Composed and arranged by: Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Shotaro Shima, Yoshitaka Suzuki, Yasunori Nishiki, Guy Bernfeld, Sachiko Miyano, Natsumi Kameoka

Performed by: Arnie Roth and the Shinra Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Recorded at Dvořák Hall at the Rudolfinum, AWR Music Studios

One disc, 52 minutes

I have a secret: I’ve never played the original Final Fantasy VII (1997; hereafter FF7).

I’ll give you a moment to recover.

Well, I should clarify this isn’t quite true. I played the opening Bombing Mission almost two decades ago at a friend’s house on his PlayStation, but that is the extent of the original game that I have played. And yet, I have experienced FF7 throughout the years across multiple media. From fighting Cloud and Sephiroth in Olympus Coliseum (Kingdom Hearts, 2002) and watching them duke it out in Final Fantasy VII Advent Children (2005), to hearing arrangements of the game’s score in concert (Distant Worlds, 2007–present) and, yes, playing through the recent Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020; hereafter Remake).

What comes from this is a certain freedom…and a certain loss. On the one hand, I am not bound by nostalgic memories of what FF7 “should” be or “should” sound like based on the original game; I have instead learned its music through a constellation of arrangements, versions, and covers. On the other hand, this also means I am not as intimately familiar with the game’s original soundtrack (OST) as others might be. Sure, I know the main pieces from the OST—many of which are featured on the album under review—but I do not know the full OST forwards and backwards as I do something like Final Fantasy X (2001). But even the fact that I am aware of and familiar with FF7’s music speaks to its place within the video game music canon. In a Lisztian sense, it has become a part of the (imaginary) museum of musical works.1 Indeed, as Alexander Rehding argues, arrangements afford a special way of monumentalizing music. For Rehding, this monumentality has two elements: the music itself is monumental, grandiloquent, and aspiring to the transcendental; but it is also acting as a monument, a site and structure of memory for something that already exists.2

To put it another way: the Remake Orchestral Arrangement Album becomes a musical museum to house these monuments and memories. And while Nobuo Uematsu was the sole composer for the music for the original FF7, Remake’s OST featured a slew of new composers and arrangers that offered their own takes on the iconic original OST. Indeed, many of these arrangers returned to present new concert arrangements for the Orchestral Arrangement Album as well. Shotaro Shima, for instance, arranged six of the eleven tracks on this album. As he states in the album’s liner notes, the concert arrangements “now needed to stand on their own. This meant they required additions and endings that their in-game counterparts didn’t.” In what follows, I consider these arrangements both on this “ability to stand on their own,” as well as in how they relate to the legacy of the FF7 franchise writ large.

The album could only start in one way: Guy Bernfeld arranged the opening track on the album, “The Prelude–Reunion.” This opening prelude is an arrangement of the iconic Final Fantasy “Prelude” (a.k.a. “Crystal Theme”) that is present in every mainline Final Fantasy game. The “Reunion” subtitle links this particular arrangement to both FF7 specifically (from the “Reunion Theory” within the game), FF7’s best-of soundtrack (Final Fantasy VII: Reunion Tracks (1997)) more specifically, and perhaps even the “re” ethos of the remake. It is a relatively straightforward arrangement (here, I might use the term transcription) of Yoshitaka Suzuki’s arrangement for Remake’s OST, though it does effectively make use of a chorus at the piece’s climax. It ends simply with a sustained tonic chord, recalling that famous mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

As mentioned in the introduction, Shotaro Shima is the unsung hero of this album, having arranged the majority of the CD’s pieces; Shima also contributed heavily to the Remake OST as both arranger and composer. Here, he arranged the “Opening Medley,” “Flowers Blooming in Church,” “Tightrope,” “Tifa’s Theme–Seventh Heaven,” “Let the Battles Begin! Medley,” and “Shinra’s Theme.” I will consider his arrangements out of order of their listed presentation in order to group them based on their functional and generic presentation (e.g., medley, character theme, etc.). In doing this, I acknowledge I also disrupt the temporal considerations of the album (that is, that the pieces are generally in order of when they are heard in the game), but I believe these groupings afford some comparisons that are worth this displacement.

