Disgaea 4 -A Promise Unforgotten- Arrange Soundtrack
Disgaea 4 -A Promise Unforgotten- Arrange Soundtrack
June 29, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Tenpei Sato has been the go-to strategy RPG composer for Nippon Ichi Software for some time now, creating many varied soundtracks to games such as Phantom Brave, Soul Cradle, or the earlier entrants in the Disgaea series. While many regarded the soundtracks to Disgaea and Disgaea 2 quite highly, many felt that Disgaea 3 felt a bit lacking musically. Recently, the fourth entry in the series was released for the PlayStation 3. As with every other game in the series, an arrange album was released featuring arranged and expanded music from the original soundtrack, with many tracks featuring live violin. How does it turn out?
As with the original soundtrack, the album opens up with “Last Engage,” a theme that is most similar to Disgaea 2’s opening theme, “Sinful Rose.” This is an energetic, catchy vocal theme sung by a group called Secret Character, comprising of Asami Shimoda and Akiko Hasegawa, with backing vocals by Chika Takahashi and Hidemi Nakanishi. It is primarily orchestral and rock influenced but features some electronic and pop influences as well. When it comes to the album version, it’d be wise to consider it the full version of the song. It features an expanded opening, focusing on electronic and rock, before moving into the theme featured on the original soundtrack. In addition, there are some expanded verses, featuring some groovy bass guitar and orchestral tones that aren’t present in the original and a lovely orchestral bridge with some edgy electric guitar work. The second theme, “Candlelight,” features an expanded version of the original, with a fuller orchestral sound. I find it to be much more successful than its counterpart, adding some beautiful brass tones and while it doesn’t differ too much from the source material, the small nuances, particularly in the orchestral accompaniment definitely make for a better listening experience.
There are also quite a few notable battle themes as well. “Sparkling” features the motif, particularly in the introduction, heard in “Last Engage” but overall is an original theme with some fantastic work. I particularly love the rock influence combined with the wonderful brass harmonies, the haunting choral work, and the piercing violin work. The expanded version features a lovely solo sequence featuring some edgy guitar work. In addition, there is some exquisite piano work, expanded orchestral bridges, and a lovely violin-based ending. It’s a stunning track and one of my favorite themes on the album. “Beast King’s Claw Mark,” on the other hand, manages to create a very ethnic-tinged track full of some wonderful violin and some rock influences. It’s a bit more like Sato’s battle themes in Phantom Brave, where he employs the use of some Japanese instrumentation to create a beautiful soundscape. What I like about the arranged version is the slower tempo in the introduction when it comes to the violin. It gives the theme a very endearing equality during the beautiful bridge before moving into the faster paced sections of the track. .
The arrangement for “Crimson Cross” is another fantastic rendition of the original. Opening up with some beautiful strings work, it moves into an orchestral rock theme with a ton of energy. The guitar melody is utilized in such a way that gives it a very dramatic and powerful effect, while the orchestral accompaniment manages to accentuate the overall atmosphere. There is a wonderful, lengthy guitar solo that comes into the mix about halfway through the theme, providing even more energy to the theme and this increased focus on guitar work definitely improves the original, as the orchestral tones from the original are still kept, giving it a nice atmospheric and textural contrast. “Piano Sonata D No.4” opens up with a very smoky atmosphere before moving into a powerful orchestral theme with some beautiful piano work. While it isn’t always the focus, I do think it helps bring elegance to the theme. At the same time, I find the powerful martial percussion, the heroic brass passages, and the romantic strings work to be a very beautiful accompaniment to the piano when it is featured and as a strong executor of atmosphere when the piano is absent. The expanded sections are an absolute treat as well, featuring a very romantic violin solo and a more sinister atmosphere at times, especially during the climax at the end of the theme.
The vocal theme, “Arcadian Vampire,” sung by Masako Okouchi with supporting vocals by Tenpei Sato and Rikiya Kinouchi, is definitely the most playful of the vocal themes and its extended version is definitely even more so. The opening supports some ethereal, haunting vocals before moving into the vocal opening present in the original. The overall soundscape is one of jazz with a focus on more big band sounds; however, it’s nothing like the Disgaea 3 vocal themes. There is also a really fantastic latin flavor that is also present in the theme, even if it is subtle, which I find to be a nice touch. I think all the vocalists work together to bring the melody to the forefront with the vocal harmonies by Kinouchi and Sato really highlighting the more powerful passages in the song, particularly during the chorus. In addition, the expanded version also supports a beautiful swing /orchestral jazz bridge that really adds to the playful atmosphere.
