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Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections :: Forum Review

Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections Album Title: Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections
Record Label: NTT Publishing
Catalog No.: N38D-010 (1st Print); NTCP-1001 (Reprint)
Release Date: April 21, 1992; May 23, 2001
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Chris

The Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections were what started the series of Piano Collections that spun the Final Fantasy series from Final Fantasy IV up to and including Final Fantasy X-2. For this reason the creation of this album is indisputably a highly influential, if not revolutionary, creation, considering its far reaching principals. It is without doubt that this album had unpredecented success and was unique in its form of arranging at the time it was released. While there are now a strong abundance of similar albums, many of which are superior in quality to this one, everyone enjoys to relive the classics from time to time and there is nothing more interesting than tracing the roots of a legend.

In many ways it deserves the success it boasts. A strong, albeit predictable, track list is one of its key winning features. Most old favourites from the Final Fantasy IV Original Sound Version are arranged in such a way that will inspire nostalgia by staying close their originals. Furthermore it is without doubt that all the arrangements offered are highly memorable, evocative, and very much worth listening to. However, I was disappointed by the huge lack of complexity spanning throughout this album. Shiro Satou's arrangements are often bland in their lack of musical features and more often than not consist of little more than basic translations of an original's melodies with the addition of a simple homophonic chordal accompaniment. It is by far the most simplistic of all the Piano Collections albums and it is this reason that many, including myself, favour most of its successors (the Final Fantasy V Piano Collections excluded). While this isn't necessarily detrimental from the superficial enjoyment of this album, it assures the arrangements don't go beyond what the originals had to offer.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) The Prelude (Written by Tim)

The Final Fantasy IV Piano Collection opens with what at first seems to be quite a dud. The same boring melody repeats many times with only slight pitch changes. Once the piece gets going however, it actually turns into quite a beautiful and emotional piece. With some carefully-placed low bass notes, the tune really picks up momentum as it nears conclusion. The mood calms down slightly, reverting back to a variation of the intro. All in all, though it starts slowly, "The Prelude" is an excellent introduction piece for the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections. (8/10)

2) Theme of Love (Written by Chris)

In the Final Fantasy IV Original Sound Version, "Theme of Love" was the game's definitive 'soppy' theme and loved by quite a wide audience. It is no surprise that Satou decided to adhere very closely to the original for this arrangement. While this makes the arrangement heavily predictable, in many ways it was a wise move. The melodies from the original were among the strongest Uematsu has ever created being perfectly musically shaped and enriched with deep emotion. Satou builds on these melodies rather than changing them and this ensures this original beauty is expanded upon rather than being lost. Satou does this with addition of some appropriately gradated dynamics, which are superbly integrated into Toshiyuki Mori's performance. In addition, the profound harmonic contrasts established as the piece develops add even more to the arrangement. While they are too basic and distinct in places, they emphasise the melodies perfectly bringing out every heartrending melody contained within them. In terms of quality of arranging, this isn't especially impressive, but, as a piece overall in its own right, it is certainly top notch. (9/10)

3) Prologue (Written by Gilgamesh)

Like "The Prelude," the "Prologue" is another classic Final Fantasy theme carried throughout the series. Little was done for the arrangement as the beginning is very simple, sticking closely to the bare theme. It slowly builds up emotion as the "Prologue" finally gets richer in the final minute. A nice track for its simplicity, but I'm a bit spoiled with the current Final Fantasy Piano Collections, so I expected a bit something more. It really is just the prologue "march" theme with some simple additions in the bass or left-hand part. Not too bad. (5/10)

4) Welcome to Our Town! (Written by Chris)

In the Final Fantasy IV Original Sound Version, I was not left especially touched by this town theme and for this reason I was not expecting anything great when I came to listen to its arrangement in the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections. However, I was to be positively charmed. Its mysterious introduction, consisting of a sequence of triplet motifs, immediately grabs your attention and is something entirely unique to the arrangement. It then transitions well into the main theme, which is equally as pleasing; while musically simple and a classic example of the straightforward homophony typical of Satou, I felt Mori's sensitive use of the piano made it much more enriched in terms of tone colour. Towards the end, the theme begins to get even more interesting as the triplet motifs combine with the main melody to provide a strong, perhaps even climactic, ending. Although nothing really exceptional, this arrangement was a warm and unexpected surprise and therefore proves to be one of my favourites. (9/10)

5) Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV (Written by Soapy)

The original verison of this theme sounded a bit more lively than this arrangement. A slow start to a long drawn out arrangement that was really plain and how do I put it. boring. Once it does start picking up, it seems a bit sad, and then right when you think it might actually be good, loud, abrasive chords come in to give you a headache. It ends rather abruptly too, so overall, I'm not too impressed. (6/10)

6) Chocobo-Chocobo (Written by Chris)

When I saw this was on the track list, I thought "Oh no! Not another chocobo theme." I'm pleased to say that this turned out to be a superb arrangement, however, and quite possibly Satou's best of the album. Its jazzy and quirky style provides an enjoyable light-hearted touch to an album that has been quite serious up to now. The harmonies are particularly effective in doing this and establish a firm yet rhythmic basso ostinato for the arrangement to build up upon. The best part is certainly the middle, however, where there is a splendid flourish into the highest pitches of the piano followed by a grand descent right down into its lowest pitches. I find the way the tune re-emerges in its lightest form oblivious to this strange interruption is highly amusing! Anyway, it's a fun and creative arrangement that is highly recommended for all! (10/10)

7) Into the Darkness (Written by Soapy)

Soooo slow! This one sounded like it would last forever. For a cave theme, this doesn't create much suspense or drama. The Original Sound Version seriously sounded better than this version. Actually, they sound so similar that this isn't really much of an 'arrangement'. What was the point of including this track? The lack of creativity really didn't do much to help the mood of this piece, which should have been mysterious. I also found the performance a bit harsh, but I suppose it's hard to convey that misty image when you're limited to just the piano. (5/10)

8) Rydia (Written by Gilgamesh)

This is a fairly simple arrangement, adding a lot of 1-5-2'-5' motifs against the melody. Nevertheless, it creates a very pleasant sounding and gentle feel to the theme which I like a lot. "Rydia" (a bit derived from an old movie/song, Summer '42) is beautiful enough as it is and I think Satou's simple arrangement works well in enhancing the theme without taking too much away from it. The melody slowly evolves into simple chords near the end, but it doesn't get much more complex than that. A very simple piece to play and it sounds very sweet. (8/10)

9) Melody of Lute (Written by Chris)

The first two thirds of this track were completely unnoteworthy and add very little to what was achieved in Uematsu's original. Once again, Satou does little other than translate the original melody and add a bland broken chord harmony to accompany. It sounds longing and enchanting at first, but soon grows monotonous and boring once the melody has been repeated so many times with no prevail. Thankfully, the end is much more inspiring as the theme is arranged in its minor forms during an ascending chromatic progressions, adding much greater impact than the rest of theme. The tierce de picardie at the very end is a particularly quaint touch, albeit very sudden! I don't entirely understand where all this dissonance came from, however and I don't feel it is particularly appropriate. Variety and experimentation after that initial tedium was needed, but the arrangement remains completely off key nonetheless. (3/10)

10) Golbeza Clad in the Dark (Written by Makojunky)

The first time I heard this track, I was so disappointed and I found it monotonous and repetitive: nothing seemed to happen in it and it never really grew on me. When I got the sheet music to this album, however, I had a bash at it and now. I really like it! It has a promising start with a gothic style intoduction that would should great on an organ but then the rest of the piece is just based on the same chord sequence being played on different octaves. It does have a fantastic, driving rhythm but, like I said, that is all it is. I can't be self-indulgent and give it a high score just because I like playing it. Indeed, it is still the weakest track on the album. (6/10)

11) Troian Beauty (Written by Tim)

A deep sense of boredom comes to mind while listening to "Troian Beauty." There's definitely not a whole lot of excitement or energy coming from this track. It has an uneventful repeated chord bass line and a wholly uninteresting main melody that repeats several times without variation. Generally speaking, the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections consists of fairly vanilla arrangements, and this is definitely no exception. (4/10)

12) The Battle (Written by Gilgamesh)

