December 5, 2012
Buy Used Copy
Rare SQ was a bonus disc given out to those who purchased Final Fantasy Tribute -Thanks- from Tower Records or Village Vanguard. A substantial album spanning 11 tracks and 66 minutes of music, it features a range of previously unreleased or otherwise rare tracks created for the SQ series of arranged albums.
The best aspect of Rare SQ is that it commemorates some of the lesser-known soundtracks in Square Enix’s discography. The album opens with the first ever official arrangement of Hiroki Kikuta’s eclectic, underrated soundtrack to Soukaigi. Kenmochi Hidefumi captures the colourful timbres and tonalities of the original score while integrating his own folk influences. An example of a medley done right, it seamlessly integrates three highlights from the score (“Fire Wire”, “Die on Destiny”, “Labyrinth”) within a wider musical journey and emotional arch. The extended section from 4:36, featuring a recorder lead above an unravelling piano accompaniment, is particularly gorgeous. Kenichiro Fukui’s EINHÄNDER also features here. DJ OMKT departs from the fast-paced trance stylings of the original in favour of a downbeat house remix. Though a slow-burner, it proves quite rewarding with its blend of ethereal treble elements and meaty, abstract bass lines. Live A Live‘s “Megalomachia” and The World Ends With You‘s “Twister”, in contrast, are two other tunes that definitely didn’t demand more remixes. But fortunately the takes on them here are quite fresh, with “Megalomachia” shining in a lyrical folk remix, “Twisted” shining in a daring dubstep take.
Rare SQ features several recycled tracks. The Brave Fencer Musashi is another adaptation of the “Skullpion” remix featured in the main and bonus albums for SQ Chips. It doesn’t offer much new, but those haven’t heard these remixes are still in for a treat since this is a powerful ‘chips plus beats’ remix. Likewise, Final Fantasy III‘s “Eternal Wind (Fly Away Birds Mix)” is essentially a more polished version of the remix that featured in Love SQ. It once again blends catchy chiptunes and punchy beats with worldly ululations from a female vocalist. However, this version includes a few adjustments such as the focus on a flute rather than synth lead. Also featured is Final Fantasy VI‘s “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” from the Cafe SQ bonus album and Last SQ. The instrumentals are beautiful — combining sentimental piano figures with romantic violin and cello performances. However, Joseph Secchiaro’s melodramatic American vocal performance will be a select taste. Another recycled track is the Secret of Mana medley, which is also featured in the SQ Chips 2 bonus album and Last SQ. While an excellent remix, it’s sadly cut short here at the 90 second mark. Those who purchased Rare SQ were eligible to download the full remix if they inputted an exclusive password at the Square Enix website, which somewhat defeats the point of owning a physical album.
A major exclusive highlight is ASAGEN’s seven-minute chiptune medley dedicated to Final Fantasy VII. The artist manages to capture all the emotions of tracks such as “Cosmo Canyon”, “Cid’s Theme”, and “Highwind Takes to the Skies” through some clever manipulations of timbres, harmonisations, and tonalities (expect more than a couple of uplifting semitone modulations). In fact, it manages to create more emotion in seven minutes than Final Fantasy VII Chips did for an entire album. The “Clash on the Big Bridge” remix is also decent, blending rock, chiptune, and generic dubstep elements into an uplifting take of the fan-favourite battle theme. As a bonus track, the album closes with an 20-minute edit of The LASTTRAK’s set from SQ Party Level 4. The DJ presents fan favourites from the Final Fantasy series (e.g. “Victory Fanfare”, “Prelude”, “Red Wings”) into highly generic techno and dubstep mixes. The entire set is highly repetitive, lacks direction, and is often downright grating. It’s the one truly awful addition to the album.
For a bonus album, Rare SQ is pretty good. The exclusive remixes of Soukaigi, Final Fantasy VII, and EINHÄNDER prove standouts. With the exception of the bonus track, the other material is also generally good and presents enjoyable takes on fan favourites. However, four tracks are carried over from other albums and hence won’t be desirable for dedicated collectors of the SQ series. Hardcore collectors might consider tracking down a used copy of this album.
Posted on December 31, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on December 29, 2015.