Tag Archives: JRPG

Review: FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES Remastered Edition Original Soundtrack

Square Enix has remastered Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. That means a new generation of fans get to hear Kumi Tanioka’s lovely Celtic-flavored score that enchanted fans on the GameCube. Much of the music is remastered and re-recorded by a Celtic music ensemble with some new tracks by Hidenori Iwasaki and the main theme performed in English by Donna Burke (known for her work on Metal Gear Solid).

The album opens with dreamy bells that transport you to another dimension before the upbeat and adventurous “Morning Sky” comes in with vocals by Yae (the English version featuring Donna Burke) and a bagpipe solo. There’s the charming sweetness of “Today Comes to be Tomorrow,” the jovial “The Village Where it Began,” and the guitar-laden “Caravan Crossroad” to start things off. “Setting Forth” is both ominous and adventurous all at once, “Dust in a Dream World” gets a bit of mystery, and “With Three of Us…” sounds much like a children’s song. The siren-like singing of “Oaths are Forever,” the lovely waltzy folk tune in “My Maggie, My Everything,” and the all-new reflective and somber “Until That Time Comes” are all standouts. There’s rolling percussion in the epic march, “Enemy Stronghold,” the beloved moogle theme in Celtic style in “I’m a Moogle,” searing and guttural synth bass in “Burning in my Heart,” otherworldly bells and triangles in “Mag Mell,” angelic and ethereal choir pads in “Light and Shadow” and “To the Keepers of the Crystal,” and a vocal lullaby again in both Japanese and English with the gorgeous “Moonless Starry Night” are just a taste of what this soundtrack has to offer. It’s all very well done and makes for a wonderful listening experience.

It appears to have been quite an undertaking breathing new life into this already-amazing score, but Square Enix has done it. New recordings with live players, new English-language vocal themes, new compositions, and if you pick up the first-press edition, you also get a bonus disc with the original versions of all the remastered tracks. The album is available on the Square Enix North America store for those who are interested.

Review: FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS Original Soundtrack Vol.2

Noriyasu Agematsu returns with the most excellent music from FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS. The original score was a standout and even earned Agematsu the opportunity to collaborate with Ariana Grande on the game. Vol. 2 brings two more discs of orchestral RPG goodness featuring some of his teammates at Elements Garden as well.

The album begins with the super hero theme song, “Parallel Star,” which feels like a pop song without vocals. From there, we get the tragic “Point of No Return,” the spooky “Misgivings” and the militaristic “Under His Banner.” There’s a lot of variety, but it’s all amazingly well produced. There’s the uplifting orchestral theme, “Another Tale to Tale,” the beautiful and whimsical “Wisdom of Ages,” and the traditional Japanese flavors found in “MUSASABI.” Final Fantasy fans will enjoy the melancholy take on “The Prelude” with Agematsu’s “Dawn.” The bombastic “A Cinematic Clash” and the explosive rock/orchestral theme “Banish the Darkness” with strong Final Fantasy vibes and references are also standouts. “Over the Rain Clouds” is uplifting and triumphant and “The Sky’s The Limit!” sports lightning fast guitar shredding while “Allure of the Unknown” gets a crystalline carvenous sound with hints of “The Prelude.” There are Celtic influences in “Unfettered Waltz,” mystery and intrigue in the exotic “The Order of Pi,” and playful rock organ in “Chill Out.” The sweet solo piano in “Forgiveness” takes us into the final stretch with the ominous and unsettling “Split in Two,” the dance floor stylings of “The Zenith,” and epic orchestra and choir in the very awesome “I, and I Alone” closing things out. A bonus at the comes in the way of “DUEL!! (Band Exvius Version) which is a live rock performance with violin and rock organ and is a nice touch.

Overall, Agematsu follows up his original soundtrack with more amazing music. This one is actually not available on the Square Enix North America store, but can be found on Apple Music and the two-disc CD can be imported from CD Japan.

