I love Fire Emblem, and I especially love Fire Emblem’s music. Fire Emblem Fates had some fantastic tracks, too many to count, while Awakening before it carried some great tunes as well. But I’ve always felt that the series has never been given its due in the musical remixing/arrangement department. For every ten Zelda remixes and rearrangements released, you’ll generally find zero to match in regards to new versions of Fire Emblem songs, barring the stray acoustic rendition by a YouTube amateur. Luckily, Hiroki Morishita and Takeru Kanazaki seem to feel the same way, because they have set about making their own renditions of Fire Emblem music with this album.
I assume it was easy for them: Morishita and Kanazaki are known as the Sound Director and Music Composer, respectively, of Fire Emblem Fates. From June to August 2016, the pair performed a series of mini-concerts during the Cipher Caravan event in Japan, featuring music from various Fire Emblem games. The two became known as the “Cavalier Duo,” based on the name of the Cavalier class in the Fire Emblem games, with Morishita as the red Cavalier and Kanazaki as the green Cavalier. Those arrangements finally found their way to a CD release as Sounds of Fire Emblem from Cipher Caravan, and I’m glad they did, because they’re really quite great!
The duo perform as a guitar/piano combo throughout each track, with no other instruments to get in the way. This gives the tracks a very sparse, minimalistic feel, which I find makes them great music for studying and writing. Especially enjoyable for me is the way the different tracks are rendered to give familiar songs a distinct new feel. For example, the Cavalier Duo’s version of “Dusk Falls” is much more rustic and relaxing than its original rendition in Fire Emblem Fates. I’d even say the quiet piano and casual guitar allows the song to match its title a little better than the original version.
The Fire Emblem Fates version of “Far Dawn” is heavily influenced by classic Japanese music. Its Cipher Caravan rendition doesn’t hold the same level of uniqueness, but it does turn into a peaceful, serene ballad of sorts. This is further emphasized by the fact that this particular track uses only Morishita’s piano to carry the tune, giving it a sense of solitude that helps emphasize each and every note. It is an exercise in “waste not, want not” — every aspect of the piece is exactly where it needs to be and is given a breath of new life with its minimalistic rendition.
Then there are tracks like “if ~Hitori Omou~.” This is one of my absolute favorite songs to come out of Fire Emblem Fates, the type that I whistle without any prompting throughout the day. Morishita and Kanazaki do the track justice. They turn what was once a more sorrowful, nostalgic piece into a jazzy, upbeat romp, the type you’d hear in a lounge while waiting for refreshments. The change is just subtle enough to keep the core catchiness of the original song intact, while providing a happier rendition of the melody to mix things up.
“‘I’ – Purpose” is another of my favorite tracks, this one from Fire Emblem Awakening. Though played a bit safer than “if ~Hitori Omou,” the duo are helped along by the strength of the original melody, which is played note for note on piano while carrying the same power as the original. When Kanazaki takes the lead with the guitar at the halfway mark, before both he and Morishita get together for the Fire Emblem main theme motif near the track’s end, I find myself feeling both excited and impressed. It is great to hear how the two are able to play their instruments around each other throughout the track, without ever sounding too busy or muddled.
The main Fire Emblem theme appears at both the beginning and the end of the album, but I prefer the ending version, “Fire Emblem Main Theme,” a bit more. Morishita and Kanazaki deftly weave their instruments together, bouncing back and forth to provide each other the base of the melody, before creating an exciting crescendo that ends the album.
Were I to describe Sounds of Fire Emblem from Cipher Caravan in one word, it would be “pleasant.” As I said before, it is a lighthearted album that never gets in the way of your thoughts — making it perfect as work music — and no track overstays its welcome. Honestly, I’m just glad to see Fire Emblem get some musical love outside of the usual official soundtrack releases. My hope is that this album gets popular enough that we see some more official arrangements of Fire Emblem music from Intelligent Systems.