Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks is an unusual combination of best collection and arranged mini-album. While the small number of new arrangements may leave owners of the full original soundtrack wanting, combined with the original selections on hand the album offers some of the most dynamic game compositions ever created.
The new material in Reunion Tracks consists of three orchestral arrangements, all of which follow their original versions closely but boast capable orchestrations and solid performances. Both "Aeris' Theme" and "One-Winged Angel" sound vastly better with live instrumentation than their Playstation synth originals, though the former is still on the sappy side and the latter suffers slightly from an underpowered choir lacking the menacing baritone in the OST. The lead arrangement "F.F.VII Main Theme", on the other hand, is flawless. The plodding, overly synthetic OST version takes on new life altogether here, Shiro Hamaguchi's beautiful and nuanced orchestral arrangement transforming the piece into the all-encompassing epic overture it was meant to be.
The included OST selections offer clear proof of Nobuo Uematsu's mastery of game music during the time. Take "Opening ~ Bombing Mission", which shifts effortlessly from ethereal intro to triumphant main title to driving militaristic main theme, perfectly balancing mood and melody while sporting a slick sci-fi sound never before heard to such an extent in the series. Both the carnival-like "Golden Saucer" and the tribal "Valley of the Fallen Star" boast not only the immensely catchy melodies for which composer Nobuo Uematsu is known, but also a hint of underlying drama that makes their impact all the greater.
Final Fantasy VII's legacy lies in its battle themes, which are the pinnacle in a series already known for them. "Fighting" is an orchestral action-fest that remains enthralling no matter how many listens, while "Jenova" is a frenetic, wicked-sounding piece with a delightful sci-fi feel. "Still More Fighting" utilizes both orchestra and synth in the most adrenaline-pumping way imaginable, with electric guitars and cool keyboard hooks taking the lead while soaring string samples take them to new heights. Even in Playstation synth form it compares favorably to the subsequent live rock arrangement in the first Black Mages album.
With any best collection of a longer, multi-disc soundtrack the question arises of whether truly the best tracks have been selected. It's all objective of course but in Reunion Tracks I'd say they've done an outstanding job of selecting the game's most essential, most memorable pieces. The only tracks that pain me to see missing are the atmospheric "Anxious Heart" (which set the tone of the game almost as much as its opening title), the beautiful and poignant "Interrupted by Fireworks", and the exhilarating main theme reprise "Highwind Takes to the Skies". It's a shame these didn't make the cut over the poorly synthed "Honeybee Manor" or the simplistic and sappy "Yuffie's Theme". Fortunately the instances of genius at work in the album easily overshadow the couple questionable selections, and only diehard fans of the game are likely to notice any missing favorites.
Despite the shortage of arranged material, Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks offers a can't-miss opportunity to experience the best compositions of perhaps the most groundbreaking score in one of gaming's most lauded soundtrack series. Completists will probably want to stick with the four-disc OST (making sure to catch "F.F.VII Main Theme" in one of the later arranged compilations), but for everyone else Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks is required listening.