December 25, 2001
Buy Used Copy
Generally, Yasunori Mitsuda has composed the music for games which have done incredibly well economically and critically. These games include Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, and, to a certain extent, Xenosaga. Tsugunai: Atonement was a game that was released in 2001, somewhere at the start of the PS2’s life; it was a game that was met with mediocre reviews and overall received poor reception. Many aspects of the game were considered flawed, however one aspect which shined was the score, composed by none other than Yasunori Mitsuda. As such, the game did not receive a soundtrack release, but considering Mitsuda owned the rights to the music, he published the soundtrack under his Sleigh Bells label and entitled the album, an cinniùint. an cinniùint utilizes a Celtic style in the most captivating of ways. Read on to see how well the soundtrack fares when compared to Mitsuda’s plethora of musical scores.
The first two tracks of the soundtrack do an excellent job of letting the listener know what to expect on the rest of the soundtrack. In other words, they epitomize Mitsuda’s oft-shown Celtic style so well, both in different aspects, with the first track being more upbeat and bombastic and the second being more solemn and wistful. Much like one would expect, both pieces are excellent, and make an exquisite opening. Overall they set a perfect mood for the rest of the soundtrack.
As just mentioned, the main style used by Mitsuda in his score to Tsugunai is a Celtic one, not dissimilar to his Chrono Cross works. “Whilst I Slept”, with its soft, dreamy atmosphere, reminds me vividly of a misty morning in a renaissance village. Also pertaining to this description is the first of the town themes, “Morning Fog in the Village”. If ever there was a composition which was so amicable, dreamy, and warm all in one, this would be it. The use of bells immediately give off a feel of the morning, as supported by the synthesized vocals and harp. The main melody comes in a fair way through the track, and honestly this is one of the most memorable melodies I have ever heard; I just love it when I find a track like this in a soundtrack, a track that makes me go back to it again and again due to its superior melody.
While on the subject of town themes, there are three other tracks which should be mentioned. “The Pub” is an appealing track that’s easily accessible, since it has an infectiously cheerful melody, very reminiscent of an old Irish pub, where happiness permeates the atmosphere and jigs are danced throughout the night. “Evening in the Village” is another of the three renditions of the town theme; it lives up to the standards set by the soundtrack, since it satisfies all levels when it comes to a quality composition. If you thought the morning version was dreamy, think again, because this is the definitive dreamy track on the album. The final town theme, and my personal favourite, is “Early Afternoon in the Village”. The melody is shown in full here, much like it was in the previous (or next, considering the track’s location on the disc) track, and it’s truly breathtaking. In the same vain to some of Mitsuda’s other town themes, it still cannot be labeled as “generic” or “unimaginative”. I spoke before of epitomizing the album with a track, however this track epitomizes Mitsuda’s Celtic flair to an absolute tee. I can’t describe the track too well, although it is disappointing for me in the sense that it just doesn’t go for long enough, despite it having one loop! Ultimately, it’s a fantastic track, which is flawless in its execution, much similar to all of the tracks I have mentioned in this paragraph. To a certain extent, if you want a reason to purchase the soundtrack, these tracks may be worth the price alone.
The soundtrack continues to flow seamlessly, where innovative tracks are showcased throughout, while still containing that awesome Celtic feel. A track which is completely different to the remainder of the soundtrack, however, is the unique and somewhat eccentric “Find Him!” I must commend Yasunori Mitsuda on the instrumentation used here; an oboe like instrument plays along with some other playful instruments. The supreme instrumentation helps the melody create a bubbly and enjoyable experience for the listener. Such is the case with much of the soundtrack, this piece is sure to put a smile on your face. Going back to the oft-mentioned Celtic theme though, we are shown tracks like “Battle – Level 1”, which has an intense and captivating melody with interesting instrumentation such as and organ like instrument, “Spirit Tower”, with its ominous and celestial vibe as represented by the piano and choral vocals, and “Nabi Fairy”, which is nice and eccentric in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack, and is sort of similar to the aforementioned “Find Him!” when talking about the moods portrayed by the tracks.
