Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack
Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack
February 2, 2005
Buy at CDJapan
This soundtrack was developed by Noriyuki Iwadare, the same composer of the Lunar series — Lunar Eternal Blue and Lunar Silver Star Story from Working Designs. Both of those soundtracks had very catchy and memorable tracks while maintaining a decent sound quality for its time in Sega Saturn. It’s been nearly decade since the Lunar series was developed, so it’s been a while since I’ve heard anything from Iwadare. It’s also no surprise for me to see him with tri-Ace-company (producer of the Grandia and Star Ocean series) since most of his work started from there. To give you an idea of his credentials, he won the Best Game Music Award in Sega Saturn Music category for Grandia in 1997 and for Sega Dreamcast category for Grandia II in 2000. In my opinion, Iwadare made a misstep with this album trying the wrong experimentation of music as well as themes that never seem to deliver the intended ideas.
If you were expecting this album to match the same crisp melodies of the Lunar series, you’ll be disappointed. Also lacking is the harmonic beauty that you’re use to hearing from Grandia. Overall, the themes on this album are not well-developed, as they range anywhere from 1 minute to 1:30 minutes without ever looping. It seems to leave you hungry and thirsty for more when everything ends abruptly without any progression of melody. From a packaging standpoint, it can be a pet peeve for those who are demanding for a bulkier amount of music. 79 tracks are on the album, and you’re probably thinking there is a diverse amount of music here. How most of the tracks on this album are re-imitated and recycled through partial tracks. The album tries to sell you the concept that you’re getting your money’s worth by buying it. This is a result of poor marketing on Team Entertainment along with lack of judgment in compositional decisions made by Iwadare. This album is inconsistent in many ways when you put all the tracks together as a whole when they last only one minute. I can say that Radiata Stories is not an impressive album because the quantity of tracks does not reflect the quality of the album.
When you think about all the RPG soundtracks you’ve heard before, jazz hasn’t been used as often as a style due to its suitability. However Iwadare brilliantly makes it work at certain points of this album. What you can describe about Iwadare’s jazz pieces is that some of the tracks can be quite addictive and catchy. The problem lies in that the tracks are too short for it to go anywhere. This album is combination of ambience, jazz, orchestral, and electronica but heavily unbalanced between the four types of music. There were probably only 2-3 battle tracks I can recall that were exceptional battle tracks, while the rest of the 40 or so tracks were town themes. Worst of all, many of the town themes didn’t seem to stick with me at all. Tracks near the end of Disc One are the same in terms of mood and style, and provide no redeeming qualities of the jazz motif. The other tracks of the album settles somewhere along the lines of being average, clichéd, to poorly synthesized themes, which I feel is quite deserving of criticism. One of the faults of this album is that Iwadare spent so much time trying to experiment, that he lost his focus on what a classical RPG sounds like. For instance, he devoted a significant portion of the soundtrack to experimental electronica for his ambient music rather than orchestration. His true strength comes from his orchestration ability which allows him to build his compositions. There’s just far too less of it in this album, and as a result you hear only his secondary experimental work.
The opening piece “Those With and Without Humanity” is rather mystic and almost ominous in a way. The guitar starts the introduction while the wooden flute trills together in an Arabic style. Then you have the bassoon and oboe playing together slowly leading to the disturbing nature of what the world holds for the characters. I have to say this track isn’t much better in terms of composition than “The Place I’ll Return Someday” from Final Fantasy IX. A perfect complement to this piece is perhaps “Bloom of Anxiety” which gently plays the oboe with the flute to settle in the effective melancholy nature of the background music. The first section cue of “Coliseum” sounds like a clichéd piece with the majestic horns and drums seem to bring a feeling of a grand castle rather than a coliseum. Then you hear a section of the strings rigging back and forth. It gets somewhat repetitive and predictable in the end when you hear the same chord for nearly 45 seconds without change, but does the job as required. I felt Iwadare was being too careful or conservative with this classical style.
Then you get a similar theme in “Go Straight with My Brave” that is an average type of track that is neither bad nor groundbreaking. Then you get a little change with “Gratifying Guest” with the woodwind section playing sumptuously as if you were walking down a palace. Put in the classic piano on this piece and you’ve got an excellent sample of Iwadare’s compositional abilities in orchestration. The solo trumpet accompanying the piano in “Lost, Lost, and Lost” evokes a desolate feeling while signifying an uneasy feeling of restlessness. “To the Full” is a repetition of “Lost, Lost, and Lost,” but quicker and lighter in terms of pace to promote a sign of hope. The melody of “Sending Feelings Over the Distance” will certainly bring back some fond nostalgia for Iwadare fans who idolize his orchestra tracks with authentic instruments. The oboes and brass section work together rhythmically and eccentrically in “Diffuse World” for much more enjoyable listen in comparison to “Those With and Without Humanity”. Sadly, these tracks only make up a small fraction of the album, while town themes and ambient tracks fill the album with dull rhythms.
Let’s get to the jazz section of this album, which is probably one of the redeeming and intrinsic qualities of this album if you’re a fan of this genre. “Legendary Sword” opens with the woodwinds and harp setting the natural feeling as a real RPG. You hear this steady rub of the horns in the back, and then the piano dinking back and forth like a jazz piece. Then the trumpets and trombones rise slowly with a clear and crisp sound, that reminds you a little of a TV show back in the ’70s. The style of this piece appears to be made for a totally different situation other than an RPG if you’ve never played the game. However to its credit, it is played with exceptional quality. Then the orchestra section comes back again leading to a bold and upbeat ending. “Legendary Sword Looped” should have just been combined with “Legendary Sword” on the first disc, which is an exact replica. Why put two of the same tracks on two different discs instead of a well-developed track? It goes back to my first note about the marketing strategy of Team Entertainment.