Review: SQUARE ENIX JAZZ -FINAL FANTASY VII-

Square Enix continues its most excellent jazz album series with a volume dedicated to Final Fantasy VII, which came just in time for the remake. It’s a classy way to relive many of the original’s most memorable melodies. The album starts with an uplifting “Opening” before a swanky and… explosive “Bombing Mission” kicks in with guitar and sax and plenty of solos. “Shinra Inc.” gets cool piano chords and bass, gritty distorted guitars, and a flurry of flute solos, while the sweet and smooth “Aerith” gets some contemplative sax across a poppy arrangement. There’s the swaying “On Our Way,” the bouncy “The Chase” with its dance-y piano work, and big brass and organ in the playful “Cait Sith.” Fan-favorite “Fight On” is piano heavy with funky bass, side sticks, and big brass, and obligatory guitar solo, while “Tifa’s Theme” is appropriately whimsical and floaty with beautiful interplay between saxophone and trumpet. The “JENOVA” arrangement is a bit of a surprise with its sweet piano work, “Cosmo Canyon” sports wailing electric guitar and gets its funk on with some unexpected excursions, and “One-Winged Angel” gets a faithful-yet-fun version with walking bass and extensive brass work. The final track, “Main Theme of FINFAL FANTASY VII” offers a smooth and warm ending to an excellent album, complete with many parting solos.

In addition to the excellent arrangements, the album comes housed in a thick cardboard jacket that opens just like a vinyl, and the CD is event printed to look like a vinyl. The booklet is thick with commentary in both English and Japanese explaining the arrangers’ takes and discussions about jazz, which is a real treat. I actually owned this album digitally before reviewing the physical edition, but I must say the physical edition has a lot to offer. While the Square Enix North America store doesn’t offer this particular version of the album, they do have the live recording released in September, and I recommend checking it out. If you want the original release that I’ve described, you can import it on CD Japan.

Review: Final Fantasy III -Four Souls-

Square Enix released an interesting album on vinyl dedicated to Final Fantasy III with the subtitle Four Souls. It features four new arrangements from the game and their original sound version counterparts on an A and B side, respectively, exclusively on vinyl. Fortunately the vinyl comes with an MP3 download as well. The four tracks include a lovely acoustic pop version of the overworld theme, “Eternal Wind,” with harmonica, xylophone, and acoustic guitar, a beautiful solo harp arrangement of “Elia, The Maiden of Water,” a spunky acoustic take on “Battle 2” which is really well done, and a grandiose piano arrangement of “The Crystal Tower.” It’s a nice collection of remixes of four key themes from the game. Find an unboxing video below after the jump.

If you want to pick up Final Fantasy III -Four Souls-, Square Enix offers it for $39.99 on the North America store.

Continue reading Review: Final Fantasy III -Four Souls-

GLORY OF HERACLES SOUND CHRONICLE (SRIN-1119)

You’re probably like me and don’t know a whole lot about the JRPG series Heracles no Eikou (Glory of Heracles). That’s because the games never left Japan. However, when our colleagues at SuperSweep, in their undying quest to release classic game music to the masses, announced this six-CD set, we definitely wanted to check it out. The box set includes the soundtracks to all four numbered games in the series (the first two on Famicom and the second two on Super Famicom), a Game Boy spin-off, a disc featuring a remastered arrange album and unused music, and a disc of all-new arrangements created just for this set.

Having zero expectations, I found myself impressed with the catchiness of many of the melodies and was particularly drawn to the Glory of Heracles II and IV soundtracks as they have a strong classical flavor not too unlike Dragon Quest, which is fitting given that many note that Glory of Heracles seems heavily inspired by Dragon Quest. How often is it that you get to hear an authentic Famicom or Super Famicom RPG soundtrack for the first time these days? Be on the lookout for “Mountain of the Spiraling Wind” and “The Wings of Pegasus,” among many others. The arrangements, performed by the Data East house band, GAMADELIC include jazz fusion and vocal arrangements. They’re expertly done and left me wanting even more! The included booklet (in Japanese) also has composer breakdowns and commentary from the music and game development team, which is a nice touch.

