One of the oldest series in the world celebrates its 35th anniversary with a concert – “Piano concertos are much more difficult to implement”

crystalline resonance projector

Final Fantasy will be 35 years old on December 18, 2022 and will celebrate the anniversary with a concert tour, among other things. MeinMMO author Irina Moritz attended a concert in Berlin and was able to speak to one of the organizers.

Compared to other entertainment genres, gaming is a relatively young medium that only began to grow around 50 years ago. Many gamers from the very beginning have therefore grown up together with their favorite franchises.

Japanese developer Square Enix’s Final Fantasy JRPG series is one such long-lived franchise, celebrating its 35th birthday on December 18, 2022. Square Enix has often accompanied the milestone birthdays of its flagship series with special promotions.

  • For the 25th anniversary there was a special box with all the main parts of Final Fantasy and other goodies.
  • A major exhibition on the history of the series was held in Japan for the 30th anniversary

The company has also come up with several campaigns for the 35th. One of these was a worldwide concert tour, in which the music from the 15 main plays was played on a piano.

Final Fantasy’s original composer Nobuo Uematsu is considered a musical legend and laid the foundation for the excellent soundtracks that are a must-have for any FF game. When Uematsu stepped down from his role, talents like Yoko Shimomura and Masayoshi Soken followed him.

Their music was played on a grand piano at the anniversary concert “Crystalline Resonance” on December 3rd in Berlin.

Crystalline Resonance Trailer

Cozy evening that turned out smaller than expected

I make no secret of the fact that I adore Final Fantasy’s music. Aside from the fact that the soundtracks have a lot of memories from gaming attached to them, they also offer very good music on their own.

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So the Crystalline Resonance concert wasn’t my first video game music concert either. For MeinMMO alone I have already visited Video Games Live and Final Fantasy XIV: Eorzean Symphony. Privately there were a few more.

The difference, however, was that the concert was a lot smaller than the typical Square Enix shows like Distant Worlds or Kingdom Hearts Orchestra, which are usually held in large philharmonic halls and with a lot of effort. In Berlin, Crystalline Resonance took place in Babylon (via Wikipedia), which is actually a cinema, but is also partly used for cultural events.

For a concert celebrating the 35th anniversary of the FF series, that was surprisingly small. So if you were expecting a big concert in the style of the above, with a show and a merchandise stand, you were disappointed.

Selected pieces from the 35th year of Final Fantasy music history were played, accompanied by a video show. Appropriate scenes from the games were projected onto a screen:

  • For “Bombing Mission” the opening of the original FFVII for PS1 was shown.
  • “Suteki Da Ne” was accompanied by scenes between Tidus and Yuna from FFX.
  • During FFXIV’s “Answers”, Bahamut’s legendary destruction of Eorzea preceded the MMORPG’s reboot.
Matching clips from FF games were projected onto the screen.

As always, the nostalgia and emotional music didn’t fail to have an effect. With “To Zanarkand” or “Aerith Theme” tears ran down the faces of some of the viewers.

The only downside was probably the location and its acoustics. While I didn’t hear any of this myself, other viewers told me that the sound quality deteriorated in the back rows.

“Concertos for piano are much more difficult to implement”

After the concert, I had the opportunity to speak to the show’s producer, Julien Mombert. He is the founder of La Fee Sauvage, the organizer of the concert, and has been working with companies such as Square Enix, Disney and Bandai for several years. The company specializes in bringing music from video games, anime and films to the big stage.

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I was interested in how much work goes into the production of such a piano concerto and Julien explained that it is often more difficult to arrange the pieces for a piano.

It works differently than an orchestra. Because an orchestra has many more instruments, it usually is […] easier to implement. With the piano, you have to recreate the full range of sounds of other instruments used in the original soundtrack.

So it’s a lot harder to create pieces just for the piano compared to the orchestra. […]

Julien went on to say that in the case of Crystalline Resonance, he asked for feedback from all the composers whose pieces were played. Above all, of course, Nobuo Uematsu, who originally composed most of the tracks. But Masayoshi Soken, Naoshi Mizuta, Yoko Shimomura and others were also closely involved in the process.

A lot of communication with the respective composers and with Square Enix was therefore necessary during production. The accompanying videos on the screen have also been checked, so that they fit perfectly with the length of the tracks and convey the atmosphere of the music well.

Julien also noted that fan reactions vary from concert to concert. Games like Kingdom Hearts and animes like One Piece tend to attract younger audiences, while Final Fantasy tends to attract more adults.

It also depends on the show itself. For example, if it’s Final Fantasy XIV, then everyone, or almost everyone, in the audience has played FFXIV. You don’t go to the concert if you don’t know the game […]. At concerts like this, where the music from FFI through XV is played, not everyone in the audience will have played every one of those games.

So you’re not just resurrecting one story, you’re resurrecting 15. People are usually more emotional about a single IP because you’re totally focused on it for 2 hours instead of just 10 minutes.

I ended up asking Julien for some tips. Like many of you, I have friends and family members who are not into gaming. I wanted to know what he recommends to music fans who want to convince their families to attend such a concert.

Sometimes we have people in the audience who […] only come because they were “dragged along”. It’s family, friends or even business partners who came because they got a free ticket.

I’ve never seen anyone go back out there and say, “Oh, that was stupid.” Even people who have never heard the music themselves or never played the games […]which means that they are not in this universe can still enjoy a good show […]. Our shows are often like 2 hours long and most people say ‘oh it’s over already’.

So Julien is convinced that even complete gaming and anime grouches can have fun with the beautiful music. So the next time you’re thinking about sharing your hobby with your loved ones, feel free to ask if they’d be interested in attending a classical concert.

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