The songs of Gaia, memoirs of an adventure that never left our hearts.
FINAL FANTASY VII: A Symphonic Reunion
Sunday, June 9, 2019
Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles, California
Honey-chan and Bee-kun traveled all the way to Hollywood to catch the first official concert dedicated entirely to Final Fantasy VII, one of the most loved games of all-time. Final Fantasy VII is a game title that absolutely every gamer has heard; during its time FFVII was the best of the best, with the best-looking graphics, unforgettable adventurers and the most meticulously written videogame story of that time, there’s no doubt that this game title completely changed the history of gaming back in 1997. And with such a huge success under its belt, there was no better place to host the FINAL FANTASY VII: A Symphonic Reunion concert than in the most iconic auditorium in the United States, the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscar ceremonies.
Although the theatre had near to no decoration in memorabilia of this colossal Square Enix title, this did not stop the thousands of fans from around the world from finding their way to experience the much-awaited orchestra concert. From gamers of various nationalities to web media influencers, to famous voice actors, all the followers of FFVII series through the years were certainly present there.
Once inside the auditorium, the show quickly started. After the orchestra conductor, Arney Rahn briefly presented the philharmonic orchestra members and the choir specifically put together for this symphonic reunion, we were introduced to Mr. Detana, the pianist who would have the honor of soloing some of the songs in the performance.
The Hero’s Journey
The show started with a presentation in a projection screen (although not as gigantic as expected) where the audience experienced the beginning of the Final Fantasy VII game just as we experienced it 22 years ago in our PlayStation one console. This game projection was so loyal to the original they presented it with the old logo and name for the company, back when it was known as Square Soft, this presentation made the audience laugh and be immediately reminded of their childhood memories of this game. This was followed by the projection of the main menu, where we all selected the option “New Game?” thus letting the orchestra open with the most adequate first song: Final Fantasy Prelude.
During the outstanding performance of Prelude, every single one of us got transported back to that fateful day where we innocently started delving into the FFVII universe, not knowing it would be an adventure that would stay in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Twenty-two years ago… playing VII in our living rooms, listening to this fantastic song… and now, today, millions like you got to fondly remember the thrill of playing seven for the first time.
On screen, we followed our beloved hero, Cloud, as the train comes to a stop at a station in Midgar, where our adventure begins. Following the story chronologically, the orchestra then performed the song Bombing Mission while our heroes on screen snuck their way into the North Mako Reactor. Once reaching the boss battle, the orchestra followed the melody with the appropriate theme: Fighting.
After starting strong with three exciting songs, the orchestra music came to a long stop while the screen presented clips of the anime Last Order: Final Fantasy VII followed by cutscenes of the FFVII spin-off, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
After the cinematics, we return to the game footage where our heroes rest at the inn in the town of Kalm, this was accompanied by a soothing piano song. But, FF7 was never about sitting back and relaxing, there was an entire planet to be saved from a meteor! So the orchestra followed with a more actiony vibe to the beat of “Hurry Faster” while our heroes rushed to the Observatory at the top of Cosmo Canyon. Once there, the orchestra played “Lifestream” also known as “Bugenhagen's Observatory Theme”. Fifty minutes into the show, we see a little recap of Aerith’s life and her journey next to Cloud, of course, accompanied by the mandatory melody of Aerith's Theme.
In the time following the intermission, the audience was once again welcomed to a symphony that reminded us how truly talented the orchestra was, whilst our heroes traveled from Nibelheim to The Crater. As the game’s plot thickens, the cinematics shifts to show the relationship between Tifa and Cloud, while the orchestra plays “Tifa’s Theme”. After remembering Cloud’s sweet promise to Tifa of always protecting her, the orchestra once again goes quiet for a long time while the screen presented the events of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children along with some scenes of Vincent’s game, the PS2 spin-off Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII.
The orchestra presentation jumped in to lighten the mood to the swing of “Electric de Chocobo” a wacky theme that is a must in any Final Fantasy concert. The screen was showing how Cloud and his team chased around the Chocobo until he finally rides the various birds across the land and even joins Chocobo races!
Once we had our fun with Chocobos, it was time to get serious again as our heroes reach the bottoms of The Northern Cave where they are destined to change history. The orchestra excitedly plays “J-E-N-O-V-A” during this time, while our brave heroes face the formidable boss Jenova-Synthesis. After this encounter, all that was left was to stop Sephiroth in a great final battle. During that battle, there was no other song that could be played other than “One-Winged Angel”, Sephiroth’s theme. The orchestra met the fan’s expectations, playing that song accompanied by the fantastic vocals of the choir singing to the lyrics in Latin of “One-Winged Angel”.
Special Guest, Special Treatment
The concert concluded with the symphony of “Final Fantasy Main Theme”. The game ended, the credits were scrolling and everyone was getting ready to say goodbye, maybe waiting for an encore… but we got something greater. The orchestra conductor announced a special guest, at this point, everyone was expecting Nobuo Uematsu to come on stage, but instead, invited to the stage was the director of FFVII himself, Tetsuya Nomura. He didn’t have much to say to the audience, so instead, he decided to show the newest trailer for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake for PlayStation 4. After we heard the name Nomura, we knew he was definitely showing us the latest of seven, as he has previously used his appearance on Kingdom Hearts orchestras to give us big updates on his latest games. What was truly a surprising reveal, however, was the official release date for Final Fantasy VII’s remake, confirmed for March 3, 2020 - a lucky announcement just a day before the Square Enix conference at E3!
The concert was concluded in a flash after the exciting news of the release date. The fans rushed to the small FFVII collectibles shop and everything was sold out just minutes after the show ended. Everyone gathered outside of the doors with their merchandise, some talking about how much they loved the performance, others talking about how they did not play any new arrangements and how most, if not all the show just were songs from previous Distant Worlds orchestra.
Around the area, there were a few fans cosplaying as their favorite FFVII characters, posing for individual pictures as well as group poses.
As if not lucky enough to have found such a lovely community of video game cosplayers, Honey’s staff had the opportunity to meet two famous voice actors from the video game and anime scene. Enjoying the Final Fantasy VII: A Symphonic Reunion Concert was the talented voice actors Matthew Mercer; known for his role as Levi Ackermann from Attack on Titan, Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero series, Trafalgar Law from One Piece and Jotaro Kujo from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Accompanying him was the voice actress Marisha Ray, known for her voice acting work in video games as Margaret from Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Laura S. Arseid from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel and in the Fire Emblem game universe, she voiced Oboro, Mikoto, Effie, and Shanna.
Anime Midwest really seems to run with the fans in mind. There are so many options in entertainment to help include everyone from young anime lovers wanting some fun to competitive to older otaku wanting to show off their skills and knowledge. Paying for parking might add up, but the benefit of staying at the host hotel while getting free rice, ramen, and soda at the ConSweet definitely makes up for it.