Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections
Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections
PSCN-5005 (1st Edition); NTCP-1003 (2nd Edition)
July 25, 2001; June 25, 1994
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy VI was a fantastic game; and though I don’t quite think it’s the greatest in the series, it definitely deserves credit to being “The RPG That Started it All.” Final Fantasy VI set the way for Final Fantasy VII and the other games that followed — it introduced a more complete soundtrack, a deeper plot, a truly villainous villain, and complex characters. After Final Fantasy VI, it was expected of the future games to maintain all of what the game gave its players; that, and much, much more.
Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections broke away from Satou’s simplistic arrangements and, like the game to its descendents, set the standard for future Piano Collections projects. Not only were all the tracks much more difficult to play, but they were all unique, thus turning from a simple, straight piano arrangement of a track, to a much more diverse and different track.
Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections was arranged by Reiko Nomura and performed by Reiko Nomura. From the playful and unique “Kefka” to the amazingly “Tina” to the brilliance that is “Johnny C Bad”, Nomura took an already fantastic album and made it even greater. She did what Satou did not do: she experimented. And while some tracks were less than received (“Stragus”), she was able to expand on the beauty of others (such as “Celes”) by maintaining a rather non-experimental melody but a flowing, experimental harmony.
If you listen to only one track on this CD, make it “Tina.” “Tina” is dramatic, mournful, powerful, melancholy, and so impressive that you will instantly hear each emotion evoked within its first few chords. “Tina” stays pretty unchanged from its original, but it makes use of flowing arpeggios in the harmony, which add such a striking, bittersweet beauty to the track. The track breaks away from the arpeggios, and echoes when the melody and harmony make use of some vigorous and emotional chords. “Tina” ends as quietly as it began, emphasizing the reposeful misery of the character and the world around her. “Tina” is the true gem of this album; and noting that it is the first track on the CD, it may create disappointments later on.
Bittersweet and tender, “Gau” reflects upon the inherent sadness involved deep within Gau’s character. Pretty in both the piano arrangement and the Original Sound Version, “Gau” does not disappoint. Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly stunning. Lacking the intensity of “Tina,” and the complexity of “Cefca,” “Gau” is able to bring nostalgia and affection through its more simplistic arrangement. Which of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing in moderation. “Gau” ends rather inconspicuously, but it adds to the delicacy of the track.
Wacky-looking Cefca has a pretty crazy theme, too. Nomura was able to take Cefca’s very simple theme, and add an effective, sharp harmony to a quick, staccato melody. Unique and memorable, “Cefca” is a personal favorite of mine that also serves as a delightful deviation from the somber tracks which begin the album. You’ll certainly feel Cefca’s craziness, quirkiness, and even evilness while listening to the arrangement, and this is mainly down to the performance. “Cefca” certainly stands out with its beginning and body, although the ending is a bit of a letdown. However, Nomura has accomplished something fantastic with this simple, original, though somewhat repeated arrangement of the most insane villain the Final Fantasy series has created.
4) Spinach Rag
I feel that “Spinach Rag” would have been more popular and effective if it had been featured on a different album. Short and lighthearted, “Spinach Rag” is a joyful little ragtime piece that may stir up some memories of the previous Piano Collections, especially with its simplicity and felicity. The arrangement in the belly of the track around the one minute twenty second mark is the greatest thing about “Spinach Rag,” though the original melody is actually more effective in delivering.
Most fans hated this arrangement of “Stragus,” and not without reason, too. I myself disliked it intensely when I first heard it. “Stragus” wasn’t exactly a hit in the Original Sound Version, and so I wasn’t very overjoyed when I found it on the Piano Collections tracklist. However, that was several years ago, and now I must say, “Stragus” has grown on me. I still think that “Stragus” is a bit of a mess, but now I find myself considering it to be one of the best tracks on the album. Nomura decided to stray away from the usual melodic, flowing arrangements of the Piano Collections series and arranged “Stragus” in an unconventional, experimental way. The arrangement is able to convey the character’s old-man personality, and with the same musicality as several of Satou’s arrangements, it all comes together nicely. People will always either love it or hate it, but that just adds to the drama surrounding the track!
6) The Mystic Forest
Much like “Find Your Way” from the Final Fantasy VIII Piano Collections, “The Mystic Forest” emits a mysterious, echoing sound from its wonderful pedal use that certainly emphasizes its main element. I myself am not one for cryptic background themes, and “Mystic Forest” isn’t going to change that. The arrangement is strikingly similar to its original, and the beauty of the piece comes out only through the playing. Nomura’s use of dynamics and the pedal and her ability to convey depth and emotion in her playing is what makes “Mystic Forest,” not the arrangement itself. The middle part of the track makes excellent use of broken, quick notes, but not even that is enough to make “Mystic Forest” stand out. A lot of people enjoy “Mystic Forest,” but I find myself casting this out amongst the other background themes that also leave little impression.
