Mark Kingdom Puppet Princess Original Soundtrack
Mark Kingdom Puppet Princess Original Soundtrack
January 22, 1999
Buy Used Copy
Marl Kingdom: The Adventure of the Puppet Princess was an RPG released by Nippon Ichi in 1998. Two years later, it landed on American shores as Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, courtesy of publisher Atlus. To this day I still can’t fathom why they brought this game to English shores; the simplistic, easy gameplay and overall cutesy, girly tone sounded ideal for a Japan-only audience. But being as awesome as they are, Atlus decided to bring the game over, to both gamers’ delight and dismay. Definitely a niche game, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure generally got smothered in negativity by most reviewers. However, one aspect that most thought was done excellently was the score, by now-renowned composer Tenpei Sato. What many love about the game is that it contains cutscenes of vocal performances; indeed, it’s essentially a theatrical musical and video game in one. So it’s only natural that the soundtrack is something special.
A total of 10 performers lent their voices to the vocal tracks, so already you know that there’s a hefty amount of diversity among these tracks. This particular soundtrack (the Japanese release) doesn’t contain all of the songs, vocal or instrumental, from the game, however it does comprise of a sizeable portion (most of the remaining tracks are located on the US soundtrack release). The vocal tracks present on this soundtrack are largely successful, tuneful, and very accomplished. The vocalist for the game’s main character Cornet, Kaoru Fujino, shows us her more frivolous and bubbly side in the opening track, “One Day, We Will Meet”, with sporadic appearances by Ms. Maria Kawamura as Cornet’s spunky puppet friend Kururu. The accordion introduction places us in the midst of one of the most cheerful songs on the score; the kawaii tone of the vocals nicely complements the catchy, carefree melody and the associated scene, where Cornet sings about how one day, she will find her prince. (See? I told you this game was girly!) Paired with some seemingly out-of-place choral vocals, this song proves to be a spectacular opener, which perfectly puts the listener right into the world of Marl and into the shoes of the innocent, cherubic protagonist.
Kaoru Fujino donates her vocal talent to four other songs, with and without vocal accompaniment. “Let Us Walk ~ Contest Version”, also featuring Yuri Amano, showcases the more emotional and serious side of her voice. Both women sound just as good in this song as the vocals in the first, and the composition itself is wonderfully emotive and wistful without sounding too saccharine or sappy. The alternate version of this song, “Let Us Walk ~ Cherie’s Love”, sung by Maria Kawamura, uses a music box opening to add a nice innocuous tone; the typical guitar and strings undercurrent sounds splendorous in conjunction with Kawamura’s light, soft yet very impressive voice. Ms. Fujino and Ms. Kawamura once again perform together in the track “True Courage”, a track which symbolizes two particular characters’ closeness in the story. The gentle, sweeping harmonies of the melody really tug at your heart, whether you’re a schoolgirl or not. The joining of the vocals sounds appropriate, and is fairly emotional in the context of the game.
Kaoru Fujino’s final appearance on the soundtrack is as a soloist in the final song, “Thank You”, naturally the song that’s sung at the culmination of the game. Overall it’s extremely fitting and effective; the thankful and adorable (that’s right I said it) vocals really immerse you in the song. By far the longest piece on the score, it surprisingly doesn’t lose your interest even slightly; the melody can be described as nothing but thoughtful and affectionate, and the impeccability of the vocals really helps tie a bow on a present that any listener would be delighted to receive. The only song which features the voice of Cornet’s charming prince is “A World Made Just for Us”, where Fujino-san and Toshiyuki Morikawa combine their vocals to create a potentially sublime love ballad, with just the right amount of emphasis on bombastic instrumentation and touching melodic developments. Unfortunately the performance ends up sounding comedic in a sense, because Mr. Morikawa isn’t a very talented singer. The song would have been marvelous if he weren’t in it, but as it stands, it’s the only song which failed to impress me.
