The original Symphonic Fantasies was an unprecedented arranged album, featuring ambitious, dramatic orchestral suites for four beloved Square Enix series. And as much as I love that original release, the much-improved Final Fantasy suite, added encore, and generally superior recording make this the definitive edition, and as much a must-hear as ever.
I can't claim there's anything life-changing about my number two pick Beer SQ, it's simply a well-arranged album of some excellent themes with some nice musicianship on display (and in a genre I happen to like). The festive Celtic "Can You Fly Sister?" is probably my favorite new VGM arrangement for the year.
For an album almost entirely composed of orchestral battle music, it's much more listenable than you'd expect. The battle music is indeed epic, the occasional quieter moments are nice, and the memorable main theme is implemented perfectly throughout the album - most of all in the dramatic finale.
Lacks the poignant moments of FFXIII PC and some other previous piano collections but offers perhaps the most consistently high quality of the bunch, with a refreshing new, jazz piano-influenced style to boot.
This surprisingly neglected soundtrack doesn't quite match the world music splendor of the first two Suikoden OSTs, but it comes close enough to make for a nice dose of nostalgia and a much more listenable album in full than most JRPG OSTs. Suikoden fans would do well to check it out.
We are Rock-Men! 2
Lacking any single killer track like the first album's "Darkman Stage", but a more solid effort overall. The arrangements could be more elaborate but the combination of high-energy rock, gamey synth and catchy hooks seems spot-on for a Mega Man album.
Less focused on vocal themes than the 20th anniversary album and with a bit more to offer in its exclusive material (both the MGS Online and "Alerts and Cautions" medleys are surprisingly solid). Having not paid much attention to MGS Peace Walker, the orchestral medley and vocal theme from it both make very nice additions.
The Bemani mainstay offers a nice balance of gamey energy and melody with modern EDM production values (even if the scattered anime voices cheapen the product a bit). "[E] -Extended Mix-" very much lives up to the title - one of my favorite tracks of the year.