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Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections :: Forum Review

Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections Album Title: Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10111; SQEX-10020
Release Date: December 3, 2003; May 10, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Djinova

The Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections album is a consistent one. It doesn't harbour any real gems, but the tracks are all of above-average or very good quality. The arranging style of Hamaguchi is very familiar by now, thus it makes the arrangements feel less original at times. Considering fans had to wait five years for its release, I would have expected some refreshing, experimental arrangements. The footprints of lost inspiration can be found on Hamaguchi's experience of arranging other Final Fantasy Piano Collections...

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Tifa's Theme (Written by Djinova)

The arrangement of "Tifa's Theme" for the piano makes a soft and beautiful start to the album. Shiro Hamaguchi arranged it in the conventional way, which means he didn't experiment much, but just added arpeggios, chords, and triplets here and there in order to decorate the theme. The main melody therefore remains strong and clear throughout the whole track, making fans recognize immediately a beloved melody. However, if Hamaguchi had found a way to make a more daring and complex arrangement without surrendering the characteristic tunes it would have made an even stronger impact on the listener. (8/10)

2) Final Fantasy VII Main Theme (Written by Tim)

The first time I listened to this piece, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed in the arrangement. I felt like it just didn't bring anything new to the table — it sounded too much like the Original Soundtrack version. After spending some quality time listening critically, I'm starting to really appreciate the beauty of this piece. Sure, it's simple, but it has a very pleasant and relaxing flow to it. The gentle sixteenth notes accompany the main melody very nicely. The only disappointing part of the piece to me is the end. Again, it's closely modeled after the Original Soundtrack version which technically doesn't end, but I felt the ending here was a bit unexpected and anticlimactic. (8/10)

3) Cinco de Chocobo (Written by Djinova)

No other theme in the Final Fantasy series has had so many diverse arrangements as the chocobo theme; this time, it is arranged for the piano based on an unusual key signature: 5/4. In an attempt to copy the adventurous and uplifting flair of the original, the arrangement sticks to the main melody, while being fairly complex at the same time. Still, it couldn't create the atmosphere the original did, probably because the performer should have played it even more 'bouncily' in my opinion, in order to capture the jumpy and agile nature of the chocobo. In addition, I felt the track ended a bit abruptly. I expected some extension towards the end — a quirky, chaotic run for example. It brings back fond memories and leaves nice imprints on the Piano Collections, but it is too short to become a remarkable entry otherwise. (7/10)

4) Ahead on Our Way (Written by Djinova)

When I first saw the tracklist for the Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections, I was excited to see one of my favorite town themes, "Ahead on Our Way" had made it onto the CD. The Original Soundtrack version of this piece is fairly repetitive and uninteresting, but I thought it fitted in quite well with the atmosphere of the town of Kalm. This being said, I was quite disappointed with the piano rendition of this track. It begins really slowly and quietly and plods along at this pace throughout much of the tune. Later on, the arrangement begins to vary so wildly that it's completely unfamiliar before returning to it's boring original state. Now, I realize that you can't arrange a repetitive piece like this without straying somewhat from the original, but the unfamiliar parts are utterly boring and uninspired. I still think this is a great Original Soundtrack track, but in hindsight, that's probably how it should have stayed. (5/10)

5) Fighting (Written by Aharon)

It took me a minute to figure out that this wasn't an arrangement of "Still More Fighting," one of my favorite battle themes — really got me in the mood when playing the game. Regardless, the battle theme in its original form was still cool, albeit a track you would hear upwards of 200 times. This arrangement took a delightful pianistic route, although being pretty relentless on the pianist in keeping up a constant pace. Personally, I would have liked more agitato to the upbeat spirito arrangement. The track is still enjoyable and is worthy to be put on repeat if one so desires. (8/10)

6) Cosmo Canyon (Written by Gilgamesh)

When I first was listening to the CD, I tried to go through all the tracks and see if I could put names to all the themes myself without trying to hopelessly translate the Japanese katakana titles. This track took me a LONG time to figure out — it was only after I heard the Seto motif of the "Great Warrior" theme that I recognized it. Overall, it's a very slow and calm track, much like many of the others in this collection. It's certainly a nice touch and the arrangement is good but I felt that too many of the tracks in this album had this feeling already. I feel that this track would serve better entitled "Great Warrior" since that version is supposed to be more sad and melancholy. "Cosmo Canyon" itself is supposed to have a tribal "bounce" and rhythm to it. Nevertheless, this is still a very pleasant track to listen to and a welcome addition to the Piano Collections album. (6/10)

7) Gold Saucer (Written by Zohar Seeker)

When I saw that "Gold Saucer" was arranged for piano on the CD, I had to listen to the track to see how this was pulled off. As soon as I heard the small opening notes I knew what I was in for. This track stays true to the original, keeping the whole melody and then adding a little something for added effect. But, even the unfamiliar parts gave me the sense of a wild and fun place that was full of fun, energy, and excitement. I had no complaints with this arrangement, but, to be honest, I didn't like the Golden Saucer. I didn't like the place or its Original Soundtrack music, but for the sake of this review, I will rate it 8. (8/10)

8) Farm Boy (Written by Tim)

"Farm Boy," much like "Ahead on Our Way" was actually one of the better tracks in the Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack in my opinion. I couldn't imagine associating the piece to anything other than a farm scene after hearing it once, and that's how Original Soundtrack tracks should be. The Piano Collections rendition follows the original pretty well, but, much like "Ahead on Our Way," just seems to lack originality and flair. The piece plods along at too slow of a pace and rarely strays at all from the original melody. The addition of the triplet sections at the end liven it up a bit, but overall, it's just not a very interesting arrangement. (6/10)

9) Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony (Written by Tim)

This upbeat tune was undoubtedly firmly entrenched in your subconscious for quite some time following the scene in Junon. Of any particular theme (aside from perhaps the overworld and battle themes), this one was probably played for the longest continuous period during the game. Since this was the case, I think many Final Fantasy fans (myself included) became quite sick of hearing it and probably weren't jumping for joy when it showed up on the tracklist for the Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections. Personally, I always thought the piece was well-composed and fit the mood well, but there was no doubt that it became repetitive rather quickly. All that said, I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard it for the first time. This piece, like many others on the album, really doesn't stray a whole lot from the Original Soundtrack version, but the quality of the arrangement is outstanding and shows just how effective subtle mood changes can be in music. For example, the vast majority of the piece is played either forte or fortissimo, and the thunderous bass line is comprised of a great deal of incredibly low octaves. These combine to give the piece a very powerful and convincing sound. Furthermore, the main melody jumps up an octave late in the piece and transitions perfectly into a very distinct and definitive ending. So many of the tracks on this album seem to feature random, arbitrary endings that leave no sense of closure. Simply put, this piece leaves no doubt — you know it's over when it's over. Overall, this is by far my favorite track on this album. It also makes for a great test of the bass and dynamic range of your piano if you decide to learn it. This piece is a real crowd-pleaser, whether your audience enjoys Final Fantasy music or not. (10/10)

10) J-E-N-O-V-A (Written by Neo Locke)

Ever since the first time I heard this piece, I knew it would translate rather well to the piano. This score just happens to prove the obvious. Starting off soft and working its way into the realm of intense, "J-E-N-O-V-A" definitely adds to the variety of styles found on this album. The only small complaint I have is that it seemed that a piano arrangement could have done so much more than just the original score. Overall, this was a great choice for the Piano Collections. (9/10)

11) Aerith's Theme (Written by Tim)

Aerith's melancholy theme is considered by most Final Fantasy music fans to be the most emotional piece Uematsu has ever composed. Under the circumstances, I'd have to agree. "Forever Rachel" from the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version is about the only other piece I can remember that quite simply saddens you as you listen. Due probably to it's great popularity, there is no shortage of arrangements of "Aerith's Theme." The gentle tune is especially ideal for piano arrangement, since pianos can portray emotion much better than most instruments. All this said, I enjoyed this particular rendition, though it didn't strike me as brilliant. The main melody stays true to the original (if it ain't broke, don't fix it), but the accompaniment seemed slightly lacking. This might be due in part to the sheer number of other arrangements I've heard (primarily Michael Huang's terrific arrangements). Still, you can't really botch "Aerith's Theme" as long as the main melody is intact, and though the accompaniment is slightly uninspired, it's still an excellent piece of music. (8/10)

12) One Winged Angel (Written by Trepe Groupie)

I found this to be a very slow arrangement of the piece. Really, really slow. I can not get over the slowness and the lack of originality of the arrangment. It is just a boring immediate transposition to the piano. There are no interesting time signatures or no original harmonies. It is just plain. However, even if the arrangement is bad, the piece itself is marvellous and credit must be given where credit is due. "One Winged Angel" is one of the first amazing orchestrations of Final Fantasy and for that it is remembered. (7/10)

13) Descendent of Shinobi (Written by Piano)

First things first. It's in the wrong key. I was particulary gutted by this, as G major happens to be a favourite key of mine, and B flat isn't. To this day I am still wondering what prompted Hamaguchi to start of what is essentially the wrong key and maintains this for most of the duration of the piece. G major does pop up though, but then it disappears back in to B Flat boredom (mind you, "Eternity ~ Memory of the Lightwaves" from Final Fantasy X-2 is in B flat but is a lovely piece though). Enough about tonality and onto the piece itself. The quavers are swung like the original, which gives it the bouncy feel and suits the bouncy personality of Yuffie. Throw in a few chord subsitutions and a particularly lively accompaniment and you've got a piece that is worthy of any jazz bar. Hamaguchi has transferred the original well to the medium that is the piano, adding a few extra bars here and there to provide some life that isn't present in the synthesised original. It's a good piece that won't blow your socks off, but is a wonderful coda to the mixed bag of tricks that is the Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections. (9/10)


Written by Djinova

Overall, the Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections has less impacting power than the Final Fantasy IX Collections. The three most famous tracks, "Final Fantasy VII Main Theme," "Aerith's Theme" and "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII certainly deserved more. While I think the transition of the battle themes succeeded, there were too many happy, bright tracks like "Cinco de Chocobo," "Gold Saucer," "Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony," and "Descendant of Shinobi" to really reflect the dark, serious and threatening atmosphere of Final Fantasy VII I love so much. All in all, I felt more like Square released this album for profit rather than giving fans an awesome surprise. They manage to satisfy, but I just expected more. Again, it could just all be on account of high hopes. (8/10)

Written by Tim

The Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections album was bittersweet for me. It contained just about all of the tracks I would've selected for the album had I been given the chance. Unfortunately, several of the most cherished tracks from the game didn't translate so well to the piano in my opinion. Themes like "Farm Boy" and "Ahead on Our Way" could've really been much better. On the bright side, some tracks that I had low expectations for turned out wonderfully. "Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony" definitely comes to mind in this regard. As for the rest of the album, I was impressed with pretty much all the other arrangements, though some of them seemed too close to the originals. Overall, this ranks as number three on my list of favorite Piano Collections albums, though it's way behind those of Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX. (8/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 8/10