Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour Brings One Of The Best Gaming Soundtracks To Life
It’s dark. A light drum roll interrupts a celestial harp solo as horns and strings seep in, introducing an austere title screen. It’s nearly empty except for a comically large sword buried in the ground and the words “PRESS ANY BUTTON TO CONTINUE”. I almost wanted to reach for my controller, before the dizzying six-story difference between me and that harp I just heard snapped me back to reality.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour not only transported me to Midgar, it took me back to one of the most exciting gaming experiences I’ve ever had: sitting in the basement of my parents, escaping the fervor around a pandemic, I naively hoped not to consume a tenth of my life two years ago.
Final Fantasy VIIThe soundtrack of has long been one of the most famous and iconic in the pantheon of video games. But with complex rearrangements and new compositions that sampled the music of the original, the 2020s Final Fantasy VII Remake surpassed its 25-year-old predecessor. It makes sense that Square Enix would proudly present such a masterfully written collection of music to its fans in orchestra halls around the world.
Coming 25 years after the release of the original game, the Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour more than lives up to the high expectations that come with such a prestigious soundtrack. Songs that weren’t originally written to be performed by an orchestra didn’t quite hit the mark, but otherwise the Shinra Symphony Orchestra and conductor Arnie Roth delivered a thrilling performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra earlier this month.
Lately, it seems like every other day marks the anniversary of another celebrated video game, with each year after a game or franchise release being seen as a marketing opportunity. Rarely does a game receive special treatment beyond a celebratory Tweet and a sale on digital storefronts. A world tour with orchestral performances and rearrangements of pieces from a set is a totally different level of reverence. Ironically, the Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour was not Assumed to line up perfectly with Final Fantasy VII’s 25th anniversary, but Square Enix made sure to capitalize on that regardless.
The concert opened with the Prelude in the form of a brief video celebrating 25 years of Final Fantasy VII played on a projection screen. As the harpist plucked his first note, the audience gave a brief applause before falling almost completely silent to soak in the almost angelic melody that surely everyone present knew intimately.
Roth delivered some opening remarks, delivering a brief speech in which he thanked Square Enix and the composers who worked on it. Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake. When they returned to the music, the projection screen did not rise and continued to show footage from the match. While it makes perfect sense for a musical performance for a video game’s soundtrack to feature the visuals of the game, much like a live score for a movie or TV show would, it was sometimes shocking. Some members of the orchestra were even completely obscured by the screen. Although the projections sometimes took the focus away from the music, it was a new way to revisit a game that some gamers might not have touched in almost two years.
Roth was interrupting the concert to present a video featuring a composer working on the original or remake every four or five songs. The composers discussed their creative process or how they rearranged a song for an orchestra. The funniest of all came from Final Fantasy VII‘s sole composer, Nobuo Uematsu, who introduced a song with all the pomp and excitement of a tax form before emphatically saying he hopes audiences enjoy the song.
During a concert with such a rich and diverse setlist, these small breaks made each composition stand out. If the orchestra were to pivot from piece to piece with pauses of a few seconds for applause, which the audience happily provided, the bombastic “Let the Battles Begin!” might have eclipsed the more tame – albeit equally incredible – “Tifa’s Theme.”
Final Fantasy VII RemakeNaturally, “greatest hits” shone as always, but what stood out the most from the performance were the less popular tracks. Themes that players have undoubtedly heard for long periods of time while playing the game, such as “Mako Reactor 1”, sounded better than ever. It certainly helped that the song didn’t play for more than 20 minutes on a loop.
The only weak point of the whole setlist was the theme of RemakeHoney Bee Inn’s dance mini-game. The electronic, jazzy sound of the original composition worked so well with the instruments and synthesizers it was played on. Coming from a traditional symphony, on the other hand, felt like the musicians were playing out of tempo on untuned instruments.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra took me back two years, to turning off all my lights and turning up the volume on the TV in my parents’ basement at the start of lockdown. While the new compositions missed the mark, screaming competing violins and a choir taking turns singing “Sephiroth” sending a tingle down your spine never gets old. When their duel takes place in the same room, it’s a totally different experience that anyone even slightly interested in Final Fantasy VIIits remake and their respective soundtracks must be heard live.
Charlie Wacholz is a freelance writer and student. When he’s not playing the latest and greatest indie games, competing in Smash tournaments, or working on a new cocktail recipe, you can find him on Twitter at @chas_mke.