More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack

More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack. . Click to zoom.
More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack
Composed by Нобуо Уэмацу
Published by Square Enix
Catalog number SQEX-10289
Release type Game Soundtrack - Promo / Enclosure
Format 1 CD - 15 tracks
Release date September 15, 2011
Duration 00:53:52
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This album is a recollection of themes which are rearranged splendidly in orchestra and rock form at a 2005 concert for the purpose of Final Fantasy music nostalgia. This 75 minute album records all of the tracks played in the concert funded by Square Enix for all FF fans across the US during May-July of 2005. All these tracks on the album were created from a live orchestra with authentic instruments, guest vocalists, and keyboard specialists. Each melody is filled with a deep emotion that is rarely absent from this album. This is the type of album which you would bring when you're sitting quietly in deep in thought or reading a book to relax. Put Hamaguchi, the vocalists, and The Black Mages group altogether, and you've got a great coda for the American FF music concerts.

I must mention that Shiro Hamaguchi deserves substantial credit for making the 2005 concert work as well, as it could possibly be through his arrangements. Hamaguchi is one of the acclaimed partners of Uematsu in the Final Fantasy series. Without his arrangements, some of Uematsu's well-known themes might not have left the same permanent impression over his listeners. I have a lot of respect for Hamaguchi's symphonic arrangements and piano works that have contributed to the high watermark standard for the Final Fantasy album series. The three orchestral arrangements (F.F.VII Main Theme," "Aerith's Theme," and "One Winged Angel) in the Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks was his first early work with Uematsu. Some may probably disagree with me on this statement, but those tracks were probably the best Final Fantasy arranged tracks simply featured on the wrong album. It was such a shame that Hamaguchi could not save the main theme for this concert and instead left on the deserted Reunion album.


Hamaguchi's first seven tracks are masterfully arranged and their precise composition recaptures the essential magic of the original themes. You'll hear first the antagonistic "Opening ~ Bombing Mission," which reminds you of Cloud jumping from the train of the first scene in Final Fantasy VII, then you'll get to Aerith's sad theme reminding us of her untimely departure, which is directly rendered from the Reunion version. Following, you have "Terra" from Final Fantasy VI and "Don't be Afraid" from Final Fantasy VIII that present some bolder music. Hamaguchi's arrangements on this album are beautiful, touching, and refined. The immortal opera event of Final Fantasy VI is remastered with full opera lyrics and performances from Stephanie Woodling, Chad Berlinghieri, and Todd Robinson. Some fans have in one time or another asked the question, what would have made Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version perfect? I would say if SNES at the time had the capacity for real vocal sounds in the opera scene, then the album would truly achieve perfection. Hamaguchi successfully re-creates the same music structure and tonality of Uematsu's popular theme.

If I had to place criticism to balance the praise I have given to this album, I would say the vocals that appear as the latter tracks (tracks 10 and 11) were definitely a downgrade from the original soundtrack versions and 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy. These vocals are the type of pop ballad music Uematsu made specifically to complement electronic arrangements. In the later vocal tracks they're sung directly live by Emiko Shiratori for "Melodies of Life" and Rikki for "Suteki da ne." Hamaguchi's use of live instruments was an excellent effort to drive forth the melody. It doesn't get across the same pop or bouncy feeling you're use to from the Final Fantasy IX or Final Fantasy X soundtracks, but instead favors a more dramatic tone. Perhaps the biggest oddball track of this entire album is the "Melodies of Life" because it includes "The Place I'll Return Someday," in exactly the same way as the version of the 20020220 album. Even now, I think the placement is too awkward and it certainly didn't warm me up for "Melodies of Life." It's like eating two types of flavored ice cream; one after another leading to an entirely different taste experience. In terms of "Suteki da ne," Rikki's voice can be very sharp at times, but passable for a vocal. I prefer her vocals in 20020220 concert which has a slightly mellower tone, which showed a lot of restraint and control.

Then you have The Black Mages group which gave you those intense rock arrangements of your favorite battle and boss themes. Their contribution this time is the "Rocking Grounds" from Final Fantasy III, "Maybe I'm a Lion" from Final Fantasy VIII, and "Advent: One Winged Angel" from Advent Children. The first two come directly from The Black Mages II ~The Skies Above~ album and the last track was a precursor version theme of the Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Original Soundtrack. "Rocking Grounds" is a fairly good rock piece, but at times it can be a little jarring for your taste after you've listened to seven beautiful orchestral tracks. You just have to be prepared for this track, otherwise you'll be caught off guard. Later on, The Black Mages group plays out "Maybe I'm a Lion," which is probably the best battle theme on the entire album besides "Advent: One Winged Angel." And how can we not mention this Advent Children track? As inspiring as this track is, it can either be a joy for others or tough luck for others. I'll explain later on why this is in the track sections.

