Game Music, Reviews

Christmas is in the Air… Sort of: X’mas Collections from Square Enix (Review)

November 29, 2010 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Christmas is in the Air… Sort of: X’mas Collections from Square Enix (Review)on Twitter

Yeah, I know it’s a bit early. While I love holiday music, I generally don’t bust it out at least until after Thanksgiving. I’m eagerly awaiting the holiday season as I bought a bunch of Christmas CDs on sale after the holiday last year, and have been waiting all year to open them and listen!

But on to the matter at hand: I’ve always seen threads on forums about people’s favorite holiday-themed videogame music, and people have generally gone for the obvious picks, including every ice-themed area or stage from a variety of games. While those hit the “winter” theme quite well, I’ve been looking for something more warm and comforting in the style of the many Christmas ballads that we all know and love. I was excited to hear Square Enix was putting together a collection of “X’mas” music for their fans, and now it’s finally here.

Does the new album hit that winter/holiday season spot? Find out in our review after the jump.

First of all, what’s here? Well, here’s the album’s tracklist:

01. Jeuno -Starlight Celebration [Final Fantasy XI]
02. Captain Square ~ Captain of the Shooting Stars / X’mas Edit [Live a Live]
03. Gold Saucer ~ The Highwind Takes to the Skies / X’mas Edit [Final Fantasy VII]
04. Geo / X’mas Edit [Legend of Mana]
05. Wind Scene / X’mas Edit [Chrono Trigger]
06. Botshaft / Post Production Mitsuto Suzuki Mix [SaGa Frontier 2]
07. Chocobo’s Merry Christmas [Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon]

Yeah, it’s a short one. About 30 minutes of music in all, and yes, you’ve heard a couple of these before. But let’s jump in to the individual tracks.

The opening track, “Jeuno – Starlight Celebration” is one of the tracks that have already been released. This one was released in 2005 as an online single, but now it’s here in full CD quality. The jingle bells, layered bells, and general upbeat nature of the piece does get the listener in the holiday mood, and I particularly enjoy bubbly bassline and the harpsichord section. It does a great job leading into the tubular bells and overall chilly atmosphere in the next track from Live a Live. Icy pads and more bells carry a lovely melody, although I wouldn’t say this one feels like the holidays or Christmas as much as it reminds me of “winter.”

If the last one didn’t leave you in the Christmas mood, the next track from Final Fantasy VII certainly won’t either. The opening “Gold Saucer” section sounds like a crazy Disney electric light parade accompaniment before we get a techno version of “The Highwind Takes to the Skies.” At this point, the album feels more like “Winter SQ” as opposed to “X’mas Collections music from Square Enix,” and that’s one of the problems with this album as a whole as you’ll see moving forward.

“Geo” from Legend of Mana opens with turntable scratching and more sticky sweet synth melodies that will likely prevent you from playing this album in the presence of anyone you know who isn’t really into a “gamey” sound. There’s no warmth, no live instruments, and nothing that really alludes to the warmth of the fireplace and the time spent with family during the holidays. At least it’s super happy though. “Wind Scene” from Chrono Trigger was one of the tracks I was looking forward to the most, as a really slow version with some swelling strings could have really hit the spot, but instead we get a fast-paced R&B take on the track with some thrown in jingle bells that I guess are supposed to make anything sound like Christmas.

While again not really conforming to the image of the holidays, Mitsuto Suzuki’s remix of “Botshaft” from SaGa Frontier 2 is one of the album’s highlights. It’s the longest track on the album at over 6 minutes in length, and while it’s quite simple, Hamauzu’s beautiful melody fits in well with Suzuki’s dreamy synthesized backings. The chorus section is particularly powerful with a bassy flanged synth pad that really adds some meat to the mix.

It’s then on to the final track on the album, “Chocobo’s Merry Christmas,” arranged by Hamauzu himself for the Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon soundtrack back in 1997. Although again, this one has already been released, it’s probably the only truly appropriate piece of music on the album that really captures the essence of Christmas. It’s grand, it’s moving, it’s bits of cold mixed with the warmth of the holidays. It’s a great way to close the album, although I wish more of the album had sounded like this.

Overall, I think Square Enix has put together a decent “Winter SQ” album for fans, but I admit I’m disappointed in that I was hoping for a true Christmas album. Also, where the hell is Enix? I do appreciate the fact that Square Enix is giving the music from Live a Live and Legend of Mana some love, however. This is by no means a terrible album, but it doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to do. Some may also be unhappy with the fact that the album is so short, and that some of the tracks have been featured elsewhere. Still, if you’re interested in checking out Square Enix’s holiday experiment, it is being sold for a reasonable 1,600 Yen at Play-Asia and CD Japan.

What do you think of Square Enix’s attempts to put together a holiday album? Do the arrangements do the holiday season justice, or are there other tracks or other sounds that you would have liked to have heard?

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