Monday, March 31, 2008

The Game Music Concert Magic Spreads...

Up at Music 4 Games right now is a great writeup on "The Music of Video Games", performed by the Austin Wind Symphony. Even lesser known orchestras are getting into performing game music! I highly recommend checking out the article:
  • Music For Games
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  • Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Black Mages III Review

    I got the CD yesterday, and have listened to the whole thing at least four times. I think it's pretty awseome! I like this one slightly better than Black Mages 2.
    I give it an 8.5 out of 10, but there are some things I would like to see done differently. On some songs I can't comment much, I just love them. I don't write a lot of reviews, but being such a big fan of the Black Mages' first two albums, I really wanted to do a review for this one.

    1. Bombing Mission (FF VII)

    This is a little toned down from what I was expecting from the opening track, but it still has a nice covert feel to it. I have listened to this track a lot, and I would like to hear it faster with more guitar, though I don't have a problem with the synth. Compared to the other tracks on the album, I think this one could be more unleashed.

    2. Neo EXDEATH (FF V)

    One of my favorites on the album, I think there is a great balance of guitar and keyboard.

    3. The Extreme (FF VIII)

    This is a great version, it gets really fast and that's what I was hoping for. The drums and a few other additions make this sound a lot more battle oriented than the original in my opinion, and I love the way it ends!

    4. Assault of the Silver Dragons (FF IX)

    Being a big FF IX fan, I hoped this would be good, and I'm not disappointed at all, this might be my favorite track on the CD! It's really inspiring. This morning I was running home from work listening to it, even though I had my bicycle.


    If you bought the FF III DS soundtrack , then you have already heard this, as it was a bonus track on that CD.
    I'm glad they included it here, since others might not have gotten to hear it. This is another one of my favorites on the album.

    6. Distant Worlds (FF XI)

    A great rendition! It's calm and atmospheric. I need fast music most of the time, so I haven't listened to this song as often as the others, but it's still pretty cool.

    7. Premonition (FF VIII)

    This is awesome! I get the same uneasy feeling as when I hear the original.

    8. Grand Cross (FF IX)

    Sounds very similar to the game version, especially at the beginning, but the added arrangement really livens it up for me.

    9. Darkness and Starlight (FF VI)

    The FF VI Opera Scene!
    This is the one I would really love to see done differently. I can't say it's a bad musical performance, but it just feels interrupted and out of place compared to the rest of the CD, and the narration is not necessary. The FF VI music arranged this way is still fun to listen to, but I don't feel like listening to this as often as the other songs.

    The opera singers here are pretty good, but for the female part I think Sarah Brightman could do an awesome job with this song.

    If you are familiar with the FF III arranged CD that has narration, (Legend of Eternal Wind) this would be cool for a FF VI CD like that.

    10. LIFE ~ in memory of Keiten ~

    Nice piano piece to close out the CD.

    I think they did an excellent job overall, I am really enjoying it! I hope I can get this CD autographed one day.

    New soundtrack arrivals!!

    Just got these yesterday, and I can't wait to write about them!
    Black Mages III, Nights: Journey of Dreams, Final Fantasy IV DS Soundtrack, and Final Fantasy Tactics A2.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    My Final Fantasy Distant Worlds Experience...

    What a wonderful night Saturday, March 1st was! At the fantastic Rosemont Theatre in Chicago, the magic happened again. Not only did Play! A Video Game Symphony kick off there in 2006, but Final Fantasy concerts have been held there before, during the Dear Friends tour. It's safe to say that the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra has some great experience performing game music.

    It was great to return there again for another special night, the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds North American Premiere. As many of you know, this new tour, celebrating the twenty year history of this beloved RPG franchise, got it's start on December 4th, 2007 in Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm has become quite a hot spot for great game music concerts in it's own right now, too. The Distant Worlds tour will continue on to Seoul, South Korea in April 2008, and plans for Australia and New Zealand in 2009 have been announced. So how was the concert? AWESOME!

    There was snow a couple days before March 1st in Chicago, and it was cold! Most of the snow lingered on. I thought it was a great atmosphere for the show.


    Arnie Roth conducted again, and I was glad to see him do it. Not many conductors are as familiar with game music, or Final Fantasy music in that matter, as he has become.
    After a brief introduction from Arnie Roth, the fans cheered as Mr. Nobuo Uematsu entered the audience, and sat with two of his assistants from Square Enix. Mr. Roth made some great announcements during the concert: The third Black Mages Album has been completed, and the Famous Opera Scene from Final Fantasy VI would be a part of it! I can't wait to hear that CD! Mr. Roth stated that the Distant Worlds Tour would be featuring FF music not not often played at other FF concerts. He also indicated that much more footage from the games would now be a part of the tour, and he was right. It was great!

    NOTE: Some of the songs may be out of order.

    1. Liberi Fatali (Final Fantasy VIII)
    This is a real favorite, it was a great performance of the opening theme from FF VIII. I was once listening to this while riding my bicycle, and I crashed from riding too fast! It's a real intense piece.

    2. To Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X)
    Great! This is the opening theme for FF X. I still don't know why this game gets a lot of criticism. I loved it!

