Game Music, Reviews

Bonus Envy: Café SQ Tower & Village/Vanguard Bonus Discs (Review)

January 17, 2012 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Bonus Envy: Café SQ Tower & Village/Vanguard Bonus Discs (Review)on Twitter

Square Enix has been doing some pretty neat stuff with Village/Vanguard stores throughout Japan with the release of their SQ series albums. Customers who’ve picked up their copies at these stores have received a neat little cardboard case for More SQ, a customer bonus disc containing several exclusive tracks for SQ Chips, and now more exclusive music for their most recent release, Café SQ.

You can read our review of the entire album here, but what makes the customer bonus discs for Café SQ even more interesting are the fact that there are two: one for customers who picked up their copy at Village/Vanguard stores, and another for those who shopped at Tower Records.

As you’re not likely going to be able to get your hands on these outside of Japan, are they even worth worrying about? They just might be! Find out in our review after the jump.

So, the differences first. Each disc contains four tracks, with the first three being identical. They differ in their fourth and final track, and I guess as a show of loyalty, I’ll say the Village/Vanguard bonus is way more substantial. Actually, the discs even look identical with only the slight text change for the store name, having me believe I was looking at two copies of the same disc for a good couple of minutes.

Let’s start from the top. The first track is “Coin Song” from Final Fantasy VI, which has always been one of my favorites with its touching melody. This track is arranged by Kenmochi Hidefumi who you may remember from his excellent Seiken Densetsu arrangement on Chill SQ. Just like that track, this arrangement also sports amazing production values with some great acoustic guitar work and a funky bass line, yielding an overall smooth experience. It is definitely worthy of the Café SQ album.

Next up is “Final Fantasy XIII – The Promise” arranged by Serph. Lots of reverb and a crunchy ambiance start off the arrangement before some glitchy electric piano and bass join the mix, sounding pretty chill, but not quite cut out for the warm atmosphere of a café. Still, it’s great to see Final Fantasy XIII getting some love so close to its release as the SQ series has generally focused on older material.

The third track totally blows my mind. “Aria” by The Reign of the Kindo is truly magnificent. The group was featured on the Café SQ album with their dreamy vocal rendition of the “Final Fantasy VII Main Theme.” Here, the male vocalist tackles the opera scene from Final Fantasy VI which sounds like it would spell disaster, but the singer actually pulls it off. The backing arrangement sports guitar, piano, and a few string instruments, lending the piece a cool sort of indie vibe. The lyrics themselves, taken directly from the opera, are uplifting and catchy enough that you could probably get away with playing this out loud for any audience without being embarrassed by your ‘game music.’ I also love the liberties that the artist takes some with some of the melodic content, truly making the piece their own.

Now, track four is where things deviate. The Tower Records version gets another piece by The Reign of the Kindo with a long version of the aforementioned “Final Fantasy VII Main Theme” which essentially encompasses the original 4:13 track with an approximately two-minute long breakdown tacked on to the end. The original composition by Nobuo Uematsu was so special because of the effect it had on the player, coming as vibrant and adventurous at one moment and vast and overwhelming at others. The additional segment is much more tense, exploring that latter emotion more thoroughly, but overall, you’re not missing much with the regular album version.

It’s the Village/Vanguard disc that gets the big bonus. How about a live mixing board recording of a performance from the SQ Party LEVEL1 concert that Square Enix held back in October? One of the best acts of the night was the jubilant Sexy-Synthesizer, and his entire 28+ minute set is presented here from start to finish, visiting what’s mostly his SQ Chips contributions with Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Nanashi no Game, Seiken Densetsu (including a heavier version of “Crisis” with electronic percussion instead of the 8-bit percussion that was featured on the original), and most of his ending medley from Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI. It’s an impressive piece on playthrough, and a fantastic bonus for fans. Now, where’s the rest of the evening’s performance, and the one from NieR night while they’re at it?

It’s great to see Square Enix putting together little bonuses like this, although I know it just makes those of us who have to import even more jealous. It’d be cool if they made these discs pre-order bonuses or first-pressing bonuses instead so everyone could get a chance, but it’s nice to see Square Enix supporting local physical CD retailers in Japan.

What do you think of the tracks included? Is there one or two in particular that you think you absolutely must have?

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