Final Fantasy XI Chips was made prior to the other chiptune albums in the series. Initially made available at Final Fantasy XI Vana Fest 2012, it can now be purchased from Square Enix's e-Store. The release features ten tracks incorporating fan favourites from the original verison of Final Fantasy XI.
The ten tracks here cover quite a bit of ground, covering main themes, setting pieces, and battle tracks, among others. It's much more focused than other arranged albums dedicated to Final Fantasy XI tracks are only included from the main game, not the expansions or patches. In combination with the retro stylings, this approach will certainly inspire all those Final Fantasy XI long-timers to retread their first steps in the game. The centrepiece of the album is the medley of "The Republic of San d'Oria", "Ronfaure", and "The Republic of Bastok". It's impressive that Sexy-Synthesizer were able to capture the different styles and moods of each original piece, despite the shift from high-fidelity organic timbres to old-fashioned chiptunes. The entire album still sounds like it came from Vana'diel.
The opening rendition of the "Vana'diel March" is solid. BOKKADENcI doesn't diverge much from the original, but still takes artistic measures to ensure that the final result is still satisfying. The melody sounds especially warm in this interpretation, thanks to both the inspired chiptune synthesis and the strong backdrop of the 8-bit bass line. The section incorporating the "Prelude" also reels in the nostalgia, perhaps to an even greater extent than the original. Less impressive is the rendition of the opening theme, a straightforward 'demake' of the original complete with synthetic choir. The arrangement admittedly has its moments and it is technically polished. However, it's difficult to see why a listener would favour it to the more balanced and epic original.
Straying somewhat from the concept of the album, "Mog House" favours old synthesizer tones to true 8-bit samples. Despite a slightly dreary start, the arrangement develops effectively and is sensitively implemented the end result evokes far more than even the original. Recalling another recurring theme from the franchise, "Recollection" is even more emotional, despite its unnecessarily length. The 8-bit leads sound so tender and fragile here, just as they did in Nobuo Uematsu's sad themes for Final Fantasy III. Among other highlights, the medley of "Voyager" and "Airship" are instantly likeable, combining the humble yet adventurous melodies of the originals with gorgeous retro synth renderings, while "The Grand Duchy of Jeuno" sounds more bouncy and fun than the classically-oriented soundtrack version.
W2X's interpretations of "Battle Theme" and "Battle in the Dungeon #2" are a little disappointing. They emphasise the lyricism of the Naoshi Mizuta's original tracks, while maintaining their dramatic pacing. However, the first is little more than a reduction of the original and the second ends prematurely at the two minute mark. In contrast to the rest of the album, "Battle Theme" continues use orchestral samples extensively, albeit downgraded ones. "Shadow Lord ~ Awakening" thankfully makes up for both of them with an authentic chiptune arrangement that spans some eight minutes. After a haunting build-up, ajiponn ensures the battle theme for the Shadow Lord still packs quite a punch. The arrangement is as complex and intricate as the original, but also completely different in texture.
Final Fantasy XI Chips is the best in the series, featuring a well-balanced track list, polished arrangements and implementation, and plenty of fresh perspectives on the original material. A lot of the tracks here are rewarding to revisit and go far beyond the standard 'demake'. That said, only hardcore fans of the game will find this album worth their money. It is somewhat inconsistent and most tracks are likely to have limited replay value.