Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack
Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack
February 2, 2005
Buy at CDJapan
Noriyuki Iwadare is a name that isn’t seen as frequently as other composers. His most notable works include the Lunar soundtracks and the Grandia soundtracks, both of which don’t see titles all that often. His compositions in the Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack are very ambient-heavy and are difficult to truly appreciate outside of the game. However, there are quite a few pieces that stand alone and remain enjoyable, primarily on the second disc.
The soundtrack itself contains 79 tracks, but quite a few of these are simpler, faster, or more extravagant arrangements of other tracks. Each town theme, for example, has a ‘day theme’ and a less-involved ‘night theme’. This is another example of how it is difficult to appreciate the music without the visual accompaniment.
The soundtrack starts out strong with the ominous “Those With and Without Humanity” leading into the more melodic and upbeat “Legendary Sword,” providing excellent contrast. Then you get a taste of the first of many beautiful castle themes, which leads right into the three primary battle tracks. These particular battle tracks (Struggle I-III) have a rather jazzy air and are, at the least, rather fun to listen to. After a very short victory theme, two more castle themes follow. These themes, like the first, are absolutely beautiful, featuring charming string melodies that clearly illustrate the atmosphere the pieces are trying to convey.
The next part of Disc One introduces the first dungeon theme of, well, few. This particular track, “Silent Way,” is, as the name probably suggests, a perfect sampling of the heavy ambient style that is so prominent on this soundtrack. The next few tracks are all town themes and their night-time counterparts. Not much to say about these, as they’re all pretty average. Their night-time versions are, in most cases, just the original melody with less instrumentation, and nothing really different. The exception is “Hopping Sun ~ Partial Version,” which replaces the original’s brass and irritating percussion for a simple flute melody atop a pleasant string harmony.
After two mediocre bar-scene tracks comes the first of many strange battle themes. “Yearning for Brilliance, a Flower Blooms” is as unique as its name, featuring a bit of a bluegrass style interspersed with random orchestral crashes and an insane climax at the end of the loop. The formula may sound odd, but it makes for a very hyper tune that is just plain entertaining. Two tracks later is the first of three vocal tracks featured on this album, although call “Paya-Paya Dance” a vocal track at your own discretion. The music itself is a crazy, upbeat, brass-blaring tune, that would stand well on its own (and does in Disc 2). However, it’s almost ruined by the irritating vocals. The lyrics make the vocalist (who has a decent enough voice) sound like she’s spurting out gibberish rather than singing.
The next several tracks are various atmospheric tracks that are all pretty good, but nothing to write home about. Several of them do feature some interesting percussion lines, and one of these tracks is Radiata Stories’ quintessential desert theme, “Scarlet Wind,” which is highly reminiscent of Koji Kondo’s loveable “Gerudo Valley.” Also in this hodgepodge mixture is the repetitive rock-ish tune “Death Trap Refrain” which I just have to mention as it has one of the heaviest bass lines I’ve ever heard (listen closely, kids… you can hear Iwadare-san’s satanic messages!)
The last four tracks are the character themes for the game’s main protagonists Jack and Ridley (poor JackÖ he gets one to Ridley’s three). Jack’s Theme, as I refuse to call it Honky-Tonk Boy, isÖwellÖ jazzy. Very jazzy. Complete with a loud, swinging brass melody and a syncopated percussion line-pretty run of the mill if you ask me. The first of Ridley’s themes is purely a harpsichord solo (or duetÖ I don’t know much about harpsichords), but it’s very well done, if only slightly short. Ridley’s theme gets progressively more depressing from there. That is, in terms of mood; in terms of musical quality, they’re all equally as wonderful as the first.
The militaristic style of “Go Straight with My Brave” dominates a lot of Disc Two, which tends to make sense if you’ve played the game. This one is pretty generic, but pleasant all the same. The next piece on the disc is another jazzy battle theme, “Teach me Please.” All I can say is Best. Tutorial music. Ever! Whic isn’t saying much… Okay, moving on. “Teach me Why,” not much to it, so I can’t say it’s good or bad, but it’s mentionable as it reminds me of that tune associated with creepy ghost children.
