Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
What can elevate computer games to art is music. The Final Fantasy series is well-known for having brilliant scores, particularly from legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu. In its third trip to London, the Distant Worlds tour played to a sold-out Royal Albert Hall. Playing from 25 years’ worth of Final Fantasy history, the majesty of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra coalesced with the potent tones of London Voices, under Arnie Roth’s conduction.
The evening began with a haunting arrangement of Final Fantasy X’s Hymn of the Fayth, cleverly fused with The Sending. These songs marked the release of the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster. With almost no break, the orchestra stormed into the famous One-Winged Angel (FFVII). To raucous applause, the conductor described playing One-Wined Angel as a “mandatory” part of Distant Worlds.
Arnie Roth then guided the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to play the enchanting Lightning Returns, from the eponymous sequel in the FFXIII series, followed by Final Fantasy V’s tearful Dear Friends. Drawing next from Final Fantasy IX, Vamo’alla Flamenco’s acoustic guitar was played by guest guitarist Stuart French. The Royal Albert Hall was then filled by the emphatic and glorious primary themes from two of the biggest-selling titles in the series: Final Fantasy VII’s Main Theme and Final Fantasy X’s To Zanarkand.
Singer Susan Calloway – who was painfully underused – brought her powerful and emotional voice to the online game Final Fantasy XIV’s Answers. The first part of the great performance was finished by the Battle Triptych: a synthesis of Battle on the Big Bridge (FFV), Fight with Seymour (FFX) and Those Who Fight (FFVII).
After a brief intermission for drinks and ice cream, the orchestra restarted with the trance-like Man with the Machine Gun (FFVIII). Fan loyalty was repaid by the world premiere of Roses of May, a sentimental theme from Final Fantasy IX.
Arnie Roth then recalled it had been 20 years since the release of Final Fantasy VI, which is now available on mobiles. To mark this anniversary, a section of their performance would be dedicated to FFVI. A typical part of the Distant Worlds repertoire is the marching Terra’s Theme. This was expanded into a fun medley of FFVI characters themes, including Celes, Kefka and Locke. To the audience’s delight, Nobuo Uematsu joined Arnie Roth to play Dark World. An excited fan shouted “I bloody love you” at Uematsu as the composer walked on stage. Arnie Roth then played his violin, to complement Uematsu’s atmospheric keyboard. This was followed by Balanced is Restored, the game’s ending theme. Pointing to the massive pipe organ built into the Royal Albert Hall, the conductor initiated the multi-layered bombastic symphony of Dancing Mad. The organ itself was played by Andrew Lucas of St Albans’ Cathedral.
The orchestra then nominally finished their set with Final Fantasy’s uplifting Main Theme. After the passionate applause, two encores were played: the fantastic Festival of The Hunt (FFIX) and the fun Chocobo Medley.
(Video: Kuja FFIX)
It was a really enjoyable evening; Distant Worlds will return to London soon.