Here we go, another arrangement soundtrack for the little Final Fantasy version of Mario Kart. The Chocobo Racing Original Soundtrack involves Kenji Ito, who remixes classic Final Fantasy themes for the game. He had previously worked on the successful Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (aka Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2) game, and had produced an inspirational score for SaGa Frontier, so let's see how he did here.
A lot of the themes on the album are arrangements of the regular "Chocobo Theme." That is, "Dash de Chocobo," "Choose a Chocobo," "Chocobo's Theme," "Make a Chocobo," "Cid's Test Course," "Hungry Land," "Lose...," and "The World's Tomorrow" are all arrangements of the same theme. "Dash de Chocobo" is probably the best arrangement of that group. It has a very strong beat, with every loud drum and melodic accent hitting at the same time. It then moves to an easily recognisable trumpet part for the majority of the theme, and then comes in at the end with a great little electric guitar bit to bring the theme to a close. "Chocobo's Theme," or "Dance de Chocobo" for those in the know, is a more head banging beattastic Chocobo arrangement that uses both long and short 'beep' noises as the tune. In one word, this is original. Careful with your speakers on "Cid's Test Course," as it is very loud no matter what bit rate it's at. It is a pretty great arrangement of the Chocobo theme, sounding very much like the original, except with different instruments.
As for other tracks, "Mogri Forest" is a very nice, peaceful arrangement of "Town 2," a Final Fantasy VI Special Tracks piece. It uses a deep flute which makes it seem very calm, but still with a fast beat. "Crystal Legend" is a very strange arrangement of the Final Fantasy prelude theme that has a female voice saying "la" all the way through. It is quite creative, but it doesn't appeal to the type of game. Maybe if they make 'Crazy Chocobo Racing', where they're all in mental homes in white jackets, this theme will fit in. "House of Black" is a good keyboard arrangement of Final Fantasy II's "Magician's Tower" with ghostly special effects as background music. A nice change from the somewhat boring original piece. Moving onto one of the better tracks in the album, "Mysidia's Sky Garden" is a synth based arrangement of Final Fantasy V's "The New Origin." I like the music itself, but the faster beat adds a little kick in it, worthy of being in a racing game but still peaceful. The "FF8 Circuit" piece is an arrangement of the Final Fantasy VIII battle theme "Don't Be Afraid," and is a great piece. The speeding up of the theme, and the lighter emphasis on orchestration, really makes the difference.
The best tracks on the album are "Mithril Mines" and "Treasure Chest of the Heart." The theme to the Mithryl Mines is in fact an arrangement of "Gurgu Volcano" in Final Fantasy, which is also in Final Fantasy IX. It has a relatively strong drum beat, but the best part is the fact that it's all fast-paced, which I think makes the theme sound better. I think that Kenji Ito could have included the full tune in the arrangement, though. The final track, "Treasure Chest of the Heart," is a Japanese vocal theme. Clearly the longest theme on the album, it is always the only original theme on the album and covers the entire ending theme for the game. Skipping past the vocals, there's some great orchestral instruments playing in the background mixed with drums. Though I can't really comment on the standard of singing, the translation of the lyrics makes it clear that everything seems to blend in.
Though this may be another unknown and not too liked game, the arrangements of classic themes are done with great skill. And, the reason that it doesn't get an ultimately high score, is that most of the themes I've mentioned are the only really good ones on the album. This is definitely worth a listen to if you're a fan of the Final Fantasy soundtracks, so don't miss out!