I simply couldn’t end this review of Disc One without mentioning a few more tracks in greater detail: “Valley of the Goblins” is great in such a unique way, since (for me at least) it had me coming back to it time and time again. It’s not that the melody is captivating or anything, but the atmosphere and imaginative aspect of the track is what makes me really admire Mitsuda as a composer. “Cursed Forest” does a good job of living up to the composer’s other forest themes. This time around, a very predictable approach is taken, however don’t let that mislead you; the track is predictable in the best possible way. Of all video games tracks I’ve ever heard which try to portray a spooky, “cursed” forest, this one does it the most accurately, with its ominous gongs and eerie sound effects that pepper the track (these sound effects are truly mesmerizing and prove to be the best part of the track). Another somewhat predictable but extremely well executed composition is “A Peaceful Temple”. To some, it may just come across as generic Church like music. But to the sophisticated (or “open minded”!) ear, it is hauntingly beautiful. The choral vocals are the sole contribution to the melody, and they are spectacular. I could use many praising adjectives to describe this track, (much like I could the entire soundtrack) but I shall stop myself.
Rather than relentlessly praising tracks, I feel obligated to mention a couple of tracks which didn’t reach the standards of many others. “Enemy in My Path” is your generic troublesome and frantic music (I’m assuming a boss or “hurry” theme), and as a result the melody comes across as unvarying and a tad monotonous. The instrumentation, however, is excellent, with brilliant violin samples. It’s nasty of me to pick on a track such as “Collapse”, but I must; presumably used in a cut scene, this track is the shortest one on the soundtrack, and for a good reason. The choral vocals are pleasant, although they are unvarying and boring in the end. I’m sure this track would be great if I could connect it to a specific situation or scene, however as a standalone track it’s far from impressive.
I feel bad for not mentioning all of the tracks, but they are basically just as good as most of the tracks I have mentioned, if not better. It’s rare to come across such a consistent disc on a soundtrack, with hardly any compositional flaws. The Celtic feeling may become tedious to some, but to most, it will captivate on every listen in a new way; that is what I call a good piece of work.
“Happiness” opens up a rather dark disc with something more akin to the light-hearted compositions of the first disc. Celtic flute and a myriad of other instruments, ranging from percussion to a hint of bass guitar, are blended to create an extremely memorable melody and one of the highlights of the traditional Mitsuda flair. Other tracks which aren’t extremely dark include both battle themes, “Battle – Level 2” and “Battle – Level 3.” The first battle track has a very Celtic feel and employs some interesting instrumentation. “Battle – Level 2” has a nice blend of percussion, electric piano, bagpipes, done tastefully, and piccolo. They all offer nice balance, however, the sound isn’t entirely battle-esque. “Battle – Level 3,” on the other hand, sounds like a battle track. Employing a more traditional sense of instrumentation, organ, piano, brass, and strings dominate this track given it both a sense of darkness and of urgency. It’s a very nice blend of sounds and is a personal favorite of mine.
As the soundtrack progresses, there is a definite shift in tone on the album. As mentioned above, the first disc is quite light-hearted while the second disc focuses mainly on more emotional, and dark, tracks. Even on the second disc, a progression can be seen in the emotion and darkness in the tracks. Things start off very emotional and slightly dark with “Black Shadow.” Piano takes the center stage in this track, offering a nice, simple, yet effective, approach to reeling the listener in. Ambient sounds also are featured in the track and help to make it feel dark. Following “Black Shadow,” in terms of emotion, is “Vanished Body.” This track also features the piano in the limelight, but is a much darker track. The eerie melody from the piano, in conjunction with the haunting choral background, help to create a piece that is both emotional as well as chilling. While it isn’t the longest track, a very nice development is seen.
Taking a shift from the darker tracks for a moment, we are treated to an extremely emotional piano and Celtic flute track, “Grief.” While the piano is the main focus, the Celtic flute adds some nice flair to the rest of the track and helps to accentuate the melody that the piano produces. Of course, halfway through the first loop, the piano changes towards accompaniment whilst the Celtic flute gets a chance to shine. The intermingling of these instruments evokes a truly captivating response to the listener and the pain apparent in this track is definitely brought to the forefront.
