Though Daisuke Minamizawa has been composing intermittently since 1996, the Final Fantasy Solo Guitar Collections have been his first commercial performances. However, with string plucking like this, one could easily be fooled into thinking Minamizawa’s created several albums over his lifetime. In the West, few have probably heard of his compositions and arrangements. Still, with his name now attached to one of the many iterations of the Final Fantasy brand, music aficionados are sure to clamor for more of his work.
The second volume of the guitar collections hosts a good variety of the series’ catalogue of music, with nearly every game represented. Although true that some games receive more love than others (FFVII and VIII lovers will be left wanting), the selection is phenomenal. Everyone has their favorite tracks from each game, but some of the most iconic and overlooked pieces grace the track list.
Typical of most solo albums featuring one instrument, the quality is consistent throughout. As suggested earlier, some of the best acoustic guitar playing I’ve heard on an RPG arrangement album occurs on this 28-track behemoth. Yes, the large track list suggests many short tracks, with the average length landing somewhere around the two-minute mark, so those looking for “fuller” renditions of their favorite music may want to consider that. Little looping or artistic license happens in this collection — Minamizawa remains largely loyal to the source.
Though Japanese performances are almost always technically superior to other performances, the trade-off seems to occur with “heart;” no such exchange happens here. Every note seems to be hit just right with the correct timing, yet Minamizawa’s love for Uematsu and company’s composition is made clear in the occasional flare. The entire album contains examples of this tenacity, but one of my personal favorites is his “Cosmo Canyon.” I’ve said it before, but this is actually one of my least favorite tracks on VII’s album; Minamizawa masterfully breathes rustic life into this piece, making it one of best songs on this collection.
Shadow’s theme lends itself to acoustics, as well. With some similar instrumentation occurring in the source, Minamizawa takes it a step further by adding some soulful strings that truly capture his enthusiasm. Here, the passion makes an otherwise brooding tune a little livelier — a rare departure from the original track’s essence on this album, perhaps due to the lack of “whistling.”
Not that he’s incapable of melancholic playing. Another song from Final Fantasy VI, “Epitaph,” appropriately communicates Setzer’s sorrow for his long lost friend as the heroes obtain wings to scour the ruined world in search of their companions. Similarly, Final Fantasy IV’s “Cry in Sorrow” maintains its aural brilliance as it weighs down the heart in a combination of wistful nostalgia and a moving tale.
Final Fantasy IX receives some attention with five tracks, one a “Goodnight” theme. Like Shadow’s theme, “Vamo ‘alla flamenco” almost feels like cheating to include, since the source contains some acoustic-esque playing, but Minamizawa does the atypical instrumentation justice with his spicy guitar strumming. And what would an arrangement album be without a battle theme? Final Fantasy X’s upbeat melee music gains much with Minamizawa’s passion leading the charge into the fray. The fanfare theme that follows seamlessly represents Final Fantasy X’s full catalogue of music with a humble two tracks.
Honestly, I could do a track-by-track review of this fantastic album. If you love Final Fantasy music and acoustics, you must find this collection, as hard as it may be. Over a year old and released only in Japan, fans may find the search frustrating, but the end result will be worth it. Fortunately, Minamizawa released a third collection in 2012, so let’s hope that he maintains this standard of quality and that he continues to compose for future titles — and that the West can partake in his work.
Editor’s Note: This album is included with the guitar tab book, also arranged by Daisuke Minamizawa, and can be purchased directly from his website.