Nearly every Final Fantasy got its own “Piano Collection” solo arrangement. But why not guitar? And I don’t mean wailing electric guitar a la The Black Mages. I mean impressive, technical, classical guitar solo. Well, it seems the time has finally come. This CD+Book set gives guitarists something to strive towards.
Now, I’m no professional guitarist, so it’s harder for me to review an album of this nature. As a pianist, I was always eager to analyze the solo arrangements and talk about their difficulty levels. If I had to guess, I would say the difficulty of this album ranges from intermediate to advanced, with a few short sections of “virtuoso”-level arrangements within a song.
The songs selected for arrangement range in suitability for a guitar solo. Some were originally meant for piano. Others sound good, but would do better with a guitar duet due to their complexity. However, some are perfect for a solo guitar arrangement. But we’ll get there.
The tracklist is laid out in the following manner: the first two tracks are the common themes from the series (“Main Theme” and “Prelude”). Then, in order from FFI to FFXII, anywhere from one to three songs are arranged from each game in the main series. The arrangements are straightforward: very little artistic license is taken, and each track is short. There is no looping; it’s just enough to serve as a tutorial for people learning the songs from the book. The tracks range from 45 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on the length of the original melody.
I’d like to start by naming the most fitting song for this collection: Final Fantasy V’s “Dear Friends.” Originally composed by Uematsu, in Super Famicom synth, as a guitar solo piece, it was the perfect (and obvious) choice to put onto this album. Yuji Sekiguchi’s performance is marvelous; my only wish is that said performance would go a full 5 minutes instead of the 2 and a half minutes we’re given. Another song that fit the guitar quite well is FFII’s “Rebel Army Theme.” The melody and the backing chord structure worked perfectly on one guitar.
Other songs would have been much stronger as guitar duets. “Eternal Wind,” “FFIV Main Theme,” and “JENOVA” all start with the complex, looped parts that make the songs so memorable. However, as soon as the melody hits, Sekiguchi is forced to stop playing this repeat part and get to the melody itself, which is much less technically complex. The songs are still wonderful, but if Sekiguchi had even just recorded two parts and put both simultaneously on the CD, I would have been quite pleased.
The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of music from XI and XII. For both, they just tacked on the vocal themes from each (“Recollection” is the same melody as “Distant Worlds”). Obviously they had to do this with XII if they were sticking to Uematsu-only compositions, but with XI there are a number of great Uematsu-penned pieces that would’ve been great for guitar arrangement.
My biggest hope for this album? That it sells well enough for Sekiguchi to say “hey, let’s make another one of these.” And maybe this time they’ll do some duets, or release two discs’ worth of music instead of one. All aspiring guitarists should try out playing alongside this CD with the help of the sheet music in the book. And anyone who just wants to listen to some great Final Fantasy music on guitar should pick up this album as well.