Game Music, Reviews

More BETTER or More of the Same? More SQ (Review)

March 9, 2011 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook More BETTER or More of the Same? More SQ (Review)on Twitter

The SQ series from Square Enix has admittedly been pretty hit or miss. The first album, Love SQ featured an eclectic mix of 10 arrangements from a pretty varied list of Squaresoft titles, while Chill SQ tackled the chillout genre to great results. While the “X’mas album” wasn’t an SQ album in name, it was in spirit, and we’re now getting the third official installment of the SQ album, More SQ.

Have they perfected the formula by now, or is this album just more of the same? With 13 arrangements and the longest run-time of any of previous SQ albums, there’s certainly more to consider.

Hit the jump for our review of More SQ.

First, let’s get the tracklisting out of the way:

01. FINAL FANTASY MAIN THEME ~ROCKETMAN LOVE & COURAGE MIX~
02. FINAL FANTASY V Main Theme
03. FINAL FANTASY Dugem DE Chocobo
04. Chrono Trigger Yearnings of the Wind
05. SaGa Frontier 2 Rosenkranz
06. NieR Gestalt & Replicant Kainé / Salvation
07. LIVE・A・LIVE Megalomania
08. Chrono Trigger World Revolution
09. FINAL FANTASY VIII The Extreme
10. FINAL FANTASY VI Searching Friends
11. FINAL FANTASY Prelude
12. FINAL FANTASY IX Melodies Of Life
13. FINAL FANTASY Main Theme

The first thing you’re probably saying to yourself is, “Wait, two versions of the Final Fantasy theme? And more Chocobo? And so much Final Fantasy?” Well, okay, that’s three things, but they’re all legitimate thoughts. There is considerable overlap from previous SQ albums, and they have gone for some rather obvious picks, but you’ll at least find that they’ve attempted to create something original from an arrangement standpoint.

ROCKETMAN starts us off with an arrangement of the incredibly overdone “Main Theme” from the Final Fantasy series, but I can’t help but love the bubbly arrangement. The dreamy pads, groovy bassline, and club-like percussion really hit the spot for me. The melody is carried by single piano notes, relegating it to somewhat of a secondary status behind the other elements, making this one more about atmosphere, although the series of seemingly random sound effects inserted towards the end are a huge distraction.

This upbeat energy continues into “Main Theme” from Final Fantasy V by JABBERLOOP, which you may recognize from the Square Enix Music Sampler CD Vol. 5 disc. The live brass-heavy arrangement covers “Ahead on our Way,” one of Uematsu’s most memorable main themes, working in bits and fragments of other popular themes, including the battle theme and Gilgamesh’s theme.

Wanted more Chocobo music? Shisotex has you covered with “Dugem de Chocobo,” which could have been titled “Offspring de Chocobo” with a bassline highly reminiscent of “Come out and Play” by the popular alternative rock group. In any case, it’s a fun experiment with an excellent use of sound effects from various games as a melodic element, although I admit I’m as tired as anyone of this theme. Chrono Trigger’s “Yearnings of the Wind” by →Pia-no-jaC← is another one that you may be hearing too frequently these days, and it doesn’t particularly stand out with the exception of a fun waltz-y section on piano that comes in about midway through.

I’ll mention a few more before we talk about live performances. “Kainé / Salvation” from NieR is a bit of a surprise, as it’s more More SQEX than More SQ, and while sasakure.UK’s arrangement is pretty minimalistic, it’s simply fantastic! We get Emi Evans’s beautiful voice with what sounds to be autotune effects and a light chip tone and electronic percussion backing. Evans’s voice really stands out front and center, with all the musical elements lending their support. I particularly love the descending bassline.

Next, Electrocuitica offers us a fun, bit-crunched dance version of “World Revolution” from Chrono Trigger that eventually breaks away into full-quality samples. The doubled-up woodwinds and belltones remind a lot of Hiroki Kikuta, although the persistent drum ‘n’ bass percussion really drives the energy level of this one.  Lastly, While I absolutely adore RE:NDZ, and by extension, livetune (of which RE:NDZ is a member), the trance arrangement of “Prelude” here is honestly just more of the same, although you won’t find me skipping it on a playthrough.

The remaining tracks are all live performances, which happen to be the highlight of the album.

SAKEROCK tackles “Rosenkranz” from SaGa Frontier 2, carrying the melody on a playful marimba and trombone while electric guitar, electric bass, and percussion provide an alternative rock backing for the track. I know these sound like conflicting elements, but the playful nature of “Rosenkranz” makes the selection of instruments just right. It’s simply fantastic. Similar in style, SPECIAL OTHERS arrange “Searching Friends” from Final Fantasy VI with a meaty jazz lounge sound. This track doesn’t get nearly enough love, and the impressive electric guitar, electric piano, and snazzy hi-hats make this one a real treat.

Getting more experimental, “mouse of the keys” arranges “The Extreme” from Final Fantasy VIII. It opens as a seductively dark and sexy jazz tune with live soprano sax and bass before an explosion of percussion and piano enter the scene. Not only do we get the ominous descending piano notes that essentially make “The Extreme” what it is, but we get a series of amazing solos on piano, bass, and sax, with tons of impressive embellishments from the bass and drums. It’s classy, but it’s hard hitting.  “Melodies of Life” from Final Fantasy IX also gets jazzy with an all-new recording with Miyuki Hatakeyama on vocals and some great piano work. This is something you’d hear in a jazz club, and while all the elements are here, it just feels a bit unnecessary given how perfect the original was. I think you’d have to actually hear and see this one live to really appreciate it.

The last track on the album gets us back to the Final Fantasy “Main Theme.” The Kuricorder Quartet, comprised of three different recorders and one acoustic guitar player does a great job with the theme. The performance is elegant and spot-on, while the recorders provide a somewhat child-like quality, really drawing on that sense of nostalgia. You may actually be reminded of “The Place I’ll Return to Someday” from Final Fantasy IX, which is a good thing.

Overall, I feel that while More SQ offers a lot more of the same, they’ve put together a great collection here.  The live performances really stand out, and anything with NieR music on it gets major points in my book. Is this the best SQ album yet? That’s hard to say, given how much I loved the choice of genre for Chill SQ, but given that this album features nearly double the amount of music, it definitely has more value.

The album artwork is retro as usual, with tons of pixel art and shots of the cover models featured throughout the booklet. The booklet contains performer credits along with composer and arranger credits, but not much else. It’s currently available from CD Japan for about $30 USD.

What do you think of the SQ series? Are you satisfied or disappointed with the tracklisting for More SQ?

Oh, and check out this fancy slipcase that comes with the album when purchased from certain outlets in Japan.  Shame that I didn’t get one!

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