AX 2014 – rePlay: Symphony of Heroes concert review

AnimeExpo-revise

Fans who attended rePlay: Symphony of Heroes at Anime Expo 2014 were greeted by a plethora of music from the various popular games from the past two decades. The concert was set up as an adventure comprising of 15 chapters and an epilogue, leading its audience through a hero’s journey from start to finish. Each chapter featured one game, either playing one song, or a medley of clips of different songs from throughout the game, with an omniscient narrator giving us the premise of the upcoming music selection and forwarding the storyline. A video also accompanied the music for the most part, featuring clips from cutscenes, gameplay, promotional footage, concept images, and more!

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To kick off the concert and set the mood, the orchestra played a medley of songs from the recent popular Sword Art Online (including Overfly and Crossing Field), of which two special guests of honor, renowned Japanese cellist, Eru Matsumoto and Russian pianist, Sonya Belousova were also featured. Conductor Amy Anderson came out shortly thereafter to open the main event, asking how many of the audience were gamers and giving well wishes that we would enjoy their performance. Unlike at actual symphony performances, she encouraged the audience to cheer as they’d like for the games and songs they enjoyed.

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The performance started appropriately with PS3 game Journey, followed by the popular game Mass Effect among the cheers that rose from the crowd with a more familiar title. This was followed by Guild Wars 2, BioShock, and Lair. What really got the crowd going wild was when the orchestra started God of War, a title they weren’t quite expecting but loved nonetheless. Of course, after that came Dragon Age and Portal, letting the audience realize that it wasn’t just going to be the standard titles performed that afternoon. This was followed by a short intermission during which they played one of the Final Fantasy save screen theme songs. Very appropriate intermission music, indeed.

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Returning, we were all welcomed by selections from Metal Gear Solid 4 and Chrono Series, before the a choice from the long awaited Final Fantasy series played (Liberi Fatali from FFVIII). This was followed by World of Warcraft, depicting a variety of cutscenes from the game, earning the approval of the crowd. Then, an unexpected surprise came in the form of an olden-day pixelated gameplay clip from Castlevania, which eventually led into assorted gameplay from the other Castlevania games and cutscenes from Lords of Shadow. After this was Shadow of the Colossus.

The greatest and loudest cheers of all came when Kingdom Hearts finally played. The selection happened to be the classic instrumental mix often played in most promotional videos, but the crowd loved it nonetheless. Of course, with such a famous game, what else could the orchestra follow it up with but Halo?

Here, conductor Anderson paused to thank the crowd and close up the performance with bows, resulting in some people leaving as they thought the concert was over, only to pause in surprise as the performers sat back down and an epilogue appeared on the projector, featuring Elder Scrolls!

On the flip side, there were some disgruntled responses from the audience during intermission and after the concert ended. It seemed that many attendees were more thinking along the lines of “Final Fantasy? Kingdom Hearts? Hell yes, I’m in!” after seeing the advertisement for this particular rePlay concert.

The concert was perhaps misleadingly advertised, as the names listed as “examples” of composers whose work were to be performed were those quite well-known for their music. While the entirety of the performance was great and an innovative way of introducing a broad range of gaming music, it should probably have specified that the concert was a comprehensive performance, or at least stated that there would be more than 15 titles that would be chosen. During intermission, amongst the flood of people permanently exiting the concert hall (re-admission was not allowed once you leave the venue), I overheard quite a few attendees disappointedly exclaiming that it wasn’t what they had expected, and even more people asking where was the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts music they were promised. Even the two premiere fans I was seated next to left and never came back. The hall was decidedly much more discernibly empty than it had started with, once intermission ended. Admittedly, perhaps they all needed to catch return flights home, since the performance did start late and ended an hour past what it was scheduled for.

Similarly, I was indeed disappointed that there was not more Final Fantasy music, as I had been expecting at least Sephiroth’s infamous “One Winged Angel.” By mentioning Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura, and Garry Schyman specifically, along with the game titles they are known for, AX had set up an expectation to attendees that these would be some of the main works that would be featured at the concert, which was definitely not the case. In addition, after speaking to some attendees as we all exited the hall, they mentioned that some of the selections for the concert were perplexing; they could only recall maybe 2-3 of the songs maximum, stating the other songs weren’t memorable at all.

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While I personally did enjoy the performance, and it was great listening to a wide variety of music from all these different games, particularly because of how innovative an idea this concert was, I do feel a little sympathy for those whose expectations were not met and were disappointed because they had only attended because they had been looking forward to works from these particular composers being strongly featured.

Strangely, many in attendance continued to exit during the epilogue (Elder Scrolls) and the hall quickly emptied once the last note sounded. There was unfortunately no attempt to call for an encore, unlike at many Japanese concerts, so we were unable to find out if they had indeed prepared an encore performance for us.

However, I do believe the concert was a good end to this year’s Anime Expo, and very much a unique and interesting experience, especially for game fans. The orchestra, choir, and two guests of honor Eru Matsumoto and Sonya Belousova, along with conductor Anderson were definitely very talented and gave a great performance, with just the right amount of passion and enthusiasm in their efforts. There were good and slightly less good surprises, but overall, it was a relative success as it did appear that the crowd enjoyed it, judging from the applause.

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Here’s a list of the chapters from the concert:

Introduction: Sword Art Online (SAO)
1. Journey
2. Mass Effect
3. Guild Wars 2
4. Bioshock
5. Lair
6. God of War
7. Dragon Age
8. Portal
9. Metal Gear Solid 4
10. Chrono Series (Chrono Cross)
11. Final Fantasy VIII
12. World of Warcraft
13. Castlevania
14. Shadow of the Colossus
15. Kingdom Hearts
16. Halo
Epilogue: Elder Scrolls

About author

Keira Truong
Keira Truong 143 posts

A Los Angeles based writer, she has been a long time fan of anime and manga, film, and music.

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