Final Fantasy VII: Piano Collections

[Note: Another Chudah’s Corner piece. This time it’s FFVII’s Piano Collections. The date on this piece is March 205.]

Ever since Final Fantasy IV, each game has received a soundtrack, a piano collection, and an arranged CD release. For reasons unknown, Final Fantasy VII was skipped for both the piano collection and the arranged album. Square tried to make up for it by releasing the Final Fantasy VII Reunion CD, which felt like a “Greatest Hits” package as it had most of the memorable tunes from the game. Its only saving grace were three orchestra arranged tracks (“The Main Theme,” “One Wing Angel,” and “Aerith’s Theme”). All three pieces were later released in the U.S. on Tokyopop’s Final Fantasy S Generation album. Six years after Final Fantasy VII’s release, it finally received a piano collection in December of 2003. Now, shortly after its release, it is almost impossible to obtain this CD, as Digicube, the company responsible for releasing most of Square’s music, went out of business no less than two weeks after the release.

The album itself is a satisfying listen. All pieces were composed by series veteran Nobuo Uematsu (naturally), and arranged by Shiro Hamaguchi, with performance by Seiji Honda. It opens with an easygoing piece, “Tifa,” the familiar theme song of one of the games heroines. As is standard on most piano and arranged CD’s, FFVII PC features a mix of the game’s theme song, which sounds almost exactly as it does in the game, except it’s on the piano, of course. It’s almost easy to nod off and go to sleep while listening to it. The next song is the obligatory “Chocobo Song.” I normally love the chocobo theme, but when it is arranged at least 3 times per game, then arranged again for the piano and arranged CD’s, you can imagine how old it can get. In this arrangement, the phrase “Mommy can I have a chocobo?” is answered with a resounding “No!”

“Ahead on Our Way” follows, and sounds like something that Mr. Rogers would play for some reason. That’s not to say it’s bad, but that’s the image I get in my mind. I believe this is also the song featured in one of the trailers for the Final Fantasy VII movie, Advent Children. Track 5 is the standard battle theme music. I was surprised that they would attempt to arrange this song to piano; it’s fast and chaotic in the beginning, then pans out to a slower pace as it wears on. This piece features strong right and left hand piano work.

The Cosmo Canyon theme is next. Its melody is reminiscent of a tribal Native American song and sounds excellent on piano. The “Super Fun Time” feel of the Golden Saucer song translates great on piano. I remember hating this song whenever I went to the Golden Saucer, but this version actually sounds good, give it a listen if you get a chance. “Farm Boy” is next, and is another slow and easygoing piece, nice to go to sleep to.

“Rufus’s Welcoming Party” march was one of my favorite pieces of game music well before I knew about video game soundtrack CD’s. I actually had a save file on my memory card devoted to a point in the game where this song was soon to be played. On piano, it loses the intensity that made me want to throw down my controller and march along, but the melody remains intact and that is all that really matters. As one of the main boss themes, I liked J-E-N-O-V-A, it had a brutal sound to it, and its urgency was unparalleled. Those who say that the piano can not “rock” need to be taken out and shot.

“Aerith’s Theme” (in America, the character was renamed Aeris) is and always will be at the top of my list of favorite Final Fantasy songs. Its deliberate and haunting melody is a fitting theme to a character who was both haunting and deliberate. I remember the song playing when…well, it wouldn’t be right to spoil it for those who’ve not played that far, but let’s just say it was the first time I cried while playing a game. I was a gamer before, but after that moment I devoted my life to games. I vowed that the world would see how games can be as good, or better, than the other accepted forms of entertainment in the world today.

I had my doubts that “One Wing Angel,” Sephiroth’s final boss music, could hold up on piano, but it not only does it hold up, it still retains that “I’m evil and I’m going to kill you” aspect of the original. I’m amazed at the difficulty in this piece, but Seiji Honda tackles it with ease. Finally, Yuffie’s theme, “Descendant of Shinobi” rounds out the CD with its light and almost jazzy riff. I want to learn how to play this piece on piano. The CD ends just as it began: with a good song.

My only complaint is that the album clocks in at 48 minutes. Surely they could have included a few more songs. We fans have been waiting six years for this album. Pieces like “Anxious Heart,” the airship music, and the music that is played while Cloud is in the hospital in Mideel would have been excellent on this disc. Other than that small gripe, this CD belongs in any VGM fan’s collection.

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