Singing for ‘Final Fantasy’ video game brought LA vocalist success overseas

By Nihar Patel

Amanda Achen performs songs from “Final Fantasy XIV” with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo courtesy of Amanda Achen.

Amanda Achen is an LA vocalist who's performed on songs for animated movies such as “Frozen 2” and “Mulan.” Recently, she's been in Japan performing songs written for the “Final Fantasy” video game franchise. If you weren’t aware songs are being written for video games, Achen herself faced a learning curve in understanding the franchise to which she was giving her voice.

“I was quite a bit ignorant to the world of ‘Final Fantasy,’” says Achen, after wrapping up a few orchestra concerts in Japan. “I'm sitting there thinking, ‘Okay, Amanda, this has to be good because … 20 million people are gonna hear you so cool, no big deal.’” 

Achen came to understand the franchise’s rich narrative and deep fan devotion through conversations with Masayoshi Soken, who was composing the music she would be singing. Achen discovered video games provide a different level of emotional connection compared to traditional narrative media.

“People who are playing the game are having their own personal memories and experiences attached to this music as they're beating these levels, with their friends, with their family,” explains Achen. “The emotional impact and connection that the songs make is actually vastly different than that of a film.”

Amanda Achen performs songs from “Final Fantasy XIV” with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Courtesy of Amanda Achen.

The opportunity to sing songs for “Final Fantasy” has helped define Achen’s vocal career as well. Previously, she struggled to fit neatly into the categories of opera, pop, or jazz.

“For the first time in my life, I feel fully seen. And I feel like I have… a home as a vocalist,” Achen rejoices. “I have had so many fans reach out to me, and tell me how this song, and how my voice, has helped them cope with the grief of the passing of their loved ones. … I'm like, wow.”

The unexpected fame that’s come with her role in the franchise has been a pleasant surprise too. Achen hasn’t garnered any kind of fan attention in LA, but recently at a mall food court in Japan, a swarm of concert-goers recognized her, and formed a line for photos and autographs.

“It's quite interesting that I had to fly to the other side of the world for Beatlemania to happen to me.”