Game Music, Reviews

Piano Collections Final Fantasy XI, Music From the Soothing Side of Vana’diel (Review)

August 29, 2008 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Piano Collections Final Fantasy XI, Music From the Soothing Side of Vana’diel (Review)on Twitter

Back in July, OSV selected the Final Fantasy XI Premium Box as the soundtrack of the month. If you recall, Patrick was raving about the collection of piano arrangements that was featured on the last disc in the set, and he noted that it was non-canonical in that Square Enix was publishing a stand-alone Piano Collections Final Fantasy XI album, and here it is.

The album hit the Square Enix’s North American store last month, and I have to say that I like it a whole lot. It visits all the realms of Vana’diel, including the most recent Wings of the Goddess expansion, so not only are there some great arrangements to be heard on this album, but you can now hear them without the hassle of importing from Japan.

Hit the jump for our impressions of this outstanding addition to the Piano Collections series.

I’ve heard people say some pretty nasty things about composer Naoshi Mizuta’s composition skills. I’ve always been a fan of his work on Final Fantasy XI, but I didn’t play the game much beyond the initial release, so I wasn’t really familiar with the additional music from the expansions that have been released over the years. Let me come right out and say that every track on this album sounds great, and this can’t be solely attributed to Kaoru Ishikawa’s arrangements (although they are excellent). The melodies are memorable and soothing, and have given me a taste of what I’ve been missing over the years.

Pianists Kasumi Oga and Ayumi Iga tackle the albums’ 11 arrangements, starting with Oga’s performance of “A New Horizon – Tavnazian Archipelago.” The piece has a nice swing to it along with a stern melody that commands attention. A section towards the latter half features descending arpeggios and a certain openness and airiness that I found to be quite beautiful. Following this up is Iga with Nobuo Uematsu’s classic piece, “Ronfaure.” The six-minute long arrangement is deliberate yet subdued, taking on a somewhat regal tone while retaining its soothing atmosphere.

“Whispers of the Gods” acts as a sweet lullaby, sounding otherworldly, and reminding me somewhat of Koichi Sugiyama’s flight themes from the Dragon Quest series. “Stargazing,” from Wings of the Goddess, is another performance with a swing, featuring a whimsical melody that is light and refreshing.

Enter the duets. “Fated Strife -Besieged-“ is the first track on the album to break the calm, taking on a higher energy and volume than the rest of the tracks. The other duet, “Mercenaries’ Delight” is similarly charged, with a fast-paced melody and a jumpy bassline. I found myself enjoying the interplay between the two pianists in “Mercenaries’ Delight” a lot.

The next track, “The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah” is one of my favorites with its downtroden blues club feel. This one would be a good candidate for a vocal collection album. From here, Wings of the Goddess brings the album to a close with three more performances. “The Cosmic Wheel” is a contemplative piece with a moving bridge section. Next, “Griffon’s Never Die” is another favorite of mine with an upbeat melody that sounds final yet sweet all at once. The last piece, “Wings of the Goddess” is a lighthearted, adventurous track. Once it gets moving near the end, it’s actually quite moving, making an impact as the final track on the album.

I feel that some of the Piano Collections albums in the past have emphasized a more showy performance style which I found to be impressive, but I like the light approach of Piano Collections Final Fantasy XI album as well. It provides a relaxing listening experience, so those hoping to for energized battle themes and the like will probably be disappointed. There are a lot of strong tracks here, and the packaging, complete with entertaining artwork, a nice cardboard sleeve, and a neat photo of Mizuta with the pianists makes for a great package. It’s available at the Square Enix store for $19.99, and I recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of piano music.

What are some your favorite Piano Collections albums? Have you enjoyed any of Naoshi Mizuta’s work on Final Fantasy XI?

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