This one’s surely a pleasant surprise. Square Enix publishes a lot of game music for their mobile titles that don’t make it out of Japan, and sometimes there’s some excellent music found within. The Grimms Notes soundtrack by Taketeru Sunamori and Miyako Matsuoka is a perfect example. There are strong Celtic influences throughout with all the JRPG staples, and it’s certainly worth the time to check it out.
The opening theme is magical and mysterious with descending harp and a lute, setting the tone for the rest of the score. There’s a woodwind and tambourine-heavy folk tune, uplifting harmonica in one track, warm and beautiful harmonies in another. There are exotic woodwinds, Latin-flavored guitars, a triumphant and adventurous march, tropical steel drums, and a mixture of contemplative, somber, and epic tunes towards the end. The star of the show, however, is the version of the main theme with Japanese female vocals. There’s something unsettling about the track, like some ancient lullaby with seemingly sweet lyrics that hide danger within, but it’s absolutely gorgeous.
The unfortunate news is that I can only find it on sale on the Square Enix Japan store. I hope it turns up elsewhere, because the soundtrack is a hidden gem!
I’d heard great things about the Sonic Runners soundtrack, although I’ve yet to play it. The album cover is pretty snazzy to be sure, and I’ve been a fan of Tomoya Ohtani’s Sonic material for some time. As it turns out, though, Sonic Runners may be my favorite Sonic soundtrack since Sonic Generations and Unleashed. Ohtani provides a memorable blend of pop rock that sounds right at home in the Sonic universe, and thankfully omits the vocals, which can yield high rewards but are always a risk in my opinion. This does lead to a few tracks feeling like they are just waiting for vocals to be inserted, but I’ll take a great instrumental over a poorly executed vocal any day.
The album opens with the uplifting rock track, “Beyond the Speed Of…” with its doubled-up piano and guitar and an incredibly catchy melody that’s used elsewhere, including in my favorite track, “Going my Way,” which uses electronic filtering effects to great result. “Spring Emotions,” another favorite, is typical J-rock with beautiful strings and and the use of accordion throughout the chorus section, while “End of Summer” features pop piano, fluttering electric guitar, and a sweet atmosphere. From there, “Fly Away” sports some concerto-like piano work, “Power Ride” introduces shredding metal and pumping percussion, “Theory of Attack” offers some spunk, “Where to Today?” is a whimsical march, “Go Quickly!” is a lightning-fast flight with a carnival vibe, “Fiery Passion” is funky with rock organ and crazy rhythm guitar, “Strange Parade” is a dancey electronic track, and “Magical Snow Day” is a frosty tune with jingle bells and a jolly bass line.
There isn’t a ton of material here. Thirteen tracks, over 40 minutes of music, but it’s all fantastic. This is how Sonic music should be! Even better, this gem is only $12.50 on CD Japan. Get on it!
It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard new Valkyrie Profile music by Motoi Sakuraba. As it turns out, he missed writing music for Square Enix’s oft neglected series, and this mobile prequel serves up 20+ tracks that offer something new along with a boost of nostalgia by revisiting some of the most popular themes from the series. Expect Sakuraba’s signature progressive rock and orchestral offerings with a distinctly somber atmosphere throughout.
Right out of the gate, the haunting opening theme sports epic choir and string swells and a hint of tragedy. This continues through much of the orchestral and rock material, including the unsettling “Behave irrationally II” with its woodwinds and bells, the descending orchestral rock in “The maze of dungeon,” and the terrifying “Emotional upset #2” with its big brass and ominous choir. One track brings in a rustic vibe with the use of a harpsichord, while another is a slow and mellow lullaby. One of my favorites is a melancholy piece featuring harp and emotionally-tinged strings that would be right at home in a Dark Souls hub area, while another standpoint, “enfant terrible,” is equally unsettling with its use of woodwinds and a bassy string section. The album closes with a continuous mix that runs for over 20 minutes, featuring quick cross-fades between tracks.
In all, I think I speak for most when I say I’m surprised but also pleased to see this music released. There are many fans of the series, and even though this is a small offering of new material to satiate that Valkyrie Profile music itch, what’s here is quite good. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available at this time (it was released at the Tokyo Game Show store in September), so hopefully Square Enix offers a wide release in the near future.
A lot of people had fun messing around with FINAL FANTASY Record Keeper, and I’m sure more than a few dug the arrangements featured throughout and wanted to get their hands on them. Well, Square Enix has you covered with this compilation album featuring a variety of talent mostly from outside Square Enix, who you can learn about on VGMdb.
