SQ Chips 2


Review by · September 21, 2012

::Dusts off the cobwebs:: Holy crow, I’m writing a review again? Crap, hope I still remember how to review stuff. Okay, here it goes:

As most of you are probably familiar with by now, Square Enix has been releasing a bunch of experimental/genre albums under the SQ line. One of those albums featured music in the chiptune genre and was named, appropriately, SQ Chips. It was a great album if you’re a fan of chiptunes and other “downsampled” styles, and I heartily recommend checking out Derek’s review.

Now, a second round of SQ albums has been released, including a second SQ Chips album entitled, unsurprisingly, SQ Chips 2. While shorter than its predecessor, it still manages to pull together some excellent talent and tackles some excellent and surprising source material. For example, I never expected (but was completely satisfied with) the uptempo rendition of Hometown Domina from Legend of Mana, the lengthy but exciting Live for Live medly from Live A Live, and the arcade-inspired, silly, and creative Final Fantasy Opening Theme by one of my favorite chiptune composers, YMCK (Katamari Forever, Yo Gabba Gabba, lots more).

Unfortunately, while the unexpected delighted, the anticipated was a bit more disappointing. Clash on the Big Bridge from Final Fantasy V spent over half the track just building up and not doing much special with the rest. Similarly, Flight from Xenogears did nothing to distinguish itself from a midi-version of the original, which is a sorely missed opportunity for one of the most uplifting, soaring pieces from the game. And then there’s Mid Boss Battle from Bahamut Lagoon, the source material for which is frankly too close to being an 8-bit chiptune already to make the arrangement stand out (though this was NOT a problem with the Rockman Chiptune album, so perhaps it was just a lackluster arrangement).

Now, before you call me on hating on a chiptune piece just because it’s faithful to the source material, Seymour Battle from Final Fantasy X follows the original extremely closely, but manages to use synths evocative of Alph Lyla in the old days of NES Capcom games, effectively giving the piece a whole new feel. There was also The Girl Who Stole the Stars ~ Fragments of a Dream from Chrono Cross that managed to create a lonely, melancholy feel with only sparse use of synths and while still maintaining strict adherance to the original melody.

The remaining tracks on this album seem to come out of nowhere, do odd things, or just sit there. The first, Prologue Movie from Final Fantasy Tactics was really just… there, nothing special. Then there’s Primal Eyes from Parasite Eve which was a lot more subdued than I would have expected, and Tobal No.1 ~ Hills of Jugon from Tobal No.1 which was cute and upbeat. On the crazygonuts side, there was Graylands Incident Climax from Vagrant Story, which started with textbox noises and proceeded to go all over the place, and Highwind Takes to the Skies from Final Fantasy VII which takes serious liberties with the source material to create a very hip, jazzy, layered piece. Finally, The Order that must be Protected from Dissidia takes the original and slams it into high speed for something that would be more at home in a space shooter than an RPG/fighter.

Bottom line: is this album as good as the first? No. It’s shorter, the quality of the tracks is much more varied, and although the choice of games/tracks is more quirky, that doesn’t translate into a higher-quality product. BUT, this is a good album, and if you’re a chiptune/Square fan, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Play it Loud!

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Damian Thomas

Damian Thomas

Some of us change avatars often at RPGFan, but not Damian, aka Sensei Phoenix. He began his RPGFan career as The Flaming Featherduster (oh, also, a key reviewer), and ended as the same featherduster years later.