Long before Final Fantasy VII took the gaming world by storm, savvy gamers world-wide were already familiar with the previous six games in the series (well, Americans only had access to three, but the well-informed American knew that six existed). “Old-school” gamers are, to this day, nostalgic for a time when FMV sequences didn’t exist, and Super Famicom synth was literally “music to their ears.”
Squaresoft knew how valuable these first six games were, and how much the devoted fans loved the music. Along with any number of arranged albums released, Square released two vocal collections celebrating the music of Final Fantasy I-VI. The first was entitled Pray, the second, Love Will Grow. The instrumental arrangements behind the vocals were incredible, featuring full strings, winds, percussion, harp: whatever the song might call for, no expense was spared. The result was two phenomenal albums that simply cannot be topped. This reviewer holds these albums in the highest regards.
With the release of each passing Final Fantasy, VGM collectors asked the question, “will this game be the game that sets up for a third vocal collection?” — the answer came long after the release of FFX-2 and FFXI, but the album’s content was focused around the PSX era: Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX (though III, V, and one of Uematsu’s unreleased pieces also received some attention). Entitled “mahoroba,” this vocal collection would stick to an earthy, folk/jazz feel, with seven vocal tracks and three instrumentals. In the weeks after its release, many VGM communities had their minds made up about the album: it wasn’t as good as the first two, and hence a mediocre album.
This reviewer avoided the purchase of this album for some time, taking the fans at their word. But wouldn’t you know it, the album turns out to be a relaxing, enjoyable experience; the arrangements are high quality, the songs chosen for arrangement are all in correlation: one simple, enjoyable melody after the next. Suffice it to say, I like it.
The vocalist of this album seems to lean toward a more classical, proper style. Her voice is certainly not rigid, but it does not suit as well in pieces like Eyes on Me (which seems to be the oddball piece on the album: I don’t think that one fits). Otherwise, I like the vocals.
The instrumental pieces are wonderful: and who can complain? These are real, live instrumental performances of once-synthesized pieces! Of the three instrumentals, the best one by far is Daguerreo, which was already a well-written tune from FFIX.
For those who are wondering: yes, the Ten Plants piece is another good song, but I did not care for it because I had no game to which I could relate the song.
All in all, Mahoroba is not similar to Pray or Love Will Grow: it’s from another time, another publisher, another vocalist, and mostly different games. This does not mean it’s bad: I think it’s a fairly enjoyable CD, and I’d quickly recommend it to any Final Fantasy fan (of which we all know there are many).