The arrangements are fairly straightforward, with little twists to fit special holidays or combined into tidy medleys. “Mystic Mysidia -Halloween-,” for example, gives the mischievous tune some mysterious bells and defiant strings in A Nightmare Before Christmas fashion, while jingle bells join the Final Fantasy VII main theme and “Gold Saucer,” making for a jolly Christmas arrangement. “Eyes on Me,” “Celes,” and of course, “Theme of Love” combine for a perfect Valentine’s Day medley, and a lovely sleep-inducing Tanbata (Star Festival) medley features lots of harp and bells to capture that celestial atmosphere.
There are several one-off arrangements, including rockin’ versions of “Battle at the Big Bridge” and “Decisive Battle” from Final Fantasy VI (which features a few other songs as well), a dreamy trance version of “The Man With the Machine Gun,” a bubbly techno-flavored “Vana’diel March,” a wedding organ-infused “Prelude,” and a pumping electronic/rock version of “Blinded by Light” (one of the more complex arrangements by Monster Hunter/Dragon’s Dogma composer Tadayoshi Makino).
While there isn’t a whole lot to sink your teeth into, if you played with the app and want the music, it’s available at CD Japan.
If you’re a fan of Yoko Shimomura (you are), then you’ll likely want to check out the V.D. -VANISHMENT DAY- SOUNDTRACK. The game is a mobile/web strategy RPG with anime-inspired visuals, and the soundtrack offers up classic Yoko Shimomura with elegant orchestral and piano work over an upbeat action-oriented electronic foundation. SuperSweep Records has published the soundtrack, which features a number of great moments.
From the opening notes of “Departure,” you’ll think you’re listening to Shimomura’s counterpart to Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Valkyria Chronicles score with its militaristic march that seemingly prepares you for battle. From there, though, there’s nothing too serious. All of the combat tracks are tinged with a playfulness that ensures an upbeat listening experience. Both “Built a Fire” and “Sortie!” sport cool and sleek electronic backings, with “Sortie!” bringing in a nice woodwind melody. “Rock on the Heavens” brings in explosive drum ‘n’ bass percussion with a big orchestral sound and romantic piano sections that are classic Shimomura. There’s the tense and ominous “Just Beat That Which Lies Ahead of the Road,” the tragic “con fuoco,” the beautiful sweeping “At Night Where Scarlet Flowers Bloom,” the pumping and driving “Nervous Vision,” the chaotic “The Tempest” with its melancholy breaks, the decisive “The Brave Force,” the triumphant “Our Truth,” the tense and mysterious “Instability,” and the heartbreaking piano and strings closer, “No One Knows the Answer,” which hints at something dark and unsettling.
In all, this is solid work from Shimomura, and there aren’t any duds to be found across the album’s 40+ minutes. It’s available at CD Japan for only $20 USD if you’re interested.
Basiscape Records has released the soundtrack to the fifth game in the Metal Max series titled Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes (Metal Saga: Kouya no Hakobune in Japan). The Android/iOS title once again features RPG combat on foot or via vehicles, and Basiscape composer Yoshimi Kudo (Tekken 6, Muramasa, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir) provides an impressive metal-infused orchestral score. It’s always surprising just how well the team at Basiscape can incorporate Hitoshi Sakimoto’s signature sound into their work, so fans of his should also be pleased with this soundtrack.
The opening track, “Crack down!,” is pure metal with high productions values and English vocals. From there, “Mortal Engines” brings big brass and percussion to this upbeat Sakimoto-esque march, “Workaholics Jam” sports funky bass and rock organ, and “The Earth and the Wind” features a gritty Western sound with twangy electric guitar. Theres the playful “March of 65536 Steps” which incorporates Celtic instruments, “No Bullets, No Life” which is a cool spin on electronic-infused metal, and “Rhythm Show,” a loungy funk tune. There are ethereal pads in “Into the Silence,” drum ‘n’ bass in “On the Edge,” playful and silly dubstep in “Elegant Resuscitated Person’s Dance,” and industrial glitch rock in “Bolt and Nut Girl.” Finally, there’s the desperate “Moment of Truth,” the cheery electric pop tune, “Don’t Stop the Heartbeat,” the smooth electronic “Fragment 2 Fragment,” the explosive electronic “Giant Killer” with its massive choir and tension, and the upbeat and funky “Yesterday’s Friend is Today’s Enemy” with its lightning-fast rock.
In all, Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes offers an eclectic mix of songs, but it’s all well produced and shows of Kudo’s versatility and talent. Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.
What an unexpected surprise! Square Enix put out this unassuming soundtrack to their recent iOS/Android title, School Strikers, with music by Mitsuto Suzuki and Kengo Tokusashi. Upbeat melodies, great electronic atmospheres, and some great productive values all make this an enjoyable and surprising listening experience.
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