Tag Archives: Orchestral

Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

The original Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U had one of my favorites soundtracks of 2014, featuring a blend of rock arrangements from across the series alongside some great original tracks. It felt very much like Dynasty Warriors and made sense given the game was a mash-up of different Zelda games. When Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was announced, I thought perhaps we’d get rock arrangements of the beautiful and thoughtful soundtrack to Breath of the Wild. That’s not what we ended up with and for good reason. The Age of Calamity soundtrack is very much in the style of Breath of the Wild with a few action-oriented excursions here and there, but for the most part, the soundtrack lives within the world of Breath of the Wild. This is important given how story-driven Age of Calamity ends up being and how integral to the Breath of the Wild timeline it is. In that way, this approach to the score makes a lot of sense.

Read more about what the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity soundtrack has to offer below. Continue reading Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Review: SQUARE ENIX ACOUSTIC ARRANGEMENTS

Back in 2019, Square Enix kicked off what now looks to be a series with SQUARE ENIX ACOUSTIC ARRANGEMENTS. What’s most remarkable is that the album features arrangements from games that are not often covered, including many from the Game Boy and Super Nintendo eras. It features a small ensemble of strings, piano, guitar, and hand percussion, all packaged with a stylish cover and booklet with extensive credits and commentary for each track in Japanese.

The album opens with the measured “Legend of the Mermaids” from Romancing SaGa 2 before an intense string quartet version of “The Decisive Battle” and “Kefka” from Final Fantasy VI. “Nuclear Fusion” from Seiken Densetsu III gets an alternating romantic/energetic arrangement while “Into the Thick of It” from Secret of Mana gets a dreamy and fantastical cover. The string quartet returns for “Battle with Magus” from Chrono Trigger with an added tinge of tragedy, “The Dawn Warriors” from Final Fantasy V gets flamenco-style guitar and percussion, and “The Farenheit’s Theme Part 2” from Bahamut Lagoon is dynamic with contemplative and adventurous segments. “WARM” from LIVE-A-LIVE captures this track’s sweetness with pizzicato strings and woodwinds, “Palom & Parom” from Final Fantasy IV goes classical with strings and piano, and “The Talon” from SaGa III is a tragic and tense spin on the game’s battle theme composed by one of my all-time favorite composers, Ryuji Sasai. Closing things out is the iconic “Opening Title” from the original Romancing SaGa which is sweet, riveting, and playful, and “Devil Lord Confrontation I” from Romancing SaGa 3 with big piano, guitar, bass, and percussion, ending things with a bang.

Since the release of this album, Square Enix has released a volume dedicated to the Final Fantasy VII Remake as well. Hopefully this will be a lot-running series with more love given to music from Square Enix’s catalog we don’t get to hear often. The album can be purchased from the Square Enix North America store.

NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~ANCIENT FESTIVAL~ (SRVD-5001)

As a huge fan of Yuzo Koshiro and his work on ActRaiser in particular, I couldn’t be more excited that his 1991 Synphonic Suite from ACTRAISER got a 2018 update with new arrangements and a new performance by the New Japan BGM Philharmonic Orchestra (NJBP). The concert featured an original opening theme and Koshiro’s music from The Scheme, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Etrian Odyssey, and of course, Actrasier. Most are presented as short medleys of a few songs from the game and are fantastic, but the highlight for me is the ActRaiser soundtrack performed in its entirety, re-establishing itself in my mind as Koshiro’s longstanding masterpiece. The CD presents the music as a tidy listening experience without the MC portions. It’s also a treat to watch the concert itself on Blu-ray, featuring an exuberant and enthusiastic concert master and a LOT of talking. There’s actually more talk by play time than music, so if you know Japanese, there’s likely a lot to glean from the MC/conductor and Koshiro’s on-stage discussions. Watching the ActRaiser suite brings a whole new appreciation for breadth and depth of the score and highlights the solo performances that are a part of the new arrangements. As usual, we have SuperSweep to thank for publishing the album which contains both the music CD and Blu-ray disc tucked inside a slipcase with snazzy artwork. As “Archives 1,” I hope there’s more to come from the NJBP in the future.

The NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~ANCIENT FESTIVAL~ album is an exclusive to the SuperSweep store, but it’s worth the trouble to try to get your hands on.

SOULCALIBUR VI ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK (SRIN-1161)

Listeners return to the stage of destiny with SOULCALIBUR VI by the Bandai Namco sound team and guest Yukihiro Jindo, courtesy of SuperSweep Records. Fans of the epic orchestral stylings of the series will feel right at home with four discs of music with Junichi Nakatsuru at the helm. Other Bandai Namco team members contributing are Yoshihito Yano, Rio Hamamoto, Syuri Misaki, and Yu Sugimoto, all of whom collectively provide most of the music from the first disc with Jindo handling the rest of the massive score, including much of the cinematic and story cues. I found myself enjoying the contributions by Nakatsuru and Hamamoto the most, but there’s a lot to like throughout especially with Jindo’s more emotionally varied contributions. Some of my favorites are Nakatsuru’s epic opening “The Brave New Stage of History,” Yano’s decisive and uplifting “Undying Legend” (which gets a lovely contemplative take by Jindo in “Fated Soul”), and Hamamoto’s terrifying and tense “Deadland Call” and searing and guitar-laden “The Evil Flame.” The booklet includes the track list in both English and Japanese, credits for every track including live performers, and commentary from all of the composers (in Japanese only).