There are two songs left which don’t contain the voice work of any previously mentioned artist; with the help of a multitude of singers and an immense amount of talent, we’re given two of the most colourful tracks on the entire score. “Petals of Evil” is the song of the game’s antagonist, Marjoly, and her many underlings. This is about as fun as a villain theme can get, with a sublime and vivacious vocal performance from Michie Tomizawa. The vocalists of her lackeys (sadly her cat underlings don’t make an appearance… you heard me) also meld into the song like butter into a cake mix (and this isn’t as bizarre as it sounds… there’s an attack called “Cake” in the game!). It’s awfully short, but this song is so ebullient and has such an attitude, you can’t help but love it. Now we get to the silliest track on the score, “Castle of Frog Kingdom”, the song used when you’re welcomed into the kingdom… of the frogs. This is undoubtedly the catchiest track on the score (you’re going to have it stuck in your head for days) and the tropical, safari-like instrumentation just adds to the track’s appeal. I don’t care what anybody says — this song is awesome!
There are fourteen instrumental tracks on the soundtrack to Marl Kingdom: The Adventure of the Puppet Princess so they are essentially the meat of the score in terms of numbers (in terms of playtime, the vocal to instrumental ratio is virtually equal). I might start with the battle themes first, as there isn’t a huge amount of emphasis placed on battles in the game; it’s more so about the story and exploratory aspects. “Chasing the Elusive Wind” is the first, and fails to impress me. The quality of the synth and the sampled vocals leave a lot to be desired, and the melody is way too unstructured to extract any enjoyment from, although there is a nice amount of energy through the upbeat pacing. “Dream Hunter” delivers a nice, subtle form of intensity, but I can’t help but feel it would be more appropriate as a “run!” or “trouble” theme, as there’s little to no melody to grasp onto. The varied instrumentation adorns the tedious percussion line to no avail, and the piece doesn’t even stand on its own two feet after a change in dynamics halfway through. The final battle theme, “Last Waltz” is probably the best of the three battle tracks present (there are a couple which don’t feature on this particular soundtrack), but it still lacks a certain flair that most good battle themes have. The composition is intimidating in just the right way, and is structured intriguingly, but once again you can’t really get into it. Obviously battles and their complementary musical themes aren’t that important or great in Rhapsody (they aren’t, you can take my word for it).
The soundtrack does excel, however, in all other forms of instrumental music. “Little Love” is gorgeous as the town theme; the piano, synthesized strings and harmonica all succeed in painting imagery of a humble little town with a close-knit community. The melody is heartwarming and endearing, making this track one of the most pleasant (albeit very typical) town themes I’ve heard in a video game. “Holy Prayer” is another one of my favourites. If my memory serves me correctly, this track is played in small, plot-related cutscenes: you can tell by the compositional structure and feel that something special is happening. The angelic, fluttering instrumentation establishes a tone of wonder and mystery, and quickly turns the track into an adventurously brave-sounding melody, worthy of the mightiest of kings. “Falling Star” is also nice, with a flute expressing the tracks Celtic influence. The chime-like percussion and unique tempo create an interesting interlude to connect the first section to a pleasant, if ephemeral, piano line.
One of the more animated pieces of music is “The Young Girl’s Barrette”, the theme for Cornet’s friend/foe, the obnoxious Etoile. The extravagant, chamber-like instrumentation and melody perfectly complement Etoile’s pompous demeanor. The strings and brass are crisp, and the melody is about as appropriate as it could’ve been. It could have used a bit more length, perhaps another loop, but it’s great the way it is. Almost identical in tone and style is “A Faint Glimpse of a Dream”, a track used when the player partakes in a ball at Mothergreen Castle, the prince’s humble abode. (^.^) As such, it’s just as ostentatious as the theme of Etoile. The character and vigor isn’t as flagrant and noticeable, but the melody is just as strong, and the orchestral melodic progression is scrumptious! (Such a connoisseur of classical music I am!)