There are also some playful themes on the album. “Puppet Smile” is a very quirky orchestral track with a focus on brass and percussion. Overall, it manages to capture a very awkward and theatrical nature; however, I do find it to be one of the weaker themes on the album. There are definitely some moments of brilliance in the theme, especially when the woodwinds are featured as they really help bring attention to the melody. The arranged version features an additional section that adds to the playfulness of the piece. In a way, it has a very Russian soundscape and adds a bit of mystery to the mix, but overall, the theme is largely unchanged, with some minor changes in terms of tone during the end of the piece. “Lord Willing,” on the other hand, manages to succeed a bit more in creating a playful mood. There are also a lot of elements in here, but it has almost a spaghetti western influence to it at times. However, I really enjoy the focus on strings more than the focus on brass, as it helps bring a softer touch to the entire piece. The B section that features some lovely piano is also a welcome treat. The arranged version features a focus on live violin as well as an additional section that carries a very wispy atmosphere, reminiscent of a stroll down a busy town street. At least, that’s how I envision it.
For the most part, the arranged version of “Pandora Ignition” doesn’t change much from the original. It’s still pure, unadulterated fun and still manages to create an energetic atmosphere. I love the orchestral rock nature of the theme, reserving the orchestral elements purely as harmonizing elements. The rock elements as well as Tenpei Sato’s voice really help bring a bunch of power to the mix and even though Tenpei Sato’s voice may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it really manages to work well with the composition in this song. In addition, there’s a short, but sweet, electric guitar solo that really manages to bring the track to a whole new level, which I wish was extended in the arrange version, but the extra verse and the additional rock harmonies really help craft a complex theme, despite its seemingly simple progression. “Sepia-colored Dream” meanwhile is easily one of his best poignant themes in a very long time. I find the vocal work to bring a heavenly touch to the stunning music box melody, while the strings help give a romantic air to the mix. The extended version features a beautiful violin and woodwind solo supported by the soft choral vocals in the background, as well as some additional live violin towards the end of the theme. It’s an extremely touching addition and definitely helps fortify the already stunning original.
The two substantial vocal themes also make their return for the arrange album. “Golden Memories” is an extremely beautiful theme and a testament to Tenpei Sato’s innate ability to create beautiful vocal themes. Sarah Alainn’s voice brings ethereality to the lush, orchestral ballad that Tenpei Sato created and really helps heighten the melody to new levels. The expanded version features some live violin played in the beginning and throughout the piece, but it doesn’t really offer much different from the original, which may disappoint some. Regardless, it’s still a stunning theme that is definitely one of Tenpei Sato’s best vocal themes since Phantom Brave. Likewise, “Canary Voyage ~Little Bird In Your Universe~,” sung by Suzuko Mimori, only gets a small boost, with an additional verse added to the original, prolonging the beautiful atmosphere a bit more. Suzuko Mimori’s vocals have an air of innocence about them and although she borders on the kawaii side of the vocal spectrum, her voice is a strong fit for the accompanying music. As for the music, it is definitely pop-inspired, but carries with it the more intricate touches of an orchestral sound.
In the end, I think that the Disgaea 4 -A Promise Unforgotten- Arrange Album is one of the best arrange albums for Nippon Ichi Software’s Disgaea series. While it does have its shortcomings, mainly in some of the shorter arrangements and “Golden Memories,” many of the tracks manage to get some nice boosts from their expanded nature as well as the live violin performance. In particular, the full version of “Last Engage” is definitely one of the better Disgaea vocal themes out there and the wonderful additions to various battle themes, like “Sparkling” and “Beast King’s Claw Mark,” add so much to the original that they are definitely the definitive versions. For those who are unable to obtain the highly successful original soundtrack, I would definitely look to pick this one up because it offers many styles heard on the original. While it may be missing some of the more popular battle theme, it does serve as a nice compilation of some of the stronger ones, while all the vocal themes are present, in expanded fashion, for those who are a fan of the Disgaea vocal themes. I still hope one day for an arrange album from a Nippon Ichi Software game that does more experimental arrangements of the original music, and maybe one day that will happen, but for now, this will do.
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 August 1, 2012.