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In Loving Memory of Squaresoft: Love SQ (Review)

December 7, 2009 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook In Loving Memory of Squaresoft: Love SQ (Review)on Twitter

While it was released early on iTunes in North America, we finally have our hands on the physical Love SQ album from Japan. In case you’ve forgotten, Love SQ is an album that pays tribute to some classic Square Enix franchises through 10 unique arrangements from 10 diverse artists. From big band swing to electronic to chip, it’s all here.

While there are only ten tracks, they total almost an entire hour of listening, and the production values get quite high… but also quite low when it comes to a few of the arrangements. I’m sure you’re wondering which franchises Square Enix has decided to pay tribute to, and while I’m sorry to say it’s half Final Fantasy, there’s still some great stuff here.

Read on for our full review of Square Enix’s Love SQ album.

Let’s start with PE’Z’s “Main Theme” from the Final Fantasy series. We discussed this track at length in our review of the Square Enix Music Sampler CD Vol. 4 a couple months ago, so all I’ll say at this point is that this is a classy jazz arrangement of the iconic theme with some great instrumentation. It’s very upbeat and cheerful, starting things off on a high note.

Next up we have my favorite track of the bunch courtesy of livetune. It’s “To Faraway Times” from Chrono Trigger, and it’s a “chip trance” arrangement that takes the original source that’s already bursting with positive energy and somehow manages to inject even more. The arrangement is admittedly straightforward, but the chip arpeggios and ascending bassline really make the piece so much more perky and powerful.

Unfortunately there’s only one place to go from the top, and that’s down, right? NOVOISKI also takes the chip vs. electronica route, but goes for grittier sound. It’s not necessarily a bad arrangement, but it’s not that exciting either. I do think the spell casting sound effects that are worked into the arrangement are a nice touch, however. SEXY-SYNTHESIZER follows this up with… you guessed it, more chip and electronic music! This one is more house in style with the emphasis on the chip melodies with backup from electronic drum beats. There are also lots of neat sound effects and vocaloid singing worked into the mix covering “Frog’s Theme” and “Fanfare 1,” both of which are bursting with sweetness. The “Frog’s Theme” portion is really well done.

From here, it’s time for more Final Fantasy. I’m sure you haven’t heard enough “Chocobo’s Theme,” so luckily Good Luck Heiwa has you covered. Honestly, I could live without ever hearing another version of “Chocobo’s Theme” ever again, but Good Luck Heiwa does what he/she/they can, starting off with what is actually a very awesome rhythmic rearrangement of the theme on piano that almost sounds like something Masashi Hamauzu would write. Unfortunately this variation only appears at the beginning and end of the track, with some authentic “jazz stuff” in the middle. DE DE MOUSE, on the other hand, presents us with Final Fantasy III‘s ” Eternal Wind (Migratory Birds Mix),” a techno arrangement with some ethnic singing. It’s not the most exciting of the bunch, as it mostly sounds like the original song with some drums and vocals layered over the top, but the vocals are quite nice.

We finally get into new territory with muZik’s Legend of Mana medley featuring “Theme of Mana” and “Hometown of Domina.” The arrangement is quite funky with a deep bassline and some retro synth leads and percussion. The “Hometown of Domina” portion is fantastic, featuring a nice synth flute, some phasing pads in the background, and groovy bass and percussion that had me thinking of the awesome Sword of Vermilion on the Sega Genesis. This is another standout track.

There’s one more excursion into non-Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger territory with note native’s ” Romancing Sa・Ga (Note Native Remix).” It’s a snappy techno arrangement of tunes including “The Conflict,” “Opening,” and “Ending Theme,” all of which are lovely and well produced. The transitions are also great given that each segment carries with it a different emotion.

The last two tracks are Final Fantasy, of course. Artist →Pia-no-jaC← provides piano with fast-paced rock percussion on “Battle on the Bridge,” “Dancing Mad,” and “One-Winged Angel.” Sounds like a winning trio except, well, it’s boring! The “Battle on the Bridge” segment sounds like the version from the piano collections with drums layered over the top, while “One-Winged Angel” is simply a slowed down version of the overdone theme. The “Dancing Mad” segment is worth note only because an official piano arrangement doesn’t already exist. The last track, courtesy of no. 9, is mainly a piano arrangement of “The Prelude.” As the piece progresses, layers of strings and other instruments are added, but unfortunately do not play nicely together at all.  It has some good ideas buried within, but it just gets way too busy, and the mixing isn’t good. I do dig the chip tone that sort of calls out like a beacon about midway through. It’s a shame they ended the album with such a weak track.

So there you have it. Five tracks from Final Fantasy, three from Chrono Trigger, and one each from Romancing SaGa and Legend of Mana. One can’t help but wonder where Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (hey, it had a great soundtrack!), and other classic Square Enix titles are, but at least there are a few tracks here worth checking out. It may be a better idea to just pick up the good ones on iTunes rather than shelling out the money for the physical CD on this one. The physical album comes with a booklet that has lots of original 8-bit artwork, which is a nice touch. Overall, this album is a nice gesture, but with only ten tracks, a few bad apples really carry a lot of weight.

Have you listened to Love SQ since it was released early on iTunes? Are there any Square Enix classics that you think Square Enix should have included here?

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