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Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections :: Forum Review

Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections Album Title: Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10041; SQEX-10026
Release Date: January 21, 2000; July 22, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Chris

Released on January 21, 2000, the Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections was the first piano album to be released since the Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections, released nearly six years before it. Shiro Hamaguchi was to arrange the album, introducing a style fundamentally different from the previous Final Fantasy piano albums. Focussing on utilising the piano in a way reminiscent of the romantic genre, the album brought the impressionist tones of "Find Your Way" and "Silence and Motion" together with the soppy arrangements of the favourites "Eyes on Me" and "The Oath." Creativity did not suffer as a result, however, as the prominent gothic, ragtime, shuffle, and militaristic influences featured gave it just as much diversity as predecessors. As well as having a talented arranger behind it, Shinko Ogata's highly perceptive and pianistic performance throughout the album made her a worthy successor to Reiko Nomura. While probably not the best piano album in the series, the success of this album ensured the production of later piano albums in the series, having secured its affections in the hearts of thousands.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Blue Fields (Written by Chris)

For a number of reasons, "Blue Fields" received very little acclaim in the Final Fantasy VIII and proved a major disappointment as an overworld theme. I have to confess that I was dubious at the choice of this track to start a Piano Collections album, but utterly overwhelmed once I heard it — Hamaguchi's arrangement was a miraculous transformation from mediocrity to mastery. The long flowing melodies of the theme work elegantly on the piano and are beautifully enhanced by the subtle nuances Shinko Ogata adds to the performance. The harmonies initially constitute a repeated ostinato, but are enhanced by chromatic chord progressions (similar to "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec") that Hamaguchi adds later in the piece. They're nothing complex, but come together with the melodies beautifully to ensure the refinement of an understated, heartfelt, and pianistic arrangement. A great way to introduce Hamaguchi as a piano arranger. (10/10)

2) Eyes on Me (Written by Talaysen)

Overall, this track is very beautiful. The melody and arrangement for the most part fit together nicely. But there's a few problems I have with this track. Some of the transitions seemed a bit off, they don't flow as well as I was expecting. Although, the more I listen to it, the more they seem to fit, so it may just be one of those things you have to get used to. Also, the track should've ended about forty seconds earlier, as the rest didn't really seem to do much. But as I said before, everything besides the transitions and the ending is very beautiful, and while the transitions didn't fit, the melody and arrangement did. (8/10)

3) Fisherman's Horizon (Written by Soapy)

This translated well over to the piano probably because that's how the original went. I really enjoy this tune, even though the Piano Collection version wasn't anything overly special. It's very soothing and I sense a hint of sadness at times but it's a wonderful piece. I thought the arrangement was well done, and it's definitely up there as one of the best tracks of this album. Nothing overly complicated, but the town theme is meant to be simple, repetitive and catchy. (10/10)

4) Succession of Witches (Written by Chris)

This controversial arrangement presents the "Succession of Witches" theme (which was half vocal and half instrumental in the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack) into a complex piano arrangement. While not everyone's cup of tea, I felt this arrangement expanded upon the original greatly. It succeeded in being extremely haunting without the sacrifice of being unpianistic — the passage that initiates at the 1:00 mark really sends a chill down my spine thanks to the dark, thick, and unresolved chords used in the harmony. Despite some people's hatred for this, I think this was extremely well done and added some much needed darkness into a relatively light album. (8/10)

5) Ami (Written by BeliaLordOfLie)

The "Ami" theme is arranged throughout Final Fantasy VIII and the melody is played most prominently when the party visits the wrecked Trabia garden. The scene is that of a sad and grim one, and so the music is designed to reflect this. Based on the original "Balamb Garden," it shares similar melody lines, but since it has so much more depth emotionally, it puts this peice ahead. Around the 2:20 mark a bold and eerie copy of the "Balamb Garden" introduction is repeating, adding to the theme of death and destruction the piece embodies. Very light, especially in the opening with nothing too serious. The entire piece echoes with a cheery sense of 'getting better', which I think does it great justice to be with the high rankers. Despite the piece having no spectacular passages of amazing pianistic technique, the way the emotion is put in well makes up for it. (8/10)

6) Shuffle or Boogie (Written by Chris)

This track (along with "Slide Show Part 2") establish quite a light-hearted nature to the album. The piano rendition of it is quite simple but is made much more enjoyable than the original thanks to a few subtle refinements from Hamaguchi and a strong performance from Shinko Ogata. Jazzy and smooth, this is a great one to listen to when you're feeling blue, even if the arrangement is pretty unspectacular. (8/10)

7) Find Your Way (Written by BeliaLordOfLie)

Of course, every Final Fantasy album has to have something like this. The theme is good, strong, mysterious, and subtle, but I think it is taken too far in terms of subtlety and can come off bland and repetitive at times. One thing I love is the blur sound repeated through the main phrase. The skill needed to do that must be fantastic, and any piece ambitous enough to try it is always a winner. Eerily reflective of the many times it is used in game, it maintains a good resemblance to the Original Soundtrack. Overall, a strong piece. (7/10)

