Disgaea 3 -Absence of Justice- Original Soundtrack
Disgaea 3 -Absence of Justice- Original Soundtrack
Nippon Ichi Software
January 31, 2008
Buy Used Copy
Disgaea 3 was mostly continuous with its predecessors, but it differed in a few significant ways. It was developed for the PlayStation 3 rather than the PlayStation 2, but this isn’t really reflected in the soundtrack. The series has always been quite technologically commanded in the audio department so the producers decided that it was sufficient to use the same samples as its predecessors here rather than live instruments. More significant was the school setting that helped to give the title an even more youthful feel than the other titles. Tenpei Sato makes clear efforts to fit the scenario with plenty of upbeat music in a variety of styles. While he ensures the technical competence of his music largely remains, a lot of the music sounds irritating rather than endearing as a result. The soundtrack is thus weaker than its predecessors, but is it still worthy of a listen?
Starting with the vocal themes, a shortened version of “Demon Academy” introduces the Netherworld School the game is set in. Dominated by menacing females singing alone and as a chorus, it is written in the spirit of “Lord Laharl’s Hymn” from the original Disgaea and even integrates a few snippets from the classic theme. Unfortunately, it lacks internal rationale — offering a jazz big band introduction seemingly unrelated to the rest of the composition and frivolously introducing vocal parts to the point of overwhelming listeners — resulting in a relatively abrupt and cluttered creation. The extended version not included here is something of an improvement. In near enough every passage of the male vocal big band piece “Unlucky Hero”, something different happens; from changes of tempo, addition and withdrawal of female backing singers, dabs of muted trumpet, or the transition into an interlude featuring flashy piano runs. For me at least, there was too much going on and no real focus or strong melody to latch on to.
Most of the other vocal themes are a real select taste. The “Demon Academy Prospective Student” features a girl’s childish out-of-tune singing against march accompaniment made from all sorts of nonsensical instrumentation. “Demon Academy Alma Master” is written in similar vein to the other academy themes and, again, isn’t very enjoyable. The strong female vocals and bold accompaniment of “Extreme Outlaw Overlord” and “Go, Mao!” provide the potential for them to be great pieces on par with Disgaea‘s “Etna Boogie”; however, the former features insistent nauseating backing singing from a young female chorus and the latter features accelerandos that become unbearable on a stand-alone level. The ending theme “A Song For You” retains the jazz feel and youthful tones of previous themes but is relatively conventionally written and finely sung, having a gospel feel in places. With this excellent exception, I found the vocal themes very difficult to listen to.
There are regular highlights among the instrumental tracks. The action theme “Rock Crystal” integrates a light rock style reminiscent of Sato’s old-school works, adding some of the ghostly Disgaea touch in the fabulously sequenced electric guitar lines. “Poem of the Vagabond” is seemingly inspired by the Wild Arms series, combining catchy enchanting whistling with laidback western style instrumentation. Rock and western approaches seem to fuse together in “Dead End”, “Modern Times”, and “Windin’ Rinding”, all quite motivating compositions. Also of note is “Tales of Innocent Youth”, where Iwadare-esque rock passages intersect western style trumpet solo, and “Chinese Sword”, a fun fusion of Chinese pentatonic violin melodies, light rock accompaniment, and warped electronic beats. The problem here is that there is little originality — Sato has taken most of these approaches before, often to even greater success, meaning they’re not exactly a unique selling point.
While the soundtrack lacks the deep emotional core of its predecessors, there are some emotional compositions. Sato once again fantastically exploits a guitar, strings, and piano ensemble to heartrending effect in “Lonely Room”, while the evocative panpipe and piano use of “Whistle of Memory” inspires contemplation at the end of the journey. Sato relies on various RPG clichés with “Makai Fugue”, “Pathétique No. 7”, and “Embraced by Darkness”, which integrate menacing organ work, tragic choir chants, and horror pizzicato strings respectively to good effect. Probably the most experimental track is “Blue Concerto”, which combines modernist piano utterings with quite dissonant orchestration. As for the final battle theme “Last World”, this blends tense orchestration, haunting synth choral work, and ethnic inspired violin, woodwind, and percussion, excelling in its development passages but less so in its vanilla body.
Unfortunately, the majority of the remaining instrumental tracks fall into the trap of the vocal themes. “Drunkard Street”, “AKUMA Galops”, “Mr. Champloo”, “Great Glider”, and “Baby PIG” feature an overkill of novelty instrumentation and silly motifs. On a technical level, most of them are refined and developed, but they predominantly focus on obnoxious elements. For me at least, these tracks are exactly what a light-hearted soundtrack shouldn’t be — extremely irritating on a stand-alone basis. Unfortunately, this has its biggest impact at the start of the soundtrack, where most of these are clustered along with several vocal tracks. Material like “Departure to Glory” and “Orange Runner” are more bearable, but blaringly bold and brassy. For me at least, this means that they’re not really enjoyable out of context, much like several themes on the soundtrack for its predecessors.
This soundtrack is a regression from its predecessors in most senses. All but one of the vocal tracks and a significant proportion of the instrumental tracks are potentially irritating due to Tenpei Sato’s misjudged approaches to capturing the light-hearted theme of the game. While some will have more tolerance for them than I do, I’d recommend anyone who cannot listen to bombastic childish music to avoid these themes. As for the remainder, there is some genuinely enjoyable and emotional material here, my favourites being “Poem for the Vagabond”, “Blue Concerto”, and “A Song For You”. However, when the core of the soundtrack is quite offensive and true creativity is lacking, I do not feel this is sufficient to compensate for the disappointment. This particular soundtrack cannot be purchased as it is packaged with the Japanese release of the game. However, a best selection of the score will feature in the commercially available arranged album, but its likely focus on vocal tracks may mean this will be an unwise focus. For now, I’d suggest sticking to the other titles in the series.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.