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Bonus Envy Again: SQ Chips 2 Tower/VV Discs (Review)

July 26, 2012 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Bonus Envy Again: SQ Chips 2 Tower/VV Discs (Review)on Twitter

Alternately, this post could have been titled “Limited Release Part Three.” It’s like a three-part series on new, immediately hard-to-find albums.

Square Enix has been doing these retailer-specific bonus discs for some time now. They did a Village/Vanguard bonus disc for SQ Chips (with all chiptune arrangements), and then they split the bonuses among Tower Records and Village/Vanguard for Cafe SQ (Jayson reviewed those here). All the comments on that post were along the lines of “why is Square Enix holding out on us?” I agree.

And I’m about to make you feel that way, even more, with this next batch. And it’s even more frustrating, since there are two unique tracks per disc and two shared tracks (as opposed to only one unique track per disc on the Cafe SQ bonus discs). After the jump, I’ll give the details.

First, the shared tracks.

Track 1 is, strangely enough, a remix of an arrangement from a previous SQ album. Among all the SQ albums, “Chill SQ” remains my favorite, but there was one track on there I didn’t like: “Aria” from FFVI. The vocals were a little overwhelming, and there wasn’t much to say about the candy-pop arrangement. This new remix of “Aria” still uses the vocal track recorded for Chill SQ, but turns it into a proper dance-floor remix. It’s really good. I wish I could physically re-write my Chill SQ disc and put this version in its place.

For track 2, we get the only chiptunes arrangement across both bonus discs. Strange, considering it’s the bonus album to SQ Chips 2. It also feels like an “outtake” from SQ Chips 2, as it’s not exactly the highest quality track. The arrangement is by BOKKADENcI, who worked extensively on XI Chips and also has a really interesting arrangement on SQ Chips 2 (from Tobal No.1, of all things!). The track on this bonus disc is a chiptunes remix of FFIV’s “Rydia,” and it’s a fairly vanilla transcription, though it sounds like it might also sample some of the vocals from the Celtic Moon disc. I’m not entirely sure, but it sounds like that, just barely.

Alright, now comes the split. We’ll start with the Tower Records exclusives:

TR track 3: a six minute Seiken Densetsu 2 medley that will rock your rocks off. The arrangement is by pesama, who appeared on Cafe SQ and many other albums in the last 5 years (check out his extensive credits on vgmdb). This medley hits almost all the classic tracks, but each one is treated with a very distinct style: the jazz piano and guitar is really something otherworldly, and I love it. The guitar work on this track was done by one “Tendo,” whose vgmdb credits reveal that he too was on Cafe SQ, and he was also on the Ryu Umemoto Tribute album UMEMOTO ~He Lives Here~.

TR track 4: guitarist otofuke records an acoustic guitar two-part arrangement of tracks from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I wasn’t expecting this at all, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Credit where credit is due: otofuke chose two of Takeharu Ishimoto’s best, most evocative tracks from the game: “Burden to Bear” and “The Price of Freedom.” Definitely the kind of track I’d love to hear on one of the main “SQ” albums. I’d love to see a collection of high-profile arrangements/performances for various solo instruments called “Bard SQ.” There you go, Square Enix marketing team, I just gave you a great idea. You’re welcome.

Now onto Village/Vanguard:

VV track 3: I have no idea who or what “Calla Solid” is, but this artist/group put together the best, and quite possibly the longest, arrangement of FFVII’s “Crazy Motorcycle” that I’ve ever heard. This is like, the trance-to-hype rhythm-game perfection remix. Seriously, they should put this track into “Theatrhythm” since S-E now has their own rhythm game in-place (prior to that, I’d say it belongs in DDR or DJMax or another rhythm-based franchise). The arrangement runs just over 6 minutes, and it’s easily on par with some of the best arrangements to come out of the Western world of FF fandom. Definitely a solid bonus track.

VV track 4: “Lightning’s Theme” and its other motif-based incarnations, such as the battle theme “Blinded by Light,” really were at their zenith simply in the Final Fantasy XIII OST. Who can outdo Hamauzu when he’s being assisted by the likes of Mitsuto Suzuki, Ryo Yamazaki, and other industry pros? I’m not sure, but artist “TR-88” (also the name of a popular Korg keyboard) tries his-or-her best. This is a piano-and-drum-centric bebop jazz arrangement of the instant-classic track. The first two minutes are standard fare, but the improv section in minute 2 and then the larger-than-life breakdown (dubstep wub-wubs included) at minute 3 are absolutely decadent. Go ahead, indulge yourself. Sometimes it’s good to have fun. Also, on a totally tangential note, piano-and-drum jazz is a fantastic combination. Listening to this track reminded me that single from Japanese band “Midori” I reviewed in ’09.

Alright, so that’s it. Which is the better disc? It’s a tough call, but I think the best track of all belongs to pesama’s Seiken Densetsu 2 (aka Secret of Mana) medley, so if I had to choose, I’d go for the Tower Records bonus. Unfortunately, most importers will have a hard time even being allowed to make the choice. So let’s all say it in one accord: Square Enix, quit holdin’ out! Release a compilation “SQ Rarities” album on iTunes and make it available in all regions. … Please?

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