Tag Archives: PlayStation 4

Review: NieR Music Concert & Talk Live Blu-ray

I absolutely adore NieR. It ranks among my favorite soundtracks of all time. I’m also a huge fan of vocalist Emi Evans, and I’ve always been disappointed that I’ve never been able to see her perform the music from NieR lives in all the many times she’s done it. Thankfully Square Enix decided to publish this recent concert and live talk event on Blu-ray for the world to enjoy, and enjoy it I have.

The performance includes all the key tracks, with MoNACA composer and pianist Keigo Hoashi performing his own themes along with the lovely Reiko Tsuchiya Quartet. Vocalists, including Emi Evans, are of course featured prominently. There’s the somber introduction, “Snow in Summer,” followed by Emi Evans’s angelic vocals in “Hills of Radiant Winds,” “Kaine,” and “Song of the Ancients / Devola.” I realize I’m going over them quickly here, but they are each absolutely stunning compositions and live performances.

Things get more interesting with “The Wretched Automatons,” which sees Emi Evans perform her usual lead with Nami Nakagawa (also a performer from the original NieR soundtrack) handling the lower notes. Nagakawa truly impresses throughout the entire evening with her amazing range. She can hit some incredible lows and highs, making a perfect accompaniment to Evans or running the entire range all on her own, including on her NieR: Automata track.

Vocalist J’Nique Nicole comes to the stage to perform “Weight of the World” from Automata. The track has a sort of sleek and sexy ballad vibe, similar in style of something from Metal Gear Solid of 007. It’s an interesting track, and I’m curious to see how it sets the tone for the rest of the score.

Evans again comes to the stage to perform the heartbreaking “Grandma,” the sweet and reflective “Ashes of Dreams,” and is joined by Nakagawa for a riveting encore, “Song of the Ancients / Fate” featuring the two performing in perfect harmony. It’s quite a thing to see done live.

I’m glad they decided to keep the talk separate from the concert, as watching long portions of talk in the middle of the music can be a drag. I also enjoy the packaging design, with the sleek black and white cover with a nice wood grain texture that lends it some class.

In all, I couldn’t be more happy with this release. The music isn’t included in MP3 format on the disc like other Blu-ray releases have been, so you’ll have to pick up the limited edition version of the game to get the audio alone.

Feel free to pick up the Blu-ray on CD Japan in the meantime if you’re a fan of NieR’s music!

Review: FINAL FANTASY XV Original Soundtrack

Yoko Shimomura’s long-awaited soundtrack for Final Fantasy XV is finally here. I tried my best not to spoil it for myself, only listening to a few scattered samples and playing through one of the two pre-release demos, but even those demos couldn’t have prepared me for what was in store. The score is simply massive. It’s probably the most diverse and most “live” Final Fantasy soundtrack to date, with orchestras, session artists, and more spread over 96 tracks. I was surprised to find strong blues and Hollywood-style electronic/orchestral hybrid influences throughout, and I think fans of Yoko Shimomura will be pleasantly surprised by the variety.

I obviously can’t run through 96 tracks, but I can call out some of the key tracks. The title theme, “Somnus (Instrumental)” is melancholy and beautiful, which is a good way to sum up the majority of the score. The elegant piano work featured here is the binder that brings the entire body of work together, weaving in and out of tracks where you might not even expect it. It’s then on to blues with the spunky “Hammerhead,” which comes right out of a dusty western flick, while the exploration theme, “Wanderlust” combines whimsical orchestra with this gritty Western sound.

The battle themes are fitting, with the tense dissonance of “Encroaching Fear” that acts as a lead in to confrontations, and the powerful string and brass “Stand Your Ground” acting as the battle theme proper. “Lurking Danger” is a dark and terrifying piece that plays when a major confrontation is around the corner, and “Hunt or be Hunted” is a bombastic orchestral track that will have you thinking Metal Gear. Other standouts include “NOX AETERNA” with its profoundly distraught string work, the explosive “Veiled in Black” with contrasting chugging electric guitars and romantic piano sections, and the somewhat comical fishing theme, “Reel Rumble,” which sports rock organ and big brass to accompany your aquatic battles.

There is quite an eclectic assortment throughout, with the feel-good “Relax and Reflect” coming as a lovely contemporary jazz tune, the dreamy acoustic “Safe Haven,” and one of my favorites, the funk-infused “Urban Chrome” that accompanies the garage where you make modifications to your car, sporting jazzy keys and wah-wah rhythm guitar. There’s bossa nova with “Galdin Quay,” the infectiously upbeat alternative rock with “Bros on the Road,” the Spanish-flavored “Lestallum” with guitar and shakers, and the magnificent “Valse di Fantastica,” a lovely waltz that feels so distinctly Shimomura. I really enjoyed the sweet and sweeping “NOCTIS” as well, which is warm and uplifting, as well as the sorrow-tinged “Song of the Stars” with its solo female vocals.

