Returning Home is the latest entry in the Distant Worlds series of albums, and it features three discs of live orchestral performances of music from throughout the history of the series. Conducted yet again by Arnie Roth and performed by the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra, the album includes a number of tracks that have become standard for the Distant Worlds series, as well as a few new ones, particularly from the newest games in the series, XIII and XIV.
If you are a fan of the previous albums or of live orchestral music in general, it’s unlikely that you will be disappointed in any way by Returning Home. The production quality is top notch, featuring clear, crisp sound and some truly beautiful arrangements that, whether they are new or returning favorites, come across as full of heart and emotion. The classics are all expertly arranged, with a track like “Those Who Fight” from FFVII rendered wonderfully. Even years after the original, this new arrangement was so potent that the famous hook in the song gave me chills while listening. Still other songs, like fan favorite “Dancing Mad,” make a clear argument for the original compositions and how well they translate to a live orchestra. Without a doubt, its iteration here is how it was meant to be heard.
The new tracks from XIII are good as well. A piano arrangement of “March of the Dreadnoughts” has a wonderfully fluttery, bouncy sound that makes it quite pleasant for easy listening. On the other hand, “Saber’s Edge” still has that punchy sound that made it a great boss theme to begin with, with its intensity only highlighted by the orchestra.
While I’m not familiar with the tunes from XIV, if these arrangements are any indication, they were served well. “Navigator’s Glory ~ The Theme of Limsa Lominsa~” is an uplifting, expressive anthem that brings me fond memories of the Vana’diel March from XI. “Answers” is an excellent vocal track, with the full orchestral and choir complement to back up the lead vocalist, Susan Calloway – who also does an outstanding job.
The addition of tracks from the two newest Final Fantasies has only helped Distant Worlds, which was already a great concert series. There isn’t much else to say here – if you like orchestral music, you can’t go wrong with Returning Home. The arrangements are expertly handled, and the performance and production quality are top-notch. There’s a lot of great music in here, so check it out!