7) Kids Run Through The City Corner
The thing with “Kids…” is that it’s so pretty in its simplicity and so nostalgic that it is difficult to accept the fact that it’s actually one of the lesser town themes in the Piano Collections series. “Kids…” never reaches an extreme development; instead, it breaks away into a nice, though very small, little segment around the one minute fifty second mark. The track is relaxing and lovely, and though definitely one of the least effective town arrangements, it’s amazingly nostalgic and willful.
8) Johnny C Bad
This is my favorite track in the album; “Johnny C Bad” is the perfect piece of its sort. “Johnny…” uses every bit of jazzy aspect it possibly can. Lots of stop-and-go melody, that all-too-familiar bass over the blues pedal, and a quirky, dancing harmony. I can’t be too sure on how others perceive this masterpiece. “Johnny” is a great deviation from the other tracks on the album, and it’s in a class all its own, far outstripping “Spinach Rag” in terms of enjoyment and blues-y feel. It’s not as experimental as “Cefca” or “Stragus” nor is it flowing and peaceful like “Kids…” and “Tina,” but what it is, is a track that knows what it is, and fulfills its role to the apex.
9) Mystery Train
“Mystery Train” was a particular favorite of mine in the Original Sound Version, but disappointingly, not so much on the Piano Collections track. On the contrary, it delivers very well in its great performance. “Mystery Train” is rather short and repetitive, but its arrangement is no better. There’s something missing from the track, and that lies strangely within its lackluster performance. That actually has a bigger effect on tracks than some people realize. “Mystery Train” would’ve been more effective next to “Kids…” or “Mystic Forest,” for it would be immensely difficult to keep up with the grandeur that is “Johnny C Bad.”
10) The Decisive Battle
In my own personal opinion, the many different fan arrangements of “The Decisive Battle” are actually better than the Original Sound Version, including this professional arrangement. “The Decisive Battle” is the great boss theme that unleashed a chain of other fantastic arrangements (notably “Demise” from the Final Fantasy X-2 Piano Collections). “The Decisive Battle” jumps right into the fray with bombastic chords, a very aggressive harmony, and a rapid, sharp tempo. It’s a great battle arrangement, which makes excellent use of various strong chords and staccato notes. This is melodically one of the best tracks on the CD, and certainly the arrangement, though hardly original, is very effective and strong. Nomura plays this track excellently, through great use of dynamics, pedal, and the speedy flow of her own fingers.
11) Coin Song
“Edgar and Mash” was a favorite Original Sound Version track of mine, so I was pleased to find “Coin Song” on the tracklist, being that “Coin Song” is an arrangement of this. Overall, “Coin Song” sticks to the softer, sadder tone that is prevalent in the beginning of the Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections. Beautiful and simple, “Coin Song” is an emotional little piece, capturing much in its heavy melody and light harmony. It never strays, but a small step here and there from the Original Sound Version track is nice and effective in this case. Reminiscent and melancholy, “Coin Song” will definitely calm down the blood pumping through your veins that “Decisive Battle” caused. It’s a nice contrast, and fits in with the overall heavyhearted feel to Final Fantasy VI.
The Opera scene and music from Final Fantasy VI is majestic; it’s a favorite of mine and of many others. Celes’ theme first appears there through its shrilling waves of purity. The Piano Collections version is just as sweet. The strong melody never dies throughout “Celes,” even as the harmony changes from progressing, solid chords, to flowing, more melodic arpeggios. Nomura’s performance manages to instill in the listener happiness, sadness, hope, despair, faith, and nostalgia, all in such a powerful and beautiful way. A favorite track amongst all fans, “Celes” cannot disappoint in any style or fan arrangement, and it doesn’t disappoint here.
13) Waltz de Chocobo
“Waltz de Chocobo” isn’t memorable by any means, simply because there are one hundred million arrangements of this track. Perhaps I am being biased; I will say that this is one of the better Chocobo arrangements, yet it lacks because it is just another Chocobo arrangement. But it is probably the best Piano Collections arrangement of the track, alongside “Mambo de Chocobo” from Final Fantasy V Piano Collections. The ending is the weakest part of the track, which actually proves to be enjoyable enough to listen to after you accept the fact that it’s just another Chocobo arrangement. But overall, I’ll admit that “Waltz de Chocobo” is a delightful ending to a delightful soundtrack, albeit grudgingly.
Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections is an excellent parallel to the game itself. Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections is the most experimental of the Piano Collections series, which one might believe to render it inconsistent, but on the contrary it is one of the most unfailing albums. Every track fits alongside each other, and every track is enjoyable to listen to through their miraculous performance. Fans began to deplore the two previous Piano Collections soundtracks, but after they got a taste of this album, hopes began to rise again. This is truly a great album, and it represents a new step into the Final Fantasy Piano Collections world.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jillian. Last modified on August 1, 2012.