The “Opening Medley” is a brilliant arrangement (one of my favorites on the album), which hints at “One-Winged Angel” in the intro—setting the scene and foreshadowing what’s to come for those in the know—before leading into “Opening” and then “Bombing Mission.” Per the Remake OST, the integrated “One-Winged Angel” and “Opening” are retitled “Midgar, City of Mako,” there jointly arranged by Shima and Tsutomu Narita. The “Bombing Mission” portion in the second half of the medley perhaps overstays its welcome by a bit (the arrangement is over seven minutes and about half of it is the “Bombing Mission”), but I suspect especially in the event of a live performance, this is a nonissue.3

While the “Opening Medley” is one of my favorite pieces on the album, the “Let the Battles Begin! Medley” is perhaps my least favorite arrangement on the album. The piece is a lopsided medley, borrowing primarily from “Let the Battles Begin!” (hereafter “LTBB”) and briefly concluding with the famous Final Fantasy “Victory Fanfare.”4 Across the Remake OST, there are actually five versions of “LTBB” used in the game (subtitled “Ex-SOLDIER,” “Break Through,” “A Merc’s Job,” “The Hideout,” and “-REMAKE-”); the arrangement here is closest to “A Merc’s Job,” the most prototypical of the five as based on the original OST. The arrangement begins with an extended introduction that immediately takes away from the momentum of the iconic battle theme. It also makes peculiar use of a punctuating chorus across the piece, before wrapping up with the full ensemble (chorus included) playing/singing the “Victory Fanfare.” My biggest gripe with the arrangement is with the handling of the chorus—the attempted epic register that I believe Shima was trying to evoke by using the chorus ultimately falls flat to my ears. Still, the arrangement isn’t all bad. There’s an interesting section towards the end of the piece (at about 02:39) that recalls the music of the James Bond films. Personally, I would have preferred either a medley (or theme and variations?) that borrowed from all five versions of “LTBB,” or a more general battle medley that included other (more) battle music (e.g., boss themes).

“Tightrope” is one of the few tracks on the album completely new to Remake, composed as it was by Shima, and was actually the first track composed for the game.5 It is a battle cue heard in a few places across the game, complete with epic brass, fervent strings, and cinematic percussion; it is unapologetically brash and full of explosive energy. In his self-arrangement for the album, however, Shima instead prolongs the piece’s intro with a much longer build-up. While the original almost immediately jumps into a battle agitato, the orchestral arrangement instead takes a full minute and a half to revel in a languid mysterioso until it reaches its agonistic origins. Perhaps Shima intended the build-up to represent the lurking one does in-between battles within the confines of the game. The piece is a successful, if relatively short, arrangement, clocking in at just under three minutes. To this end, I somewhat question why this piece was not included within the battle medley—not that it had to be (and in many ways I am glad Shima had a track featured that was entirely his own), but I could easily see this stitched into the texture of the battle medley.

Perhaps the strangest selection on this album is that of “Shinra’s Theme.” While the Shinra Corporation is narratively important—they are the antagonist apparent in the game, after all—their music isn’t especially inspiring. It is generally mysterious and vaguely creepy, but not much aside from that: functional, but not ear-catching. And while this may be a shortcoming of Uematsu’s original, it also offered the chance for a transformative arrangement, one that perhaps played with genre, counterpoint, ornamentation, etc. But this happens in neither the Remake OST nor the Orchestral Arrangement Album. The most interesting element of the album’s arrangement is Shima’s use of percussion in the beginning of the piece, recalling one certain march to the scaffold. But even with this (moderate) attention to percussion, there were other pieces that could have been chosen. “Hell House” (arr. Kengo Tokusashi and Mitsuto Suzuki), for instance, has a phenomenal percussion introduction, and is one of the more memorable bosses in Remake. (Apparently it wasn’t a boss in the original? But I digress…)