This is Final Fantasy, however, and the menu theme offers a lovely chillout version of “The Prelude” titled “Crystalline Chill.” There are new takes on the Chocobo theme, and also a radio that plays classic Final Fantasy tunes that has series fans abuzz. Interestingly, Final Fantasy XV doesn’t hit you with wall-to-wall music, but rather leaves a lot of silence to emphasize the moments where music does actually play. This allows players who so desire to fill in the gaps with the music in the car (and MP3 player that allows you to take that same music with you on foot). It’s certainly a nice touch for fans to enjoy their favorite Final Fantasy tunes within Final Fantasy XV.

The drama definitely gets more heavy as the score progresses, so without spoiling any of the game by discussing the feelings associated with key tracks from the latter portion of the soundtrack, suffice it to say that you’re in store for an emotional roller coaster.

In all, while this is a different kind of Final Fantasy score that we have never heard before, I think it works. It’s definitely more Western in style in that it’s less thematic and more background score to accent the game’s action without standing out too strongly at any given moment, but playing through the game, I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

You can pick it up on CD Japan in four-disc CD, one-disc Blu-ray, and in massive limited edition format, the last of which includes a piano arrangement disc and all of the music from the in-game radio.

Review: WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY Original Soundtrack

I haven’t been keeping close tabs on World of Final Fantasy as a game, but I have been greatly looking forward to the soundtrack, particularly after learning Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu would be at the helm and after hearing the samples from the Tokyo Game Show sampler this year. The album doesn’t disappoint. There are wonderful melodies throughout, fantastic arrangements of songs from across the Final Fantasy series, and great production values.

It’s hard to call out just a handful of songs, but I’ll do my best here. The opening theme, “Innocent²,” is a beautiful vocal ballad with strong Celtic and pop vibes, reminding me of the infectiously upbeat Genki Rockets. It’s actually by Ryo Yamazaki, and it’s incredibly well done. “World of Beauty,” one of my favorite tracks, sports swelling strings and contemplative piano before moving into a triumphant and uplifting section that screams adventure. There’s Hamauzu’s signature strings and piano throughout with the playful “Lann’s Melody,” the glitchy futuristic electronic track “World of Nine Wood Hills” which sounds like an IMERUAT song complete with vocals presumably by Mina, and an upbeat orchestral rock tune with chugging bass and dancing piano called “World of Battle” which was previewed on the aforementioned TGS sampler. Other favorites include the dreamy lullaby, “Refreshing Melody,” the mesmerizing “Labyrinth of Dragons” with its repetitive layers, twirling piano, and Mina’s voice once again, the slow night variation of the main theme, “Moonlight Melody,” the tense espionage music in “Confrontation Melody,” the upbeat and folksy “World of Sunshine,” the spooky and ethereal “Labyrinth of Trees,” and the closing vocal track, “World Parade.”

And those arrangements I mentioned? They’re many in number, and some of my favorites include “Snow -F,” a very contemplative and slowed down version of the iconic Final Fantasy XIII theme, a lovely regal strings and harpsichord version of “Castle Cornelia” and a killer rock performance of “The Scene of Battle” from the original Final Fantasy, a super hero version of “Edgar” from Final Fantasy VI with rockin’ guitar, string stabs, and big brass, “Don’t be Afraid” from Final Fantasy VIII with a heavy electronic bass and surfer rock guitar, and “The Sending” from Final Fantasy X with its Japanese instrumentation worked in with glitchy electronics.

In all, this is one of the best Final Fantasy albums I’ve heard in some time. Hamauzu and team have done a wonderful job with the original tunes and the arrangements alike. I could even go for some arrangements of the original themes! Piano Collections, anyone?

Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: STAR OCEAN 5 -Integrity and Faithlessness- Original Soundtrack

Motoi Sakuraba has had quite a prolific career. At one point, he was chugging out several four-disc soundtracks per year, all with his signature progressive rock style. He took a break from it all to work on more orchestral and choral works with his excellent Dark Souls soundtracks, but I was certainly looking forward to a return to his roots with Star Ocean 5, and the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint. There’s all the space fantasy rock you can handle, and even a few tracks that sound like they’d be right at home in Dark Souls. Expect chugging guitars, laser-like synths, and tons of rock organ; Sakuraba is back!

