Back in 2019, Square Enix kicked off what now looks to be a series with SQUARE ENIX ACOUSTIC ARRANGEMENTS. What’s most remarkable is that the album features arrangements from games that are not often covered, including many from the Game Boy and Super Nintendo eras. It features a small ensemble of strings, piano, guitar, and hand percussion, all packaged with a stylish cover and booklet with extensive credits and commentary for each track in Japanese.
The album opens with the measured “Legend of the Mermaids” from Romancing SaGa 2 before an intense string quartet version of “The Decisive Battle” and “Kefka” from Final Fantasy VI. “Nuclear Fusion” from Seiken Densetsu III gets an alternating romantic/energetic arrangement while “Into the Thick of It” from Secret of Mana gets a dreamy and fantastical cover. The string quartet returns for “Battle with Magus” from Chrono Trigger with an added tinge of tragedy, “The Dawn Warriors” from Final Fantasy V gets flamenco-style guitar and percussion, and “The Farenheit’s Theme Part 2” from Bahamut Lagoon is dynamic with contemplative and adventurous segments. “WARM” from LIVE-A-LIVE captures this track’s sweetness with pizzicato strings and woodwinds, “Palom & Parom” from Final Fantasy IV goes classical with strings and piano, and “The Talon” from SaGa III is a tragic and tense spin on the game’s battle theme composed by one of my all-time favorite composers, Ryuji Sasai. Closing things out is the iconic “Opening Title” from the original Romancing SaGa which is sweet, riveting, and playful, and “Devil Lord Confrontation I” from Romancing SaGa 3 with big piano, guitar, bass, and percussion, ending things with a bang.
Since the release of this album, Square Enix has released a volume dedicated to the Final Fantasy VII Remake as well. Hopefully this will be a lot-running series with more love given to music from Square Enix’s catalog we don’t get to hear often. The album can be purchased from the Square Enix North America store.
Every year Square Enix has a massive music shop set up at Tokyo Game Show. For customers who spend over a certain amount, they typically hand out a music sampler featuring recent and upcoming releases. These discs often play the key role of announcing upcoming music releases, so they’re important for fans to take note of, and this year is no different.
The sampler opens with the “Blinded by Light” track from the SQUARE ENIX JAZZ -FINAL FANTASY- album that we reviewed last week. From there, we get a mash up of Mog’s theme and the chocobo theme from Final Fantasy XV Plus, which is an interesting combination that works surprisingly well, your typical orchestral and rock from a Romancing SaGa arrange album, and a sweeping rendition of the Legend of Mana theme followed by a decisive and powerful “Painted Cavern” (my favorite track from that game) from a Seiken Densetsu 25th anniversary concert album. We get a taste of MoNACA’s SINoALICE which is dramatic and sports female choir, sounding similar to NieR, electronic pop from VenusRumble, dreamy electronics from Mobius Final Fantasy, and bombastic orchestral from Final Fantasy Explorers Force. We get a taste of Lost Sphere with a heartbreaking strings and piano track, gritty rock from Final Fantasy XIV: The Far Edge of Fate, and a pumping electronic anime track from Schoolgirl Strikers 3rd Anniversary (a great original soundtrack). The sampler closes with Nanaa Mihgo’s wonderful electronic-infused jazz from Final Fantasy Record Keeper Vol. 2.
As usual, there’s a lot to look forward to from Square Enix. I wouldn’t be worried about procuring a copy of the sampler, as many of these releases are already out or will be soon. Keep an eye out for them and our reviews here.
The SaGa series has been around since 1989 and is much beloved, particularly in Japan. Given that several of the games in the series didn’t make it outside of Japan, it’s not as well known as say Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but it has a strong musical heritage featuring some of the best composers and music that JRPGs have had to offer. This live orchestral arrangement album is the latest reminder of just how great this music is, and JRPG fans ought to take note if they haven’t already.
The two-disc album opens with a 12-minute-long SaGa series medley that touches on the lovely main theme from the Game Boy SaGa titles as well as the more widely-known Romancing SaGa main theme, and everything in between and after. This is a perfect showcase of the majesty and energy of the SaGa series soundtracks. The album presents various medleys of two or more tracks, visiting numerous sets of battle themes for which the series has come to be known (see our reviews of the SaGa battle arrange albums). There’s a little bit of everything including the subdued final dungeon medley from Romancing SaGa, the sweet and fluttering opening medley from SaGa Frontier 2 that sounds like Christmas morning, and the playful Feldschlacht medley also from SaGa Frontier 2 that elevates the fairly well-known theme to a more serious level with an added drum set and jazzy vibe. There’s exotic and bombastic with the Asellus medley from SaGa Frontier, and finally, epic rock percussion and guitar in a battle medley from Romancing SaGa that ends things with a bang.
If you haven’t given SaGa music a chance yet, here’s your opportunity. It’s not going to get much better than the live orchestral treatment, and true to what series fans would want, the heavy focus on battle themes should get you caught up in no time. The album’s available on CD Japan (standard version), and you can even order the bonus Square Enix shop version that includes an extra disc with a couple piano arrangements on special order.
Square Enix’s Re:Birth series featuring Kenji Ito and several jdk band alums has been immensely popular. What was meant to be a single album paying tribute to the battle themes from across the SaGa series turned into a second album, which was even more amazing, and has now resulted in a third albym. They must be getting close to being out of battle themes to arrange at this point, but I’m not complaining!
Expect more authentic metal with chugging, shredding, and wailing guitars, rock organs, laser-like synth leads, and explosive percussion. There are also several exotic female vocal performances throughout. I love the retro synth sounds in the opening track from SaGa 2, the back-and-forth between guitar and synth in a track from SaGa 3, the hugely epic synth strings and choir in a track from Imperial SaGa, the softer Romancing SaGa 3 track, the additional of vocals to several SaGa Frontier tracks, and the romantic flamenco-flavored tracks from Minstrel Song. In the final track, each performer gets their own solo section, which is nice.
If you liked the first two Re:Birth rock albums, you’ll probably like this one too. I was less familiar with the track selections this time around, but still enjoyed the album from start to finish. You can grab it on CD Japan if you want more!
Square Enix’s Re:Birth series pays tribute to Kenji Ito’s classic scores, with the first Re:Birth album paying homage to Seiken Densetsu. The second, Re:Birth II, took on the SaGa franchise and went in a different direction, bringing serious synth rock in a fashion not seen since the glory days of the JDK Band, and was very well received.
The album was so well received that it’s getting a follow-up album with ten new arrangements, finally visiting the core SaGa series and SaGa Frontier. But does it live up to the success of the first Re:Birth II CD? Continue reading Review: Re:Birth II / Romancing SaGa Battle Arrange -Sen-