The Ghost of Final Fantasy Past.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2008-07-17)
The soundtrack to Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon ~Labyrinth of Forgotten Time~ follows in the footsteps of previous titles like Chocobo Racing in offering an assortment of remixes from the Final Fantasy series, attempting to send listeners on a nostalgic stroll down memory lane. It's a feat that many Final Fantasy arranged albums have achieved quite successfully, which makes the lack of ambition in this particular effort disappointing.
"Arrangement" or "remix" is a stretch for the material offered here - "re-synth" would be more appropriate. Yuzo Takahashi takes series tracks from Final Fantasy I to Final Fantasy XI and gives them a studio synth treatment with hardly a new note to be found. The synth itself has a full-bodied electronic sound that while gamey is of higher quality than you would typically hear in a game-synth soundtrack. In the reworkings of NES and SNES tracks the synth upgrade is quite apparent and beneficial. As for those based on later source material, it's more a matter of being different than necessarily better, and in some instances ("Alexander Battle") the difference is negligible.
The main problem is that many of these tracks - particularly the ones spanning up to Final Fantasy V - need more than just new synth work. The melodies in tracks like "Shirma's Theme" and "Nostalgia" (FF1's "Town" and "Chaos Temple") still have potential, but they need more elaborate arrangements than the short, decades-old originals. Others like "Airship Theme" (FF4 "Airship") and "Guardian of Flame" (both versions from FF5) absolutely require them - they may have defined a part of the Final Fantasy sound back in the early 16-bit era, but they're hard to sit through in this day and age without some serious reworking.
The first half of the disc at least has some amount of stylistic variety going for it, alternating between battle tracks and "Town at Night" style relaxed fare. Unfortunately the second half throws that out the window with an endless barrage of battle music, which taken in one massive dose begins to feel repetitive - obstinate even.
Despite a general sense of underachievement, there are a few instances in which the re-synth treatment works so delightfully that it's hard to pass the album off altogether. "Treasure Hunter's Theme" and "Town at Night" offer only incremental synth upgrades, but the original versions (FF9's "Hunter's Chance" and FF6's "Epitaph") both lacked arranged versions and are so good that any respectable attempt at such is welcomed with open arms. Final Fantasy V's "My Home, Sweet Home" has seen the arranged treatment before, but the elegant synth work and female vocal samples in "Memories of a Bygone Day" make the version here one of the best. The battle theme "Force Your Way" from Final Fantasy VIII is all about synth, thus the upgraded studio synth in "Duel Room", melded with a frantic new intro and perfectly arranged percussion, make for a proper arrangement superior to the already classic OST version.
Original material consists of two instrumental tracks at the beginning and a vocal theme at the end. The former capably meld a pleasing theme for the chocobo's new adventure with the original chocobo theme, the latter is amateurish and tiresome.
If Labyrinth of Forgotten Time were one of the only Final Fantasy arranged albums available, it would have some merit as a way to experience moderately new takes on old favorites (and not-so-favorites). In reality, however, there are a number of Final Fantasy albums that offer far more inspiring arrangements than the ones to be found here.