Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections
Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections
DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (2nd Edition)
January 24, 2001; July 22, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
There is no Piano Collections in the entire series as amazingly arranged and as difficult to play as that of the Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections. The Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack never received the attention that it deserved, as it is truly a masterpiece of the game, but was cursed with bad timing. Seeing as though the hype for the new PS2 was reaching its epitome, Final Fantasy IX seemed to be just a filler game until the Final Fantasy series could break all barriers with the PS2. The album, too, is overlooked in that same manner, partly because Square and its affiliates put a lot of emphasis on the upcoming Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack. The Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections are superb.
1) Eternal Harvest
The album opens up with one of the more difficult tracks to play, which sets a standard for the other tracks, which is decisively met, too. “Eternal Harvest” is ridden with uber-fast arpeggios and broken chords with repetition. The score starts off boldly, gradually becoming softer, and then comes back to the in-your-face speed and sound that it displayed in the beginning. “Eternal Harvest” was more of a Squaresoft favorite than an actual fan favorite, but this arrangement will surely convert many fans. There is something very impressive about this track, if you’ve mastered it, then I commend you.
2) Hermit’s Library – Daguerreo
Daguerreo is my all-time favorite city in the Final Fantasy series. The combination of mechanics and scholastics is simply delightful in my eyes. I was pleased that Daguerreo’s theme was as good as the city itself. The piano arrangement starts off lightly, introducing the listener to the city which bears its tune. Throughout the track, the arrangement manages to captivate its listener with easy, flowing harmonies and a solid melody, conveying the light emotion excellently without having to burst off into forceful and awe-inspiring runs. This delightful little gem of an arrangement will surely please all ears with its simple, though difficult, tranquility.
3) The Place I’ll Return to Someday
I was not a fan of this track in the Original Soundtrack, and so I wasn’t all that excited to discover that it was on the CD. While the arrangement far exceeds the original track, it still lacks the vivacity and deepness that affects the other tracks of both the Original Soundtrack and the Piano Collections album. The arrangement isn’t overly dramatic, which is actually negative in this case, for I’d probably find the piece a bit more enjoyable had it strayed from the original melody a bit more. That’s just a personal opinion, though. “The Place I’ll Return to Someday” lacks the impressive passion that affects the other Piano Collections tracks, and to add nothing to the track, it finishes rather weakly. (6/10)
4) Vamo’ Alla Flamenco
The second most famous Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack piece, and not without reason, too. The simply fantastic Original Soundtrack version is even more awesome in its piano arrangement. As passionate as a Spaniard to his lover, this Spanish-inspired track is full of emotion, drama, passion, and power. The harmony is arranged precisely, proving to be one of the more difficult parts to master as well. “Vamo’ alla Flamenco” goes from being graciously loud to becoming wonderfully quiet. It soon increases in volum however as we reach a massively fortissimo part again. The difference in sound only adds to its beauty and power, and the lack of arpeggios and broken chords is well received, too.
5) Frontier Village Dali
Quite like its Original Soundtrack version, the piano arrangement, like “Daguerreo,” will leave you with a pleasant, cozy feeling inside. It starts off elementary enough, holding the same opening notes as its original version. The track maintains simple harmonies and a distinct melody for some time, adding to its tranquil beauty. About halfway through the track, you’ll begin to witness Hamaguchi’s arranging genius, as it delves off into pure arrangement, maintaining the Dali sound but becoming loud and wonderfully powerful. It is great to see such a variety of dynamics, too, especially through keeping the ambient tone as well.
6) Bran Bal, the Soulless Village
The slow, sorrowful score that is “Bran Bal…,” is almost interchangeable with another Piano Collections arrangement: Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections‘ “Into the Darkness.” “Bran Bal…” never strays very far from the original, but that’s not saying that it isn’t arranged well. The track eventually drifts away into an improvisation section which is of little effect. There’s not much to say about the harmony; the melody’s doing more of the improvising this time around, drifting lazily from its true self to a higher, arpeggio filled sound. (5/10)
7) Endless Sorrow
Though it isn’t a must-hear track, “Endless Sorrow” is beautiful in its melancholy nature. Starting off slowly, it grows in power and emotion, maintaining impressive, effective arpeggios throughout the track. The melody, which is played higher than usual, adds to the effect of the track by bringing a more crystalline feel to it. Just as the track breaks off into the height of its passion, it seems to end in the same way it began: beautifully slow and tragic. The romantic feel of the track will surely captivate the listener; however, though it manages to hold you while it plays, there is something about it that won’t have you pressing the back button on your CD player.