The four-disc soundtrack is available via SuperSweep Records and can be imported from CD Japan.

Review: A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY – Volume II

We recently had the pleasure of attending a stop of the A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY show and were impressed with the… intimate setting and very clever arrangements. Most of the games in the series get a moment in the spotlight, and Eric Roth, son of Arnie Roth, who many have come to know over the years, is a fantastic host, injecting plenty of humor into the evening. This past year saw the release of a second volume of music, and as such, we thought it would be a good time to give it a spin and share our thoughts.

The album begins with strings and woodwinds in a short arrangement of “A Place to Call Home” from Final Fantasy IX, perfect with its strong folk and fantasy vibes. Then next piece, “Chaos Shrine” from the original Final Fantasy, is a stunning take on the decisive dungeon piece with a slow build incorporating the entire ensemble that climaxes into a sweeping and beautiful take on the piece. Then it’s on to the wind-swept “Sarutabaruta” from Final Fantasy XI with swaying woodwinds and guitar, the playful and upbeat “Golden Saucer” from Final Fantasy VII with a solo piano arrangement, and a flamboyant “Lestallum” from Final Fantasy XV with lots of guitar and a strong carnival-like atmosphere. “Home, Sweet Home” from Final Fantasy V gets a determined and forceful performance, while two surprising pieces, the mysterious and tense “Tower of Magi” from Final Fantasy III and the mesmerizing “Danger in the Forest” from Final Fantasy IX come next. There’s more solo piano with “Final Battle” from Final Fantasy X, a sweeping medley of Final Fantasy XII themes titled “Ivalice Landscape” (one of the highlights at over eight minutes in length), and a solo guitar version of “Elia, Maiden of Water” from Final Fantasy III. There’s bossa nova with “The Yaschas Massif” from Final Fantasy XIII, the decisively swaying ballad, “Crimson Sunrise” from Final Fantasy XIV (an audience favorite at the concert), and a Celtic-tinged “Selbina” from Final Fantasy XI. The album closes out with the epic and desperate “Heroes” from Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward and the soothing “Save Haven” from Final Fantasy XV which is even more warm with the full ensemble.

In all, we highly recommend giving the second volume a whirl and checking out a show near you if you’re lucky enough to catch it. You won’t be disappointed!

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.5 (BSPE-1075)

Basiscape launches into the second half of their gargantuan CARAVAN STORIES soundtrack with Volume 5, this time focusing on the elves. As you’d expect, there’s a majestic and jovial character to the album, making for some of the best listening so far. It begins with upbeat and jazzy piano that will have you tapping your feet in “Luwiera’s Forest,” dreamy female vocals and running piano, acoustic guitar, and ethereal pads in “Iyarr Ancestral Song,” and harp and pizzicato strings accented by Hamauzu-esque piano and strings in “Luwiera Town.” There’s the dance-y piano lines and female vocal snippets of “The Sword of Aurous,” the beautiful yet dangerous electronic-infused “Lappi Mine,” and the angelic and triumphant “Aleia” with regal strings and harpsichord. This volume’s vocal theme comes as a male vocal ballad with acoustic guitar that has a surprise ending. There’s tense and ominous in the extremely dissonant “Dark Corridor,” mesmerizing repetitive piano runs and strings that slowly build in “Tenement of the Blue Spirit,” and descending harp and hissing percussion in the desolate and dark landscape of “Wolven Cape Rovanier.” The main theme takes us out with a whimsical opening and lovely piano and woodwinds at the end.

Volume 5 may be my favorite yet. You can grab the physical CD on CD Japan or the digital release on iTunes worldwide.

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol.4 (BSPE-1074)

Basiscape’s epic CARAVAN STORIES continues with Volume 4, this time dedicated to the dwarves. As such, expect lots of warmer sounds and reverberating cavern-esque soundscapes compared to past volumes. It begins with prancing bagpipes and mechanical clicks and whirs in “Baldu Pipe Town,” the soothing and mysterious woodwinds and piano of “Billibino Pumpland -Nightscape-,” and the energetic galloping battle tune with chugging bass and fluttering woodwinds in “Dynamic Ingenuity.” There’s ominous and dank with glitchy xylophone in “Arlosa Mine,” an explosive orchestral battle track with “Duel Battle -PV Version-,” a twangy Western vibe in “Start of Hunting Season,” and folksy fiddle, bass, and hand percussion in “Mad Cow Brewery.” The vocal theme comes as a full on death metal track with chugging guitars, explosive bass drum, and screaming vocals titled “Markings of a Lifetime,” which comes as quite a surprise. The album closes with the adventurous “Ghelbours Foothills” and its spookier nighttime counterpart, and the CARAVAN STORIES main theme with added mischief in the rolling guitars and strailing strings.

CARAVAN STORIES Original Soundtrack Vol.4 is available physically from CD Japan and digitally worldwide from iTunes.