Game Music, Reviews

Let the Battle Begin! Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2 and 3 (Review)

September 22, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Let the Battle Begin! Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2 and 3 (Review)on Twitter

Well, it actually began in 2007. Square Enix is finally getting around to continuing their Square Enix Battle Tracks series with both Vol. 2 and 3 that were released in Japan last week. As you’d guess from the album titles, they do in fact contain battle themes (or battle-y themes from games that didn’t have the typical RPG battle setup), but in addition to getting your blood pumping with these heavy tunes, they also catalog the history of Squaresoft by featuring games from distinct periods of time.

Volumes 2 and 3 cover 1997-1998 and 1999-2000 from Squaresoft’s catalog, respectively, and if you’ve forgotten what the company was up to during that period, it was a time of experimentation. Still, there are some solid classics in the track lists of both albums, although there are several issues with the albums as well.

Find out if they’re worth your time in our review after the jump.

So, you’ll notice that I only mentioned Squaresoft in my introduction. While these albums have been released as Square Enix Battle Tracks, they do not contain any music from Enix’s game franchises. We brought this up in our discussion with Izumi Tsukushi and Akio Shiraishi at Comic Con this year, and even I struggled to come up with something when they asked, “What Enix battle themes would you like to hear?” Good point, I suppose, as the main ones that stick out in my mind are from the Dragon Quest series, and we all know that Koichi Sugiyama retains the rights to his music.

On to that history lesson I mentioned. I think a lot of fans are with me in enjoying Squaresoft’s RPG battle themes, but again, during this period, Squaresoft was experimenting quite a bit. Volume 2 features music from the Tobal franchise, Einhander, Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon, Ergheiz, and Parasite Eve among others. Yeah, I forgot about some of these games as well. The track list certainly does bring back a lot of memories, but unfortunately since each game is represented by only one track, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with the selections. We get great picks from Final Fantasy VII and SaGa Frontier (“Those Who Fight” and “Battle #1,” respectively), but “Stage of Death” from Xenogears and “Battle in a Trap” from Ergheiz are downright boring compared to some of the other battle themes featured in those games (“Awakening,” anyone?).

This continues into Volume 3, which features some great music from games like Final Fantasy VIII, SaGa Frontier 2, Chrono Cross, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy IX among others. My favorite thing about this volume, however, is that I was completely unfamiliar with many of the games that were released during this period, requiring me to dig into VGMdb to find out if some of these games even had individual soundtrack releases. Unfortunately all of the games have had releases, so there’s nothing exclusive to this collection, but it’s interesting to check out games like Internal Section (Shinji Hosoe!), Cyber Org, and Racing Lagoon that I was unfamiliar with from 1999.

I pretty much summed up both albums when I noted that there was nothing exclusive to this collection. All of this music has been released elsewhere, and while there are certainly some excellent tracks here along with a lot of history to take in, there’s not much of an incentive to pick them up. The first Square Enix Battle Tracks album featured an arrangement by the incredibly talented Mitsuto Suzuki, adding some value to the collection, but we don’t get that this time around. As an album series that’s supposed to be about fan service, it would have been nice to have seen something extra. Then again, Square Enix is releasing 6 albums this month, so perhaps they were overstretched when it came to these.

One thing I do want to praise is the packaging for both of these albums. Volume 2 sports a sleek and modern black and yellow jacket design, and even the inside of the booklet (yellow), the disc (yellow), and disc tray (black) keep with this theme. The smooth black plastic disc tray is particularly cool as you can see it when looking at the album head on. Volume 3 makes use of a white and blue color scheme with a snazzy memory card on the cover, although the standard striped white plastic disc tray isn’t nearly as cool as the black one on Volume 2. The booklets are pretty sparse, so don’t expect much there.

Overall, this is a nice gesture from Square Enix. It’s great to see a forgotten album series brought back to life, and even better to take a peak back into the history of Squaresoft. I just wish that Square Enix had injected more value into these collections. Unreleased music, remixes by the current sound team at Square Enix, or even the addition of fan-favorite tracks as determined by a poll would have made these albums worth checking out. Unfortunately, given the fact that you’ve likely heard and possibly own all of these tracks elsewhere, the 2,100 Yen price tag is probably too high.  I do realize that this period in the company’s history may be more nostalgic to some listeners out there, so if you’re interested, Volume 2 is available at Play-Asia and CD Japan and Volume 3 is also available at Play-Asia and CD Japan.

What do you think of the continuation of the Square Enix Battle Tracks series? Do you think these albums are worth your time and money?

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