Final Fantasy is one of my favorite gaming series and the music plays a huge part of that. In 1992, I was living in Italy and friends of my parents had a SNES and Final Fantasy II (which I would later find out was actually IV). I couldn’t stop playing the game. The characters, the story, game play, and MUSIC is what really sucked me in. The franchise would go on to have successful sequel after sequel with Final Fantasy XV currently a few months away from release. The series also has several concert series’ that travel around the world, including A New World and Distant Worlds, which is making its Phoenix debut on September 10th at the Phoenix Symphony.
Why do fans of the series keeping packing symphony halls around the world? I asked Arnie Roth, the conductor for many
of the Final Fantasy performances including Distant Worlds, just that. “The difference with Final Fantasy fans is this may be the only video game series where fans are devoted to the music. Not independently from the game but they are fans of the music. Secondly, Nobuo Uematsu in 1987 started writing individual themes for characters, worlds, environments, battles, love relationships, all of these things get their own themes. His writing is about melody and structure first, all the great composers start that way and this is why some of the Final Fantasy music is considered classic.” says Roth.
Final Fantasy, as mentioned by Roth, started out in 1987 and here we are decades later and it is still going strong. Final Fantasy has a huge library of music and when it comes to a two hour performance, it has to be challenging to decide what makes the performance. Roth explains “That’s difficult, that is something I agonize over for every single concert. There’s a little group that kind of works on choosing the music: myself, AWR(Roth’s music company), Nobuo Uematsu, and Square-Enix. They let me do most of the decisions about the repertoire for most of the concerts. For some of the critical concerts like the 25th anniversary concert, it’s quite the collaboration between Nobuo Uematsu, Square-Enix and myself. Some times it is a collaboration with composers from some of the other games like 11, 13, and 14. We also look what has been played in a city before, if we are returning or making our debut. We also look at the symphony we are working with and if they have a chorus or not. Also, tracks like Zanarkand and One-Winged Angel will always be performed. These are just some of things we consider when we decide what to perform.”
In North America, we got some of the games in chronological order, the ones we missed in order of release were Final Fantasy II, III, and V. In Europe, that wasn’t the case and issues like that have an effect on what is played in Europe and other places such as Australia. Roth explains “In Europe, the first release they got was Final Fantasy VII so when we go, the music from VII and on are much more popular than 1-6. Each territory is different.”
Final Fantasy XV will be released this November and will no doubt be added to the lineup. However, it might not be right away. “We requested music from XV easily six months ago and Square-Enix said no, not until the release. Now it’s been delayed and I asked which concert in 2017 that will be the first one I can add the music of XV to but they still don’t want to commit. Some time in 2017 it will be included but I don’t know when. It’s certainely possibly we will start playing music from Final Fantasy XV in the beginning of 2017 but I just don’t know, we’ll see.” explains Roth.
Arnie Roth, along with Nobuo Uematsu (composer of many Final Fantasy games) and Sqaure-Enix are putting together the fourth iteration of Distant Worlds, A New World II, and a 30th Anniversary concert which will start toward the end of 2017. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, without a question, seeing the music performed live is quite the experience that I highly recommend. Make sure you get your tickets to Distant Worlds before they sell out!
For the complete 20 minute + interview with conductor Arnie Roth, click here!