Four discs of material is a lot to wade through, so I’ll try to call out my favorites, which include “The Fecund Plains of Resulia,” an epic and bombastic fantasy track with a powerful and uplifting melody, “Central Resulia, The Capital” with regal strings and harpsichord, lending a rustic feel to this beautiful symphonic piece, “Spacetime Chaos” with its layered and mesmerizing pads, the horrifying “Flabbergasted” with its shrill strings atop a bed of deep brass and scattered percussion, “Cruel Fortune, How Your Wheel Doth Turn” with its heartbreaking string swells and woodwinds, “Over the Planet” with its tense and determined melody, “Lakes and Marshes With Doubt” with its layered bell tones and ethereal ambiance, “Silk Road in the Sky II” with its trippy space synth leads and Jean Michel-Jarre-esque pads, the dangerous march, “Event Horizon,” with its buzzing strings and terrifying brass swells, “Uncontrollable Anger” with its ominous and mysterious strings and bass that is reminiscent of Jaws, the tragic and sinister “Tears in the Sun Make a Rainbow,” “Mission to Deep Space” with its jazzy saxophone and electronic elements, and “Do Evil” with its beefy synth sweeps and dissonant strings.

That classic Sakuraba prog rock sound? It’s heard everywhere, but some of the standouts include “Wild Fight, No End in Sight” with his bizarre time signatures and explosive battle stylings, “Under Pressure” with a funky bass line and ominous strings and pads, and “Mortal Combat” with its lightning-fast guitar work and intense builds. In terms of channeling that dark and bombastic Dark Souls sound, look no further than “Hour of Judgement,” “Kronos,” and “Powerbroker,” all of which are tense, grandiose, and awesome.

Sakuraba fans like myself will definitely have the nostalgia flowing by the time this album is through. Newcomers will benefit from hearing Motoi Sakuraba’s classic rock stylings through the lens of his extensive experience working on more orchestral compositions over the past several years. In any case, it’s awesome, and fans of RPGs and rock music will want to pick it up on CD Japan.

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.

ODIN SPHERE LEIFTHRASIR Original Soundtrack (BSPE-1057~8)

Odin Sphere fans should rejoice. Not only is the game being released in HD remake form, but there’s new music written by Basiscape written specifically for the new version as well. Basiscape has released the two-disc soundtrack on Basiscape Records, available in physical CD format in Japan (see CD Japan) or digitally on iTunes International.

Fans of Hitoshi Sakimoto and Basiscape will find a lot to love. From the beautiful new version of the main theme complete with choir to tense Sakimoto-esque battle themes, a mysterious and serene forest theme, an oppressive lava area theme with clattering chimes, a mischievous forest kingdom, an otherworldly netherworld, and a soothing track to listen to while digging through the text archive, there’s something for every fantasy music lover. There’s playful and exotic, heroic and energetic, and bombastic and regal. Even flamenco and Celtic music make an appearance. In addition to the new tracks, there are also five arranged versions from the original score and this new material to enjoy.

Grab if it you’re an Odin Sphere or Basiscape fan!

Review: Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below

I’m a huge fan of Dragon Quest and the series music by Koichi Sugiyama. I also loved last year’s Hyrule Warriors, so I was looking forward to seeing and hearing the Dynasty Warriors formula applied to the Dragon Quest series. Would they take the route of including rock renditions of classic Dragon Quest themes to go along with the action, or would they adhere to the symphonic approach that the series has come to be known for?

While playing through Dragon Quest Heroes, every element drips with fan service, right down to the music and sound effects (some of the best in the business!). In the end, composer Koichi Sugiyama, who handled the music himself, opted for a classical style, arranging his themes from across the series using a synthesized orchestra library. While I would have loved to have heard some live music, the orchestral renditions contribute greatly to the waves of nostalgia that will hit players. The soundtrack is, of course, battle theme heavy, and Dragon Quest has some amazing battle themes. It was lovely getting to enjoy them once more while slashing through iconic Dragon Quest baddies, and the various town, castle, and other miscellaneous themes all fit together nicely into this package.

While I can’t say I know the music so well that I was able to pick out any new compositions, perhaps somebody out there will point them out if there are any. I’ve seen a lot of rumbling online about Square Enix’s policy about not allowing streaming of the game with the music on and wrongfully blaming Square Enix for this “ridiculous” policy, but in case any readers are finding this article because of that policy, I’d note that composer Koichi Sugiyama owns entirely the rights to his music, so the fact is that Square Enix can’t grant permission to streamers to play the game on live stream with the music on because it’s outside of their authority.

I’m guessing that even though most, if not all, of the music here is from previous games in the series, given that they’re new arrangements, there will likely be a soundtrack release. We can look forward to that along with the next Dragon Quest Heroes game!