NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Original Soundtrack
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Original Soundtrack
Square Enix Music
April 21, 2021
Buy at CDJapan
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Original Soundtrack is the soundtrack to the PS4 version of NieR Replicant, which is an update to the original NieR Replicant soundtrack with a few new tracks, all handled by the original team, MONACA. Since the original soundtrack is only 10 years old, it wasn’t in dire need of an update, and indeed for the most part the new soundtrack is very faithful with changes mostly in the form of added sections and variations in instrumentation to avoid looping as much as the original soundtrack did. But as with most updated soundtracks there are bound to be even some minor changes that are controversial, especially since there weren’t many clear objective improvements to be made to the originals.
For those unfamiliar with the original soundtrack, the comments made there largely apply here too. Even 10 years later, the prominent use vocals throughout still sets it apart from the large majority of other soundtracks. It isn’t just that there are many vocal tracks; it’s that the vocals are often woven in and integrated as if they were other instruments. A highlight is the ethereal voice of Emi Evans and the unique lyrics for many of the tracks, written as a futuristic version of existing languages. The soundtrack covers a whole hosts of sounds, from moving ballads to epic choral and orchestral battle tracks to charming and melancholy area themes, and is quite successful at each of these. The high quality soundtrack greatly helped with the enduring popularity of the original game, even though the game itself sold poorly.
With the opening track of the new soundtrack, “Snow in Summer,” it’s clear that the team isn’t looking to do anything drastic. Structurally and melodically it is identical to the original, from the opening boy’s choir to the orchestra joining in on the second half. But with the orchestra, changes become noticeable. The addition of brass is very apparent, while the strings have more work to do, darting around where the original strings mostly just held chords. The composition is also extended; where the original loops, this one continues for nearly another minute before looping. The extension isn’t revelatory, but it is a welcome addition with some new harmonic colours that don’t harm the track. Some may not like the busyness of the orchestra section, and I do think some additions like the brass aren’t mixed in all that well, but overall I think it makes a neat alternate version to have alongside the original. Even though the original did not have any glaring issues that suggested that it needed a new version, there is an argument that can be made about how a larger, more lush orchestral sound was needed to match the lush visuals of the new game, and frankly more NieR music isn’t a bad thing.
The rest of the soundtrack more or less follows this pattern, not deviating drastically but expanding the sound and often adding new elements or tweaking existing ones to change emphasis. How well these changes are received can boil down to taste, and which particular nuances or elements of the originals drew one in as a listener. Many of the vocal themes like “Hills of the Radiant Winds” or the “Popola” and “Devola” versions of “Song of the Ancients” have short new melodic segments to extend the composition, which are nice additions. Even the atmospheric “Repose” gets a new vocal melody, though this is mostly just a variation on the original. A few others get new instrumental additions, sometimes major like the new punchy strings melodies of “The Incomplete Stone” which for me really elevated the track, and at other times are just minor like the strings of “Blu-bird” and “Desert theme” that serve to vary texture or add dynamics to stave off monotony. Others don’t have any structural additions but change up the instrumentation, like the lovely stripped down segment of “Song of the Ancients / Hollow Dreams” and its overall usage of the piano, or “The Wretched Automatons” with its strings, and “City of Commerce” with its very different and more nuanced performance on its lead woodwind. But sometimes the instrumental changes are very slight and don’t really improve or worsen the track, as with “His Dream” and “The Lost Forest”. “Yonah” now has only one guitar version (and no longer has a strings version) which takes after the original “Pluck Ver. 2” but has a very different and extended improvisation section. It’s true that the more conventional orchestral sound does detract a bit from the more unique sound some of the originals had, but for the most part I appreciate the changes made, even though they don’t revolutionize or fully replace the original tracks.
There were a handful of tracks where I didn’t like the changes made and instead simply prefer the originals. “The Dark Colossus Destroys All” is now more dynamic, but has too much going on and feels imbalanced in the mixing, though the composition was admittedly one of my least favourites to begin with. “Gods Bound By Rules,” a fan favourite from the original, here feels overcrowded with the addition of brass and choir where the original was very focused on strings. And although there are variations to the accompaniment figure to keep it from being monotonous, I feel the relentless strings of the original worked in its favour. “Grandma” gets a few extra instruments, but I feel that these additions hurt the mournful atmosphere that the track worked best in. “Kainé / Salvation” on the other hand benefits from the extra orchestration as a stand-alone track, but I actually found it not as fitting within the context of the game. I feel these same criticisms to a lesser degree with other tracks like “Shadowlord” and “Emil / Sacrifice” which I otherwise like, but the above are the ones where I simply prefer the originals.
There are a handful of tracks that are new arrangements of old tracks. A wind ensemble now accompanies “Ashes of Dreams – Nuadhaic”, which nicely sets it apart from the others in texture and intimacy, even if it is harmonically and dramatically still very close to the others. There is also a new music box version which is straightforward. “Dance of the Evanescent” is now much more glitchy in its dissonant transition, which I find effective. There is also “Kainé / Premonition” which is a new arrangement, an a capella rendition that isn’t just a transcription of the other arrangements, but rather is decently fleshed out with good use of small dissonances and counterpoint. Although it’s not emotional like the other versions are, it has its own unique atmosphere. “Grandma / Reunion” is another new arrangement, which acts more as a lead-up to another track than as its own fleshed out piece. It features a bigger sound with choir and orchestra, but without the release of tension it doesn’t stand that well on its own.
Then there are the handful of all-new tracks. First there is the piano piece “Halua,” a Satie-esque melancholy waltz that adds a bit of different harmonic colour to the soundtrack, but doesn’t otherwise make a big impact. More substantial are the two versions of the new track, “Fleeting Words.” The “Family” version showcases its haunting folk melody, which distinguishes it enough from the other vocal tracks. The arrangement largely takes a backseat here to Emi Evans’ lead vocal, but this is a wise choice that heightens the folk feel of the track, and it feels like she’s recounting a fable even though all the words are made-up. The “Outsider” version is the battle rendition of the track with orchestra and choir, a successful conversion that is bolstered by new melodies and new instrumental countermelodies throughout, so that both tracks are a great addition to the score. The last new track is “Analogous Memories,” an atmospheric piece that leans towards more tribal textures, like a sibling of “Forest Kingdom” from Automata. It’s not a standout either, but it fits in.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Original Soundtrack is a solid update to the beloved original soundtrack that does not replace the original, but works for its new setting and is a nice companion. Though there are no drastic changes here, many tracks receive little extensions or improvised sections that I appreciate, and much of the redundancy of the original soundtrack has been alleviated to make it stronger as a stand-alone listen. I only found that a few tracks really suffered, though each person may react differently depending on what particular aspects of the original soundtrack they gravitated to. The few new tracks are worth at least checking out, with the two versions of “Fleeting Words” being the standouts. Newcomers should find that even after all these years, the score is still quite unique, while long-time fans should find plenty to enjoy in this revisit.
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Posted on January 9, 2022 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on January 9, 2022.