Pick up the album on CD Japan if you’re interested in giving it a spin.

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol. 8 (BSPE-1081)

Basiscape is finally wrapping up their eight-disc CARAVAN STORIES soundtrack series.  While many of the earlier volumes focused on specific regions and races of the world, Volume 8 concludes with music from the game’s story. As such, this volume offers a more eclectic mix of music compared to past volumes, but that doesn’t mean the series doesn’t go out with a bang.

It begins with the bombastic and spooky-yet-comical “Assault on Enigma” before launching into the mechanical and piston driven percussion of “Demon Transformation,” the whimsical strings and woodwinds of “Claw Knights,” and the seriously spooky “Guriam Borderland.” It’s then on to the alternating determined and chill “Philosopher’s Tower,” the desolate “Ancient Fortress” featuring sitar, and the playful “Slapstick Castanet” with accordion, marimba, and bassoon. There’s the dancey “Jillian’s on Stage,” the rapid-fire Celtic strings and brass stabs of “Duel,” and the regal and sinister “House of the Lord.” “Crescent Hot Spring Town” is contemplative and features swaying strings and toy percussion, “Rallying Man” is energetic and adventurous with a signature Sakimoto aesthetic, and “Trumbull Dominion” is slow and brooding and includes tinges of jazz. The closer, “The Snow Girl and the Three Santas,” sports a huge big band with brass, tambourine, bells, and an appropriately celebratory mood.

The final album in the series can be purchased physically on CD Japan and digitally on iTunes. Feel free to catch up on the rest of the albums in the series here.

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol. 7 (BSPE-1077)

We’re nearing the end with Basiscape’s massive CARAVAN STORIES soundtracks. This Japanese mobile/PC RPG’s soundtrack spans eight volumes, each dedicated to a different race from the game. Volume 7 is focused on the lizardmen, and is appropriately bleak and ominous. Composition duties are largely split between Basiscape’s Kazuki Higashihara and Yoshimi Kudo.

The album opens with the exotic and ominous percussion and tense strings of “Hugo’s Cauldron” before jumping into the pumping bass, epic bell tolls, and intense strings and woodwinds of “Bunwaii Desert” and it’s night variant with folksy guitar. The battle-like “Burning Blade” with its explosive percussion and ascending string stabs might remind you of Final Fantasy Tactics, while the electronic percussion, grandiose strings, bagpipes, and sense of tragedy in “Lloyd-Hann” is also a highlight. There’s the robot-like “Kinsfolk Fractured Zone,” marimba and bass synth in the comical yet frantic “Voracity of Chaos,” gurgling synths and pounding percussion in “Tyrant of Chaos,” intensely catchy synth lines in “Power Struggle -Inferiority-,” and an industrial sound with a wonderful chorus in “Battle with Head of Warrior.” Rounding out the album are the militaristic march, “Hero’s Trial,” a spooky waltz with a male operatic lead incorporating the main theme in “Caravan Trip -Festival of the Dead,” a broodier male vocal track with an auto-tuned backup choir in “Mansion from the Depths,” and a surprisingly serene and otherworldly version of the main theme titled “Caravan Trip -New Year-.”

There’s one volume remaining in the CARAVAN STORIES series. Watch out for that soon. In the meantime, Volume 7 can be purchased on CD Japan. It’s also available digitally on iTunes. Information on past volumes can be found here.

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol. 6 (BSPE-1076)

Basiscape is back with Volume 6 of their epic mobile RPG soundtrack to CARAVAN STORIES, with this volume dedicated to the oceanic Gessy folk. Expect beautiful waterscapes and a touch of the exotic. It all begins with angelic pads, woodwinds, and marimba in a serene opener before moving on to everything from dancing marimba and playful energy in “Temple of Pakama” and chaotic dancing accordion in “Laurara’s Dance” to watery crystalline bells and glassy pads in “Narupopo Fruit Garden -Nightscape-” and bubbly and uplifting in “Chaktek Great Rift Valley.”

