Final Fantasy XV Piano Collections: Moonlit Melodies
Final Fantasy XV Piano Collections: Moonlit Melodies
Square Enix Music
February 22, 2017
Buy at Amazon.co.jp
The Final Fantasy XV Piano Collections is another entry in Square-Enix’s series of Piano Collections, which feature piano solo arrangements of popular themes from their games. This album features arrangements of songs from the base game of Final Fantasy XV, and focuses on songs composed by Yoko Shimomura. The arrangements are handled by Sachiko Miyano and Natsumi Kameoka, both of whom have done piano solo arrangements for Shimomura’s two Kingdom Hearts Piano Collections albums. Of the six piano arrangements from the bonus disc of the limited edition Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack, three are present here: “Somnus”, “Valse di Fantastica”, and “Veiled in Black”. Although rather short at just 10 tracks, the album succeeds at highlighting the strengths of the original soundtrack, even if some of the arrangements make some missteps common to the genre.
The album begins with “Somnus”, the main theme of the game. It follows the structure of the original, beginning very simply before crescendoing into an emotional climax without making many changes to the melody or harmony. It’s thus predictable, but there are enough added flourishes (nice forceful chords rather than endless runs) that separate the arrangement from the original, bolstered by a strong and emotional performance. Vocal themes don’t always hold up as instrumentals, but Shimomura’s composition translates nicely; the arrangement (and most others on the soundtrack) take many cues from 19th and 20th-century composers like Rachmaninoff, which suit Shimomura’s style. Next is “Sorrow without Solace”, continuing the somber mood. The arrangement is again quite straightforward and serviceable, though the texture and feeling created by the original’s building strings are not captured here. The composition itself was never very remarkable to begin with, being standard melodramatic fare, so while this arrangement fits the album’s mood, it’s a bit of a lull.
The album continues with “Valse di Fantastica” which is considerably more virtuosic (as most of the remaining songs are). The original was great, and it translates well here, starting subdued and then building to the bombast of the original. It’s great that the added difficulty of the piece largely comes from the complexity of the left-hand figures, rather than mere quick runs. In place of the cliché key change leading to the climax, it would have been nice to have more elaboration on the melody, or a quote of “Dewdrops at Dawn” (itself a lovely reharmonization of the Valse melody), but the arrangement is still quite enjoyable in itself. The other playful waltz on the album comes later, “Starlit Waltz”. I’ll admit I’ve never liked the original much, and it feels rather out of place on this album since its obnoxious bright tone doesn’t match the other tracks. The arrangement fares better, thanks to a few playful additions and modifications that enhance the color of the harmony. It isn’t as monotonous as the original was, though it’s still not quite enough to win me over on the track.
Technically also waltzes are the two character themes present on the album. “Noctis” is a very pretty track that features some nice changes in the harmony midway through that make the song more dramatic and interesting, whereas the original was a bit flat. The arrangement is also restrained, not inappropriately excessive in bombast. The other character theme is “Luna”, again very pretty but considerably more tragic and affecting. Its beautiful descending melody is nicely transposed to the many different octaves of the piano, creating a lovely cascading effect, while also giving the track an expansive feeling. I would have liked for the arrangement to perhaps change the harmony more drastically to include a more positive variation of the theme that could represent Luna’s character outside of the struggles that she faces in the narrative, but then, the game’s narrative itself also missed out on this opportunity. The track is still easily one of my favorites on the album.
The remainder of the album is made up of battle tracks. Battle tracks are always tricky to render well as a piano solo arrangement, as attempts to capture the tension and the epic scale of the tracks tend to lead to harsh arrangements that rely too much on fast runs and bass octaves that sound hollow given the simpler harmonic character of most battle tracks. “Stand Your Ground” is a prime example of this, with a straightforward arrangement by Miyano that doesn’t do much to inspire. It is performed by Hiroyuki Nakayama, who on past piano albums has not been able to find many nuances in these kinds of tracks; his playing here is similarly stiff throughout with the exception of the legato midsection. The duo’s take on “APOCALYPSIS NOCTIS” suffers in the same way, and in its shorter runtime does not even attempt to bring anything new to the track. Kameoka’s “OMNIS LACRIMA” falls into similar trappings in its arrangement, but Duke of Pianeet at least does a better job in his performance, bringing more rubato and feeling to each phrase. These tracks capture the energy of the originals, but unfortunately, don’t offer much more than that, and their similarity makes them feel redundant. Kameoka’s “Veiled in Black” is an improvement in that its runs actually add more momentum to the track and contrast well with the heavier chord-focused passages, which is all brought out nicely by Takaya Sano’s playing. There is also much more variety in the arrangement in tempo and style, making the buildup to the climax unpredictable and more effective. It’s easily the best out of the album’s battle themes, though even that still doesn’t come very near to the heights of the best of the Piano Collections series.
Despite some missteps, the Final Fantasy XV Piano Collections is another successful entry in the Piano Collections series. This piano album does a good job of filtering out the filler from the disappointing Original Soundtrack and presenting a more unified collection of tracks. The arrangements are mostly safe expansions of the underlying texture with the occasional touches to the harmony, so the tracks are still very recognizable and true to the originals. It might have been nice to have more variation on some of the tracks, especially on the battle tracks which are mostly too rigid, but the performers mostly do their best with emotional performances that are still clear. The album’s short length does leave a bit to be desired, and it would have been great to have additional tracks like “Ravus Aeterna” or the non-Shimomura “Hellfire”, or even the omitted tracks from the bonus disc of the limited editions Original Soundtrack. Still, the Final Fantasy XV Piano Collections should be worth it for both fans of Final Fantasy XV music and even the wider Piano Collections series.
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Posted on July 8, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on July 8, 2019.