If there was ever a great Final Fantasy arrange album that stood out amongst all the rest, then in my opinion Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite would definitely have to be it. Fortunately we have many great arrange albums in the series to choose from, but this is the one that truly must receive my highest accolade. The arrangements stay close enough to the originals, but have enough additions in orchestration for wonderful fully orchestral quality. I particularly like the added chorus in the first and last tracks, but really don't care for the synth beat in track two. The arrangements may be a bit too simplistic for some, but they probably couldn't be beefed up any more without losing the taste of the originals. Some may not care for the way the different melodies from the originals have been placed together in extended tracks, but this is probably the result of the wish to keep a "symphonic" mentality about the album (disregarding the fact that symphonies usually have four movements as opposed to seven).
Like most American fans of the series, I've never played Final Fantasy II, but I was still quite impressed with the melodies that I heard and have grown quite fond of them since my first listen to the album. The melodies that I was at first personally knowledgeable about appeared when track three rolled around. I appreciated the addition of the series?Emain theme, but I just couldn't believe the nostalgia I felt when I heard the town theme from the original Final Fantasy playing in wonderful orchestral glory. It took me back to 1991 in grade school when I played the game for the first time. I was equally impressed when the town theme segued into Matoya's theme and the track ended with a last statement of the main theme. Fortunately the nostalgia didn't stop there, as other melodies from the original were included. Included are the music from the Temple of Fiends, the overworld, and the cave theme, all of which are played in the later tracks. I'm sure that those who have played the second Final Fantasy will feel just as much nostalgia over the themes from that game, which are technically just as good in every way.
As with all albums pertaining to the earlier games in Final Fantasy series, the Prelude is included, but as Nobuo's own arrangement for that track had not been written until two years later, the arrangers had written their own melody to compliment the already familiar arpeggios. I'm personally used to Nobuo's own melody, so I really had some trouble listening to this particular segment at first. I kept expecting the more familiar melody from the later games in the series to show up. It should be noted however, that the melody that *is* used is not bad at all, and may grow on you if you just listen to it for a bit.
As with most arrange albums, Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite may be wonderful, but it's far from perfect. Although the tracks are quite lengthy, the disc as a whole is unfortunately rather short, clocking in at just under forty minutes, making the listener hungry for more. It really is a shame that there isn't any more. There were so many great songs in the original game that it really makes me wonder why there weren't any more included. It may be that the arrangers had an agreement to do just a certain amount, or that a typical concert is only forty minutes long; I'm really not sure.
Not being familiar with Japanese orchestras, I was not sure just how good the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra is, but I'd be willing to bet that it's one of the best orchestras, if not the best, in Japan. Unfortunately, the performance and sound quality are not as great as they could be. I would contribute this to the fact that this is a live concert instead of a studio recording. Despite this fact, the orchestra still gives an excellent performance with little difficulty, as the music itself is quite simplistic.
Aside from the petty complaints about length, sound quality, and the somewhat annoying synth in the second track, this is probably my favorite Final Fantasy arrange album thus far, and it really does belong in the CD collections of all fans of game music, especially fans of Final Fantasy and/or traditional orchestra. The Hattoris have done a fine job with Nobuo Uematsu's original melodies and I commend them. If you want to purchase any one arrange album in the Final Fantasy series, then I say Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite all the way!