When our Soundtracks Head, Stephen Meyerink, agreed to send Final Fantasy VIII Chips my way, I was absolutely stoked. Upon receipt, however, grave disappointment struck: this was not a delicious, salty treat. It was music! Fortunately, that is only one of few complaints with this fantastic demake of music.
Granted, when the source music not only withstands the test of time, but outshines an arguably horrible game, an arrangement is hard to scoff at. And yet some might consider an 8-bit version of newer music a cop-out. After all, how difficult can it be to turn the music into electronic music? Hell, those Mario Paint renditions of music on YouTube look significantly harder to make.
Skillful or not, this ten-track album just plain sounds good, so kudos to BOKKADENcI and KPLECRAFT for arranging this set. The alternative “instruments” remain true to the source material while simultaneously evoking a genuine sense of 8-bit bleeps and bloops. While Final Fantasy VIII boasted a strong soundtrack to start, some of the best pieces found their way onto this aurally awesome arrangement.
“Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” is not one of them. All I can say is thank Ultimecia they didn’t try to emulate the horrific chorus; well, they did, but in the form of progressively higher “tings.” I may be in the minority on this one, but this track has been one of the most overused, tiresome pieces from the game. I will say this, though: the 8-bit version sounds a lot better than the original.
Which brings me to “Fisherman’s Horizon.” This track falls somewhere in my top three tracks of FFVIII music, so, again, beware of reviewer’s bias, but the 8-bit rendition lacks the “breezy” quality that the original communicated so effectively. Does it sound like “Fisherman’s Horizon?” Absolutely, but the heart isn’t there. Or the woodwinds. Which isn’t surprising, since it’s an 8-bit arrangement.
However, “The Man with the Machine Gun ~ Maybe I’m a Lion” has a wonderfully unique sound while remaining recognizable. This track takes the listener on a trip, getting gradually more intense. Perhaps the lack of gentle instruments is what makes this track convert smoothly, granting some artistic license at the same time.
Speaking of made-for-8-bit tracks, the underrated, epic “The Castle” makes an appearance. A word of caution, however: the first 1:20 contains long stretches of singularly high-pitched notes that may get your dog barking. One weakness of 8-bit music is its inability to handle long notes like these well. Don’t take this minor flaw too seriously, though; “The Castle” is probably one of the most satisfyingly complex pieces on this arrangement.
Finally, what would my review be without mentioning the 12:41 long “Ending Theme”? Those unfamiliar with the ending cinematic should probably give it another view before listening to this track. Otherwise, the first 1:40 might sound bizarre, even though it’s not nearly as odd as what follows. Fans – and non-fans who happen to enjoy the music – will instantly recognize what comes after. And yet, remember what I said about “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec?” About the not imitating the singing? Yeah, that totally happens here, and it ain’t pretty. Imagine a child holding a plastic cup against their mouth and trying to sing. That’s what this sounds like. The choice of “instrument” is a bit perplexing, and I wonder who would enjoy this. Alternatively, the background music is fantastic, but with the annoying “waa waa waa” hogging the spotlight, the first 6:08 is a bit hard to muster. When the track stops trying to imitate Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way,” the staff roll kicks in – you know, the part with the convincing camcorder – which is absolutely spectacular. Fortunately, the arrangement finishes strong with the true and beautifully 8-bit finale.
Don’t misunderstand me: this is one stellar arrangement, but it is not without its drawbacks. When deciding to demake music, track selection is critical. Some pieces of music just can’t hack it in 8-bit, but that is just this reviewer’s opinion. Though, what kind of journalist would I be if I only praised this excellent album? Frown was shown, so you know I am no dreamer.