Tag Archives: Jazz

Review: SQUARE ENIX JAZZ -FINAL FANTASY-

I’m a huge fan of jazz music in videogames. Brink of Time, the Chrono Trigger jazz arrange album, is still on heavy rotation in my household, and is a must own in any game music fan’s collection. That’s why I’m so excited about this album and, even more, the title of this album. Will this be a series? I think it just might, and given that Square Enix has provided all the text in the booklet in both Japanese and English, I’m guessing they’re looking to make this an international favorite as well.

But how’s the music? Simply put, it’s everything I wanted it to be. You may have heard the “Blinded by Light” (from Final Fantasy XIII) track on the Tokyo Game Show sampler, but in case you didn’t, it’s both spunky and funky with a fresh big band sound, starting things off right. Over the course of the next 11 tracks, you’ll hear everything from soothing to upbeat, vocal to sound effect solo, and the entire array of jazz instrumentation with flute, drum, and saxophone solos. There’s smooth and laid back with Final Fantasy III’s “Eternal Wind,” which gets xylophone and electric guitar, urgent with Final Fantasy IV’s “Battle with the Four Fiends,” which sports a lovely flute breakdown and a killer sax solo, and swanky with Final Fantasy’s II “Revel Army,” which would be right home in a jazz lounge. The loose take on “Big Bridge” also is home to what I’m calling an extremely quirky “sound effect solo,” which is a series of sound effects dueling it out, while the contemplative “Sarah’s Theme” from Final Fantasy XIII, the lively “Searching Friends” from Final Fantasy VI, and the swingin’ “You Are Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX are my absolute favorites. Rounding out the album are the exotic and flamenco-flavored “Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X, the extremely elegant piano-laiden “Love Grows” from Final Fantasy VIII, and the uplifting and Christmas-like Final Fantasy “Main Theme” with its twinkling piano work.

SQUARE ENIX JAZZ -FINAL FANTASY- is a fantastic album, and should have all of us wondering which Square Enix franchise will be next. The album is out on November 22 in Japan, and can be pre-ordered from CD Japan if you want to get your hands on a physical copy out of the gate. It’s not currently listed on the North America merchandise store, but I have a feeling it’ll end up there as well as on iTunes international.

Review: Hiro 30th Anniversary Album Thank you for listening!

Hiro may not be a household name, but you’ve likely heard his music. He’s the legend behind many of the earliest SEGA soundtracks, including those for Hang-On, Fantasy Zone, After Burner, and more. Catchy, technically impressive, and incredibly prolific, this album demonstrates all of these and more with one disc of “best of” material from his 30 years in the business, and a second disc of arrangements by Hiro and others many of which are entirely new to this collection.

So much of this music is amazing, from the chugging 1985 rock synths from Hang-On, the infectious catchiness of Space Harrier, the swanky swing in Enduro Racer, the playful and iconic Fantasy Zone, and the realistic jazz, pop, and exotic flavors from Out Run. There was fantastic ’90s rock with After Burner, sticky-sweet pop with Dynamite Dux, epic fantasy and explosive ’80s synth rock with Sword of Vermilion (one of my personal favorites), the comedy of Rent-a-Hero, and more modern dance, grunge, J-pop, and J-rock with his Sega Saturn era contributions.

The remix disc features all of the same songs, but arranged. There’s a lot of jazz to be had with SEGA’s [H.] band, a classy jazz ensemble called Akai Ryu-sei, and arrangements from Hiro himself from across the ages. Some are simple synth upgrades to the originals, while others are full-fledged jazz renditions, but all are tastefully done. There’s also a funky and wild dance/chiptune take on Sword of Vermilion by none other than Hip Tanaka, a retro synth/chiptune spin on Dynamite Dux by Omodaka, a big anime-style vocal opening from Rent-a-Hero, and a dreamy funk fest by Taito composer Shohei Tsuchiya with Crackin’ DJPART2.

So, let’s get on to the bad news. Unfortunately this album is not being sold through any regular soundtrack import sites. Your best bet is to hit Amazon or eBay if you’re looking for this one. There will be mark ups, but it’s a fantastic bit of history chronicling an unsung hero in game music.

Review: SEIKEN DENSETSU / LEGEND OF MANA arrangement album Promise

The Mana series is much beloved by fans, and the music of the series has always been celebrated regardless of the composer writing it. A number of composers have graced the series over the years, and say what you will about the PlayStation entry Legend of Mana, the soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura was great.

This album presents several key themes in jazz and cafe styles, with great arrangements and atmospheres throughout. It begins with a traditional jazz ensemble performing a swinging and upbeat take on “Hometown of Domina,” and is followed by a Latin-flavored “To the Sea.” One of my favorite original tracks, “Polpota Harbor,” gets a straightforward solo piano performance, while “Legend of Mana” comes as bossa nova in style with some great jazz flute. Another personal favorite, “Pictureseque Landscape” retains its aggressive edge with a Parisian cafe arrangement featuring accordion, violin, and guitar. “Singing Wind, Journey’s Path,” probably my absolute favorite from the original soundtrack, gets an infectiously upbeat pop-oriented arrangement with live guitar, piano, and woodwinds. Rounding out the collection is aggressive-turned-romantic “Tango Apssionata – As The Heart Wills,” the melancholy flamenco “Such Cruel Fate,” a beautiful bossa nova vocal version of “Seven Shades of Life,” a laid back jazz tune in “Nostalgic Song,” and a slower take on the main vocal theme from the game, “Song of Mana,” which sports beautiful harmonies and a fantastic acoustic arrangement.