I turn now to Shima’s arrangements of two of the most iconic character themes. While Tifa is one of the main characters in the game (and a fan favorite at that), she has always shared a theme with Seventh Heaven, the bar she runs in Sector 7. The two are linked not only narratively, but also musically, with the title written with a hyphen as “Tifa’s Theme–Seventh Heaven.” Shima’s orchestral arrangement sticks fairly close to his OST arrangement. Both begin with a new piano intro (based on fragments of the theme) that replaces Uematsu’s original intro before leading into the theme proper passed between woodwinds. Shima’s attention to orchestration and timbre across this well-known theme is what makes this arrangement really shine, replete that it is with shimmering strings, colorful woodwinds, and flourishing harp sweeps. This piece also especially encapsulates Shima’s aforementioned attention to ending these arrangements. Here, this manifests as a newly written Silver Age Disney-style ending where the OST version loops back on itself. It gives the piece an especially nostalgic feel, but one that extends beyond the quarter century when FF7 was first released to recall something closer to seven decades prior to this arrangement…or perhaps I’m reading too much into this.

Finally, we turn to Aerith’s theme…or not quite. While Tifa shares a theme with Seventh Heaven, the two inextricably linked with a hyphen, Aerith does have her own theme. But rather than arranging that particular theme in its prototypical form, Shima instead arranged “Flowers Blooming in the Church” (hereafter “Flowers”), which is (already) an arrangement of “Aerith’s Theme” present in the soundtracks of both the original FF7 as well as Remake. This arrangement, then, has an extended pedigree: from “Aerith’s Theme” (FF7) to “Flowers” (FF7) to “Flowers” (Remake) to this orchestral arrangement of “Flowers.”6 “Flowers” is marked by its compound quadruple meter (contra the prototypical theme’s simple meter) underscored by a gentle and lulling triplet figuration. Both the OST and orchestral arrangements add a sustained 30-second ambient slow intro before the meter is revealed. As with his treatment of “Tifa’s Theme,” Shima primarily features woodwinds across this arrangement, though the woodwinds do not pass the theme back and forth as quickly here. In the second half of the arrangement (a reiteration of the first half, sans-intro), strings are added to flesh out the piece’s textures. All in all, this is a nice, if relatively safe, arrangement. The word “peaceful” comes to mind, which its source location evokes. Perhaps that is why this location-based version of “Aerith’s Theme” was chosen, rather than her theme proper—Aerith was less than peaceful in Remake, as Don Corneo and his lackeys can attest.7 (And, to that end, it is unfortunate that “Smash 'Em, Rip 'Em,” [arr. Naoyuki Honzawa] was not featured on this arrangement album.)

Natsumi Kameoka’s arrangement of “The Arsenal” (a Remake arrangement of “Fight On!” a.k.a. “Those Who Fight Further” from the original FF7) moves us out of Shima’s section of the album. Kameoka’s arrangement tones down Yoshitaka Suzuki’s arrangement of the piece from the OST, beginning with a brief, newly composed opening. In general, the cinematic percussion employed in Suzuki’s arrangement is removed from Kameoka’s arrangement. This isn’t to say she doesn’t use percussion—she just uses it in more muted tones than Suzuki. To be frank, this is one of the weaker arrangements on the album.8 While Suzuki’s arrangement is a bit over the top and in your face (or perhaps it’s the mixing of the OST), it works with the rock aesthetic evocations of the original. Kameoka’s arrangement is too toned down to capture the overdriven effect of the original, but not toned down or adapted enough to sound convincing as performed by an orchestra, especially in the beginning. The second half of the piece—there is a hard caesura at 02:10—much better adapts the piece for orchestra, deviating quite a bit from Suzuki’s arrangement. The ending is a bit peculiar—certainly not what I was expecting—but ends up working with the set-up of the second half. More than anything, I wish the piece was better balanced and that the caesura wasn’t such a clear division between the effectiveness of Kameoka’s arrangement in the first and second half of the piece.

