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.