Last week my wife and I attended Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds at the Holland Center in Omaha. We were very fortunate (and surprised) that the show came to Omaha and knew we couldn't miss a chance to see music from Final Fantasy performed by a live orchestra.
It was fantastic.
In addition to choice selections from Final Fantasy games, a full-on chorus was on stage taking part in FF's more ambitious selections. If that wasn't enough, one of the show's closers was the Opera scene from Final Fantasy VI, with vocal soloists! Amazing!
While the music played there was a large screen showing game footage of the representative FF games. This ranged from old-school 8 and 16-bit gameplay to the fully-rendered cutscenes from later games and even clips from FFVII: Advent Children. Personally I would have liked to see even more game footage and battles with some of the epic bosses, but with the music soaring alongside it was pretty hard to be picky about it. The music selections were great, I was surprised to see several selections from Final Fantasy VIII (but not really because that game rocks). There were a couple personal favorites I would have like to have heard but they were pretty much made up for by the show's choices as a whole. I mean there was even a section of just battle themes, how cool is that?
The night's show had an extra special treat-- series composer Nobuo Uematsu was in attendance! And holy crap, it was his birthday! The orchestra played some extra pieces in his honor, and had him on stage for a cake. This culminated with the whole audience singing Happy Birthday to Nobuo-san, which to my wife and I was a very special moment for game culture. Because let me tell you something: when you head out to a live performance of Final Fantasy music, you are surrounded by those who want to be there just as much as you do. You are "among your people." Coupled with the night's bonus celebrations, it was a very special evening indeed.
Having Nobuo Uematsu available to liven the crowd added a whole new layer of fun, and for his birthday wish he asked the orchestra to perform "Requiem" from Final Fantasy XI. Near the end of the show he was goaded into singing something himself as an encore, for which he simply whistled the Battle Victory theme much to the crowd's enjoyment. Egged further, he asked the audience to join in for one last performance by way of a single word-- he then ran over to the chorus and squeaked out in a high pitched voice... "SEPH-I-ROTH!" And so the show closed with Sephiroth's theme, the projection screen awash in flames over the image of FF's darkest enemy. Fucking. Awesome.
Conductor Arnie Roth, who has been with the touring show from the beginning, was a great host who offered fun conversation for both first-time listeners and long time fans. The music choices have changed over time, and new pieces appear to be rotated in on a regular basis. This makes the show a great opportunity to see whenever you have the chance. Tickets are a bit pricey-- we were in the upper balcony at $50 a pop-- but if there was ever a game-related event to save up for and attend, this has got to be a top pick. I encourage fans of music, game music, and of course Final Fantasy to find a concert showing in or near your city!
Below is a full list of music we heard at the show:
Final Fantasy VIII Liberi Fatali (with chorus!)
Final Fantasy I-III Medley 2010
Final FantasyV Main Theme
Final Fantasy X Zanarkand
Final Fantasy VII JENOVA
Final Fantasy V Dear Friends (with guitar soloist!)
Final Fantasy IX Vamo' alla Flamenco (with guitar soloist!)
Final Fantasy IV Theme of Love
Final Fantasy VIII The Man with the Machine Gun
Final Fantasy Swing de Chocobo (Sweeeeet!)
:: Intermission ::
Final Fantasy XI Requiem
Final Fantasy VII Opening + Bombing Mission
Final Fantasy VIII Fisherman's Horizon
Final Fantasy Battle + Victory Theme Medley
Final Fantasy XI: Ronafaure
Final Fantasy VII Aerith's Theme
Final Fantasy XIII Blinded by Light
Final Fantasy VIII Don't be Afraid
Final Fantasy VI Opera "Maria and Draco" (with soloists!)
Final Fantasy VI Terras Theme
Final Fantasy VII Sephiroth (with chorus!)
Who is Super Edco? Since back from the retro days of yore, anytime a game would let you create a character and name it yourself, I've been using EDCO. It came about as an amalgam of my own names and the fact that an unusual number of games in those days only let you use four characters.
Videogames are a big part of my life. I've been playing and making videogames just about since there was such a thing to be done. My favorite games are RPGs and action adventures, and the rest of that list is a long one indeed.