Mugen Souls Original Soundtrack
Mugen Souls Original Soundtrack
March 28, 2012
Buy at CDJapan
The Mugen Souls Original Soundtrack is the latest soundtrack release for the Compile Heart company, who have previously developed games such as Record of Agarest War and Hyperdimensional Neptunia. Once again, in-house composer Kenji Kaneko principally scored the soundtrack. However, the company also asked Tenpei Sato to compose some pieces for the soundtrack as well. How does this collaborative album turn out?
The album opens up with “Power of the Light,” composed by Tenpei Sato and sung by Mineko Yamamoto. I think Tenpei Sato has an extremely wonderful gift to compose catchy, melodic vocal themes ranging in a variety of styles. This particular track is very reminiscent of the fun, bubbly style found in the Disgaea series, with the track sounding like a fusion of Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 4. Choral backings, powerful vocals, a powerful rock focus, and some beautiful orchestral harmonies and jazzy piano make up the majority of the track and keep the listener engaged from start to finish. Tenpei Sato also closes the soundtrack with the ending vocal, “Rainbow,” sung by Haruka Shimotsuki. When I listen to this tune, I am reminded of the Marl Kingdom series, as there is a very playful atmosphere to it that I associate with Tenpei Sato’s vocal themes inspired by musicals. While I think it’s a very fun and enjoyable tune, particularly due to the pop/big brass sound, I find it to be the weaker of the two themes, as I feel that Shimotsuki’s performance isn’t as powerful some of her others.
The rest of Tenpei Sato’s contributions are bundled at the beginning of the first disc and feature a variety of styles. Themes like “Pandora’s Clown” and “Happy Chappy Street” provide playful atmospheres, but both come with their set of problems. While “Pandora’s Clown” features some jovial strings and woodwind work, I find the melody to be less engaging. With “Happy Chappy Street,” I like the idea being portrayed of a busy street full of shops and performers, but I find the bolder sections of the piece to be a bit abrasive. Fortunately, the more subtle sections are much more pleasing, while the jazz influence is definitely appreciated throughout. “Fanciful Dream” is a dreamy tune with dreamy tune with powerful brass tones and playful woodwind work. It has a very heroic tone that sets up the beginning of an adventure quite nicely. “Flying Candy” is upbeat theme with a wonderful synthesizer melody that definitely conjures up the images of flying high above the clouds. “Monster Breath” has a very Arabian sound, conjuring up images of desert environments and lots of exoticism. I really like the atmosphere in this theme, given it is so different from the rest of Tenpei Sato’s music on the soundtrack.
“Great Castle” has a sinister, orchestral tone that would fit quite nicely in the Disgaea series. I really like the brass work in this piece that gives a more regal sound, while the electronic and strings work help paint a more ominous picture. Two other themes would also fit quite nicely in the Disgaea series. The first, “Daydream Express,” is most likely a normal battle theme. There is a bit of a funk rock sound in the beginning, but as the theme progresses, it definitely takes on a more airy, classic rock sound. I really like the combination of electric guitar and orchestra. The orchestra passages to be extremely uplifting, especially when on their own; however, the combination of choral work, electric guitar, and orchestra really come together to create an extremely magical theme. The other, “Violence Emotion,” is definitely one of my favorite Tenpei Sato battle themes in recent years. I just love the high octane melody! There’s a strong focus on wailing electric guitars and powerful guitar riffs backed by some beautiful and heroic brass and strings work.
The rest of the soundtrack is composed by Compile Heart mainstay Kenji Kaneko. He also offers a plethora of styles to accompany the various locales and situations in the game. “Dance of the Cherry Blossoms” is a Japanese inspired piece of music that gives off an ominous tone. I really like the shamisen and shakuhachi work in combination with more traditional strings components. It manages to succeed in captivating with both its melody and atmosphere. Similarly, “Cherry Blossom Falling” features an intense electronic beat with shamisen, shakuhachi, and more traditional strings providing the melody. Fans of Muramasa‘s soundtrack would surely find these pieces pleasing. “Ruins” features a mystifying atmosphere with some nice ethnic percussion and instrumentation, but I find it to be a bit generic in terms of overall composition. It certainly fits the ruins type environment though.
