NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
Say what you like about video games, but the Final Fantasy series undoubtedly boasts some of the greatest soundtracks of the past 25 years. If you need any proof, the 25th anniversary concert, Final Fantasy Distant Worlds, held at the beautiful Royal Albert Hall, sold out online is just a few hours. Nobody, not even my mum, can deny how beautiful some of the Final Fantasy music is.
I know for a fact that a number of my readers went to last night’s concert (I only found this out today so regret not seeking you out!) so will give you a run through of the night and pick out some of my highlights. For those of you who couldn’t make it: be warned, there’s a high possibility of me making you jealous!
The quest for tickets
Buying tickets for this event was a mission in itself. The online booking system went live at 9am on a Thursday morning back in March and, as I was (fortunately!) not working at the time, was able to get in the first 150-odd of the queue. Within an hour this number had apparently risen to over 1000. I had a bit of a crisis when I reached the payment confirmation page, after applying for tickets, and Google Chrome decided to block the card verification page! Queue me ringing up the box office, fretting that they’d be gone by the time I got through and begging the lady on the other end of the phone to give me another chance.
‘We’ve still got those seats in your name but they’re restricted leg room. I can move you to the front row of the circle so you get a better view.’
YES! Thank you, wonderful box office lady!
To top it all off, my birthday was in March so I managed to wrangle these as a birthday present from my mum! Thanks, mum!
I went to the concert with my fellow geek girl Jenny and, in our quest to visit as many Japanese restaurants in London as possible, we went to a very nice restaurant called Tombo beforehand. I recommend you check this place out as the food’s delicious. I got the ‘Tombo combo’, complete with purple sushi!
I’m going to guess most of you have skipped straight to this bit and I don’t blame you… because this concert was SPECTACULAR.
Naturally, the first stop was the gift shop, which really wasn’t cheap. That said, this was the 25th anniversary concert of Final Fantasy so excuses, excuses… I treated myself to the programme which cost £25. I wonder if it would have cost £5 if I came 20 years ago? The programme fortunately has all of the songs played on the evening, so I can refer to this now…
The problem with the Final Fantasy series is that there’s so much wonderful orchestral music to choose from, so how can you fit the best of it into a two and a half hour (or thereabouts) performance? Well, the first half of the concert went through the series chronologically from 1 to 10, picking one iconic song from each, and added a specially-made chocobo medley rendition.
This was obviously a challenge for some of the most popular games such as Final Fantasy VII (or 7, if you don’t know your roman numerals) where ALL of the songs are great. I had hoped to hear Aeris’ theme, Jenova’s theme and several others from this game but it seems to be common knowledge that Sephiroth’s is actually the most iconic song. There was a slightly embarrassing moment where the conductor tried to encourage the audience to join in the ‘SE-PHI-ROTH’ chant at the appropriate moment but we ended up not obliging. We were quite thankful for this, as we’d come to listen to a choir and orchestra, not a load of geeks singing out of tune (sorry everyone)! Still, the first half of the concert was fantastic.
Following a brief intermission, where I spent the entire time queuing for the ladies’ toilets, we returned to the Procession of Heroes from Final Fantasy XI, the Dalmasca Estersand from XII and Blinded by the Light from XIII, all of which were of course very good. Things were taken to another level with a performance from the vocalist for XIV’s theme, ‘Answers’, which I hadn’t heard before but was blown away by. If you haven’t heard the song yet, look it up because it’s well-worth a listen.
Now, this is the ONLY thing I will complain about with regards to the concert. Bare in mind a lot of people spent £25 for the programme, which told us that the next song would be Theme of Love from Final Fantasy VI. I remember looking at this and thinking ‘hmm, I’m sure Final Fantasy IV had a Theme of Love too’… That’s right, there was a typo in the programme! I have to admit this was a bit annoying given how much the programme cost.
There was a surprise appearance from Japanese pop star Crystal Kay who performed Eyes on Me, one of the most iconic songs from Final Fantasy VIII. I have it on good authority that a lot of people cried at this one. My tears were reserved for Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X, just to be different!
Right, nearing the end of the programme now… A proper opera performance of Draco and Maria from Final Fantasy VI. Wow. Seriously. This was quite possibly the most powerful song of the evening. The vocalists were superb. It was great hearing something so different in the performance and I’d imagine this was the first ever opera performance that a lot of the audience had heard!
Sadly, the evening began drawing to a close… Oh, wait, ENCORE! What’s the best way to celebrate the big 2-5 with Final Fantasy? Amalgamated battle medleys! Three of the greatest battle-accompanying themes were specially drawn together: Battle with Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy V, Battle with Seymour from Final Fantasy X and, of course, the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. HUZZAH!
The big picture…
It was impossible to ignore the giant screen behind the orchestra all night, which played footage from all of the games. I actually found this distracting a couple of times and ended up closing my eyes to ‘feel’ the music echoing around the hall. There were also a couple of instances where there were giant black bars on either side of the screen where the images didn’t fill the screen properly, which seemed quite unprofessional. I might be nit-picking at this point but, in the cases where people hadn’t played a particular game, it did help to see it accompanying the music.
No. Well, yes, for this post at least. But this isn’t the end of Final Fantasy Distant Worlds. There are a few more performances already scheduled for Munich, Paris, Chicago, Adelaide, Osaka, Tokyo… and, as it was announced last night, Vienna!
An iconic franchise with fantastic scores to boot, it’s hard to deny that Final Fantasy is a great series. The number of concerts that are taking place and the fact that this event has sold out twice in London now just goes to show that video games aren’t just about video games. Whether people play these games for the challenge, the story or the music, they’re more than ‘just games’. I have plenty of video game soundtracks on my iPod and there have been several occasions where I’ve bought a game because I heard the music and fell in love.
So, I’ll leave you with a question: what are your top three Final Fantasy songs? I’ll get the ball rolling:
- Zanarkand: Final Fantasy X
- Battle with the Four Fiends: Final Fantasy IV
- Jenova Absolute: Final Fantasy VII