Luminous Arc 2 Original Soundtracks
Luminous Arc 2 Original Soundtracks
June 25, 2008
Buy at CDJapan
Following the success of Luminous Arc, Luminous Arc 2: Will was released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS. Leading the production again is Yasunori Mitsuda’s sound production company Procyon Studio. Not contributing any compositions this time, Mitsuda oversaw the overall sound direction and the implementation of the score. The only returning composer was Akari Kaida; after contributing a lot of bland lifeless material on the original Luminous Arc, she has greatly improved in this soundtrack. Joining her are Yoshino Aoki of Breath of Fire fame and Yoko Shimomura of the Kingdom Hearts series who both make large contributions. Completing the line up is Shunsuke Tsuchiya, who became Procyon Studio’s latest composer after the departure of Shota Kageyama shortly after the release of the first Luminous Arc soundtrack. Given this apparent dream team, does the Luminous Arc 2 Original Soundtracks improve upon its mixed predecessor?
The vocal theme for the game, “Unlimited World,” is a shortened version of the single. It definitely has a J-pop sound, but at the same time, there are elements that help to distinguish it between a normal piece and something composed for a game. Most striking in this song is the violin. Combined with the rock-based bass line and Kana’s vocals, it really contrasts nicely to create a beautiful soundscape full of energy. Akari Kaida’s main theme of the game, “Will,” exhibits a very heroic nature but is interspersed with peaceful interludes. It’s a powerful and motivating piece reminiscent of Shota Kageyama’s “Theme of Luminous Arc”. “Awakening” is a simple piano piece that also utilizes the theme heard in “Will.” While not heroic by any means, there is a lot of emotion found within.
In addition to the main theme, Kaida also lent her talents for a variety of battle themes. “Incoming Flames” is a decent example; while it’s not the best thing I’ve heard her compose, the staccato piano line adds a sense of doom while the brass and percussion seems to accent this further. Unfortunately not all the battle themes can interest me that much. “Reciprocative Retribution” is the Kaira’s weakest action theme on this soundtrack. Sure, it has that peppy tone, but at the same time, it reminds me a lot of some of the weaker tracks from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but it seems to be a bit too generic. “The Future Palace Witch” is an example of why I liked Akari Kaida’s Breath of Fire III soundtrack so much. It’s a bright and bubbly composition with gripping string work and that playful xylophone I adore from her so much. It’s definitely a top-notch melody and much more inspired than the first game’s similar themes. “A Road Where Wind Dances” is probably my favorite Kaida contribution on this soundtrack. This one has Breath of Fire III written all over it, if you ask me. Everything about it is amazing. The rolling woodwind passages combined with calypso-like accompaniment. Even the piano/string sections manage to impress as they develop the main motif in the piece even further. Overall, Kaida has vastly improved over her contributions from the first game.
Yoshino Aoki’s contributions are all more than average compositions in the same orchestral style as her work in Breath of Fire IV. “The Land of Carnava” is a pleasant piece with soft melodies, nice instrumentation and excellent developement, while “Glorious Carnava” is a great militaristic march with some some effective use of percussion, horns, and strings. She also contributed “A Weekend for Shopping”, a nice jazzy yet melodic piece in the style of Breath of Fire III. With “Maelstrom of Battles”, Yoshino Aoki introduces us into her battle and climax compositions. This is a good example of using fast-paced percussion, emphatic melody lines, and some crisis moments in an excellent and effective way. “The Supervisor” is also a climactic piece using an organ, harp arpeggios, and a forceful percussion instrument, but might get a bit repetitive after a while. The same goes for “The Dictator’s Force”, which is a bit faster and uses more of those crisis moments. “Into the Darkest Depths” is a symphonic theme with great use of harmonies and some excellent string/horn passages. Finally, with “Malice’s Whereabouts” Aoki gets a bit more experimental in style with again nice orchestration and mysterious chime, pizzicato, and percussive effects. It’s somewhat reminiscent to Sakimoto’s work in some way. Yoshino Aoki’s contributions are excellent developmentally and are very enjoyable in this score.