“Powerful Enemy,” (the next track in case you haven’t caught on) is a great epic battle track that utilizes Iwadare’s obsession with blaring brass without sounding overly jazzy like some of his other battle themes. Following are several situational pieces, most of which lacking much in terms of musical quality and are merely to create suspense during dialogue. However, once these are out of the way, your ears are in for a treat with “Night Memories,” a highly emotional piece and one of the best tracks on this soundtrack. The following four pieces pretty much serve the same purpose as the pieces prior to “Night Memories.” As a matter of fact, “The Boundary,” “To the Full,” and “War Intermezzo” are all pretty much the same track, offering only slight differences in percussion lines and tempo. Another mentionable from this bunch is “Decline and Inspiration,” which features some rather unique synth, especially in the bass line.
About halfway through Disc Two comes “Struggle for Life,” another track that does well in setting the mood it was intended to set. The very basic timpani harmony does well in creating the suspenseful yet melodramatic feeling around the origin of this track. This is yet another piece that is difficult to truly appreciate without the game. However, the following track, “Only for You…” needs no accompanying visuals to appreciate. It accomplishes everything the previous track does, but with the help of some very obvious classical inspiration, accomplishes it with beautiful finesse.
Following are some repetitive and tedious dungeon themes, but these are over quick enough and then come the two final battle themes. First up is “Gloomy Dance,” which is short, repetitive, and somewhat uninspired. Yet with a catchy, upbeat melody and focus on percussion, it manages to be an interesting and addictive tune and, I daresay, among the best on this soundtrack. The second final battle theme is a looped version of “Legendary Sword” from way back at the start of Disc One. It works well, though its cinematic nature once again makes it more enjoyable to hear when in the actual battle.
Moving right over the extremely depressing and slightly below average flute and piano melody that is “Invitation,” we come to the second vocal theme and self-proclaimed main theme of Radiata Stories, “Plod Along.” The melody is great, the vocalist has a strong and pleasant voice, and the instrumentation is well balanced with her voice; easily the best track on the soundtrack. The third and final vocal track s “Calm Melody,” and even had it not followed the wonderful “Plod Along,” it still wouldn’t get my approval. The melody is slow, and hardly melodic at all, the lyrics once again sound like gibberish more than Japanese, and the vocalist’s voice is odd too. I’m not sure how to describe it, really, it sounds almost as if it was just bad recording.
Next up is probably the most interesting part of the soundtrackÖ Iwadare’s arrangements of some of Motoi Sakuraba’s popular works. First is his far more mild arrangement of “Mission to Deep Space,” which for me gives the theme more of a ‘space epic’ feel than the guitar heavy original. The next arrangement is “Highbrow” which fixes the two problems I had with the original. First, it doesn’t have the harmony drowning out the melody, and second, it cuts out most of the ten-minute monstrosity that Sakuraba built (A disclaimer to all Sakuraba fanboys: by ‘monstrosity’ I mean only length, not quality). The last of these arrangements is “The Incarnation of Devil.” Iwadare stays pretty faithful to Sakuraba’s version on this one, so there’s not much to say.
Two more ambient and irritatingly repetitive dungeon tracks follow, and then lead into the best battle theme ever!! Well, no, but how can you resist a bouncy, bluegrass-inspired battle theme that uses instruments like a whistle, a harmonica, and steel drums? “Billboard Attack!” is crazy, catchy, and fun… Oh, so very fun. In with a crash, out with a bang… the final three tracks on this album start out with the epic-sounding intro of “Diffuse World” that has ‘ending’ written all over it. The middle parts of the track are nothing special, but it’s all nice enough, and makes up for it in that fantastic intro. The last two tracks are instrumental versions of “Paya-Paya” and “Plod Along.” The former is much more tolerable than it’s vocal counterpart, whereas the latter, although still very good, loses some of it’s charm without the vocals.
The main problems with this soundtrack lie in the tracks that depend on the scenes of the game in which they are played, and a several tracks that have far too repetitive melodies. Aside from those, a good portion of the soundtrack is extremely enjoyable, especially for fans of the more upbeat jazz styles. Although not a must have, the Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack is worth checking out. Oh, and if you do purchase this soundtrack, rest assured that there is nothing on your discs, nor is there anything wrong with them… They’re just ugly.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Neo Locke. Last modified on January 16, 2016.