    3. Final Fantasy Main Theme (FF Series)
    For the most part, it's in every FF game, it's timeless, a trademark.

    4. Don't Be Afraid (Final Fantasy VIII)
    The FF VIII Battle Theme! The game footage showed an actual battle encounter to go along right with the music.

    5. Theme of Aeris (Final Fantasy VII)
    Sure, I've heard it live many times, it's still great to hear, though. Everyone loves it.

    6. Final Fantasy I-III Medley
    If you've heard some of the various FF concert albums out there, this is pretty much the same medley. One thing I like about it is that there is a lot of emphasis on FF II.

    7. Vamo' alla Flamenco (Final Fantasy IX)
    A guest guitarist was brought out for this piece, and he did an amazing job. I think it was largely extended from previous live versions, and was by far the best version of it I've ever heard.

    8. Dear Friends (Final Fantasy V)
    The guest guitarist did another awesome job with this piece, the ending for FF V.

    9. Love Grows (Final Fantasy VIII)
    Basically, it's the instrumental version of "Eyes on Me", the vocal theme from FF VIII. I kept going through the lyrics in my head as I listened.

    Now more of the new and rare pieces would be performed!

    10. Opening ~ Bombing Mission (Final Fantasy VII
    The only other time I've heard this live was at the More Friends FF Concert back in '05, and they did an excellent job with it. I love this piece, it went right along with the FF VII opening footage they showed.

    11. Fisherman's Horizon (Final Fantasy VIII)
    First time hearing this live! Really cool! The choir was great.

    12. Swing de Chocobo (Final Fantasy X)
    Arranged by Arnie Roth personally from the FF X version of the Chocobo Theme.
    It's become so recognizable over the years.

    13. Theme of Love (Final Fantasy IV)
    This was a classic from FF IV, and it was the first time I've seen the cinemas from FF IV DS. AMAZING!!

    14. Memoro de las Stono ~ Distant Worlds (Final Fantasy XI
    Another piece that was a first for me to hear live. This wasn't just part of the opening from FF XI, this was, I think one of the best performances of the show. The choir was incredible, and lyrics were added, performed by a great female vocalist with a gorgeous voice (I can't remember her name for the life of me).

    15. Opera "Maria and Draco" (Final Fantasy VI)
    This was the main reason I attended the More Friends Concert, and I was getting to hear it again! FF VI is my favorite FF game! I almost think this was better than the More Friends performance. The opera singers definitely had the emotions and expressions right for the piece. So rare to see this performed live, and such a treat!

    16. Terra's Theme (Final Fantasy VI)
    The "final" piece for the evening, this was fantastic. It was made special by the way they tied the game footage into it. The 16 bit footage from the FF VI opening was shown, and where the game normally listed creator credits, they changed it to show the credits for the concert. It must have been cool for Arnie Roth to see his name up on the screen while Terra walked in the snow with her companions wearing the Magitek Armor.

    After a standing ovation, of course there had to be an encore:

    17. One Winged Angel (Final Fantasy VII)
    It's to be expected at an FF show. Everyone always goes nuts for it.

    More standing ovations followed, and Mr. Uematsu appeared on stage with Mr. Arnie Roth and bowed to everyone. An awesome evening, the concert was almost 2 1/2 hours, and I was so looking forward to meeting Mr. Uematsu again!

    The meet and greet followed for those who were lucky, and paid $150.00 for a ticket. The line was long, but I must thank Mr. Uematsu, Mr. Roth and AWR productions for one of the best meeting sessions I've ever been to. I didn't see anyone being rushed, and everyone got a great moment to thank Nobuo Uematsu for his music (you can see my photos to the right in my photo gallery). Thank you all for your patience meeting all the fans. I must also thank the staff of the Rosemont Theatre for their help taking photos and for their comments on my artwork. Both times I've been there, you guys have seriously been the best staff at any concert I've ever attended.

    The Rosemont Theatre the night of the show

    Fans gathered outside ready for showtime. Mr. Uematsu made an early appearance and waved to the fans from inside.

    Some of the merchandise on sale. Also available were autographed posters.

    The line for the meet and greet was long!

    The orchestra preparing to get started.

    I was lucky once again to get a number of items signed, including my drawing of Mr. Uematsu as a Black Mage! (see photo at right)

    Blue Dragon OST and FF VII Piano Collections (Digicube)

    Final Fantasy I & II PS1 OST and FF IV Celtic Moon


    FF Songbook Mahoroba and FF Symphonic Suite


    FF Tactics Advance OST: I got it signed once by Mr. Hitoshi Sakimoto at Play! in Detroit, and I brought it to this concert for Mr. Uematsu to autograph. I was extremely luck to get both discs and the liner notes signed by the two of them. Mr. Uematsu noticed Sakimoto's signature and he said "Oh, Sakimoto-San, he's my friend".
    He also made another comment about working on the FF Tactics OST with Sakimoto that was soooo funny, I'll share it at another time.

    Hope you enjoyed this writeup, thanks for reading!

    Sunday, March 02, 2008

    Distant Worlds ROCKED Chicago!

    I just got in from the Distant Worlds Final Fantasy Concert, and it was a complete success!! Lots of new gameplay videos and FMVs were added, and even more tracks that hardly ever get played at FF concerts were performed! Everyone had a blast! I have so much cool stuff to share, I can't wait until I get home tomorrow!