The name Daniel “Kareshi” Brown should be a familiar one to regular emptyeye.com visitors. If you need a primer, click here for all the posts in which he’s mentioned on the site. Anyway, the NES gamer and piano player extraordinaire has released his first CD, titled Mystic Awakening: Music of Final Fantasy VI. As you can read on his site, it’s 21 tracks from the game Final Fantasy VI (Originally released in the United States as Final Fantasy III, restored to its proper place in the chronology with the release of Final Fantasy Anthology in 1999), from the opening theme to Part 3 of “Dancing Mad” (The Final Boss theme) and everything in between.
A bit of a disclaimer: FFVI isn’t exactly one of my favorite games in the series–I’m fond of echoing those that said before me “FFVI is an incredible half a game. I’m still looking for the second half, it’s gotta be in there somewhere…”–though I did like the music a lot when I’d look at gameplay footage again for the first time in many years. The point being that it’s somewhat difficult for me to judge faithfulness to the original songs, so all I can really do here is judge the playing itself (Believe it or not, I took a semester of piano lessons in college. So obviously I’m qualified to judge someone who plays the piano as his primary instrument..).
And the playing itself is spectacular. Kareshi definitely knows what he’s doing on the piano. And the songs I do remember have been faithfully reproduced (In as much as Nobuo Uematsu‘s pseudo-orchestal soundtrack can be replicated on one piano) here. The production is also top-notch–compare Kareshi’s first recording of anything video-game related to one of the samples on his site and it’s pretty easy to hear the difference (The use of a digital piano certainly helps here). As such, all the tracks have the right “feel” to them, as it were–“Edgar and Mash” sounds majestic, “Dark World” sounds ominous and bleak, and so on.
The one issue I have, and it’s probably a function of my lack of familiarity with the songs as much as with anything Kareshi did, is that the songs tend to blend into one another, especially if you’re not really paying attention. This is especially true toward the beginning of the CD. This is really minor, though, and really doesn’t even detract from my enjoyment of the music at all.
There are a lot of video game cover bands out there. There are far fewer video game cover pianists out there. And Kareshi, besides being my friend and rival when it comes to old-school video game, is an excellent video game cover pianist. This CD is proof of that.
You can order the CD and hear samples at Kareshi’s website.