Beer SQ Limited Edition

beersq Album Title:
Beer SQ Limited Edition
Record Label:
Square Enix
Catalog No.:
Release Date:
July 4, 2012
Buy at CDJapan


Beer SQ is certainly the most niche production in Square Enix’s ever-growing line of cover albums. As the title and artwork suggests, all the arrangements are inspired by the type of music found in pubs and bars, with a particular focus on folk. The combo seemed to be a strange fit, but plenty of people were excited by the concept and samples.The featured pieces certainly tend to be enjoyable, but they’re not substantial or numerous enough to fully satisfy. The album was released in two versions, a regular edition featuring eight tracks and a limited edition featuring a bonus disc, the latter of which is reviewed here.


One of the most interesting aspects of the SQ series is the way it offers fresh takes on themes many have heard hundreds of times over. Take the opener, for example, a gypsy jazz performance of the main theme of the Final Fantasy series. To a brisk polka-esque backing, the experienced lead instrumentalists from RÄFVEN — fiddle, trombone, and alto sax — inject new life into the melody. There’s a fine balance of straightforward interpretations and liberal improvisations, ensuring the gypsy influence is fleshed-out without losing the essence of the original. While by no means a creative masterpiece, it is an enjoyable little experiment. Later in the album, listeners are also given a considerably less successful remake of the Prelude. Daichiki Yoshida creates a unique, dreamy timbre by blending wavering sitar leads, electronic arpeggios, and earthy percussion. But once he’s presented this concept, he doesn’t expand upon it and instead repeats the same ideas ad nauseum. Emphasising the downside of the series, the final result comes across more as a gimmick than a fully realised artistic venture.

Despite taking new directions, the featured artists generally seem to respect the original games and soundtracks here. Written and performed by folk rock outfit Mohikan Family’s, “Can You Fly Sister?” captures the gliding feel of the Seiken Densetsu 3 original. The accordion and tin whistle leads really bring out the lyricism of the original melodies, while offering more colour and richness than the six channel SNES original could possibly do. It’s easy to imagine punters in an old tavern dancing to this one, as portrayed by the cover. In the end, its style is a little unorthodox, but its appeal is likely to be widespread. By contrast, Blue Moon Quartet’s lounge jazz performance of “Guardia Millenial Fair” inspires one to take a seat and relax. The performance remains soft and unobtrusive throughout, but still highlights the melodic wit of the Chrono Trigger favourite. It’s easy to imagine Hiroki Kikuta and Yasunori Mitsuda being pleased with the takes on their respective originals, since they retain the mood and melodies so well, while offering a modern, artistic take.

Unfortunately, the intended centrepiece of the album — a nine medley of Final Fantasy VI‘s much-loved character themes — ends up being by far the least competent track of the entire SQ series. It starts off promisingly with a 1930s big band rendition of the ever-catchy opera house theme, before moving into a series of renditions of successive character themes (Gogo oddly the first of them). Rio Okano manages to emphasise Nobuo Uematsu’s melodies, while retaining the vintage influence, but never takes the opportunity to expand or improvise upon them. Most themes are featured briefly and the transitions between them are so minimal that they are jarring. But even worse is their implementation. While live instrumentalists were involved, the poorly mixed recording fails to do them justice and there is copious electronic manipulation present. As a result, the ever-present trumpet and saxophone leads not only fail to energise the melodies, but sound distorted, artificial, and directly unpleasant. It’s an atrocity to hear, especially for a wind performer such as myself.

After this damaging blow, there are only a few other additions to round off this eight track album. Live A Live‘s “Wanderer” shifts away from the bold Morricone-influenced stylings of the original in favour of a more intimate acoustic approach. Masanori Narikawa’s acoustic guitar performance is spot on — soulful yet rustic — and is punctuated effectively by the bassist and drummer. After the aforementioned disaster, this track once again showcases what talented musicians are capable of. The performance of Final Fantasy VII‘s “Gold Saucer” has an even stronger Irish influence than the other tracks on the album. Perhaps inspired by “Fiddle de Chocobo” from the same sequence, it’s a fiddle-focused jig that is bound to get foots tapping. Finally, the SaGa Frontier II arrangement is more complex, interweaving the melodies of “Roman” and “Vorspiel” between violin and viola. Though the final timbre verges on the thin side, it’s a relatively inspired work with a clear Scandinavian influence.

Moving on to the bonus disc featured in the limited edition, the arrangement of Unlimited SaGa‘s “The Seven Travelers” is beautiful enough to deserve a place on the main album. YUKIYOSHI brings out the melodies on a radiant solo violin, while integrating classical and new age influences. There are also recordings of two live sets that occurred at the SQ Party Level 3 concert in April 2012. Hige Driver offers a lengthy pop-flavoured chiptune medley of various favourites from Square’s discography. Most of the performance rehashes material featured on the SQ Chips albums, namely the SaGa 2 medley, Parasite Eve‘s “Primal Eyes”, and Final Fantasy III‘s “Battle 2”. While it’s enjoyable to revisit these arrangements, there are few changes from their studio versions and there are few transitions between them. The exclusive version of Romancing SaGa 3‘s Four Demon Battles theme is worthwhile, while the opening rendition of “Searching for Friends” is likely to be a select taste given its hip-hop voiceovers.

The final centrepiece of the limited edition album is BOKKADENcI’s performance from the same event. Rather than offer another simple medley of favourites, the artist instead focuses on developing a set from just a few pieces. During its half hour playtime, the track nevertheless undergoes a lot of shifts: from the ambient electronica opening revolving around the main theme of Final Fantasy Adventure, to the funkier vocoder-peppered section dedicated to Tobal No. 1, through to a moodier build-up featuring Vagrant Story‘s booming opener. Throughout these tracks, the artist incorporates plenty of chiptunes tones and even some folksy stylings that are more compatible with the theme of Beer SQ. The climax is particularly enjoyable, synchronising the quirky sounds of Final Fantasy IV‘s “Mystic Mysidia” with the driving melodies of the title’s final battle theme. The use of the source material is sometimes abstract, occasionally droning, though the overall scope of the set is excellent.


Beer SQ was conceived as a niche side-album in a larger album series. Plenty of tracks boast creative arrangements and rich performances here, and are bound to appeal to those with a taste for folksy stylings. The offerings on the main disc are meagre, given there are just eight arrangements and the centrepiece is a stinker. This limited edition is considerably better value — for two dollars more, listeners receive 53 more minutes of music, most of it excellent.

Beer SQ Limited Edition Chris Greening

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!


Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 22, 2016.

About the Author

I've contributed to websites related to game audio since 2002. In this time, I've reviewed over a thousand albums and interviewed hundreds of musicians across the world. As the founder and webmaster of VGMO -Video Game Music Online-, I hope to create a cutting-edge, journalistic resource for all those soundtrack enthusiasts out there. In the process, I would love to further cultivate my passion for music, writing, and generally building things. Please enjoy the site and don't hesitate to say hello!

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