I’ve always been a fan of piano albums, especially those from the SNES Final Fantasy games. The PlayStation versions never really got me going, aside from a few tracks here and there. If Final Fantasy X Piano Collections is any indication, though, the series’ piano albums are starting to dig themselves out of the pit of mediocrity.
Final Fantasy X’s soundtrack was my favorite since VI, and the quality of both composition and sound quality was outstanding. That being said, I found the piano album to actually be a step down in terms of the enjoyment I got from it, though not a large step. The main problem was that the pieces were so highly arranged that some were unrecognizable except for a few sections, and I was often grasping to find the similarity to any of my favorite tracks from the game. The biggest culprits were Bisaido no Tou (Besaid Island) and Hymn of the Fayth, which is a shame, since I was expecting to readily recognize the Hymn of the Fayth: I had heard it so many times, and I really enjoyed it.
Fortunately, At Zanarkand and Travel Agency were highly faithful to the originals, as was the Ending Theme, and they were all very well done. Personally, I enjoyed the Ending Theme more from the OST, but hearing it played on piano was definitely appreciated. And yes, Suteki da ne was excellent as a piano solo. I found it beautiful and well-played. A surprise favorite of mine was The People of the Far North. The melody simply came alive on a piano, and it’s really a moving piece, probably due to the reinforcement of the theme throughout the piece.
A word needs be said about pianist Aki Kuroda, though. While not the greatest of the Final Fantasy piano artists (I enjoyed Toshiyuki Mori of FF V Piano collection fame the most) she certainly does a wonderful job bringing Hamauzu’s arrangements to life, to the benefit of the listener.
There is a healthy mix of upbeat and solemn pieces arranged here, and overall this is a very good album, though between this and the OST, I’d recommend getting the OST. However, since you probably won’t have to decide between the two, I’d say pick up this album when you get the chance.