Among other scene-setters, “Rainbow Garden” is a piano piece with some ethereal synthesizer accompaniment. It has a lot of emotion and manages to impress with its beauty. “Coral Beach” has a definite beach vibe mainly due to the light jazz percussion. However, the majority of the theme features some nice jazzy piano runs and romantic strings. It is an interesting theme for sure, providing a wonderful melody and carefree atmosphere, using elements I wouldn’t normally associate with a beach setting, but it does manage to work. “Water World” definitely captures the essence of the location with beautiful violin and woodwind leads, accompanied by some light percussion and jazzy piano runs. “In the Early Afternoon” is a rustic, jazzy tune with some romantic strings elements that are certainly playful, particularly in the woodwind aspects, but I find the piano accompaniment to be a bit of a boon on the rhythm. At times, it seems to class with other rhythmic elements. “Gallery” is another ethereal theme that has a dreamy soundscape, but isn’t very engaging in terms of melody.
There are also a few orchestral themes worth mentioning. “Mugen Souls Suite” is a short theme that conveys a playful and adventurous tone. It manages to capture this listener’s attention with an engaging melody. “Memories of Mugen” is a mysterious and pensive orchestral theme that focuses on strings. While the atmosphere is certainly reminiscent of past memories, I think that the melody is a bit lackluster, rarely engaging the listener. “World Map” features a heroic and adventurous tone that focuses on sweeping strings, airy woodwinds, and some beautiful brass harmonies. I think it is pretty successful, although it does, at times, sound a bit generic. “Parade of the Poisonous Moths” is an ominous orchestral theme with some Middle Eastern influences. In many ways, it seems inspired by God of War, with its choral focus and action cues. “Down to the Street” also intrigues as it progresses from the focus on orchestra before shifting into rock and synthesizer before combining all the elements into one coherent composition. It’s a bit straightforward, but also quite enjoyable.
The battle themes on the album range from rock to orchestral and also vary in terms of quality. “The Struggle for Existence” is definitely one of the best ones by Kenji Kaneko. Providing a combination of Japanese and Arabian inspired sounds, orchestral sounds, gothic rock, and heavy metal, it is certainly a fascinating track. I think the rock elements are very powerful, especially the solo, and provide the necessary motivating elements, while the strings and woodwind work provide a bit of sinisterness as well as a catchy melody. Unfortunately, when it comes to another battle theme, “No Rules,” Kaneko isn’t nearly as successful. While the rock focus is definitely more of a heavy metal/funk style, I find some of the other elements, at times, muddle the overall effect of the theme. While the violin and keyboard sections provide some beautiful components to an otherwise intense theme, I think the saxophone sections really clash with the underlying accompaniment, having a very abrasive effect on the listener.
“Brave Hunter” is an orchestral rock theme that manages to succeed in engaging the listener. I really like how the guitar riffs set up the energy of the track, while the heroic brass, woodwinds, and strings create a very determined soundscape. While not a complex track, it does manage to please. “Attack of Delusion” is straightforward rock tune with a fun but generic melody that sounds like Kenji Kaneko’s earlier, and less mature, works. The last two battle themes on the album are both orchestral in tone. “A Mark of the Death” provides a sinister atmosphere, but comes off sounding a bit generic at times. I do enjoy the more heroic strings passages, however, as they give off a nice contrast with the ominous percussion. However, “The Roar of Monster,” which serves as the final battle theme, is much more successful. It creates an intense, ominous atmosphere with its deep choral tones, pounding percussion, sharp brass lines, and frenetic strings work. While it isn’t the most impressive orchestral final battle theme out there, it does manage to impress more than the previous track.
While I don’t follow Kenji Kaneko too often, as I found some of his previous works a bit lackluster, but the Mugen Souls Original Soundtrack might change that. It certainly demonstrates he is capable of creating some excellent compositions, while offering a variety of moods and styles. When it comes to Tenpei Sato’s contributions, they are much more focused in terms of sound, with only a few tracks on a standalone listen becoming a bit less enjoyable. Both vocal themes are enjoyable in their own right, though “Power of the Light” is by far the more successful of the two. In the end, fans of the game and traditional RPG soundtracks should pick this up. However, keep in mind that, if you are considering purchasing this soundtrack for Tenpei Sato’s contributions, he only provides a fifth of the overall soundtrack.
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.