I do need to warn you about a serious issue before you jump in and buy this album. The problem is, after hearing this album, I decided to listen to 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy, which I haven't played in years. Only then did I realize the number of arrangements on this album were either exact or close replicas of that album. "Aerith's Theme," "Suteki da ne," "Don't Be Afraid," "Tina," "The Place I'll Return to Someday ~ Melodies of Life," and "Final Fantasy" are all replicas. After hearing this album, you begin to wonder whether the 2005 concert was another recycle of 2002's concert. Excluding the two recycled rock tracks, this really leaves you with only the "Opening ~ Bombing Mission," "Zanarkand," the opera track, "Swing de Chocobo," and "Advent: One Winged Angel" as the only new types of arrangements offered on this album, yet even these are, in a certain sense, replicas. The first two were offered on Tour de Japon - Music from Final Fantasy, which never received an album release, "Swing de Chocobo" is very close to Final Fantasy X's "Brass de Chocobo," the opera is based around the ancient Game Music Concert 4 ~The Best Selection~, and "Advent: One Winged Angel" sounds better on the Advent Children soundtrack. If you've already experienced the 20020220 album, chances are you're probably going to hear the same themes again in this album. For people who haven't, though, you may feel a little snubbed in buying this album.


From a critical view, the 2005 concert album is a problematic entry to the Final Fantasy music series because seasoned listeners will notice this album shows the signs of how the music series is aging. In short, the trend of original material offered from the various artists is apparently declining. But, then again, this is an album recording from a concert, so it is not uncommon to hear repeated music from the past. Aside from the commercial turnoff of the album, the music of this album is unquestionably brilliant. If I were to rate this album directly from the concert, and not considering the factor of originality from the 2002 concert, this album certainly meets my expectations. Aside from the distractions and flaws of the vocal tracks I mentioned above, this soundtrack is superb in terms of quality and arrangement. The lush beauty of the first seven tracks and the opera track is a treat for all listeners. Also, The Black Mages' tracks were done with the same exceptional power and forcefulness as the album releases, which is rare for arrangement tracks. I recommend this for listeners who have enjoyed arrangements such as Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite, Final Fantasy VIII Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec, Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale, The Black Mages' albums, or Final Fantasy S Generation Official Best Collection. The only people I wouldn't recommend this album are for seasoned Final Fantasy listeners who have heard the 20020220 album and are only looking for new music.


Music in game




Those of you who missed the live concert held in LA at the Universal Amphitheatre on May 16, 2005, which marked the very first time that The Black Mages performed in the United States, can now listen to what was presented that special day. More Friends - Music from Final Fantasy was presented a year after Dear Friends - Music from Final Fantasy, the first video game concert ever held in the US to kick off E3. This concert was led by Arnie Roth, performed by the World Festival Symphony Orchestra, and supported by the vocal talents of the CSUF University Singers, along with special guests. This was an event to remember, and thankfully an official recording is now available.


"Opening ~ Bombing Mission" from Final Fantasy VII was a fitting opening. It starts off slow to build the anticipation prior to jumping into the repetitive but intense strings of the action-packed second part. Accentuated by trumpets, this is a brilliant and vibrant orchestrated piece which builds excitement for things to come. Nothing short of exhilarating and captivating, we transition into another Final Fantasy VII melody that everyone knows and loves following this — "Aerith's Theme." Chances are you've probably listened to this version on the 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy CD, but, nonetheless, it's an elegantly performed piece that creates a very beautiful backdrop of one of the most popular games in history. With a full-blown orchestra being used bring out the poignant and heartfelt emotions that this creation has, listening to this piece will back memories.

As solo piano notes open, we are brought back to the distraught world of Spira where Final Fantasy X takes place with "Zanarkand." With the soft tones of strings as well as the flute and clarinet taking over the main melody, many instruments take turns carrying the melody with horns as the bass accompaniment. Halfway through, the harp chimes creating a smooth gentle plucking sound which helps transitions into the second half. There is no triumphant finish, but it ties up at the end, a pleasant orchestration of a very popular piano melody.

