15 years later, Distant Worlds still delivers the passion behind Final Fantasy's iconic music

Last month, on September 24, 2022 - Final Fantasy 35th Anniversary Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy Coral continued its ongoing worldwide tour in Los Angeles, California. Taking place at the Microsoft Theater within LA Live in Downtown LA, RPG Site had the chance to attend the showing thanks to an invitation from Square Enix PR.

Starting off, the show generally followed the series in chronological order, with some exceptions - as a result, after an arrangement of Prelude, we were quickly thrust into a medley of songs comprising Final Fantasy I, II and III. While the NES trilogy has less memorable songs than some of the series’ later outings, the orchestra’s arrangements for these classic tracks nailed the feeling of playing through them nonetheless. All the while gameplay from the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters played on-screen to illustrate the games that the music originally debuted in; this was especially powerful when Final Fantasy II’s iconic Rebel Army theme finished up the arrangement. This segment was finished up with Eternal Wind from Final Fantasy III, before the orchestra continued forth to the SNES games.

The shift into performing music from the SNES games started, much like Final Fantasy IV, with the theme of The Red Wings straight into the Kingdom of Baron. Much like with the previous songs, gameplay from Final Fantasy IV’s Pixel Remaster played on the screen; in this case, the opening moments of the game with a few cuts here and there to accentuate the shifts in the music. As far as I can tell, while the previous tracks had already appeared at Distant Worlds in the past, The Red Wings was brand new for this tour; the arrangement was full of energy and captured the bombastic opening hour of Final Fantasy IV’s story. 

After playing IV’s main theme, the show transitioned to Home Sweet Home from Final Fantasy V, a personal favorite of mine; along with an integration of Music Box. While others might have preferred a more immediately recognizable set of songs from V, personally I couldn’t think of anything that better represents my memories of V as a whole - and to hear it brought to life by the orchestra had me tearing up at the sounds of it.

The SNES section was finished off with The Phantom Forest, The Phantom Train and the Veldt - with a dense medley of Final Fantasy I-VI’s battle themes to tie everything together. With the next section - the PlayStation 1 entries - I must confess to not having as much first-hand knowledge of them specifically as others. This section started off with Liberi Fatali, and unlike the first half of the show - from here on most songs were accompanied by cutscenes from their respective games, in addition to gameplay shots. 

While I was hoping for something else from Final Fantasy XI, it was still nice to see Treasures of Aht Urhgan represented with Ragnarok; I’ve been playing through the 20-year-old MMORPG since last year alongside another staff writer Bryan Vitale, and it felt nice to have any sort of connection to the FFXI representation. After Final Fantasy VII’s Aerith’s Theme, we were treated to Final Fantasy XII’s Flash of Steel, and finally, the night’s guest RIKKI took the stage to accompany Suteki Da Ne from Final Fantasy X.

Again, my personal experience with the Final Fantasy series has been mostly relegated to the first 6, and the two MMOs - despite lacking any personal connection to most of the songs in the latter half of the show, however, it’s hard to deny that the orchestra didn’t do a fantastic job regardless. 

After finishing up with the rest of the track list (with a special appearance of Yoko Shimomura in the audience for the performance of XV’s Apocalypsis Noctis), we were treated to an encore including Zanarkand and One Winged Angel. All in all, every mainline numbered Final Fantasy was represented throughout the show. Walking away from the experience, I’d have to say that the most striking aspect of it all was how everyone - not just the fans in attendance - genuinely seemed to be having the time of their lives. Distant Worlds is not a new thing; Conductor Arnie Roth has been at it now for 15 years, yet the passion still remains.

More than anything, I’m eager to return in the future - and already I’ve been considering picking up tickets for the upcoming, smaller-scale A New World concert later this year. That, and as soon as the release calendar lightens up on my end, I’ll be diving right back into my series playthrough.