The highlight of the album is easily the vocal theme, “Coraggioso! Coraggiosamente!,” a male operatic piece that is energetic and a lot of fun, giving “Maria and Draco” a run for its money. The album continues with the familiar “Iyarr’s Narrator” which is warm and full of mystery, a touch of the series main theme with whistling, twangy guitars, and bagpipes in “Caravan Trip -South-,” dangerous didgeridoo and exotic woodwinds in “A Wild Kid in a Great Island,” and intense ninja-flavored action with chugging shamisen and explosive percussion in “Sword Fight.”

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol. 6 is another great addition to the series which will wrap up after Volume 8. Grab it on CD Japan if you want the physical edition or on iTunes from mostly anywhere.

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol.2 (BSPE-1072)

Basiscape has reawakened with eight volumes of music from the mobile/PC MMORPG CARVAN STORIES set to release between now and the beginning of 2019. The first volume established a whimsical fantasy atmosphere, and Vol. 2 continues on with music focused on the human areas of the game.

It all begins with a reprise of the lovely main theme with “Caravan Trip -Nightscape-,” a sweet and angelic spin with piano, bells, and woodwinds. There’s the energetic and uplifting battle theme, “The Method of Fighting,” the dreamy guitars, tribal percussion, layered brass, and soothing wildness of “Eastern Part of Denon Hill,” and the epic and grandiose “Mauriana Region” with romantic string work and folksy banjo (there’s also a twinkly sleep version). “The Light for Valmuer Street” comes as a male vocal ballad with a Spanish flair, “Waterling Main Road” sways in a grand and contemplative manner with snapping percussion, and “Scott Battlefield” is both mysterious and determined with pizzicato strings and competing time signatures. Rounding out the album is the bubbly and folksy “Reuben” with acoustic guitar, hand percussion, and Celtic instruments.

Grab CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol. 2 on Amazon to get the latest goodness from Basiscape.

Review: I am Setsuna Original Soundtrack

There’s been a lot of talk of Chrono series influences on Square Enix’s new RPG, I am Setsuna. That immediately had me interested in the game and its soundtrack, and upon learning that that the score would be recorded almost entirely on solo piano, my anticipation grew. The score features two discs of piano performances that touch on all the RPG trappings, including a bass-heavy and dangerous battle theme (“Deadly gamble”) and frightening dungeon theme (“Dark caves”) to the cute and whimsical “The warmth of life” and beautiful and serene ballad, “Hidden intentions.”

I was surprised at times just how versatile I am Setsuna is despite relying on a single instrument. I really love “No turning back” with its upbeat action and distinctly Asian vibe, “March of the brave” and its semi-serious approach that’s both playful and determined, the reflective and somber “Regal ruins,” the rapid staccato notes of “Endless crusade,” the mysterious “A secret passage,” the rambunctious “Rare,” and probably my favorite track on the album, “Silent snow,” which features twinkling piano notes that descend in a sorrowful fashion with just a tinge of beauty. I’ve noted that the soundtrack is “mainly” piano several times now, and that’s because tracks like the tense and lightning-fast “Relentless advance,” the energetic and wondrous “A fantastic encounter,” the determined “Out of time,” and the explosive “Hidden danger” also add in bass and percussion to great effect (you really notice the additions when none of the other tracks feature them). There’s also a little chiptune surprise in “Dreamer’s conclave” tucked away at the end of the album that is quite a treat.

In all, I really enjoyed my time with the I am Setsuna soundtrack. It offers icy atmospheres and beautiful ballads, perfect for a game that takes place in the snow, and does a lot with a single instrument. Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested in giving it a listen.