"Don't be Afraid" is another one of my favourite arrangements, mostly because I never thought a battle theme could sound so captivating performed live by an orchestra. The strings, trumpets, xylophone, and even the triangle are all thrown in together with the heavy beat of a drum that creates that same sense of urgency and excitement as the piece was in the game. There is great use of percussion of all types to really bring out the soul of this piece. Next is "Terra," another popular piece which feels majestic and whimsical at the same time. This time the different wind instruments carry the melody all the way to the final powerful ending.

You can tell that "Swing de Chocobo" was a crowd favourite. Arranged in the famous swing style of 1930's, this bouncy 6 beat variant is fun and classy at the same time... well, at least as classy as a theme for a fat yellow bird can be. With its distinct style, it's hard not get involved and feel like you want to get up and boogie. This was a fantastic arrangement and a great choice to get the audience going all the while creating an amusing and charming atmosphere. It's followed by a classic. As always, you can't have a Final Fantasy concert without the traditional "Final Fantasy" theme. A heroic and proud theme, performed with emphasis by the symphony this is the Final Fantasy theme to remember.

The moment that all Nobuo Uematsu fans have been waiting for follows; next comes the first live performance by The Black Mages on US soil. The entire mood of this album changes with "The Rocking Grounds" from Japan's Final Fantasy III. If you're a fan of The Black Mages, you will enjoy this rendition although it's just not quite the same listening to it at home. Part of the fun is hearing the musicians play up on stage, and seeing their enthusiasm and energy. "Maybe I'm a Lion," which is on The Skies Above album also, comes next. If you are familiar with The Black Mages, you'll already know how electrifying they can be and how overwhelming it is to hear your favourite tunes rock style. Kudos to the members of The Black Mages for their energetic performance.

After thunderous applause, the next track is Rikki's first US performance of "Suteki da ne." Her voice isn't quite as powerful and airy so it was difficult to hear all the words clearly. She seemed to get drowned out by just the piano melody at times. Still, this is a very beautiful and moving performance, even though her voice didn't quite carry over the music that well. Following is another vocal track, as Emiko Shiratori sings "A Place to Call Home ~ Melodies of Life," which preludes with a familiar tune from Final Fantasy IX before the vocals begin. Maybe it's the recording, but Shiratori's voice seem to reverberate a little too much, but her voice projected well overall. This was still a wonderful performance along with the orchestra, even though the acoustics were a bit poor.

Besides The Black Mages, fans are probably excited to get to hear the "Opera 'Maria and Draco'" with English words! The opera scene from Final Fantasy VI was performed by Stephanie Woodling, Chad Berlinghieri, and Todd Robinson. Although I thought the lyrics were completely corny, it is definitely interesting to hear the wide array of styles on this one album. This just proves that Nobuo Uematsu's talents expand a wide range in terms of style and music. The voices are much clearer in this track, probably because they were singing down in the orchestra pit in front of the conductor rather than on stage.

For the grand finale, this is one version of "One Winged Angel" that you do not want to miss out on. Performed by The Black Mages AND the orchestra, this rendition of "One Winged Angel" is just spectacular and absolutely amazing. With electric guitars, heavy strings, and the choir, it is just unbelievable and features considerable changes to the Final Fantasy VII Advent Children version. With the sound of the audience cheering, you can tell that this was an exciting piece to finish with.


Finally, Square Enix decided to release the live recording of one of the most special video game music events held in the US. An album with a little bit of everything, this is a must-have for any Final Fantasy fan. Even though you may have heard some of these arrangements before on other albums, this one is a special one since it was live. I am amazed at the editing job because the fans were just going wild at the concert and there were some electric current issues which would cause loud snaps during the first half of the concert. They didn't include the MC which is a shame, but since there were so many technical difficulties, it was better that they left it out completely. Overall, it's a fantastic album. Please get it and let's hope that more concerts like this will come in the future.


Music in game


Sophia Tong

Japanese version only available at Tokyo Game Show 2011.

Notes from Parent Album:
CD initially released at More Friends concert.  It contains the original soundtrack versions of the pieces played at the performance.
Album was composed by Нобуо Уэмацу and was released on September 15, 2011. Soundtrack consists of 15 tracks tracks with duration over about 55 minutes. Album was released by Square Enix.

CD 1

Opening - Bombing Mission
Aerith's Theme
Don't be Afraid
Terra's Theme
Chocobo Theme
Battle 1 ~The Rocking Grounds~
Maybe I'm a Lion
A Place to Call Home
Melodies of Life
Aria Di Mezzo Carattere
The Wedding Waltz ~Duel~
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