Shunsuke Tsuchiya, Procyon Studio’s newest composer, was the one person I was most interested in hearing. Having loved Shota Kageyama’s work in the first game, I was sad to see him depart Procyon Studio and not work on this one. Fortunately, I was not disappointed with Tsuchiya either. He offers a multitude of styles to the table, from his battle themes to his event themes. It’s clear that Tsuchiya has at least some influence from Mitsuda’s compositional style. “Assault!!,” one of the battle themes, is an epic brass led piece full of heroism and courageous tones. However, the peaceful B sections sound like Mitsuda could have done them himself! Another thing I like about this piece is the harp inclusion and the rolling woodwinds throughout. Another impressive battle theme is “The Shadow of Destruction Draws Near”. Sounding like something straight out of Final Fantasy Tactics, it’s a battle theme that exudes raw power. Heavy on the militaristic percussion and brass, he’s able to craft a beautiful battle theme. Similar to “Assault!!,” the calming B section, full of woodwind passages and brass accents, helps to break the tension before diving headfirst into the action again!
There are some clear Mitsuda influences in some of his work on this soundtrack. “Demise of Dreams” follows in the footsteps of one of Mitsuda’s greatest strengths: creating emotional piano pieces. The combination of piano and strings in this piece really make for a sad theme. There is so much emotion behind this that, if I didn’t know the artist, my first guess would be Mitsuda himself. If this is what I can look forward to from Tsuchiya in the future, I’m sold! I also sensed perhaps a bit of Koichi Sugiyama influence in Tsuchiya’s work. The moment I heard “Under Construction,” it reminded me of Dragon Quest — in particular, “Chatting” from Dragon Quest VIII. It’s a beautiful theme that plays with strings and xylophone to create something frivolous yet able to invoke an emotional response. Tsuchiya also worked with Akari Kaida on the last piece, “An Endless Future.” Arranged by Tsuchiya, it’s an epic interpretation of “Will,” full of militaristic influences and beautiful, sweeping passages. From the powerful brass, to the playful pizzicato strings, and even the woodwind work, it’s a heroic end to a very good soundtrack. And did I hear Mitsuda come back in at the end with the music box? I think so, which I absolutely adore! There’s something about music boxes that get to me excited. On the whole, Shunsuke Tsuchiya’s first work for Procyon Studio is a great showcase of his diversity and I think he did a fantastic job.
Yoko Shimomura takes a guest role in this project and her contributions are more than welcome here. With her catchy, experimental style she helps to bring a bit more variety in this orchestral score. The best examples here for are “Rosefall” and “Rosette Rosso”, both memorable tunes with a Spanish flair and interesting instrumentation such as accordion, flamenco rhythms, and violin. “What the Heck are Kopin?” is one of those pieces which simply shouts Kingdom Hearts, composed in a goofy and jolly style. It’s obviously very nice to listen to. “Swiftly!” and “The Future is at Hand!” are both excellent militaristic and heroic pieces with fast-paced percussion and great orchestration. While the first one is more heroic and straight-forward, “The Future is at Hand!” features a more dramatic atmosphere with dissonant strings, acoustic guitar, and piano.
“Wings of Darkness, A Freezing Embrace” is an evil theme with typical instrumentation such as organ, brass and choir. Shimomura varies the piece with different harmonies and emotions, making it quite enjoyable. “The Ice-Shaped Witch”, one of those tracks featured on the Luminous Symphony promotional album, is one of her most effective contributions even if it might sound a bit repetitive after a while. Its features an aura full of suspense in the string sections, mystery with the incorporation of harp and choir, and wickedness found in the organ line. “Black Flames” and “Raging Flames” are climaxed and rockin’ battle themes full of tension and crisis in a Parasite Eve style. The use of electric guitar riffs is a very interesting idea as well as including the use of harpsichord within the orchestration. The wild percussion also helps to bring more movement into these pieces. With “Dusk”, Yoko Shimomura creates another Kingdom Hearts-esque theme with dramatic and climaxed moments and soft, melancholy parts with the use of violin and harp. Overall, Yoko Shimomura shines as one of the most varied composers around here next to Aoki and contributes more than welcome compositions.
The Luminous Arc 2 Original Soundtracks is a vast improvement over the first game. Even with the departure of the saving grace for the first soundtrack, the team behind this soundtrack was able to craft a beautiful work. Akari Kaida improved vastly from her first stint with the Luminous Arc series, crafting some powerful and emotional main themes. Yoshino Aoki showcases her diversity, while Shunsuke Tsuchiya gives a marvelous first impression with his diversity and influences. Yoko Shimomura definitely broke the mold, however. Her ethnic-influenced and rock-based pieces kept this soundtrack from sounding entirely orchestral in nature. On the whole, this is a very enjoyable soundtrack. If you like any of these composers’ works, this offers a new side to some and reminds me of their older works as well. Pick it up if you get the chance!
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Max Nevill. Last modified on August 1, 2012.