It’s great to see an album of arrangements paying homage to the music of Legend of Mana. The album is available on CD Japan if you want to add a lovely live jazz album to your collection.

Review: Bravely Second End Layer Original Soundtrack

The Bravely Default soundtrack was widely acclaimed. It featured rock artist REVO providing some fantastic themes that earned the score a lot of praise in 2014. With Bravely Second on the horizon, Square Enix is going big once again with the soundtrack, this time by hiring ryo, the producer of one of my personal favorite acts in Japan, supercell, to score the game.

Can lightning strike twice? Does ryo have it it takes to give JRPG music fans what they so desire? Continue reading Review: Bravely Second End Layer Original Soundtrack

Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies Volume II (SMRC-1008)

Volume II is here! Enjoy ten new tracks touching on classic franchises including Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, and The Legend of Zelda in addition to new greats such as Shovel Knight and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. All arrangements are performed by GENTLE LOVE (Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI) to assist you with sleep and relaxation.

Visit the official Prescription for Sleep website for purchase links and track lists for both volumes, and don’t miss out on our promotion to snag GENLTE LOVE’s arrangement from the Korean fantasy MMORPG, Monarch: Heroes of a New Age, for free when purchashing Volume I and Volume II together only on Loudr.

Feel free to check out our exclusive interview with The Verge where we discuss the Prescription for Sleep series, and be sure to catch our official launch trailer on Nerdist!

As always, feedback and suggestions are welcome: jayson[at]scarletmoonproductions[dot]com.

Don’t forget to grab our beautiful digital booklet, which includes photos and commentary on every track on the album in addition to a brief Q&A with Norihiko Hibino.

View the track list in its entirety below. Continue reading Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies Volume II (SMRC-1008)

Review: Bayonetta 2 Original Soundtrack

Listening to a Bayonetta soundtrack is always a huge undertaking. The first game’s soundtrack was five discs, and not to be outdone, Bayonetta 2 also clocks in at five. Still, much with the games, there’s a lot of quirkiness and charm found within the eclectic mix of electronic, orchestral, and jazz themes presented.

To go along with this large collection of music, there’s also a number of contributing composers from Platinum games and elsewhere who make this soundtrack what it is.

Does the Bayonetta 2 soundtrack surpass the first game’s effort? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Bayonetta 2 Original Soundtrack

Review: Mario Kart 8 Soundtrack

I always figured that Mario Kart would be the last hold out from Nintendo, doomed to host cheesy synth sounds for its soundtracks for all eternity. We’ve seen Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda get the orchestral treatment, but Mario Kart is a party game, so when Mario Kart 8 was announced, I didn’t expect anything new on the sound front.

I was mistaken, however, as Nintendo has really gone all out once again for this score. Given the time and attention that the large sound team at Nintendo put into the game, including contributions from Shiho Fujii, Atsuko Asahi, Ryo Nagamatsu, Yasuaki Iwata, and direction by Kenta Nagata, I thought we should dig in and take a look at what they’ve accomplished.

Read impressions below. Continue reading Review: Mario Kart 8 Soundtrack

Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies (SMRC-1006)

It’s out! Ten tracks from across the spectrum of gaming, arranged and performed by GENTLE LOVE (Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI) for maximum relaxation and sleep. The album’s official website now contains the full track list (also below), and you can now purchase the album via Loudr.

Also, don’t miss the exclusive interview over on The Escapist where we discuss the potential for a second album. Send your feedback and suggestions to jayson[at]scarletmoonproductions.com!

Finally, check out the beautiful launch trailer at IGN today! Continue reading Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies (SMRC-1006)

Monarch: Heroes of a New Age Arrangements & Variations (SMRC-1002)

As mentioned, this arrangement album is one not to be missed. Containing alternate versions of many of the tracks from the Original Soundtrack, there are also all-new arrangements created by Goomin Nam including a moving Korean vocal version of “Forgotten Archduchess,” pop ballad covers by Goomin Nam of “Peaceful Macdallena” and by Dale North of “Seaside Village,” a dark take on “Wandering Woods” by Joshua Morse, and a beautiful piano and saxophone improvisation by Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI (GENTLE LOVE).

The album features 15 tracks, including variations, arrangements, and a bonus trailer from the game’s announcement.

A limited-print physical version is available on Bandcamp, while the two albums are being bundled together at a discounted price exclusively on Loudr. You can also pick it up on iTunes and Amazon MP3.

Hear a sample and view the beautiful physical packaging along with album credits below. Continue reading Monarch: Heroes of a New Age Arrangements & Variations (SMRC-1002)

Review: Final Fantasy X-2 Original Soundtrack

With the release of Final Fantasy X HD, Square Enix took the opportunity to re-release the Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack, which has been out of print for some time.

I admit I never played the game (I was adamant at the time that Final Fantasy games didn’t need sequels), but I did enjoy some of the music in passing. Now I’m getting a more in-depth look at the score, and there’s a lot of great music here. Continue reading Review: Final Fantasy X-2 Original Soundtrack