Upon hearing the first few seconds of this track, the listener might be very well tempted to skip it. The track opens with a very slow and simple arrangement of the regular battle theme. Adding chords and slowly building up more chaos, I did not know what was going until I heard the second battle theme (regular boss) come on, one of my favorite Final Fantasy boss tunes. Ah. Now this is what I call an arranged battle theme! The slowness from the first battle segment was meant to build up into this fast-paced boss segment. With a great, but simple, left-hand accompaniment, Satou adds just a hint of jazz in between each phrase. The momentum builds until chaotic chords rip away the second theme into a very slow and strange arrangement of the third battle theme (uber boss theme). Again, very slow and jazzy, this section is merely mediocre. Finally, tension builds up again for the final battle music sequence (battle against Zeromus) with some decent results. This theme is merely the Final Fantasy IV main theme in a "battle" state and is done fairly well, but my favorite part is the rapid "heroic" chord change near the end of he phrase. The pace dies down yet again, giving way to a reprise of the first battle theme. I personally found the ending a bit anti-climactic. Overall, I really like this track. It's very creative, includes EVERY battle theme from the game, and though the transitions may seem strange, it gives each battle theme its own "feel," battle 2 and battle 4 being my favorite picks. I feel this should have been done for many of the other Final Fantasy Piano Collections were battle themes in general seemed left out. (8/10)

13) Epilogue (Written by Chris)

Many considered the "Epilogue" of the Final Fantasy IV Original Sound Version to be its winning feature. Indeed, nearly 12 minutes of musical goodness really deserved to be! Sadly, however, the same cannot be said for the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections version, which was a disappointment, though hardly a grave one. The problems once again lie with Satou's arranging (or hereby lack of it). Instead of introducing new and original features like most arrangers would do, Satou opts to make this arrangement piano reduction and adds very little new features. This was an unwise move in my opinion, considering that a solo piano can hardly match the life and energy of an orchestral score, whether synth or not, without effective arranging. Still, despite being lacklustre throughout, it still carries a lot of value for me, even if for nostalgia's sake. So many favourite tracks are recapitulated making this Piano Collections album go round in full circle, like it should do. I particularly enjoyed how the "Theme of Love" and the "Prologue" from this album, as well as "Cry In Sorrow" and "The Airship" from the Original Sound Version, made such prominent appearences. Ahh, the nostalgia. (8/10)

14) Theme of Love (ensemble) (Written by Tim)

Straying from the norm of Piano Collection albums featuring only piano solos, this track is mainly a combination of various string instruments joined later by piano accompaniment. Of course, I suppose as the Final Fantasy IV Pinao Collection were the first of the Piano Collection albums, there were no set rules dictating that only piano solos were allowed. Although piano plays second fiddle here, the track is still quite lovely. It has a simple, yet pleasant, feel to it, and although it really doesn't need it to be successful, the addition of the piano later on is welcome. Overall, a simple, yet fitting, conclusion to a fairly mediocre arranged album. (7/10)


Written by Chris

Can an album filled with mild-mannered and rather amateur arrangements sustain the interest necessary for it to be successful? As the track-by-track reviews have shown, the answer is yes, but only to a certain extent. Most arrangements are highly nostalgic and the way Satou directly used Uematsu's original melodies helped to reinforce this. Indeed themes like "Theme of Love," "Welcome to Our Town," "Chocobo-Chocobo," and the various themes in "The Battle" are as memorable as ever. For most people familiar with later albums, however, this album leaves relatively little long-term impact, simply because the arrangements were so overly simplistic. (7/10)

Written by Gilgamesh

I will pretty much go along with popular opinion in saying that this set of Piano Collections, despite being the first in the series, was a bit simplistic in their arrangements. Nevertheless, a good half of the tracks are still quite pleasant to listen to and Satou brings a small bit of a jazz feel to some of tracks, which is quite unique to Final Fantasy Piano Collections tracks. I feel these arrangements are much better than the overly simplistic ones of the Final Fantasy V Piano Collections and many beginner pianists playing will be able to play these pieces with relative ease. A nice addition to any Final Fantasy or VGM collection, but not absolutely necessary. (7/10)

Written by Tim

Final Fantasy IV was the first and least ambitious of the Final Fantasy Piano Collection albums. While these arrangements are decidedly "vanilla" and fairly dumbed-down, there are some catchy melodies to be found. "Rydia" and "Welcome to Our Town" come to mind, and have the added benefit of not being quite so difficult to play as some of the later Piano Collection incarnations. Overall, the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collection is more along the lines of a slightly more advanced Doremi book. This isn't to say that the pieces are bad, but the arrangements simply aren't up to par with future Piano Collection instalments on to any Final Fantasy or VGM collection. (7/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 7/10