Thanks to Tokyopop's constant pioneering into the North American game soundtrack industry, the very best arranged selections from FFVII, VIII and IX are now available on a single disc: Final Fantasy S Generation. Uematsu himself has handpicked each track for this exclusive collection, ensuring the finest assortment imaginable from all three games. There's something for everyone here, too -- seven piano renditions by Louis Leerink (FFIX) and Shinko Ogata (FFVIII), and nine jaw-droppingly beautiful orchestrations arranged by Shiro Hamaguchi which span each game with stunning affection.
The compilation opens with FFVIII's foreboding 'Liberi Fatali', an urgent movement boasting the chilling Latin choir heard in the game's commencing sequence. A piece that stresses emergency throughout (bringing back memories of VIII's hectic parade scene in the process), it immediately sets the stage for some of the finest works of video games history. Other arranged versions from FFVIII include 'The Man with the Machine Gun' and 'Fragments of Memories', both taken from the Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec soundtrack.
Shinko Ogata's lofty piano work sincerely shines on Final Fantasy S Generation, with revamped versions of 'Fisherman's Horizon' and 'Ami' (Balamb Garden's theme) from FFVIII. Never bursting with complexity or losing touch with Uematsu's original concepts, the two bring new appreciation to previously simplistic compositions. Perhaps the most emotional piano moment of the series, 'Eyes on Me', relies on Ogata's instrumental craftsmanship in place of Faye Wong's initial lyrics, crafting a unique alternative to the game's still-popular single.
Only three arranged songs from FFVII are available here, much to the dismay of devoted fans. Of course, VII never did receive the full orchestral treatment that its successors obtained (for reasons incomprehensible to me), yet those present make up the collection's most superb additions. 'One-Winged Angel', an epic nightmare symphony heard during the game's concluding battle with Sephiroth, defines Uematsu at his most powerful. Meanwhile, 'Aeris's Theme' celebrates the life of one of Squaresoft's most cherished characters through a tear-jerking, symphonic opus not to be missed.
Without a doubt the disc's most exquisite orchestral pieces, 'Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII' and 'The Oath' (FFVIII) perfectly convey a sense of beauty and ambition surrounding each and every of the Final Fantasy installments. I'm not afraid to admit that I cried three times upon listening to these two in the same collection; it's really that moving. Anyone who's played the games will relate when they hear this.
FFIX carries four calculated piano versions with it, including 'Dark City Treno' and the somber 'Unrequited Love', all showcased from the Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections soundtrack. While these represent the weakest examples of Uematsu's genius to me, they certainly stay true to FFIX's welcomed lighthearted theme. 'Behind the Door' and 'Melodies of Life' close the collection in gorgeous orchestral format, with the latter ending in Squaresoft's ever-familiar Final Fantasy theme music -- a fitting finale for a wonderfully encompassing compilation.
Simply put, these are songs no Uematsu enthusiast should ever be without. Since Final Fantasy S Generation marks the first time that Hamaguchi's arranged versions have been available in the States, there's no reason to pay over 30 bucks for an import soundtrack with just a few great tunes anymore. Do your ears a favor and order a copy from Tokyopop right now, as this could be the most impressive game soundtrack you'll ever own.