I have a certain affinity with piano arrangements of video game soundtracks. They are often some of my favourite renditions of game music. Mark Sparling’s “A Short Hike” soundtrack gets given a warm and cosy piano arrangement by Pablo Enver, who also performs the entire album. The laid-back vibe of the originals shines through in this half-hour stroll through autumn leaves.
Across the nine tracks, the main theme from the game pops up in a variety of different styles and nuances. The piano arrangements aren’t bombastic but that wouldn’t suit the mood or tone of the originals. There’s a general wistfulness with a playful edge throughout. “Somewhere In The Woods” is the perfect example of this as the song has a rolling and proud melodic motif that occasions switches to a twitchy, jaunty, near pizzicato playing style. Then as the song reaches the end, it has that warm cosy fire trill at the end.
If anything, Pablo Enver’s arrangements remind me of the piano-led original soundtrack pieces from Final Fantasy XIII. There is a nobility to the music that stands out, through tracks like “See You At The Top” or “Untitled Demo”. Elsewhere, “A Short Flight” evokes serious Ghibli vibes ala Kiki’s Delivery Service. It has a jazzy razmataz that offers the listener a smile. “Nap Time” is a cosy rework of the same theme, whilst “Hello?” is a more searching rendition. If I were to be critical, the main melodic motif pops up repeatedly, especially in the second half of the collection. You can’t help but start to compare the tracks side by side. You’ll find one track suits your mood more than the others and that means some songs get less attention. I’d have loved some more experimental or robustly redesigned arrangements but then that wouldn’t be in keeping with the theme of “A Short Hike”. It’s a tricky situation to balance.
That doesn’t mean that what’s here isn’t lovely, it is just a little similar at times to other tracks on the piano collections. If you prefer your piano arrangements of game music to be homely, largely relaxed and cosy – this is the collection for you. If you are expecting or hoping for dramatic arpeggios and board slaps, this will not be your jam. The collection also comes with a PDF of the sheet music too, which is a welcome addition. That means pianists out there can take a short hike whenever they want to.
Recommended track: Somewhere In The Woods
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