Vocal arranged albums generally aren’t as celebrated by game music fans as instrumental ones. I often feel the same way, which is why I found Feena to be so surprising. If a song is good enough, I find myself compelled to learn the lyrics no matter what language it’s in, and that’s precisely what this album has done. The excellent arrangements, Shoko Minami’s beautiful voice, and outstanding instrumentation all combine to make this one of my favorite vocal albums of any game series.
The premise for Feena, as with most image albums, is to take various Falcom game compositions, arrange them for a more mainstream audience and add completely original and unique lyrics. This doesn’t always work well, especially with less melodic themes, but it’s the strength of Falcom’s original melodies that hold these arrangements together. Most are immediately recognizable, and all three arrangers do an excellent job embellishing on them. A wide selection of pieces were chosen ranging from Ys I & II to Popful Mail. Although many of the songs are poppier than what I’d normally listen to, I still fell in love with them. Originally released in 1992, one can definitely hear the previous decade’s influence on the arrangements.
Aside from a few words here and there, I have absolutely no idea what is being sung in these songs, but that hasn’t prevented me from appreciating Minami’s voice as a beautiful instrument itself. I have been a fan of hers ever since “Endless History” (The Morning Grow) from Perfect Collection Ys, with her soft, gentle voice breathing heartfelt emotion into the epic piece. But unlike Ys PC, Feena has provided her a full 45 minutes to showcase that same lovely voice. Minimi’s talent is an exception amid the majority of image song vocalists who often sing in much higher pitches, almost squeaking out the words in a most unappealing manner. Minami, however, keeps her performances sweetly grounded with tenderness and warmth.
The songs themselves are gorgeously arranged and performed. “Whisper of the Goddess” is based on Ys – “Feena”‘s melody, and is as whispy and elegant as the goddess herself. “Wind Dancer” and “Waiting for the Night” are my two favorites, with rocking melodies from Lord Monarch and Dragon Slayer. “Termination” is the most unconventional of the arrangements. Taking the Ys II theme, Ryo Yonemitsu, of all people, transforms the it into a funky dance piece that works surprisingly well. Even the chorus, which sounds a little silly on first listen, is very catchy and grows on you. No album is complete without the obligatory love ballad, and “Tears of Love” and “When We Meet” satisfy this area. Both are performed with just the right amount of emotion to save them from sounding overly sentimental. The only song that I found lacking was “Sunflower” (Dragon Slayer’s Ship). Somehow it’s quirky, offbeat melody felt out of place compared to the more romantic tracks on the CD.
As a whole, Feena is an excellent album, even if you’re unfamiliar with the original compositions. The music is enjoyable and Minami’s performance impeccable. Believe me, if you like vocals as well as Falcom’s music, you won’t be disappointed with Feena.