A Journey through ‘Distant Worlds’: Music from Final Fantasy

In a time not too long ago, there was a boy who came across a world where giant yellow birds and tiny upright creatures with large noses said “kupo”. He’d always meet someone named Cid or ride an airship. Before long he had become a part of this world of magic, science, and strange creatures of all sorts. But as time went on, he had been given the task to save this world from peril. Along the way, he experienced fear, frustration, love, joy, and trains. However, as time went by, it was just another chapter of his life. This part weekend, he traveled to Distant Worlds to perhaps relive those memories.

I’ve never been to a Final Fantasy Live Concert before. When I heard Distant World was touring through the area at Royce Hall located at the University of California, Los Angeles. I knew I had to see it played before my eyes.

Royce Hall @ UCLA

 

We begin our Journey on Day 1, September 9th. Resident NR Editor Chris Del Castillo and I decided to get there early to avoid the LA traffic .That didn’t work out so well as we were stuck on the 405 for quite a bit. Nevertheless, we arrived at UCLA’s Royce Hall! We arrived around 6:30 pm, allowing us some time to see the Hall and all the people standing patiently outside for the doors to open.While we were waiting, we spotted a couple of Final Fantasy Cosplayers. Our first encounter were a pair of Yuffies from Final Fantasy VII.  Next we bumped into a Balthier and Rikku from Final Fantasy XII and X-2 respectively.  Afterwards, We snuck a preview of the stage before people were admitted in. The hall itself was quite the spectac le.Check out our photos of the set-ups and the majestic stage. The screen in the back was coordinated in sync with the orchestra, playing scenes from each piece’s respective title. The songlist for each night were as followed:

Friday – Sept 9, 2011

FINAL FANTASY SERIES: Prelude
FINAL FANTASY VIII: Liberi Fatali
FINAL FANTASY SERIES: VICTORY THEME
FINAL FANTASY VIII: Don’t be Afraid
FINAL FANTASY XI: Memoro de la Stono – Distant Worlds
FINAL FANTASY IV: Theme of Love
FINAL FANTASY XI: Ronfaure
FINAL FANTASY V: Clash on the Big Bridge
FINAL FANTASY VIII: Fisherman’s Horizon
FINAL FANTASY SERIES: Chocobo Medley 2010
FINAL FANTASY VII: Opening – Bombing Mission
FINAL FANTASY VI: Dark World
FINAL FANTASY VIII: The Man With The Machine Gun
FINAL FANTASY VI: Dancing Mad
FINAL FANTASY IX: You’re Not Alone
FINAL FANTASY VII: JENOVA
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Answers
FINAL FANTASY VI: Terra’s Theme

Saturday – Sept 10, 2011

FINAL FANTASY VII: Opening – Bombing Mission
FINAL FANTASY SERIES: VICTORY THEME
FINAL FANTASY I-III: Medley 2010
FINAL FANTASY X: Zanarkand
FINAL FANTASY V: Dear Friends
FINAL FANTASY IX: Vamo’ alla Flamenco
FINAL FANTASY VIII: Love Grows
FINAL FANTASY X: Suteki da ne
FINAL FANTASY SERIES: Chocobo Medley 2010
FINAL FANTASY VIII: The Man With The Machine Gun
FINAL FANTASY VI: Dark World
FINAL FANTASY IX: You’re Not Alone
FINAL FANTASY XII: Kiss Me Goodbye
FINAL FANTASY XIII: Blinded By Light
FINAL FANTASY VII: Aerith’s Theme
FINAL FANTASY IX: A Place to Call Home-Melodies of Life
FINAL FANTASY VIII: Don’t be Afraid
FINAL FANTASY VI: Opera “Maria and Draco”

A little past 7, they began filing people into the concert hall. Eager fans began standing in front of the stage for photos. Just as everyone was about to get settled, the lights are dimmed and a very familiar voice could be heard from a very recent Final Fantasy game. Square-Enix treated us to a never-before-seen trailer of Final Fantasy XIII-2. I won’t go into detail about that but I will say that the battle system does look much more frantic than before.

What I really liked about these concert is they often know what fans will love. On both nights, they started the concert with the beloved Victory Theme that everyone knows very well.  It’s often these little tunes that resonate with my experience in my childhood playing these games. Tunes from carry over from past games such as the Chocobo Theme were both whimsical and nostalgic. (Like trying to breed a Gold Chocobo in FF7 made me do a lot of works. Out of all the pieces played during both nights, I particularly enjoyed Liberi Fatali, To Zanarkand, Dear Friends, and Fisherman’s Horizon. Day 2 featured more vocal tracks, all of which was sung by Susan Calloway, who is featured in the song “Answers” for Final Fantasy XIV. While I didn’t really like her rendition of Suteki da Ne(Which really should not need an English version anyway), I thought her covers of Melodies of Life and Kiss Me Good Bye quite powerful!

As far as guests goes, the legend himself, Nobuo Uemastu was in attendance both nights as a spectator. Arnie Roth talked him into playing Dark World with the orchestra, only on the condition that Roth accompanies him on the violin. To see Uematsu-san play live before me had become a dream so true. As I listened to him play Dark World, shivers shooked through my body as the haunting melody bellowed from his keyboard. The duet performed a deep harmony that again reminded me that dark, thundering, often depressing ambiance of Final Fantasy VI. The hall was completely mute as they looked upon these two virtuosos.  When they finished , the audience(including myself) gave a long standing applause. Bravo!

Unexpectedly, Uematsu-san wasn’t the only guest  there. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the original creator of Final Fantasy, was there to see the concert with fans. When he was introduced, the crowd got on its feet and applauded feverishly, including me. To have both the original composer and creator under one roof was an enormous treat to all of the fans.

As I sat down to type this, all the wonderful memories I had while playing Final Fantasy came flooding back to me. After the concert, I had the urge to pop in my copy of FFVIII into my Playstation to play from the beginning again. But I digress. Distant Worlds was a amazing, yet poignant experience for me. It was a emotional night that I could not forget for the rest of my life. If you have played and loved a Final Fantasy game in your life, you must attend a Final Fantasy concert once in your life. Listening to the soundtrack and experience in-game is great, but seeing it live is breathtaking. 

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