by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I’ve been sitting on this review for about a month now, and it’s been driving me mad. I’ve wanted to share this album’s existence with just about everyone I know because it’s one of the more interesting ones that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. But “The World is Square” from Scarlet Moon records is now live, thanks to its creator, Mustin. Mustin is better known for being the Co-Founder of OneUp Studios and the OneUps, and he’s put together this relaxing electronic rendition of some of my favorite RPG tracks of all time. It borders on chillhop, in my opinion, and is nonetheless a very relaxing, soothing album that I could see other artists sampling or getting inspiration from.
This is a shorter album, at eight tracks, but each one is absolutely delightful. There isn’t a song on it that doesn’t immediately conjure up memories of playing RPGs as a much younger man. Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Final Fantasy VII are the inspirational titles used on this album, and though I do love all of them, I’d be here all morning if I just rambled about how great each track is. So, as per usual, I’m going to highlight just a few of my favorites. I do have an honorable mention or two though. Serenity, the main theme to Final Fantasy VII, and Secret of Mana’s Fear the Heavens. They’re both equally strong tracks, and I certainly feel they’re worth mentioning here.
“The World is Square” is also a tribute to Final Fantasy VI’s “World of Ruin”. While in Daryl’s Tomb, you come across several other tombstones, that ultimately spell out a scrambled phrase. Correctly returning to the blank tombstone and putting “The World is Square” on it will net you the “Exp Egg” relic. Equipping it offers double exp to whomever uses it. That’s not altogether useful to the album, but it’s a fun reference that I think is worth mentioning.
“This album is a celebration of my favorite time in gaming: the (then) Squaresoft RPG,” comments arranger/producer Mustin. “Having completed the first track in 2003, this has been a 15+ year project in the making. I hope you enjoy my first true solo outing.”
Final Fantasy IV: Theme of Love (Track 3): Theme of Love stays true to the original love ballad from Final Fantasy IV, while definitely adding some smooth drum machine sounds and an absolutely lovely violin. When I originally heard Ballad of Love in Final Fantasy 2 on the SNES, I felt like it would be performed on a violin (or a viola, since I’m very sincerely biased), and this is more or less what I pictured. Sans drum machine, because I was in Elementary School and didn’t know those existed. It’s a terrific blend of the hip-hop style of drum machine and classical violin, and I couldn’t think of a better track to start with for an album that launched on Valentine’s Day.
Chrono Trigger: Forest of the Butterflies (Track 4): This is a song I don’t see in a lot of remix albums/tribute albums, so I was glad to hear it. Forest of the Butterflies highlights the varied sounds and themes you find in the Chrono Trigger OST. When the track first starts, it uses a pretty high-speed roll of drum taps, but that’s a ruse! The song slows down almost immediately and blends nicely the electronic percussion and a smooth piano sound. The piano sounds like it transitions from a standard piano to a more electronic keyboard, and I think that’s a pretty cool technique to use. Forest of the Butterflies in my estimation, is supposed to convey mystery and wonder, being in a new, but beautiful area. Nothing is what it seems in the world of Chrono Trigger, and Mustin conveys that neatly in Forest of the Butterflies.
Final Fantasy VI: Coin Song (Track 5): It was incredibly hard to pick between this and Lonely Girl, which is the theme of Terra/Tina. But I’ve covered that enough times on here I think. But Coin Song, known as Coin of Fate, is a far more interesting song to me. There are two versions in Final Fantasy VI, one for Sabin and one for Edgar. Coin of Fate is more aligned with Sabin though, though both iterations feature the theme of their home kingdom, Figaro. Coin of Fate is the slower rendition of the song and tends to feel more somber and sad. Sabin Renee Figaro wants out of being in charge and wants nothing to do with ruling a kingdom. He tricks his bother Edgar with a double-sided coin and told him that this coin would define their fates. About a minute into the song, it transitions from chimes into violin and electronic percussion, which to me is probably where the coin goes flipping into the air, and Sabin ultimately commits to leaving home forever. I appreciate the song sticking to the slow, ponderous style of the original, as well as keeping the more somber tone. There’s one final transition towards the end, which sounds more triumphant, with a steady rolling drum. This is clearly the final walk out of Figaro Castle, where we return again to that sad violin. This is to me, the best song on the entire album, and if you listen to nothing else, listen to Coin Song.