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Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections :: Review by Tim

Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections Album Title: Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10048; SQEX-10027
Release Date: January 24, 2001; July 22, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Final Fantasy IX, for one reason or another, never quite received the publicity it deserved. One reason, perhaps, is because it was released for the aging PSOne console shortly after the dawn of the vaunted PS2. Or maybe it was because people had a hard time getting behind the spunky hero of the game, Zidane. Whatever the reason, though many still consider it a great game, it doesn't get near the recognition as many of the other Final Fantasy titles.

The luke-warm response to the game's original soundtrack seems to follow suit. Though I wouldn't exactly call it four CDs of pure audio bliss myself, I still think that the Original Soundtrack has its fair share of memorable tunes. Not a day would pass while I was playing through the game that I wouldn't find myself humming "Vamo' Alla Flamenco," or singing along with the theme of "Melodies of Life." When the Piano Collections tracklist was finally released, I was pleased to see that a good portion of the songs I had enjoyed most from the Original Soundtrack had made it onto the CD. I was still skeptical though, as many of the tunes on arranged albums tend not to sound a great deal like their Original Soundtrack counterparts. Luckily, all skepticism was cast aside when I first popped the CD into my CD player.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Eternal Harvest

This peppy tune wasn't actually a favorite of mine on the Original Soundtrack, primarily due primarily to it's repetitive and boring nature. Though the piano rendition shares the original's repetitive tendency, there are enough dynamic changes and improvisational touches to the melody to make it infinitely more pleasing to the ear. (9/10)

2) Hermit's Library - Daguerreo

This piece typifies what a Piano Collections track should be. The Original Soundtrack version of "Secret Library Daguerreo" is a very simple, yet catchy melody. This rendition is much more complex and interesting, yet retains the elements that make the original such a memorable tune. (9/10)

3) The Place I'll Return to Someday

I was not overly impressed with this piece on the Original Soundtrack. Considering it was the main title piece (and thus played everytime you booted up the game), I would've expected something with a little more...well...zip. The piano rendition, while still a "hum-able" tune, doesn't do a lot to improve on the original. (7/10)

4) Vamo' Alla Flamenco

Wow. That's the only word I can think of that describes this piece. This was one of my favourite tunes on the Original Soundtrack, and I couldn't imagine it improving much when arranged for piano. Fortunately for you and me, I was dead wrong. The dynamic changes and improvisation again really breathes new life into an already outstanding melody. (10/10)

5) Frontier Village Dali

This laid-back town theme made the jump to piano fairly easily. This arrangement doesn't stray too far from the original, though the few changes made are appropriate. (8/10)

6) Bran Bal, the Soulless Village

If I had to choose one of the tracks from the game that probably shouldn't have made it to the Piano Collections album, it would probably be this one. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy this piece, however. It remains true to the original for the most part, though it doesn't quite capture Zidane's inner turmoil as well as the Original Soundtrack version did. (7/10)

7) Endless Sorrow

This piece, like many on this album has a very quiet, melancholy feel to it. It starts off very slowly and sadly, but seems to transform to a more dramatic level later on. Once again, I'm impressed with how dynamic changes and slight arrangement additions can turn a fairly repetitive melody into a much more pleasing piece of music. (9/10)

8) You're Not Alone!

Though this is a catchy piece, the music doesn't seem to fit the title very well — at least not in the beginning. The staccato play at the outset makes it sound devious or mischievous. Later, it takes a more sinister approach before switching back. The sinister approach is certainly more to my liking than the bouncy, care-free feeling I get from the piece's other "personality," but this seems to end a little too quickly. (7/10)

9) Two Hearts That Can't be Stolen ~ Towards That Gate

Of all the pieces on this album, this one seems to have the most varying style. It starts off remorsefully, as if two people are tearfully saying goodbye to each other. Then suddenly, the tempo becomes frenetic as if someone is frantically running away from their most feared enemy. It reverts back to a sad, sullen piece near the end before climaxing as if the final duel is taking place. Good stuff. (9/10)

10) Rose of May

This was one of the more emotional pieces on the Original Soundtrack, and the piano arrangement doesn't stray too much from the tried-and-true original. It remains a beautiful piece on this album, but the trills near the end and the ending itself bring this one down slightly. (8/10)

11) Sleepless City Treno

This piece sounds like it should be banged out by a stogey-smoking saloon pianist back in the old west days. It was one of the better town themes in Final Fantasy IX, and this arrangement sounds almost exactly the same as the original (which is a good thing). (9/10)

12) Where Love Doesn't Reach

This is another of the more slow and sullen pieces on this album. Often, these sad pieces tend to be over-arranged and have unnecessary improvisation that detracts from the emotion. Though this arrangement is definitely much more complex than the Original Soundtrack version, it manages to stay true to its purpose. (8/10)

13) Final Battle

In the past, I've never been a huge fan of converting battle themes into piano arrangements because they just can't match the power of their Original Soundtrack counterparts. For this reason, it took me a while to warm up to this piece. However, the more I listened to it, the more I realized its greatness. This arrangement quite simply seems perfectly appropriate for the final battle, and the expression shown by the performer is brilliant. It begins slowly, building up the tension, before erupting into a fast-paced stream of audio goodness. To me, the only thing you could possibly picture when listening to this piece is a fierce battle, and that's exactly what a good battle theme should do. (10/10)

14) Melodies of Life

I have a hard time coming up with words to describe this piece. Of all the Final Fantasy game endings I've seen over the years, the Final Fantasy IX ending seemed to have the most impact on me. Though many considered it predictable, no one can deny the emotional impact felt as a sobbing Queen Garnet pounded on Zidane's chest (if you haven't seen this ending, I highly recommend you do). It's hard to imagine coming up with a piece of music that could portray such a scene, but lo and behold, Nobuo Uematsu pulled it off. In my humble opinion, this is the greatest Piano Collection track ever composed, and a score of 10/10 doesn't begin to do it justice. (10/10)


While most Piano Collection albums are excellent in their own right, too often there are two or three pieces that just don't belong on the album or just weren't arranged for piano that well. This simply isn't the case for Final Fantasy IX. Every piece has a place on the CD and a place in the heart of anyone who listens to it. The arrangements created by Shiro Hamaguchi are tremendous without having to significanly alter Nobuo Uematsu's fine compositions, and I can't imagine anyone performing them with any more feeling and emotion than Louis Leerink. I can only hope that this trio will hook up again in the future. The Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections album is truly the pinnacle of musical achievement, and should find a way into every Final Fantasy fan's collection.

Overall Score: 9/10