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Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2 :: Review by Chris

Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2 Album Title: Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2
Record Label: Square Enix
Catalog No.: SQEX-10200
Release Date: September 15, 2010
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Following the lukewarm reception and sales of Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 1, many wondered whether a second compilation of battle themes would happen. After more than a three year wait, Square Enix finally revived the album series in 2010, in preparation for the Tokyo Game Show. They produced two new volumes of battle tracks, one for 1996-1997 and one for 1998-1999, that were entirely dedicated to Square's PlayStation era. Was the wait worth it?


Following the precedent set by original volume, the album's producers decided to select one track from each of Square's games from the PlayStation era in Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2 and its sequel. However, they had to deal with a much more diverse range of music than with the first compilation. Indeed, Square's games grew much more diverse during the PlayStation era — with fighting games, shooters, and horror titles all being released alongside traditional RPGs. Given both the versatility in gameplay and opportunities of technology, Square's music also grew more diverse, with orchestral, techno, jazz, and rock music all being found within their soundtracks. As a result, the offerings here are a complete free-for-all in style and, furthermore, some tracks like Tobal 2's "Knee Drop" and Front Mission Alternative's "Town01" aren't even battle themes at all.

The soundtrack opens with Masashi Hamauzu's "Volcanic Zone", a stage theme from Square's debut PlayStation title, Tobal No. 1. It has a very different feel to any of the company's Super Nintendo battle themes with drum 'n bass beats and abstract synthpads. For those expecting catchy melodies or rocking rhythms, this track certainly doesn't provide it and certainly isn't one of the best from its soundtrack. With subsequent titles in the PlayStation era, Square offered some more accomplished experiments, ranging from the pulsing techno rhythms and sampled hip-hop beats of Kenichiro Fukui's Einhader, to the Asian-inspired fusions of Ryuji Sasai's Bushido Blade II, to the dark ambient soundscapes of Junya Nakano's Another Mind. It's reassuring to know that Square hasn't completely forgotten about such games, but they don't sound like they belong in this increasingly divergent battle theme compilation.

The battle themes sampled from conventional RPGs are the most fitting ones on this compilation, comprising approximately half of the album. Most notably, SaGa Frontier's "Battle #1" maintains the sound of the series and bridges the gap from the first volume, while Xenogears' "Stage of Death" captures plenty of intensity with its orchestral passages. There are still some deviant experiments, most notably Parasite Eve's surprisingly uplifting electro track "Arise With You" and Soukaigi's spirited ethno-rock performance "Die on Destiny"; however, unlike many of the tracks from non-RPGs, these tracks tend to bring colour to the album rather than detract from its identity. The two compositions from the Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon series are also surprisingly mature orchestrations, "Fight, Chocobo!" having an especially welcome Bernstein influence.

However, the headline act is definitely "Those Who Fight", the normal battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. Thousands of battles on, this track hasn't lost its sheen over the years and it's still delightful to revisit, even in this compilation; its charismatic yet dangerous melodies and unique blend of militaristic and pop influences completely fitted the game. While featured as the second track on the album, the 14 tracks in its wake only inspire confusion and dissatisfaction. Why are no other selections from the king of battle themes, Nobuo Uematsu, featured on this album? What happened to the glorious orchestral score for Final Fantasy Tactics? Where is Final Fantasy VII's altogether more famous final battle theme, "One Winged Angel"? Why don't we have a bonus arrangement this time around? Heck, one has to wonder why this album was produced at all.


The Square Enix Battle Tracks Vol. 2 are comprehensive in one sense, but completely sparing in another. This album is essentially a random sampling of action tracks from mostly unrelated games, not a selection of fan favourites. The album would have been much more appealing to conventional audiences if the producers rejected the inappropriate material, selected some more fan favourites from real RPGs, and consolidated the album with its sequel. The final results are hollow, bizarre, and frustrating. And unfortunately there isn't any exclusive bonus arrangements to soften the blow for those who decide to pick this up, so please don't.

Overall Score: 4/10