dark and dramatic by the end, it is like a gothic evocation spiralling around your head at full speed. Personal soundtrack favourite ‘J-E-N-O-V-A’ is expertly turned into a fraught string quartet arrangement that overflows with passion. At times it is breathless as the four players practically melt their bows. Of course, ‘One-Winged Angel – Rebirth’ rounds out the album with aplomb. It stays relatively true to its roots as the power comes from the force of everyone slamming that riff together. Outside of that, the theme has a warped romance to it that feels like a sped-up love letter. The ability to twist up and down the tempo at will is a real boon for the album as a whole.
The quieter songs may be overlooked on first listen but they are expertly crafted as well. ‘Aerith’s Theme – Home Again’ is lovingly recreated with warm acoustic guitar, violin and clarinet. Delicate, sensitive and able to move at its own pace – it is another classic rendition. I also really enjoyed the Russian pub rendition of ‘The Turks’ Theme’ which is witty and full of character. The only track to feature percussion in is the fun ‘Expressway Medley’ which adds in some deep tabla. It isn’t how you’d expect the music to sound and I love that after all these years, arrangements still surprise and delight in equal measure.
I think many fans may have overlooked some of the remake music and the sheer volume and depth of how the original Final Fantasy VII music was reimagined and expanded. This shows the music in a more classical light and illuminates the complexity of the music. This is one hell of a ride. Arrangers Kevin Penkin, Yuya Mori, Atsuki Yoshida, Ai Kuwabara, Yasunori Nishiki, Kenta Higashiohji and Taro Makido should all be exceptionally proud.
Recommended track: Sector 7 Medley
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