Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale :: Review by Conqueso
The Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version is quite possibly the most beloved game soundtrack ever, certainly among Uematsu fans, so naturally expectations were high for the arranged version. Many fans were disappointed with the results, and with good reason, as it takes these fantastic tracks we all remember and distorts them. A lot. It has none of the wholesome arrangey goodness of, say, Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite or the earlier Piano Collections.
That isn't to say that this album is bad. On the contrary, it's one of my favorite Final Fantasy albums ever. I find it fascinating. I enjoy it because it did what the other albums I mentioned failed to do: it makes the music sound like they were made for the medium in which they are presented. And that's all thanks to the distortion. I think this is the first Final Fantasy arranged album that goes above and beyond the call of duty, and actually shows some creativity. While later albums, like Final Fantasy VIII Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec, had some similar development, Grande Finale has an irrepressible charm that can't be matched.
1) Opening Theme ~ Tina
The album starts off strong with the prologue. No, not that Prologue the actual prologue of Final Fantasy VI. It continues into a spirited rendition of the overworld theme. It's basically just like the original, only played by an orchestra. On the one hand, it sounds fantastic. On the other hand, it gives the listener the wrong impression of the album as a whole, as we'll see later. Either way, it's a great track. (8/10)
Here we get our first glimpse at what to expect from the rest of the album. This is my second favorite track of the whole CD. Cefca's (Kefka's) nasty little sneaking motif is still there, but the track has been expanded greatly, incorporating tons of original material, which gives it a sense of direction that is hard to avoid in arranging a track meant to loop. (10/10)
3) The Mystic Forest
This track's kind of blah. There's some interesting ambience at the beginning, but once the track gets going, there's nothing new. (6/10)
If you bought this CD to hear Final Fantasy VI music, you're gonna hate this. This tear-jerking melody has been transformed into a piece of Baroque chamber music. Gorgeous on its own (the violin solo at the end is one of the best moments on the entire CD), but not as good as the original. (7/10)
5) Milan de Chocobo
What. the. hell...? This is *weird*. The CD takes a horrible nosedive with the strangest track on the disc and the worst rendition of the Chocobo theme I've ever heard. It sounds as though the orchestra is drunk. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad. Fortunately, this is the only really bad track on the entire disc. (4/10)
6) Troops March On
This track has one serious kink in its construction: it is split, quite obviously, into two sections. The first half is very close to the original, yet actually makes this originally obnoxious piece quite listenable. But then it fades out, and a new section (a gorgeous one, may I add) with absolutely no relation to it begins. When I first heard it, I thought it was a different piece. Imagine my surprise when it ended without so much as a hint of a familiar melody! Both sections are great they just needed to be better integrated. (7/10)
7) Kids Run Through the City Corner
What is a city corner anyway? And how do the kids run though it without smacking right into it? In any case, I don't like this track much. The intro comes out of left field, and is completely unnecessary. The rest of the track is just like the original and far too short. This has the same instrumentation as Gau. Disappointing. (5/10)
Finally! A great track! This expresses Setzer's laid-back personality perfectly. It sounds like lounge music, but so did the original. It's more interesting than the original, though I wish it had been developed a bit more. (8/10)
This is the infamous bagpipe track. Sure, the bagpipes sound like greasy monkey turds, sure, they detract from the music a huge amount, but you know what? This track is wonderful in spite of it. It's filled with such intense emotion, it nearly makes me cry. I'd give this a 10, but I have to take off points for the horrible, horrible choice of instrument. (7/10)
10) Mystery Train
The CD closes with two of the best tracks. This is arranged for one very spooky-sounding violin with piano accompaniment. Though this falls victim to the Splitty-Uppy-This-Track-Sounds-Like-Two Syndrome like "Troops March On" and "Kids Run Through the City Corner" did, it's the least dire of the three, and it sounds really, really cool anyway. (9/10)
11) Aria Di Mezzo Carattere
Fortunately, whoever sung this has a far better voice than Celes did, or at least a less synthy one. She sings lyrics in Italian, thankfully, not the crappy English ones from the game. It's just a rearranged version of the original until the section where, in the game, Celes danced with a vision of Draco. Then, something special happens. A lengthy, completely original instrumental interlude ensues, and it's absolutely gorgeous. From there, the song continues on to a brilliant conclusion, reaching a thrilling climax and leaving the listener wholly satisfied. (10/10)
Before you buy this CD, make sure you know what you're getting into. If you want to hear the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version played by an orchestra, you won't find it here. But while it won't give you many nostalgic memories, it won't leave you bored. So if you're not afraid of something too 'out there', Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale is the perfect way to spice up your collection and a brilliant interpretation of Uematsu's classic score.
Overall Score: 8/10