Ace Attorney Piano Album
Ace Attorney Piano Album
April 23, 2014
Buy at CDJapan
Capcom’s courtroom drama visual novel adventure games series Gyakuten Saiban (known in English as Ace Attorney) was an unexpected runaway success for the company, spawning numerous sequels, spin-offs, and other products. Due to the majority of the games having no voice acting, its music has always been a key aspect effectively used in pushing the narrative along and bringing about the right emotions for each scene and character. Various arrange albums have existed for the series, and in 2014, Capcom’s record label Suleputer released a disc containing 19 variations of themes from the series arranged for solo piano. Though interesting in some aspects, the result is a rather bland and uninspiring album that does little to pay the franchise’s iconic melodies justice.
Piano albums for video game music tend to be hit or miss. Being only a single instrument, such releases can range from excellent to forgettable. Great ones like the arrangements of the Final Fantasy games go above and beyond in terms of listenability, having creative license of the original melodies. Mediocre arrangements such as for the Dragon Quest series do very little to enhance the themes and end up being redundant. Ace Attorney Piano Album is unfortunately in the latter category.
It should be noted that the arranger Tomomichi Takeoka isn’t a bad artist. Though a relative newcomer to the industry, his work on the Okami and Monster Hunter arrangement albums were quite good releases which proved that he has talent and potential. With Ace Attorney Piano Album, however, it’s pretty much a bland effort throughout. For starters, Ace Attorney never had the most complex of musical composition. Its tracks were simple and melodic, but they served their purpose very well in setting the scene due to their unique synth instrumentation and stylistic flair. All of that emotion and character has been sucked out in their transition to piano. There’s hardly anything new added to these arrangements, and much of it sounds boringly vanilla.
The first half of the album consists of “Easy Piano” tracks which have been performed right out of an official sheet music book that’s available for purchase. Almost akin to something one would hear from a child’s piano lesson or evening recital (read: boring), herein lies the disc’s weakest moments. The opening track, “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney ~Courtroom Medley,” is a standard collection of courtroom themes from the first game performed at what could be best described as the bare minimum. Dreadfully homophonic and sans style, the only feeling that even came close to being enjoyable was the interpretation of the “Cornered” melody, but it failed to capture the same amount of emotion the original piece carried. Speaking which, the following track “Investigation 2001 ~Opening/Core Medley” continues this aural trend of dullness, making me want to skip it entirely around the halfway point. And remember how effectively melancholic the detention center theme was? The piano version almost put me to sleep. Completely butchering the tonal shape of the piece, it’s an unfortunate disappointment. And somehow, even the “Victory! ~The First Victory” track ends up sounding hollow and unconvincing, while also ending quite lazily.
Then we move onto the character themes, a staple of the series, which are for the most part largely ineffective in piano form. A let-down for me was the interpretation of Detective Dick Gumshoe’s memorable piece. Here, it’s devoid of emotion and lacking the nuances which made it fit the character. “Pearl Fey ~With Pearly” runs at too slow of a tempo, though its short runtime does little for its already underdeveloped melody. “Elise Deauxnim ~Gentle Melody” at least keeps some of the wistfulness intact, but the lack of the original’s more exotic instrument samples left me cold. The arrangements for fan-favorite “The Steel Samurai: Warrior of Neo Olde Tokyo” and the jazzier “Furio Tigre ~Swingin’ Tiger” do sound livelier, but better versions no doubt exist.
The album’s second half features a notable boost in overall quality, due to the fact that these are brand new arrangements. Tomomichi Takeoka’s arrangement prowess is given more opportunity to shine here, and while the results aren’t perfect, it’s a far better listening experience. A second courtroom medley is given to the first game, and the arrangement is a much stronger effort compared to the album’s opening track. The flow is better, there’s more variation, and most importantly the emotion is actually there. Two other medleys are given to Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations with a similar level of quality. The latter proves to be the best out of the three, with Takeoka offering some mildly impressive cadenza sections.
Odd is the choice of adapting “Berry Big Circus,” which ends up sounding quite different. One of the stronger tracks on the disc, the circular melody and ranging dynamics prove to be more listenable than I thought they would be. The character themes additionally are decent, though nothing really to write home about. “Maya Fey ~Turnabout Sisters Theme 2001” and “Great Revival ~Miles Edgeworth” fit their respective characters well enough and Takeoka offers a few sections of interesting arrangements, but there’s hardly much to consider that noteworthy here. I was also disappointed with the treatment of Godot’s theme, one of the most popular pieces from the series. Some of that jazziness is still there, but the lack of saxophone or any other instruments causes much of the charm to be lost. The album’s final track is a medley of the three objection themes from the trilogy. With fluid transitions and the variations on the respective melodies with differing tones being occasionally interesting, it’s a somewhat competent track which ends everything on a decent note.
Dull arrangements and little variation, the list of Ace Attorney Piano Album’s shortcomings goes on and on. Just like Capcom’s previous piano arrangement album for Okami before it, it’s an unfortunate misfire. Ace Attorney has memorable themes, and previous albums have shown that great arrangements are possible. Tomomichi Takeoka is a talented arranger, but it’s a shame that his skills were not properly utilized here. The saving grace lies within the latter half of the disc with the more fleshed-out arrangements, but even those are hardly worth the asking price this release is going for. I would advise skipping over it entirely, and even hardcore Ace Attorney fans like myself would be disappointed with it. Though not the worst listening experience ever, the series’ orchestral and jazz albums are far better alternatives.
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Posted on May 23, 2015 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on May 30, 2015.