Chiptune arrangements of contemporary game music are fairly popular these days. The amalgamation of new and old evokes an emulated sense of nostalgia while paying tribute to cherished pieces of music. It also speaks volumes for the amount of depth that can be found in melodies composed with an 8-bit sound chip. SQ Chips, the latest release in the SQ album series by Square Enix, takes this formula for a spin with the company’s own professional remixers. The end result is pure bliss for chiptune fans.
There are a wide range of games represented in this album: from the Game Boy-era Seiken Densetsu to the recent Final Fantasy XIII and everything in between. The original songs are not transposed directly into 8-bit; rather, each one is arranged in some way, with additional instruments and layers to give every track its own identity. “Terra’s Theme” begins with a familiar epic feel, but morphs into an upbeat techno track with violin and piano carrying the melody. “Aerith’s Theme,” too, sounds like a dance song, with a robotic voice humming alongside the 8-bit hook. I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed sound effects from the Final Fantasy VII menus charmingly sprinkled throughout the latter half of the song.
Slower-tempo songs are also present, and their quality is equal to their more energetic brethren. “Near the Water” was one of my favorite songs from Final Fantasy XII, and I was very pleased with this new retro version. It sounds like it came straight from an NES game, full of peppy notes and computerized beeps. “Ronfaure” has a trance-like quality, with a synth harmony that ebbs and flows like the tide.
My favorite track is one of the longest on the album. The “Chrono Trigger Character Medley” is a six-minute trip into nostalgic joy. The characters’ personalities shine through when their themes kick in: brilliant Lucca, steadfast Robo, courageous Frog (complete with his ribbit sound effect), wild Ayla, sinister Magus, tragic Schala, heroic Crono, and free-spirited Marle are all accounted for. It is an absolute delight for the ears.
SQ Chips is a unique collection of music that should not be missed by fans of Square Enix games. For those who have experienced the games represented within, every track will bring back a memory. For new listeners, the songs should serve as inspiration to explore the worlds these songs came from. No matter which camp you belong to, this is a journey worth taking.