“Dream Traveler” is one of the most impressive pieces on the soundtrack in terms of musicality. This is a very Celtic track, probably inspired by someone like Mitsuda, so that already heightens the track’s accessibility! The delightfully clean and effective instruments accentuate the awesome bouzouki, which creates a renaissance-like atmosphere, reminiscent of journeys through far and distant lands. Also pertaining to this description is “Distant Song”, which is an overworld theme of sorts, and is extraordinary in its short-lived splendor. The joyous bombast and tasteful brass and flute epitomize the notion of adventure and journey, and the piano supports the intended purpose. Now I’m going to quickly jump to another one of my favourite tracks, “The World’s Step”, which partially utilizes the melody from “Castle of Frog Kingdom” (I just know you’re jumping up and down in your seat!). The tropical, equatorial tempo and percussion really makes you think of lush jungles and tranquil paradises, and the deep vocal support sounds like a chant, enhancing the already vivid imagery. I can see huge similarities between this piece and “Earth’s Step” from the Phantom Brave Original Soundtrack (also by Tenpei Sato), so if you like that then definitely check this out.
“Welcome to the Dungeon” is the game’s dungeon theme, so you’ll be hearing it a lot in game (and you see a lot of dungeons in this game, trust me). Luckily there’s a convenient contrast: while the dungeon designs are monotonous and unimaginative, this piece of music is spooky, exciting, and very well composed. The ominous choir intro eventually leads to some creepy, Halloween-like vocals; the flute delivers the main melody, which attaches to some neat melodic features such as militaristic percussion to gain some notoriety and badass-ness among the soundtrack! (This is probably the darkest track on the score, but having said that, it’s pretty lighthearted for a dungeon theme in all honesty, as suggested by the track’s welcoming title). “Beauty Castle” is the music used for the final dungeon, Marjoly’s castle. She’s all about appearance, and this vanity is masterfully conveyed through the music. The bombastic and eternally memorable opening propels you into the castle adorned with roses. The violin and percussion are used to great effect, and the harp arpeggios depict Marjoly’s femininity alongside the subtler harp playing towards the end of the loop. This track, like the vocal “Petals of Evil”, has a decent amount of attitude and arrogance about it; Mr. Sato seems to be good at this sort of thing.
I’ve managed to review every track save one: the track used on the title screen of the game, arguably the most important, “Legend of Puppet Princess”. A quirky woodwind melody opens this delightful song to a cute pan flute and strings combo, eventually translating to a completely strings-orientated finish, lasting a good minute or so before the pan flute features again. Unmistakably, this track epitomizes the story and lighthearted nature of Rhapsody to an absolute tee. I guess it needs to be stated that the story in Rhapsody is a good one, however childish it may be, and the music does an amazing job of conveying the numerous aspects of it. Just another reason to love this score.
The Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom Original Soundtrack takes the listener on a wonderful, hearty journey. The different emotions are conveyed through the musical exceptionally well, whether they are instrumental or vocal tracks. Of the eight vocal tracks, seven of them are great (even spectacular), such as the opener “One Day We Will Meet” or the guilty pleasure that is “Castle of Frog Kingdom”; and only one is a stinker, and that’s only because of a questionable vocalist, not the composition itself. The instrumental tracks are… instrumental to the soundtrack’s success as well, with fluid melodies in addition to vibrant tones and attitudes. Pieces such as “Holy Prayer” deliver such fine melodies of high poignancy, whereas “Dream Traveler” envelops the listener instantaneously with its awesome Celtic patterns. The only part where the soundtrack falters is the battle themes, which are bad (inserted for the sake of succinctness). Otherwise, this a fantastic ride for the imagination, and an enriching journey for the ear. It’s accessible, it’s fun, and it’s my favourite Tenpei Sato soundtrack.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Murray Dixon. Last modified on August 1, 2012.