At long last, we have reached the deepest and darkest part of this album. Starting with “Sanctuary of Darkness” and culminating with “Battle to the Devil,” the four tracks about to be mentioned are all very worthy tracks. “Sanctuary of Darkness” showcases the rare use of ambience with Mitsuda, and the even rarer, successful execution of said ambience. Mainly dominated by percussive sounds, the piece makes use of small sections of instrumentation to help create a track filled with darkness. At times, piano can be heard, which helps to give the track a bit of mystery as well, while at others, you will hear some very haunting vocal work, reminiscent of the Shadow Hearts series.
In addition, what better way to musically describe a meeting with the Devil than with a track aptly named after Him? While not as dark as the previous track, the aura of “The Devil” is extremely chilling. Again, the focus on this track is ambience, but this piece shifts the focus on the bass line into the melody line. Haunting piano and sporadic female and male vocals create an atmosphere that is both chilling and frightening. While the bass line is a bit upbeat, it seems to harmonize quite well with the ambience present in the melodic portion of the track. If that wasn’t enough, it seems that once you meet “The Devil,” all hell breaks loose, literally. “Hell’s Resurrection” is another dark track akin to that of “Sanctuary of Darkness.” As before, percussion dominates the bass line and ambience takes center stage again. The melody line is home to what sounds like an extremely eerie and distorted organ. Overall, the ambience of this track is quite fitting and disturbing.
While Yasunori Mitsuda may not be the best at normal battle themes, he definitely has gotten progressively better in his final battle themes. The darkness of this track culminates with “Battle with the Devil,” and is by far one of his greatest achievements in terms of final battles thus far. In this track, he is able to add his signature Celtic flair to the battle, tie the three tracks prior together, and actually make it sound like a battle theme! Starting off with a very ambient sound, this final battle track may upset people at first due to its slow start, but it soon hastens. The instrumentation within this track is extremely lush. Bongos, Celtic flute, strings, piano, harp, vocals, this track has it all. What I like so much about this track is that the inclusion of “The Devil” within the battle track really connects this battle theme with him. In addition, the slower, more ambient sections of the track help tie together both “Hell’s Resurrection” and “Sanctuary of Darkness” into this track as well, to create a evocatively beautiful, haunting, and original piece of music.
Of course, after this culmination, we are left with a lighter soundtrack. Of the remaining two tracks, I’ll mention “All is Redeemed.” This track ends the soundtrack on a very Celtic and happy note. Acoustic guitar, Celtic flute, harp, and percussion are the instruments that shine in this track. They create an extremely poignant melody that is at first very sad and emotional, but soon the track shifts to a more upbeat pace. In doing so, the idea of redemption is finally realized. The melody that the Celtic flute plays in this track is by far one of my favorite melodies on the soundtrack and is extremely joyous in nature. In the end, the mixing of the Celtic instrumentation with which Mitsuda is so often associated really brings a fabulous end to a spectacular album.
It may not be the most diverse and eclectic album out there, but an cinniùint is a compositional marvel. Never has Celtic music been so well interpreted on a video game; tracks such as “Early Afternoon in the Village”, “Nabi Fairy” and “Fortress of Orcs” are examples of Yasunori Mitsuda’s natural flair for composing a Celtic tune while still maintaining a magnificent melody. Stemming from this Celtic aspect, the soundtrack houses more dark music than light, both sides of the spectrum having pleasing music. Tracks such as “Cemetery”, “Cursed Forest”, “Black Shadow” and “Grief” will aid you in feeling remorse or sorrow, whereas pieces like “Happiness”, “The Pub” and “Find Him!” will never fail to bring a smile to your face. Having said this, it is important to know that the first disc is predominantly cheerful, while the second disc is predominantly mysterious and dark. Both discs contrast and complement one another so well, making the soundtrack to Tsugunai, an cinniùint, a truly thorough and enjoyable experience. Ultimately, an cinniuint is a commendable piece of work from Yasunori Mitsuda, one which ranks high up on my list of favourite soundtracks.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 18, 2016.