Chip Music, Game Music, Reviews

Limited Release, Mass Appeal: XI Chips (Review)

July 24, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Limited Release, Mass Appeal: XI Chips (Review)on Twitter

So far, it seems that the new arranged album XI Chips -Final Fantasy XI Chiptune- (catalog # SQEX-10320) is available only through Square Enix Music’s e-Store. Some online retailers, like CDJapan, are offering it as a special order, with a marked-up price to boot.

I don’t know if S-E is waiting for, like, the North American 10th anniversary of FFXI to release this album on iTunes, or if they don’t realize what a gem they have in their hand.

After the jump, I’ll talk about this internal rival with the “SQ Chips” albums, and why I think it might be the unlikely winner of my heart.

First, a tracklist, with arrangers’ pseudonyms/monikers in parentheses:

01 Vana’diel March (BOKKADENcI)
02 The Kingdom of San d’Oria – Ronfaure – The Republic of Bastok (SEXY-SYNTHESIZER)
03 Battle Theme (W2X)
04 Voyager – Airship (BOKKADENcI)
05 The Grand Duchy of Jeuno (ajiponn)
06 Mog House (BOKKADENcI)
07 Recollection (W2X)
08 Battle in the Dungeon #2 (W2X)
09 Shadow Lord – Awakening (ajiponn)
10 FFXI Opening Theme (DIRTY-SYNTHESIZER)

So, a few things to note. First, SEXY-SYNTHESIZER did an arrangement. Yes, that blessed Japanese chiptunes duo that can do no wrong, they bring together a three-part medley of melodies, and they really do these tracks justice. All three songs are burned into my brain after countless hours of time spent in Square Enix’s best-loved MMORPG.

And, comparing that medley to the Ronfaure arrangement that “muZik” (Hirosato Noda) did on SQ Chips, I can say with confidence that I prefer this new, lengthy track from SEXY-SYNTHESIZER. And I really liked muZik’s arrangement too, so that’s saying something.

Among the other arrangers, I have to say that I know nothing about any of them. I assume DIRTY-SYNTHESIZER involves at least one, if not both, of the SEXY- duo (and that track, by the way, does wonders for FFXI’s Opening FMV music — WOW!). W2X, BOKKADENcI, and ajiponn are all new to me. What I can say about them is that they bring a much-appreciated consistency to this album, something that both SQ Chips albums lack (for better or worse). W2X does the most arrangements of the bunch, and the source tunes W2X chose to arrange are all, also, quite memorable. Two “standard battle” themes, and “Recollection,” which is the same melody and for all intents and purposes the same song as “Distant Worlds.” W2X takes a very straightforward approach to these “chipped” arrangements, but with utmost care not to lose the harmonic layers or, for the battle tracks, the intense percussion. The end result? *Magnifique!*

BOKKADENcI also offers up three arrangements, though of a notably less exciting/agitated nature than those W2X chose. The album opens with an arrangement of “Vana’diel March,” which is fitting, but is also something I personally could live without. The “Voyager – Airship” medley is half-decent as well, but it’s on the simple track “Mog House” that BOKKADENcI’s skills really shine. That, or perhaps, it’s just that emulated 8-bit hardware sounds go really well with that lovely little piece of music. Either way, it’s a great track.

However, the best track on the album, in my opinion, is ajiponn’s “Shadow Lord – Awakening” medley. And, obviously, I’m talking about the second half of the medley. “Awakening” is a song you’d have to *try* to mess up. Virtually anyone can put their hands on this tune and come out with something that passes muster. ajiponn, however, knocks it out of the park with a frantic pile of percussion above and below (pitch-wise) the main melody. I suddenly wanted to play Final Fantasy XI and Mega Man simultaneously. That’s a good sign. Also, ajiponn’s arrangement here is the longest on the album, clocking in at 8 minutes. the “Awakening” part starts 3 minutes in, so you’re getting more of the better and less of the bland.

So, for all the albums SE put out (and will continue to put out) this summer, I’m worried that this might be my favorite. Why “worried,” you ask? Well, obviously, I want to be able to spread the message and help S-E see that this is the kind of music their fans want. But it can’t be done if they aren’t routing this excellent arranged album through more heavily-traversed outlets than their own Japan-only e-Store. Please, Square Enix, go big with this album.

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