Similar to how Best Buy, GameStop, etc. offer different bonus items in pre-order deals for games, Square-Enix has decided to offer two different bonus discs depending on if one buys Cafe SQ at Village/Vanguard or Tower Records. These four-track bonus discs are identical save the fourth track. These CDs contains Final Fantasy VI’s famous “Coin Song” and opera piece “Aria Di Mezzo Carattere,” and Final Fantasy XIII’s “The Promise.” For those loyal Village/Vanguard shoppers (in Japan), the fourth track is a little different from the rest in that it’s a 28:36 long medley of Square-Enix music. The Tower Record bonus disc offers a seemingly identical track to Cafe SQ’s fourteenth track: Final Fantasy VII’s Main Theme. The difference is that the alternate version on the bonus disc adds two and a half extra minutes of wailing and drums. Don’t let the Cafe SQ label fool you: these bonus discs are quite different from their counterpart, boasting more electronic sounds throughout – some good, others not so much.
“Coin Song” fits into the former, or rather, stands far and above the rest. Somber to start, the Figaro brothers’ sound mixes sorrowful piano with upbeat percussion. It’s an odd combination executed exquisitely. A third of the way through, the beat picks up seamlessly, once again adding a new take to an old track. “Aria Di Mezzo Carattere” breaks a simple rule that I have, but one that this song must usually dismiss: keep the singing out of remix albums. This is a matter of personal preference, but I have been known to allow lyrics to sound if the voice complements the music. Here, I have mixed feelings – at times, the soft, masculine vocals hit the chords just right, but sometimes I can’t help but wince. Regardless, the instrumentation remains traditional and faultlessly true to the original work. I leave judgment of this piece to you, dear reader.
I must admit that I haven’t played or really sampled Final Fantasy XIII’s work, but that probably doesn’t matter in this case, since this piece jars the senses and leaves confusion in its wake. This overly electronic, seemingly random piece stutters throughout, distracting me from my own listening. Though, this deserves some applause – I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a sensation in the past.
The fourth track on Village/Vanguard relies on electronics and 8-bit synthesizer. I personally enjoy this sound, but others may be left wondering why we haven’t evolved past the NES days. Retro’s back, baby, but forcing a nearly half-hour long track down fans’ throats – taking up more than half of the bonus disc of a cover album titled “Cafe SQ” – seems like an odd choice. Nevertheless, these four tracks are different enough that most fans will find something to enjoy here, and they should remember that this disc accompanies an exceptional arrangement.