When last we spoke on the topic of Final Fantasy guitar solo albums (as we are wont to do on a daily basis), I inundated readers with a deluge of compliments aimed at Daisuke Minamizawa’s expert string plucking mixed with a passion not often experienced in arrangement albums. I speak, of course, of the second guitar collection. Here at RPGFan, we like to do things a little differently sometimes and bite our thumbs at chronology.
Released three years ago, Minamizawa’s first guitar solo album of the famed Final Fantasy series features staple picks one is likely to find on almost any remix album: “Aerith’s Theme,” “To Zanarkand,” an array of battle themes, “One-Winged Angel,” and “Eyes On Me,” to name just a few. Those with a full library may dismiss this album simply on the basis of repetitive track selection, but who are we kidding? You’re going to buy this one. Though the tracks offered here leave little to the imagination in terms of novelty, Minamizawa’s love and respect for Uematsu’s work shines through as he hits every note perfectly with an energy sent straight to your ears.
Precision and heart only scratch the surface, however. With slight deviations that leave his mark on each track, you can appreciate Minamizawa in his own right. Do not be mistaken; this is no faceless devotee to an already successful assortment of music. Minamizawa holds talent appropriate to someone allowed to recreate Uematsu’s work, if only slightly. But we’re not here to prattle on about the performer — let’s get to the music!
What track best suits the introduction to the first of three guitar solo albums dedicated to the Final Fantasy series? Why, Final Fantasy XI’s “Kingdom of San d’Oria theme,” of course! I kid, obviously. The prelude greets us as is tradition with several arrangement albums. Here, we experience the quality of the catalogue to follow at the 00:53 mark. Have a listen for yourself.
What follows is a series of tracks from the original Final Fantasy. Humble town theme, battle theme, and short themes such as “Save Music” and “Fanfare” treat the listener with memories of simpler times without ATB gauges and fancy polygon characters. The track list hosts about seven of these short pieces, depending on how you define short. Some feel these get in the way of a fuller experience, but I feel the coupling of battle themes and fanfare music help provide the illusion that the two are actually one.
Classic RPG enthusiasts who still have a beating heart will swoon at the gentle plucking of “Love Theme.” The more jaded, brooding among us, however, will still enjoy “Tina,” the siren song of FFVI. Minamizawa ably captures the epic strumming of a grand adventure wherein enemies become friends, sacrifices are made, and pasts unravel amidst a crumbling world. Consistent with the rest of his work, his fingers communicate appropriate affect as the somewhat repetitious nature of the theme nears its end — a tenacity that enhances the soul of the theme.
Though done to death, “Aerith’s Theme” remains somber and strangely welcoming in its tragic embrace. Similar to “Love Theme,” only the most wearied and stubborn will sneer at the melody of one of the most moving scenes in gaming history. On that note, while expertly performed, this reviewer resumes his hatred for a supposedly grand boss theme, “One-Winged Angel.” Do not misunderstand: Minamizawa pays excellent tribute to this famed piece, but the obsessive nature of remixers everywhere has tainted a once favored tune.
“Balamb GARDEN,” “The Place I’ll Return To Someday,” “At Zanarkand,” and basically everything else on this album outshine any words I could use to describe the joy listening to this album has brought me. After listening to this album over twenty times, I still can’t help but stop on occasion and revel in the dedication and passion with which Minamizawa performed each individual piece. Rest assured, no fillers clog this collection. Any fan of Uematsu’s work who has been shaped by notes on a measure must include this album in their library.
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.