SQ Chips won many fans with its fresh but nostalgic takes on the originals. Soon enough, Square Enix commissioned the production of a series of follow-up chiptune albums, including a direct sequel. SQ Chips 2 reunites many of the names from the original album with a few prominent newcomers. Together they take on favourites from 1987 to 2008, along with a few rarities. Though there are some outstanding tracks here, the overall album isn't as consistent or satisfying as its predecessor.
Much of SQ Chips 2 maintains the inspired approach of its predecessor while exploring new material. hally's take on Dissidia: Final Fantasy demonstrates how much emotion can be created using humble chips. The first portion of the remix stays faithful to the pensive melody and soft tone of the original, but it suddenly erupts into something more passionate at the 0:36 mark with fast-paced beats and treble frills. When the melody finally returns, it has a desperate but forceful quality to it capturing the raw spirit of a fighter. Live A Live's ending medley is a delightful blend of the strong melodies of the original with the upbeat pop-flavoured beats listeners came to enjoy on SQ Chips. It doesn't offer anything ambitious and can sometimes even be quite abrupt, yet it really radiates the youthful exuberance of Square's RPG classics.
This time round, Square Enix were even more liberal in the amount of direction and feedback they gave to remixers on this album. This yields plenty of arrangements boasting creativity and charisma, but there are also a fair few deficient in other areas. For example, "Hometown Domina" and "Highwind Takes to the Skies" are likely to appeal to very different audiences. On the former, SmileR focuses entirely on conveying the melody of the original in the catchiest, poppiest way possible, albeit at the sacrifice of length and substance. By contrast, Saitone's take on Final Fantasy VII is more abstract, interrupting the melodic flow of the original with glitchy phrases and all sorts of noise. They each have their assets and deficiencies, but are so wildly different that it's surprising they're in the same album. Perhaps some quality control was needed.
Adherence to originals tends to be a recurring feature of SQ Chips 2. A dubious choice of opener, the take on "Prologue Movie" from Final Fantasy Tactics is more admirable from a technical perspective than a musical one. On the one hand, (S_S) retains the cinematic scope and complex layering of the original despite the transition to 8-bit. On the other hand, few other creative liberties have been taken and it sounds more like a competent demake than a fully-fledged arrangement. Hidekazu Tanaka shows listeners exactly what "The Girl Who Stole the Stars" and "Fragments of a Dream" would have sounded like if they were written for Chrono Trigger rather than Chrono Cross. But without the rich palettes, these pieces sound quite hollow and are driven solely by their sentimental melodies. Other straightforward, somewhat uninteresting demakes include Xenogears' "Flight" and yet another version of the Final Fantasy series' main theme.
Some of the most creative additions to SQ Chips 2 are also the most abstract. BOKKADENcI presents a fascinating twist on Vagrant Story's "Graylands Incident Climax". He manages to recreate the epic, foreboding timbre of the original using a humble selection of industrial beats and treble frills. While this is an accomplishment in itself, the way he transforms the melody into something upbeat, lyrical, and funk-influenced is even more delightful. The resulting dichotomy of timbres won't be for everyone, but it's still one of the most creative additions here. In a further showcase of musical inspiration and technical mastery, Hige Driver captures the gritty sound of Parasite Eve's "Primal Eyes" with lots of disorientating sequences and industrial noise. Tobal No. 1 is also a refreshing interlude, keeping the hazy, jazzy feel of the eclectic score alive on 8-bit samples.
The battle theme remixes rounding off the release are a mixed bag. One of the least accessible tracks from Bahamut Lagoon, "Boss Battle" was not worthy of a place here; no amount of resampling and tweaking can make this very jarring, more appealing. "Clash on the Big Bridge" maintains the rhythmic thrust of the original in a beat-heavy rendition. However, for many it will feature a little too much build-up and not enough pay-off it's not until the 2:33 mark that the famous melody from the original is finally introduced. Thankfully, Final Fantasy X's "Seymour Battle" compensates for both of these missteps with a surprisingly glorious rendering from KPLECRAFT. This remix also the explores the concept of "What would this track sound like were it featured on a classic entry in the series?" But this time, the original has enough substance and the arrangement enough definition for the results to be desirable, perhaps even better than the original.
Whereas original SQ Chips was an inspired revelation, SQ Chips 2 proves a somewhat disappointing sequel. It brings few fresh ideas to the table and is surprisingly inconsistent in both its approach and quality. Only about half of the album is interesting and entertaining, whereas the rest tends to be predictable and occasionally downright excruciating. In the end, whereas the original album was a must-listen, the follow-up is little more than a supplement. Casual fans are better off downloadable individual pieces from iTunes, rather than downloading the album as a whole.