8) You’re Not Alone!
All of my expectations were met with this brilliant score. Highly extended from its original, “You’re Not Alone!” jumps skillfully from its simple melody to an amazing rendition with poise and accuracy. Powerful throughout, the track hits its climax around two minutes and ten seconds, when all emotions break loose. It then breaks away into a staccato arrangement followed by a staccato melody. “You’re Not Alone!” never fails to captivate the listener with its immense power and passion, whether it be through its amazingly impressive chords or its staccato sections. This arrangement is bliss.
9) Two Hearts That Can’t be Stolen ~ Towards That Gate
It would be hard to follow up the brilliance of “You’re Not Alone!,” but if there’s one track on this album that outsets even “You’re Not Alone!,” it is this track. This is one track that seems to tell a story, a story that begins sadly and progresses with the idea of hope and excitement. Almost immediately, the melancholy opening becomes more cheerful. Following a quiet arrangement, the track takes a drastic dive into the deep end of arrangement and emerges victorious. Following absolutely no style, the track speeds up and takes a more staccato turn, and sounds of a melody are apparent again. We are then faced with echoing broken chords, followed by a melodically arranged part of more arpeggios. The ending of the track is truly explosive. This track flaunts its melody superbly.
10) Rose of May
Another slow and melancholy arrangement, “Rose of May,” is the track that played whenever Beatrix walked around, lamenting her horrendous duties. “Rose of May” has everything that its style should: sorrowful emotion, an overall quiet flowing tone, and a smooth sound. Extremely pretty in its skillful use of the pedal, the track never strays from the melody, which may or may not work for you. Though soothing to the ear, “Rose of May” seems to lack something, but that may be because it came after the greatest arrangement in the album.
11) Sleepless City Treno
Who cares for Treno’s theme? It was enjoyable enough and quite fitting for the City of Nobles in the game, and while I’m sure there were several fans out there who adored the track, it never blew my socks off. The piano version doesn’t add much to the already-in-piano Original Soundtrack version, never straying from the original melody and lacking quite a bit of the finesse and power that other tracks on the album bring. The medieval, somewhat British tone to the track is constant throughout, due to the lack of arrangement. Either way, arranged or not, I doubt this track would’ve come out on top. (5/10)
12) Where Love Doesn’t Reach
The piano arrangement, like “Sleepless City Treno” before it, does little to improve “Where Love Doesn’t Reach”‘s sorry state. Every Piano Collections album consists of those slow, bittersweet tracks, and they remind fans of the misery and anguish that the characters have had. Unfortunately for Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections, there are so many amazingly arranged, wonderfully powerful tracks, that those quiet, simple scores such as “Where Love Doesn’t Reach” are completely overshadowed. When brought up against some of the more fantastic scores of the CD, “Where Love Doesn’t Reach,” quite like “Bran Bal…,” falls short of the impressively high standards set.
13) Final Battle
“Final Battle” doesn’t quite reach the standards of Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections‘ “Fighting” or Final Fantasy X-2 Piano Collections “Demise,” but still, it is quite good. Starting off quite ominously, it shortly breaks into massive, strong, choppy chords and rapid, mighty harmony. “Final Battle” is mainly strong chords with a staccato tinge to it, and it works fantastically with the track. It quietens down briefly and then quickly picks up its desperado-style tone. An excellent use of ringing chimes towards the end echo the strong, robust ending of powerful, banging chords. A fantastic arrangement of quite a nice battle theme.
14) Melodies of Life
Excellent in every way, the beauty of the track comes from a nice balance between arrangement and closeness to the original track. One of the most beautiful parts of the track occurs 54 seconds before the track ends, where smooth arpeggios break into a much quieter, slower chord which is held longer to such a great affect that you can feel the gentle emotions casting off. The music box opening echoes the track’s sweetness and romance; the quiet, ascending ending concludes the fantastic Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections
In retrospect, this is probably the greatest Piano Collections out there. Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections skillfully balances between the amazing arrangements and the loyalty to the original melody. Of the three albums Hamaguchi organized, this is the epitome of his greatness. The myriad of track arrangements just add to Hamaguchi’s talent. Even the tracks that aren’t quite up to par are still excellent in a sense; just, compared to the album’s other tracks, they fall short. I give Mr. Hamaguchi a pat on the back. This is truly a work of wonder.
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.