By Quentin H. / March 13th, 2023
You can see tour dates and buy tickets for upcoming performances of CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert here.
You can also find out more about La Fée Sauvage on their official website.
CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert is, more than anything else, an amazing concert to attend. If you’re a fan of the FINAL FANTASY series, even casually, you will recognize a lot of the music being played during this show. The two pianists (yes, there were two) put on an amazing performance by syncing up the video presented on the screen while making sure their hearts were clearly invested in pulling off highly-emotional compositions for the audience. That said, there are some odd choices made by SQUARE ENIX and La Fée Sauvage that do detract from the performance and serve somewhat as a distraction during the show. All in all, CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert is genuinely a concert for FINAL FANTASY fans that should not be missed.
“Both pianists were emotionally and physically invested in their performance, and I was in awe while watching them perform complex scores from the venerable FINAL FANTASY franchise.”
First, the music: I attended the early evening performance of CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert on March 3, 2023 in San Francisco, and there was a total of 23 pieces played. The concert was clearly geared towards people who started playing the series starting with FINAL FANTASY VII, and it had a special emphasis on music from FINAL FANTASY XIV Online in the second half of the performance. For me, this was not surprising as FINAL FANTASY only truly entered mainstream gaming after the beginning of the PlayStation era, and so it makes sense that SQUARE ENIX and La Fée Sauvage would want to create a show aimed at that audience. This concert played all the ’hits’ from other FINAL FANTASY concerts such as Distant Worlds: Music from FINAL FANTASY or A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY. For example: you’re going to hear Ronfaure (FINAL FANTASY XI Online); you’re going to hear To Zanarkand (FINAL FANTASY X); and you’re definitely going to hear Aerith’s Theme (FINAL FANTASY VII). All of these classic pieces were all extremely well arranged and very recognizable even if there wasn’t a full or small backing orchestra playing.
The concert hall itself was a small, intimate setting that was not unlike the concert I attended in Berkley, California for A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY. There was only one seating level, and there were not a TON of seats available in the theatre. This had the dual purpose of both letting everyone have a good view of the pianists and the stage while also creating a much more ‘cozy’ feeling. I do not know if this is simply a feature of where I am currently seeing FINAL FANTASY concerts in Northern California or if this is how these shows are now put on, but I honestly love this change from the massive theaters that I had previously attended SQUARE ENIX concerts in before. You could also hear the sea gulls from outside during the performance, and it added a bit of local ‘flavor’ to it that made me really wish Fisherman’s Horizon (FINAL FANTASY VIII) had made the final setlist.
The first half of CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert took place over roughly 45 minutes with 11 pieces played, and the remainder took place after a 15-minute intermission. After the intermission, the pianist was changed out for the last half of the concert. Once the second part was completed, both pianists then alternated playing an encore performance. Each musical piece was introduced with the title of the FINAL FANTASY game that it came from before being played against a video from that particular game that either was directly taken from the part of the game where that score was first played or through a montage that showed off the game in general. The video pieces were continually intercut back-and-forth with live clips of the pianist playing the song, either from the keyboard itself or a waist-up view of the performance. Interestingly, the clips from the NES and Super NES-era FINAL FANTASY titles seemed to be taken from the FINAL FANTASY PIXEL REMASTER versions of those games. This was a bit unexpected for me, as I had played those games on various original Nintendo/PlayStation One platforms they were published on for North America, and I have not yet picked up these newest retro re-releases.
The pianists were the clear star of the show. As various FINAL FANTASY cutscenes and gameplay swirled on the screen overhead, the performers would frequently lean into the keyboard or lean back while playing, depending on the intensity of the piece. Both pianists were emotionally and physically invested in their performance, and I was in awe while watching them perform complex scores from the venerable FINAL FANTASY franchise. There was no ‘phoning it in’ for this show by either performer, and I was constantly pulled away from watching the cutscenes projected on the screen to focus on their actual playing, as it was completely enchanting. The pianists were not afraid to demand the audience’s attention to make sure that this was a concert for FINAL FANTASY fans and that they were the ones who were making it happen.
What was most interesting for me was how many arrangements were presented for the ‘sung’ themes for FINAL FANTASY games. There were piano versions for Eyes On Me (FINAL FANTASY VIII), Melodies of Life (FINAL FANTASY IX), Kiss Me Good-Bye (FINAL FANTASY XII), FINAL FANTASY XIII- The Promise (FINAL FANTASY XIII); and Answers (FINAL FANTASY XIV Online) was featured as one of the encores. I have listened to all of these pieces before as part of various CD collections, and I was able to mentally track the lyrics for each song in my head in time with the live performance. The piano really ‘sung’ the melody notes for Eyes on Me and Melodies of Life in such a way that it made both songs sparkle and stand on their own. For fans who do know all of the lyrics, La Fée Sauvage and SQUARE ENIX occasionally synced the video clips and live piano performances up with the imagined-lyrics in such a way to make the piano-melodied lyrics fit perfectly with what is happening on screen. I am being a little vague on purpose here, as I think it was simply one of the most magical parts of the entire show and I do not want to spoil it for anyone else. But trust me: you will gasp like I did when you see and hear it.
My favorite two pieces, were, by far, A New Horizon- Tavnazian Archipelago (FINAL FANTASY XI Online: The Chains of Promathia) and Valse di Fantastica (FINAL FANTASY XV). It is no secret that FINAL FANTASY XI Online is my favorite FINAL FANTASY title. This particular song was played perfectly, and I felt myself drawn into so many memories of struggling through that expansion and discovering the beauty of the Marquisate of Tavnazia while the story of Prishe and Selh’teus played out for the fate of Vana’diel. Valse di Fantastica was one of the pieces that I openly voiced during the intermission would be played. I loved Altissia in FINAL FANTASY XV- enough so that I actually visited it’s inspiration, Venice, and wrote about it in as a travelog– and the encore performance for that song against the game’s story perfectly closed out the night.