Continuing on, the indelible Sachiko Miyano (SHANGRI-LA INC.) arranged “Arbiter of Fate–Singularity,” as well as the “Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII.”9 As with Shima, Miyano similarly comments in the liner notes on her process of figuring out how to make the music for these concerts autonomous, especially regarding their endings. “Arbiter of Fate–Singularity” is an arrangement of a part. In the game, there are three parts of “Arbiter of Fate,” each of which play during a multistage boss battle in the final level of the game.10 Contrary to many battle themes, “Singularity” does not make use of much repeated material, instead flitting from materia musica to materia musica. The piece is quintessentially Hamauzu—reminiscent of his “Saber’s Edge” in genre, if not in affect—and is, at heart, a concert piece for piano and orchestra. While the piano is somewhat lost in the texture of the OST, it especially comes through in the performance of this album (unfortunately, the virtuosic pianist is uncredited). Miyano alters little in her arrangement, essentially just adding a brief ending where the piece would loop back on itself in the game. The ending is short and effective, though I could have done without the final unison hit (generally my least favorite way to end a piece).

While there are two versions of the FF7 “Main Theme” on the Remake OST, the arrangement here is instead derived from the middle of Miyano’s “Credits,” an almost thirteen-minute medley played during, yes, the game’s ending credits.11 It is worth pointing out that this is only an excerpt from this larger medley—had the full “Credits” been used, Miyano could have left the piece as-is, without any adjustments to the ending since the original is already an autonomous work with a definite (non-looping) ending. Instead, this arrangement retains about five minutes’ worth of material from “Credits” before adding a new ending. Especially worth drawing attention to in this retained section is a striking modulation from E to G at about 02:15, as well as the trumpet fanfare countermelody that immediately follows.12 From here, the piece takes a quick detour through “Shinra’s Theme” before returning to and restating the theme proper (now back in its home key of E) and ending with resplendent choir and herald trumpet. This arrangement could have easily tied-off the album. However, one fan-favorite has only so far been hinted at…

Perhaps the best-known composition in all of Final Fantasy, “One-Winged Angel” (OWA) is already a monument to the franchise and FF7.13 And “OWA Rebirth” (arr. Uematsu, Hamauzu, and Yasunori Nishiki), heard at the end of Remake in the battle against Sephiroth, is itself also a monumental and extended arrangement of the original, more than doubling the length of the original (based on their respective source OSTs) by way of extended phrases, new transitions, extensive repetition, and clever quotations.14 In the context of the game, “OWA Rebirth” has four sections, one for each phase of battle against Sephiroth. Most striking in the OST (and game) arrangement is the delay of the iconic “SEPHIROTH,” chanted by the choir in the piece’s chorus, until the arrangement’s third section, a full four-and-a-half minutes into the piece. Coupled with the increase in tempo from the original 120 BPM to a vivace 140 BPM (as well as the challenge in battling Sephiroth himself), the OST “Rebirth” is anxiety musically manifest.

And yet, this is where the Orchestral “Rebirth” (arr. Nishiki) falls short. While the anxious tempo is maintained, the orchestral arrangement cuts away almost half of the OST “Rebirth,” including the prolonged delay of the chorus’ “SEPHIROTH.” As an arrangement of “OWA Rebirth,” then, one of the most aesthetically satisfying elements of the arrangement is removed. Nishiki himself comments on this in the liner notes, stating with a laugh that those who were surprised by the delay in the OST “Rebirth” should “fear not, as that lyric appears at the top of the orchestral version, haha.” While the chant’s delay works within the context of the game—playing with the four stages of the battle—the question becomes if such an extended arrangement would work in a concert setting. And yet, if one instead considers the Orchestral “Rebirth” less specifically as an arrangement of “OWA Rebirth,” but instead as an arrangement more directly connected to the original “OWA,” then this arrangement does succeed. Indeed, Nishiki further mentions that he took specific inspiration from Uematsu’s process of composing the original in fragments when preparing this concert arrangement.15 In many ways, then, is more a return and reimagining of the original “OWA,” yet one flavored with specific elements of “OWA Rebirth.”