8) The Oath (Written by Chris)

Before I criticise this track, let me state that the arrangement of this track is emotional, original, and enjoyable to listen to regardless of its flaws. My sole problem regarding the track is what style it is supposed to be. While the harmonies are fragmented throughout in an impressionistic manner (in a 'Debussian' style), the melodies remain untouched and are interpreted in a heavily romantic style (such as that of Chopin). While this fusion doesn't sound too bad on the outset, it doesn't quite work when you listen to it a little more closely — neither a romantic or impressionist style is properly attained. The tracks ends up being a big 'eh?' and the arrangement doesn't really get to the heart of the romantic nature of the original like it did with the orchestral version. It isn't bad, but the arrangement just doesn't really make much sense musically and doesn't seem to fit as well as it could have done on piano. (7/10)

9) Silence and Motion (Written by Chris)

While I absolutely adored "Silence and Motion" in the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack, it is safe to say that it raised a few eyebrows with its weird electronic beeps and experimental structures nonetheless. The amazing thing about this arrangement of it is that Hamaguchi transforms something bizarre and electronic into something so pianistic and natural. However, the wonderful multifaceted feelings of awe and magnificence that could be derived from the original version still remain. This shocked practically everyone who listened to the Original Soundtrack and was the track that ensured this album established Shiro Hamaguchi as a popular piano arranger. This is by far the best track in the album, at least in my opinion. (10/10)

10) The Castle (Written by BeliaLordOfLie)

You're in a gothic castle in Medieval Europe. The soft rain can be heard in the dim, vacant halls, but you hear something drifting along the corridors — a piece of piano music, "The Castle." That little description there was to show you how perfectly this piece fits with its environment, absolutly perfect. Crude, yet elegant and oh-so dark throughout, the gliding arpeggios craft the ornate feel, while the thundering low chords scare and excite. Staccato and legato mixed perfectly to create that constant change of moods of fear, wonder, beauty, awe, or mystery. It's all there — never once does it get boring, despite repeats of sections. This is achieved through the skill of the pianist here, but the pronunciation is all too natural. Words cannot descibe the castle they made, so they got Uematsu to let this breath-taking piece to do it for them. (8/10)

11) The Successor (Written by Chris)

The arrangement of this track is very similar to the original, which could be expected since the original was composed for solo piano. However, this doesn't prevent there being two major problems with it. First, it is needlessly drawn out to the extent that it becomes extremely tedious to listen to. Second, the arrangement is very disjointed and the transitions from each section sound awfully abrupt and unmusical. It almost sounds like it is intended to be in the form of 'theme and variations', but the harmonies are too consistent throughout for that to be justified. However, while it is a poor arrangement, the perceptive and sensitive performance from Shinko Ogata makes it considerably more enjoyable. While I still skip this track when I usually listen to this album, the occasional 'listen all the way through' can be quite satisfying, even if it is entirely due to the performance. (7/10)

12) Ending Theme (Written by BeliaLordOfLie)

This piece starts off with so much promise and elegance, with a very formal, neat piece of piano, resembling that of "Pomp and Circumstance." This fits nicely with the fact this is the end of a school year. However, the 2:00 mark is where the piece loses it and sounds purely awful — the sudden change in moods is not carried through well and could easily be a seperate piece of music. This is a massive dissapointment, but the ending themes always do seem to lack melodies and a decent piece of arrangement. Around the 4:20 mark things get interesting again, but that's after 2 minutes of painful listening. The one word to describe this? Dissatisfying. (5/10)

13) Slide Show Part 2 (Written by Piano)

It's a piece what you would call an after dinner mint. It's charming for the duration, but would kill on repeated listenings. Granted that, it's still a better piece than "Sleepless City Treno" from the successor of this Piano Collections. Whereas Treno is boring, slow, and fairly unevenful, this is upbeat and fun to listen to. I can't say much else about this piece, as there's not a lot to say about it! (7/10)


Written by Dave

The Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections constitutes a pleasing album and boasts creativity, elegance, and a lot of pianistic arranging. While I felt a number of pieces, namely "The Successor," "Ending Theme," and "The Oath," suffered from being underarranged, the highly pianistic and transformative arrangements of "Blue Fields" and "Silence and Motion" made up for this. Compared to successors like the Final Fantasy X Piano Collections and the Final Fantasy X-2 Piano Collection, however, this album is weak and shows that Shiro Hamaguchi was still a relatively unskilled piano arranger when he wrote this. It's enjoyable to listen to, but the album lacks depth, musicality, and consistency nonetheless. (7/10)

Written by Piano

After refreshing my memory of this album, I can safely say that my views have not been changed. There have been improvements on the original compositions and transformations, but overall, this album is that of a pleasant, average calibre that will appease the tastes of the layman, but will leave the connoisseur with a slight sour taste in their mouth. Despite this, it remains a pleasurable experience, though will never surpass the successive installments of this arrangement series. (7/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 7/10