Game Music

Final Fantasy Tactics in Concert: 61 Tracks and Crazy Love for the Win

December 10, 2009 | | 10 Comments Share thison Facebook Final Fantasy Tactics in Concert: 61 Tracks and Crazy Love for the Winon Twitter

[Editor’s Note: We told you about the crazy Final Fantasy Tactics concert that took place in Japan last month, featuring nearly every track from the game. Fortunately OSV’s friend Crystal attended the event and has a great write-up for you (you may remember her massive report from the Joe Hisaishi concert last year). Sit back and check out what you missed on 11/22/09 in Japan!]

This was a free concert devoted to Final Fantasy Tactics music featuring a whopping 61 of the 71 tracks of the FFT soundtrack. First of all, to answer the question on everyone’s mind, yes, permission from Square Enix had been obtained in order to perform these works. As you’re all well aware, concerts like Video Games Live, Distant Worlds, and PLAY! A Videogame Symphony often feature Nobuo Uematsu’s scores from the core Final Fantasy series, which are of course the most popular titles in the series, but this concert being entirely dedicated to a spin-off not composed by Uematsu (Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata scored FFT) seemed impossible.

But it happened! When the news of this FFT-only orchestral concert arose, the excitement spread like wildfire everywhere. There was the usual hope and excitement, but also worry and dread about whether or not they’d be able to pull it off. This was on my mind, and likely the minds of others as I headed to the concert from Tachikawa Station.

Read on to see how the Final Fantasy Tactics concert turned out after the jump!

I got there pretty late and I could already see that the lines were very long. As soon as I saw the line, I immediately feared that I would be turned away, but fortunately everything worked out fine.

As I headed inside, there was a beautiful display of flowers from Hitoshi Sakimoto and others, and even a smaller bouquet from Little Jack Orchestra (who recently performed a similar fan-produced Final Fantasy VI concert). The hall itself had a capacity of a little over 1,400 seats. It was estimated that most, if not all, of the 1,400+ seats were filled. Since this wasn’t an event where there was assigned/reserved seating, if you left your seat at any time during the show, you lost it. I sat next to an older couple during the first chapter, although their spots were taken by two younger guys for the next chapter. Since I traveled alone this time, I sat there for the entire 3+ hour concert, without a pee break or anything!

The “orchestra” behind the performance is called “Hoshi no Shirabe” or “Hoshirabe” for short. They’re a fairly young (college-age) amateur volunteer group that were all gathered up on Mixi, a Japanese social networking site, over the past couple years. This is actually their second concert, but this is their first-ever orchestral performance. Every member of the group had blue flower (carnation?) on their lapel or in their hair somewhere. The standard orchestra instruments, including violin, viola, cello, and piano were present. But other unique instruments were also included, like the xylophone, a gong, several different drums, a triangle, and concert tubular bells which demonstrated that they were going to try to be as accurate as possible in reproducing the sounds from the game.

The concert itself was broken up into 4 chapters, just like the game, and the setlist followed the chronological order of the game for the most part. Since the setlist is so long, you can find it at the bottom of this report. The concert started at around 3:10 PM and ended around 6:20 PM with 10-15 minute breaks in between, so you can see that it was quite long.

As the lights dimmed, one of the evening’s two different conductors walked almost regally towards the podium, sporting one of two stylish capes (red and blue) with 2 different crests representing the rival families in the game. Their body language spoke volumes as they conducted the orchestra with the same amount of passion and energy as a professional conductor would.

After checking out videos on YouTube, I found that I was beginning to understand more about the quality of the Final Fantasy Tactics soundtrack and the gameplay. Tactics has a great soundtrack that is somewhat bombastic, but has many different faces, giving off clear feelings of adventure, bravado, angst, and loneliness despite the limitations of the synthesized orchestral samples.

Starting from the beginning, Prologue and Chapter 1, the first 4 pieces really had a lot of character. The opening strings of “Bland Logo” were clean and bright, immediately creating a sense of excitement that lasted throughout the rest of the concert. I’ll admit that the brass section struggled with the intensity and faster pace of “Enemy Soldiers Attack.” There was more than one occasion where they’d miss notes.

The main theme of sorts, “Main Character’s Theme,” is repeated several times throughout the different chapters, but I particularly enjoyed their solo piano arrangement. In the middle of “Chapel,” there’s this part where a very low sounding instrument (perhaps a tuba?) plays in the foreground. Here in the arrangement, the brass really worked well with the whispery sound of strings.

Next, “Ovelia’s Theme” was chillingly beautiful. As expected, in order to enhance the feeling of this piece, the violins took over the role of the theme. The vibrato created by the violins really enhanced the angst of Ovelia as in the game. In the “Pervert” sequence, the violins played the main melody simulating the screeching of the repeated phrase. The rhythmic pounding of the drums was very good in heightening the intensity of the piece.

The battle sequences in Final Fantasy Tactics are quite intense. In particular, “Decisive Battle” and “Antipyretic” managed to translate their intensity well, as each build up in tension towards a climax. Later, “Ultema, the Perfect Body” featured this steady pounding of the drums; it was harsh and energetic. It provided just the right mix of flair and technique. The balance of the orchestra was well-controlled throughout most of the evening, but during these more bombastic pieces, I found that the strings section often got drowned out by the other louder instruments. But this sometimes happens with professional orchestras too.