If Remake’s OST was itself a kind of an arrangement of an existing work (FF7’s OST), then the Remake Orchestral Arrangement Album is an arrangement of an arrangement, a rearrangement. Caught between its source material, its source material’s predecessor, and its own ontological autonomy, the album highlights many of the standout tracks from both the original FF7 and its Remake, as well as offers generally thoughtful arrangements as a way of commemorating the game and its score. The presentation of the album is exquisite, coming in not only a fold-over resealable protective plastic slip (as many of Square Enix’s CDs do) and the usual obi strip that borders many Japanese CDs, but also including a windowed slipcase. The liner notes give credit where credit is due, offering commentary by most of the featured arrangers, both in Japanese and with English translations.16

If there is a fault of the album, it is perhaps what it leaves out. Aside from Bernfeld and Kameoka’s commentary, where is “Barret’s Theme,” shown as he is on the penultimate two-page spread of the liner notes along with Tifa, Cloud, and Aerith?17 What about Jessie and her newly composed theme (written by Hamauzu), especially considering her fleshed-out character in the remake, and especially since it was programmed on the Remake Orchestral World Tour (arr. Miyano)?18 I already mentioned “Hell House” as another contender, but what about a medley of the musical sequence in the Honeybee Inn? Certainly, not every piece could be included. But who and what are represented in this now no-longer-imaginary, but ontologically and physically real(ized) museum of musical works? How is the album framed (slipcase aside)? Certain fan favorites had to be included (e.g., “OWA”), but the album misses the opportunity to really highlight music newly composed for the remake. Of the eleven tracks on the album, only two newly composed pieces are included (Shima’s “Tightrope” and Hamauzu’s “Arbiter of Fate–Singularity”). This metaphorical museum, then, ultimately chose to uphold the legacy of the original game more so than the remake; we see this reflected even in the arrangement process of the Orchestral “Rebirth.” While not necessarily a damning fault of the album—the original is one of the most well-loved games of all time, after all—especially as someone who has little-to-no memories of the original, I would have preferred to see this album try to better balance the past with the present. And while it is true that arrangement as a process is one way of accomplishing this, so too is the process of curation. As museum curators Essi Rönkkö and Kate Hadley Toftness opine in the companion publication to the Block Museum’s recent Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts exhibition (which took its name from Louise Lawler’s work Who Says, Who Shows, Who Counts [1990]):

These words, posed as statements but also implying questions […] are a reminder of barriers that exist within the art world. They point to the subtle messages about who and what matters encoded within the collections of art institutions. Lawler’s work draws out attention to the ways history is shaped and written, reflecting the priorities of those who lead, who fund, and who influence curatorial decisions.19

To put it plainly: curation is not apolitical and museums are not neutral spaces. In this sense, perhaps the last thing I would have liked would be a brief statement from the (unnamed) curator of this album (Uematsu as original composer? Arnie Roth as conductor and musical director? Tetsuya Nomura as game director?) to elucidate how they selected which pieces were to be arranged and why these pieces in particular were chosen. Were they chosen to preserve the memory of the original? If yes, I personally find this answer wanting; to take a motif from Remake: we can choose to fight the spectres of fate, proxies for the looming legacy of the original. But the whispers of what was and what “should” be are not immutable, especially in the context of adaptation and arrangement. Indeed, the story of FF7 remains incomplete after this remake, the first game in a series that will (presumably) span the full-length narrative of the original. Will more musical objects, musical arrangements, be added to this museum as the series continues on? We know now that the forthcoming next game in this series of remakes is subtitled Rebirth; perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to think that one of the subsequent games in this remake series to be subtitled Rearrangement. Perhaps. Regardless, I cannot wait to see—to hear—what comes next.


Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music, Revised Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007 [1992]).


Alexander Rehding, Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).


I was unfortunately unable to attend the concert I had bought a ticket to due to COVID concerns, though I did invest in the concert’s program, which lists an additional eight arrangements.


“LTBB” is also frequently called “Those Who Fight,” after its direct translation from Japanese.


“[“Tightrope”] was the very first track that we created. Originally, it was made with a sense of searching for what would fit with the feeling of suspense from the new battle music played in dungeons and this particular arrangement. After it was used in the trailer, we decided to have it play on the Sector 4 plate.” Keiji Kawamori, quoted in Sunil Godhaniam, “Final Fantasy VII Remake Revisited Chapter 6: Light the Way,” Square Enix, July 22, 2022, accessed July 14, 2023, My thanks to Discord user Audo for drawing my attention to this interview.


