Final Fantasy 1994 – 1999 / The Best of
The Best of Final Fantasy 1994 – 1999
Big Ear Music
September 26, 2000
Buy Used Copy
As far as fan-arranged albums go, The Best of Final Fantasy 1994-1999 is the worst available. The first reason for this is the dull arranging from Sherman F. Heinig that fails to expand at all on the original material available. The album is entirely devoid of any original musically rousing content, start to finish, and features arrangements that are practically identical to their originals, though they are re-sampled using different sound modules. That leads onto my second major criticism: the completely misleading advertising related to the album. Do not be misled by claims that the ‘Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Perform the Music of Nobuo Uematsu’. This supposed orchestra and choir is just poorly implemented MIDI synth; there is no live performance, unlike the album cover clearly infers. To add insult to injury, this album is identical to an album entitled Music Inspired by Final Fantasy, except without the addition of a bonus track from Final Fantasy IX.
The first three arrangements are from Final Fantasy VI and are more tolerable compared to the others, since the synth isn’t significantly undermined by the original. They are hardly inspiring, however. For example, the “Opening Theme” sounds pathetic compared to the Milan Symphony Orchestra’s marvellous performance in Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale; the organ in the introduction sounds crude and unmusical, while the main melody sounds underwhelming and the use of the bass guitar during certain progressions does not fit at all. The track that follows “Opening Theme” is “Tina.” It is almost identical to the previous track, except for the addition of some repetitive countermelodies and the deletion of the introduction. There are plenty of great themes in Final Fantasy VI, so arranging the “Tina” theme twice is ridiculous and is a reflection on Heinig’s laziness too. Putting these two arrangements back to back is idiocy, plain and simple. The arrangement of “New Continent” sometimes sounds a little more powerful compared to the original. However, the synth instrument used in the main melody is jarring and really pierces one’s ears, making it difficult to listen to the theme all the way through; this attribute isn’t associated with the original.
The Final Fantasy VII arrangements aren’t the worst of the crop of the album, but are all poor nonetheless, thanks to the fact they are practically identical to the originals except created with more cringe-worthy synth (which says something, considering how bad Final Fantasy VII‘s synth was). “Prelude,” Heinig’s best contribution overall, starts off fairly well, with the famous arpeggios that everyone knows and loves being accompanied by some atmospheric sound effects. Unfortunately, the arrangement is hardly effective when the tune enters, since the synth instrument first used wavers in a disconcerting way and the solo trumpet eventually added is completely inappropriate for the overall style of the arrangement. Though it loops in a more successful way compared to the original, the fade out is less than effective. “Main Theme” is another amateurish arrangement that sounds dismal compared to Hamaguchi’s arrangement in Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks thanks to the poor synthesizer operating and the fact that several portions of the original are needlessly cut. While not quite as underwhelming as the arrangement of “Opening Theme,” it still seems ridiculous that Heinig would want to arrange this is such a way when there is already such an accomplished arrangement around. “Cosmo Canyon” and “Shinra Army Wages a Full Scale Attack” are plain contributions to the album, made laughable by some further dodgy synth implementation. The brass synth of the latter is particularly bad, and appears to mimic an out-of-tune children’s brass band more than anything else.
It is with the Final Fantasy VIII arrangements that the album plunges to rock bottom. The arrangement of “Liberi Fatali” is utterly repulsive and proves to be a grave insult to Shiro Hamaguchi’s and Uematsu’s original masterpiece. The synth vocals used are feeble and disgusting; while the instrumental parts are better, they lack the power of a full orchestra. Furthermore, there were several changes made to the instrumental parts, which were completely unnecessary and sound very inappropriate. “My Mind” is almost as bad. Though the original was bland, this arrangement is even duller, since the pleasant countermelodies from the original are completely cut from most of the arrangement, leaving just an infantile chime melody accompanied by a stagnant bass line. The results of Heinig’s arrangement of “The Spy” are merely a repeat of what was achieved with the “New Continent” arrangement earlier in the disc; occasionally it sounds more powerful than the original, which wasn’t particularly good in the first place, but the synth is often too harsh for it to be enjoyable. “Mods de Chocobo” is a further example of poor synthesizer operating, and though most of it is adequate, synth vocals are integrated in really inappropriate places and these fail to fit with the overall style of the arrangement.
Sherman F. Heinig has truly disgraced himself here. It is more than clear that the album was not intended to be a Nobuo Uematsu fan’s dream album, but rather a tacky rip-off intended only for making a quick profit. Anyone who is not only prepared to insult Nobuo Uematsu’s music by making horrific arrangements of masterpieces like “Liberi Fatali” and then sell them for profit does not deserve any respect. Heinig does not only do this, but also misleads people by claiming it is performed by a live orchestra and choir that does not exist. This makes him a pirate, plain and simple, and he does not deserve any more money for this farce of an album, which would have taken a couple of days to create. Huge numbers of people must have been misled into buying this album, believing that their favourites have been arranged into full orchestral and choral performances, and this is truly unfortunate. All I can do is pity them, and at least hope this review will prevent more people in future falling into this hideous trap.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.