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X'mas Collections music from Square Enix

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SQEX-10211
Released On: November 24, 2010
Composed By: Naoshi Mizuta, Yoko Shimomura, Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Masashi Hamauzu
Arranged By: Naoshi Mizuta, Yuki Hirose, Yasuhiro Yamanaka, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Hirosato Noda, Ryo Yamazaki, Mitsuto Suzuki, Masashi Hamauzu
Published By: Square Enix
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 1 CD
Buy this CD from Play-Asia
Tracklist:

01 - Jeuno -Starlight Celebration (from Final Fantasy XI)
02 - CAPTAIN SQUARE ~ Captain of the Shooting Stars / X'mas Edit (from Live A Live)
03 - Gold Saucer ~ The Highwind Takes to the Skies / X'mas Edit (from Final Fantasy VII)
04 - Mystic City Geo / X'mas Edit (from Seiken Densetsu Legend of Mana)
05 - Wind Scene / X'mas Edit (from Chrono Trigger)
06 - Botshaft / Post Production Mitsuto Suzuki Mix (from SaGa Frontier 2)
07 - Chocobo's Happy Christmas (from Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon)
Total Time:
29'43"

Japan loves Christmas. They celebrate it every year, December 25th. It's a huge holiday. And like much cultural borrowing, they just don't get it. The Japanese understanding of Christmas is Santa and KFC (I shit you not, this is their Christmas dinner tradition!). So, you can probably expect that Square Enix's take on Christmas music is a bit... non-traditional. And by non-traditional, I mean techno and bells.

X'mas Collections is exactly what you'd expect from the masters of cultural maiming. Songs such as Gold Saucer from Final Fantasy VII, Mystic City Geo from Legend of Mana, and Wind Scene from Chrono Trigger get a peppy, synthy, echo-ey, and bell-laden makeover. While it's nice to see some representation from some oft-overlooked classics such as Live-a-Live and SaGa Frontier 2, there's just not much substance to this album. Even the tracklist is pretty short: seven songs, one of which is borrowed almost directly from another album (Chocobo's Happy Christmas from Mysterious Dungeon). It's not a bad album, it just doesn't have any oomph. It's like in Blood Sport when the scrubs are up against Chong Li and they hit him and he's like, "is that it?" and then kills them with a punch or something.

Inane movie references aside, X'mas Collections is not really worth the $18 + shipping you'd have to plunk down to order this off of Play-Asia or CD Japan. It'll get you in a Christmas mood the same way a nice plate of okonomiyaki would, as you listen to a shamisen player while watching the cherry blossoms fall. Or, y'know, 11 herbs and spices.

Reviewed by: Damian Thomas

Square Enix has released holiday-themed singles in the past. But a whole Christmas album of arranged VGM? How exactly do you do that?

Hint: it requires sleigh bells and various crystalline synths.

I suspect very few Square Enix fans will jump at the opportunity to listen to such an album. I've been a fan of S-E's more recent arrange albums, including the "SQ" series (Love SQ, Chill SQ). And while this album features arrangements from some of the same Square Enix Music members that made the SQ series a success (Ryo Yamazaki, Mitsuto Suzuki, etc) I think the assignment to make the music Christmas-esque was... a bit of a stretch.

The album does include some successful examples from the past. "Chocobo's Happy Christmas" is a decade-old single from Hamauzu-san and remains one of my favorites. Rather than being a synth arrange (as most of these tracks are), that particular track is a chamber orchestra performance piece. Highly memorable, highly recommended.

Outside that example, I suspect the best way to enjoy this album is to try and forget about the attempted "Christmas theme" and just enjoy it as a new arranged album. The mash-up of Highwind and Gold Saucer from FFVII, for example, is actually pretty clever. As a piece of quote-unquote "Christmas music," it doesn't really fit the bill. But hey, it's a neat arrangement, something I've never heard before. I can dig that.

I also appreciate the S-E music team making some arcane musical choices. "Captain Square" from LiveALive, for example, came completely out of left field. I was also happy to see Suzuki-san arranging Hamauzu's music from SaGa Frontier II, though I think there were plenty better "winter themes" to choose from the SF2 soundtrack than Botschaft.

And that Chrono Trigger arrangement? I'm kind of into it. Not gonna lie. I could stand to have some more Chrono Trigger music in my life.

I hope that in the future, if Square Enix wants to do more holiday celebrations, they do so in the form of free, single-track downloads, instead of EP-sized albums that compulsive collectors will pick up only to find that, well, it really has nothing to do with the holidays, unless you consider consumerism to be part of the tradition (which, actually, is a fair critique). There's some good music to be found here, but the "theme" is pointless to me.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann



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