A re-rearrangement? A fourth-order creation?


A certain scene with a chair comes to mind. In all seriousness, more than likely it was because Shima had already arranged “Flowers” on the OST, while Yoshinori Nakamura arranged “Aerith’s Theme” on the OST.


Especially unfortunate considering Kameoka’s previous works. For example, she has worked with Yoko Shimomura to great effect, especially regarding her piano arrangements.


Miyano is one of the founders of SHANGRI-LA INC., and a few other members of the studio helped with the production of this album.


They are subtitled “Advent,” “Rebirth” (not to be confused with “One-Winged Angel Rebirth”), and “Singularity,” and were newly composed by Masashi Hamauzu for Remake. I hesitate to call them versions or arrangements of each other, as they are each quite musically distinct from their sibling parts.


The OST tracks are subtitled “Sector 7 Undercity” and “Nightfall in the Undercity”; both are arranged by Shima.


Uematsu’s original also has the same modulation, but there it is an unprepared direct modulation.


To such a degree that Square Enix has it written into the Distant Worlds and A New World concert series that it must be performed at every concert. For an extended discussion of OWA, see James S. Tate, “The Devil in the Detail: Analyzing Nobuo Uematsu’s ‘One-Winged Angel’ from Final Fantasy VII,” in The Music of Nobuo Uematsu in the Final Fantasy Series, ed. Richard Anatone (Bristol: Intellect, 2022), 34–66.


These quotations include “LTBB” (already heard on the album in its titular medley), as well as a well-integrated (yet somewhat tongue-in-cheek) quotation of “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. (“Tongue-in-cheek” in the sense that the text of OWA comes from movements across Carmina Burana as a whole, Sephiroth’s name aside.)


Uematsu discussed his composition process for OWA in an interview with Polygon. See Nobuo Uematsu, “How Nobuo Uematsu Composed FF7’s ‘One-Winged Angel,’” interview by Polygon, YouTube, accessed January 31, 2022,


Guy Bernfeld and Natsumi Kameoka are not represented, though Yoshitaka Suzuki—one of the game’s additional composers—is puzzlingly given a place of commentary, even thanking both Bernfeld and Kameoka. And though many Square Enix albums now include English translations in their liner notes, this is still not a given and certainly was not the case for their earlier albums. The translators for this album are credited as Ben Sabin, John Crow, and Ryan Patterson.


While Cloud infamously has never had his own theme, “Barret’s Theme” is actually absent from the standard Remake OST. It is only represented in the game if players hunt down and purchase the in-game Music Disc which stores the theme, and which can then be listened to at various jukeboxes across the gameworld (somewhat akin to the soundtracks players can listen to in the Regalia’s car radio in Final Fantasy XV (2016)). These jukebox versions of various pieces were only available out-of-game for fans who purchased the limited edition “∼Special Edit Version∼” of the OST, which included a bonus eighth disc featuring these Music Disc pieces.


To Square Enix’s credit, an arrangement of “Jessie’s Theme” (along with a few other pieces from the Remake) become available on the Distant Worlds VI (2023) album after this essay was first penned, which perhaps explains its absence on the album under review.


Essi Rönkkö and Kate Hadley Toftness, eds., Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2021), 21.

. “
Final Fantasy VII Remake Revisited Chapter 6: Light the Way
Square Enix
Accessed July 14, 2023
The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music
Revised Edition
Clarendon Press
Music and Monumentality: Commemoration and Wonderment in Nineteenth-Century Germany
Oxford University Press
Kate Hadley
Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection
Northwestern University Press
James S
. “The Devil in the Detail: Analyzing Nobuo Uematsu’s ‘One-Winged Angel’ from Final Fantasy VII.” In
The Music of Nobuo Uematsu in the Final Fantasy Series
, edited by
. “
How Nobuo Uematsu Composed FF7’s ‘One-Winged Angel.’
” Interview by
Accessed January 31, 2022