Since they were performing 61 songs, most of these had to be briefly touched upon in larger medleys, like in the case of the shop medley. Other pieces ended abruptly which indicated to me that the arrangements were direct transcriptions of the source material without much in the way of arrangement.

After finishing “Staff Credits,” the supposed final song of the evening, I was left pretty impressed with how much work they had put into this performance and their enthusiasm for FFT music, and also that the show was free!

Next, Ransei-san, who was playing the French horn in the orchestra was asked to come up to the front of the stage and talk for a moment. She’s one of the group’s founders. Apparently, she and others spent a little more than a year arranging the score.

And then, surprise, Sakimoto-san and Iwata-san were brought to the stage! They had apparently been seated in the middle of the hall in an area blocked off for them, and a staff member dressed up as a chemist gave flowers to the two. The organizers on-stage then launched into a Q&A session with Sakimoto and Iwata, asking about their works. They basically said they were surprised that so many fans came to the show, especially since the game was released over 10 years ago, and they thanked everyone for coming.

Iwata said something like “To go so far and do 61 songs is… crazy,” which was met with audience laughter. Before this performance, there had been some live FFT music played in a commercial, but it was really short. FFT music had never been performed live to this extent until now. Both Sakimoto and Iwata seemed quite pleased with the result, and commented they’d like to see something like this happen again someday.

Ransei-san then had the honor of conducting the encore, which was “Unit Introduction.” The audience clapped along to the beat. The musicians did some flashy moves like the cellists rotating cellos and the saxophonists standing up and swaying. It was a lot of fun to watch.

At the exit, most of the orchestra performers came out to the entrance to thank everyone for attending, and there was a donation box nearby to fund a possible concert in Nagoya next year.

In summary, “Hoshirabe” came off as a very competent orchestra, but they still need to work out some kinks. The weakness of the brass section was really the only major flaw in an otherwise enjoyable afternoon. Although some arrangements did feel like an exact transcription of the original track, they were far from stale and the effort here was evident. They really did try to inject even more emotion into an already great score and I have to give them credit. It was a daunting task to free this score from its synthesizer roots, but it worked.

Even if I had paid to attend this concert, I would have gotten my money’s worth: 3+ hours and that many songs crammed into medleys is something that never happens with Press Start medleys, for example. More importantly, the musicians were fans who volunteered their own time fueled by their own enthusiasm for Iwata and Sakimoto’s music. Such devotion to a single soundtrack, and doing it all for free is simply awesome, or maybe I should say “crazy?” I applaud their dedication and I do wish them the best for next year and their future.


[Flowers from the Little Jack Orchestra]

Setlist

Prologue
01. Prologue [Bland Logo~Title Back] ~ [Backborn Story]~ [P.R. Movie]

Chapter 1 – The Meager
02. Opening [Prologue Movie]
03. The Present [Chapel]~[Enemy Soldiers Attack]
04. The Past [Officer Cadet]~[Back Fire]~[Algas]~[Alma’s Theme]
05. Important matter/thing [Zalbag the Holy Knight] ~[Anxiety before the
Battle]~[Decisive Battle]~[Dicedarg’s Theme]~[Memories]
06. Outcome [Delita’s Theme]~[Trisection]~[And I ran away]

Intermission 1
[Tutorial] – played by a woodwind ensemble

Chapter 2 – The Manipulator & the Subservient
07. Endurance – I’ll level up today [Data Screen]~[World Map]~[Attack
Theme]~[Random Waltz]~[Game over]~[Formation Screen]~[Apoplexy]~[Battle’s
End]
08. Ambition – Sometimes a Story [Unavoidable Battle]~[Run past through the
Plain]~[Brave Story]
09. Ignorance [Ovelia’s Theme]~[Delita’s Theme]~[Antipyretic]~[Shock!! ~Despair]
10. Truth [Descent]~[The Pervert]~[Saint Ajora’s Theme]

Intermission 2
[Under the Stars] – played by String Quintet

Chapter 3 – The Valiant
11. Triple [A Chapel]~[Desert Land]~[Antidote]
12. Trading City [Shop]~[Fur, Meat, Bones Store]~[Pub]~[Soldier Agency]
13. Little Sister’s Tear(s) [Terror 1]~[Battle on the Bridge]~[Requiem]

Intermission 3
[Thunder God Cid’s Theme] – played by brass quintet

Chapter 4 – Somebody to Love
14. Ramza [Main Character’s Theme]~[Remnants]
15. Murond Holy Place [Mysterious Ajora]~[Terror 2]~[Bloody Excrement]~[Cry of a
Bitter Heart]~[Saint Ajora’s Theme Deluxe Edition]
16. Murond Death City [Ultema the Nice body]~[Ultema the Perfect Body]~[Last
Battle’s End]
17. Ending [Epilogue]~[Staff Credit]

Encore: [Unit Introduction]

[Again, special thanks to Crystal for providing this report along with these photos]

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