I have, so far, talked about a lot of positives for CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE : FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert and that is because it truly was a great show. That said, there were some disappointing and odd choices for this performance.
First and foremost, for a concert that opens with a montage of all the mainline FINAL FANTASY games through FINAL FANTASY XV, there were no stand-alone pieces for FINAL FANTASY I, FINAL FANTASY II, or FINAL FANTASY III. I was really hoping to hear The Rebel Army (FINAL FANTASY II) or The Crystal Tower (FINAL FANTASY III), both of which are truly iconic songs from those games and which are perfectly suited for the piano. There was also no love for the various FINAL FANTASY spin-off titles. For example, the song Sunset Path from Lightning Returns: FINAL FANTASY XIII is one of the most beautiful compositions in the entire franchise and it is easily adaptable for the piano. While SQUARE ENIX is finally giving some love to the MMORPG expansions for FINAL FANTASY XI Online and FINAL FANTASY XIV Online in their mainline concert series, it is truly a tragedy that these spin-off and sequel titles are still ignored.
“CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE : FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert is a concert that I don’t think you should miss if you’re looking to hear your favorite FINAL FANTASY compositions in a new way.”
All of the pieces in CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert, with the exception of Mambo de Chocobo (FINAL FANTASY V) that closed out the first half of the show, comprise a very somber setlist. Some of the FINAL FANTASY series’ more light-hearted pieces, such as Jesters of the Moon (FINAL FANTASY IX), Costa del Sol (FINAL FANTASY VII), or Ride On (FINAL FANTASY VIII), would have been great to sprinkle in from time to time to break up the heavy mood. I do recognize, however, that this would have resulted in some fairly deep cuts being performance that more casual FINAL FANTASY fans would not have recognized. Even though this is a show that played almost all of the classic and modern ‘hits’ that people want to hear live, with the possible exception of Aria Di Mezzo Carattere (FINAL FANTASY VI), and that not everything can fit into a two-hour block, I still would have liked a bit more tonal variety.
The part of CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert that bothered me the most, and the part that some of the audience around me had issues with too, was that there was no opening or closing remarks during the show. In fact, the two pianists were not introduced to the audience whatsoever. For a show that placed such an emphasis on the pianists’ performances to the point where their playing was constantly intercutting the cutscenes on the video, it would have been nice to know who they were. This strange choice of not acknowledging the performers had the unintended effect of somewhat reducing them both, despite their clear reverence for the series’ music, to being performance props. I have been reviewing video game concerts since 2017, and this is the first time this has happened. I don’t know if it was only for this particular San Francisco show or if that is a reoccurring event for CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert, but failing to identity and recognize the sole performers for the show that is so intricately intertwined within the shown cinematics is inexcusable.
There were a couple more odd things that I noticed that are worth mentioning. The only merchandise sold at this show was a three-disc CD piano-arrangement album titled Piano Opera FINAL FANTASY I-IX. You could only buy this album in cash, and I was a little surprised that they didn’t have any other merch, such as a themed tote bag, a themed T-shirt, or even generic character keychains or music boxes from the various games that are already being sold in the online SQUARE ENIX Store. The other odd aspect was that this was, in a lot of ways, a ‘spoiler-free’ performance for the games. You don’t see the pivotal moment of what happens to certain characters in FINAL FANTASY X, FINAL FANTASY VII, FINAL FANTASY XV, etc. Instead, you just see the direct before and after of it with that little bit just cut out. What this does is that it slightly lessens the emotional ‘punch’ that you know is inevitably coming in the piece because of what happened in the game. The only reason that I could figure is that this is intentional by La Fée Sauvage and SQUARE ENIX to not spoil the various games for people who may not have picked up those FINAL FANTASY titles yet to play through.
Finally, I wish we could have gotten a ‘sneak peek’ musical performance from the upcoming newest release in the series, FINAL FANTASY XVI. It would have been the perfect way to cap off the night, though I totally understand why SQUARE ENIX didn’t include that game within the setlist.
CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE : FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert is a concert that I don’t think you should miss if you’re looking to hear your favorite FINAL FANTASY compositions in a new way. The final score that I am giving this concert is one that I honestly thought a lot about before scoring, and it is definitely one of the hardest that I have had to give so far. The quality of the pianists is just so good, and the song selection is so amazing, that it does overpower any other issues I had with the show besides not introducing the performers to the audience. I ultimately had a wonderful time going, and I will gladly wait for the next FINAL FANTASY concert series to be announced.
You can see tour dates and buy tickets for upcoming performances of CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert here.
Ticket was purchased by the reviewer.
Have you been to see CRYSTALLINE RESONANCE: FINAL FANTASY Piano Concert?
What was your favorite FINAL FANTASY composition played?
Let us know in the comments below!
concertCrystalline ResonanceFinal FantasyFinal Fantasy IIFinal Fantasy IIIFinal Fantasy IVFinal Fantasy IXFinal Fantasy VFinal Fantasy VIFinal Fantasy VIIFinal Fantasy VIIIFinal Fantasy XFinal Fantasy XIFINAL FANTASY XI OnlineFinal Fantasy XIIFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIVFINAL FANTASY XIV OnlineFinal Fantasy XVLa Fée SauvageMusicNobuo UematsuPianoSquare Enix