Final Fantasy – “Main Theme” (arr. Shirou Hamaguchi)September 28, 2010
The main theme of Final Fantasy is called – surprise, surprise – “Main Theme” but is sometimes also known as “Final Fantasy” or “Opening Theme” depending on the game and album. The track is sometimes played as a standalone song, such as in Final Fantasy I and III as an ‘overture’ for the adventure, but in later games (IV and on), it is usually played during the credits, as the song has a triumphant, almost victory processional feel. The best renditions of this theme seem to always be the orchestral versions, particularly those from the concert series. Sometimes it’s played in medleys of other Final Fantasy tunes, but it seems to work best alone. My pick goes to the version from More Friends – music from Final Fantasy which is a recording of an orchestral concert for the series played in Los Angeles in 2005. The track, originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu, was arranged by Shirou Hamaguchi (Final Fantasy VIII, IX, XI) and was performed by the World Festival Symphony Orchestra. The piece was actually originally arranged for the 20020220 Music from Final Fantasy concert and has since become a staple of most orchestral concerts for the series. Sadly, just the 20020220 version is available on iTunes, and it contains applause halfway through as Mr. Uematsu comes on stage to conduct.
It is easy to see the series’ roots in classical music, particularly works of Hayden, as Hamaguchi’s arrangement fluidly weaves strings, flute, clarinet, and trumpets together, first one at a time, then finally drawing them all together in the end (beginning 2:00) up to a glorious finale at 2:46. The two main sections of the theme have a nice call and and response, one answering the symphonic poetry of the other. The theme is kingly, proud, and sincere, a call to adventure and an honoring of the adventurers, and is one of the great themes of videogames. In fact, I can’t help but compare it with Koichi Sugiyama’s “Opening” theme for Dragon Quest.
Another amazing performance of this tune is from Tour de Japon (pictured above), performed by the New Japan Philharmonic and also conducted by Shirou Hamaguchi. However, halfway through the performance, Mr. Uematsu comes on stage to conduct! Tour de Japon traveled around Japan in the spring of 2004 and built off the success of the 20020220 concert. This performance was recorded in Yokohama.