Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album
Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album
Square Enix Music
September 20, 2017
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album features arrangements for songs from both Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and its first expansion Heavensward performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, with a variety of orchestrators and arrangers involved. Many of the tracks arranged here were already orchestral in nature, so there aren’t any drastic upgrades like those heard in projects like Distant Worlds, nor ambitious reworkings as in Final Symphony. It’s a bit of a curious release for Final Fantasy XIV, being released only on CD rather than in the typical Blu-ray and digital formats, while also having a lower price tag than typical CDs in Japan. This points to it being a relatively minor release, which is confirmed by the CD being made mostly redundant with the inclusion of all of its tracks shortly after in Eorzean Symphony: Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album.
The album opens with “Ultima”, which is a close reproduction of the original track from A Realm Reborn. In transcription to the orchestra, some of the more defining elements are lost, such as the original female vocal ostinato which is now played by strings, or the pseudo-tribal percussion of the original which is now more generic. Although these changes are lamentable, having a real orchestra and choir with actual lyrics makes the rest of the track sound much more unified, organic, and rich. Overall it doesn’t supplant the original, but it is a nice edition to have. Another track from the base game is “Calamity Unbound”. Here the orchestral percussion does not drive the song as much as in the original, but otherwise the structure of the original is followed almost exactly. When the song is repeated in the second half, a nice violin solo comes in for the B-melody, before the track becomes more emotional and grandiose with a bit of reharmonization, helped by added choral sections throughout. “Rise of the White Raven” follows its original closely as well, though it has been simplified a tad (losing for example part of the undercurrent of strings), but this helps the vocals and countermelodies to stand out more, and it is nice that the vocals are now no longer filtered. There is also a new coda ending that wraps things up nicely, though the reharmonization used there could have been explored more to make the arrangement more interesting.
On the Heavensward side of things are another three battle tracks. “Ominous Prognisticks” unfortunately is a step down from its original, as it doesn’t seem as aggressive or heavy, particularly in the bass sections. The brass for example feel too bouncy to create pressure, and the higher-pitched instruments that have been added detract from the track’s ominous aura. It doesn’t help that the track essentially loops with very few changes in its second half. It would have been better if “Revenge Twofold” was combined with it in the same arrangement, since they share the same melodies. On its own, the “Revenge Twofold” arrangement is alright, with a stripped down instrumentation in its second half to focus on the choir, but as a whole it lacks the desperation and urgency of the original. “Heroes” also shares many melodies with the others, but it is instead a refinement on its original, fully realizing the potential that was held back by the original’s sound libraries. This track carries the urgency lacking in the other tracks, and also feels better suited for orchestra as there is more going on in the different instrument groups. Its second half is still a bit too redundant (although dropping the percussion works well), so it is surprising that the arrangers didn’t take the obvious route of working in “Heroes Never Die”. Still, it remains one of the better tracks of the album, and I love how abruptly it ends.
There are only two track on the album that are calmer area tracks. “Serenity” from A Realm Reborn is a lovely track that benefits a lot from the transition to orchestra, since its original sounds were also quite limited. Although the punchiness of the percussion is lost here, the strings and choir sound so much more full and lush. Many flourishes are also added to climax of the track, creating a powerful wall of sound. The aftermath of this is lovely, with added instrumental lines fluttering about as the track closes out, the highlight of which is the new countermelody on the violin. “Painted Foothills”, one my favourites from Heavensward, is similarly wonderfully realized, though in following the originally so closely it retains some of its missteps, such as the clumsy descending strings early on in the track. It isn’t until the final minute or so that the track explores new territory, arranging here the new ending that was added to the piano arrangement of the track from Duality. It is a spritely and energetic coda that works very well in the orchestral context, coming off more militaristic due to the drums and brass. Like the other tracks, there could have been much more done to these tracks to make them feel fresher, but as the originals were already great except for their sound quality, these versions are welcome.
Overall Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album is a fine set of orchestral performances, even though there is very little new material. All of the arrangements follow the originals very closely, usually going through the material twice with a few changes to the instrumentation the second run. Nothing here is bad, but it may be disappointing that more creative arrangements were not made, and it feels like a loss to not have any virtuosic soloists on any of the tracks. On the other hand, many of these tracks simply needed to be performed by a real live orchestra and choir, since the sound libraries of the original soundtrack versions were limited. But even so, few of these manage to feel like definitive versions of the tracks, as the originals often still have unique qualities that are lost in translation. The album is also dominated by battle tracks, leaving out many of the more interesting dungeon and area tracks of the game. With all this, it is hard now to recommend this particular product since its material was later released in the more complete Eorzean Symphony package, even though considered in itself this CD is an enjoyable collection of orchestral game music, with memorable melodies by Masayoshi Soken and good orchestration.
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Posted on September 12, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on September 12, 2019.