Then you get into the jazzy themes that continue off from “Legendary Sword” with “Struggle I” and “Struggle III.” The saxophone drives the quick and zany melody and the trumpets serve as the bass for “Struggle I.” This track suffers tremendously because it ends so haphazardly at 1:17, which would otherwise have been an exceptional jazz piece. “Struggle III” starts the ’70s music all over again just like “Struggle I.” The saxophone and trumpets play in a staccato style with a quick beat providing a stronger flair for a jazz piece. I felt this jazz track was much more developed than “Struggle I.” The sax works to perfection when you hear it in “Honkey Tonk Boy.” The tunes on this track are bouncy with so many distant emotions that move you in various ways. “Teach Me Please” is an upbeat and saucy cue also, but superficial and leads to nowhere after 40 seconds. “Song of Freedom Fighters” sounds like a track from the Beach Boys and ’70s jazz band that is misplaced or inappropriate for a unified group that is expected to be bold and heroic. The trumpets are perform excellently, but missing is the intensity of a gallant group of knights.
In terms of battle themes, I admit it is one of the brighter points of this album, but a scarcity in comparison to the rest of the tracks on the album. “The Incarnation of Devil” and the “Powerful Enemy” are decent battle themes that have their own uniqueness. Iwadare, I felt was successful in implementing his electronics for “Incarnation of the Devil” which adds a touch of roughness, and perhaps one of the highlights of this album. The edging keyboard just enhances the urgency of the situation and atmosphere of this piece. But it doesn’t have the same type of explosive and combative feeling as some of his previous battle themes, such as “Final Confrontation” in Lunar 2. “Powerful Enemy” reminded me more of the old Iwadare, and it is superb with its combination of natural instruments and a jazz style which adds a little military flair. His other electronic battle experimentations don’t work as well, such as “Struggle II.” The fusion of the electronic keyboard along with the techno background is very abrasive in terms of style. Then you hear a two or three bars of a Japanese Shamisen-which is a very old three-stringed musical instrument. I think that battle track was designed to be unorthodox and bizarre by Iwadare, so it is quite difficult to appreciate at first. Then you get “Fatal Damage”, which is a lousy battle theme that represents more of an awful techno hodgepodge that is choppy and distorted. It doesn’t even come close to making you feel that it’s menacing or oppressive.
Iwadare’s electronica experimentation never really delivers for his dungeon or ambient pieces on this album. Take “No Graffiti” for example, it’s a filler track that relies on an electronica drum beat for an erratic progression of ideas. “Silent Way,” reminds me too much of the awful ambient tracks of Final Fantasy VII such as “Underneath the Rotting Pizza” and “Infiltrating Shinra Building”. The keyboard beats just keep marching on your nerves until you just want to skip it. “Underground Grinder,” “Death Trap,” “Teach Me Why,” “Opinion Leader’s Values,” “Demise of Paradise,” and “Instant Talk” continue the deadly strain of filler music with a few minor chords on the electronica keyboard and mingled chimes. The ideas on these unsophisticated tracks are just completely devoid of creativity and it troubled me when I consider the capabilities of Iwadare. The only experimentation with semi-success is “The Closed Door” which produces a trembling electronica bass that seems to remotely show turmoil. “Selfish Raider,” has a lengthy tribal drum section, but the ambient piece improves when the strings are played until it reaches a climax. The amount of failed experimental tracks is just too overwhelming to justify the amount of ambient tracks on this album. This goes back to my earlier statement of the lack of balance on this album. A significant portion of these tracks could have been invested to his jazz motif instead.
Most mediocre and partial tracks of the album come from the town themes, which can be a source of frustration for the listener. However, there are some exceptions in the beginning of Disc One that showed some promise. In “Special Grace”, if you hear closely at this track, it is melody which is reminiscent his track for Ronfare’s village theme in Lunar Eternal Blue (Track 5 “Village-Town”). The violin in the back drives this melody, while those Arabic pipes and flutes are played in the same fashion and beauty. But at 0:57 long, this track’s substance seems to transpire too quickly for the listener. In “Hopping Sun,” it’s a light hearted track with a harpsichord which portrays a swing jazz melody. It’s a very light and jolly track that reminds you a lot of the catchy themes in the Lunar series. You can hear the timber of a metal sheet being hit for a boogie sound to re-emphasis the theme of jazz on this album. It was quite enjoyable for me because of the undemanding nature of it. The slow version of Hopping Sun is somewhat bland, and this is where I couldn’t comprehend why they rehashed two tracks at two different paces instead of having a longer looped track. Other tracks which strongly resemble “Hopping Sun” include “Only Some People For Now” and “Billboard Attacked,” utilize the tropical kettle drums and clarinet. Although repetitive in style, it brings out a tranquil atmosphere through a Jamaican influence.
“Yearning for Brilliance” is not much different from “Only Some People For Now,” except a little sloppy when you compare the two tracks right after another. “Devote for Nature” starts out with the drums bungling in the back, but nothing interesting initially for the first thirty seconds. But after the sour introduction, the jazz theme is re-introduced with the sax and ocarina. The plucking of the strings is done with the right touch as it alternates with the sax. You’ll then breeze through the flute, violins, and cowbell section in “Iterant Party.” This track quickly becomes redundant after hearing a few chords, and although suitable, it’s not groundbreaking material. “Hopping Sun,” “Only Some People For Now,” “Devote for Nature,” and “Itinerant Party” reminds me distinctly of the water theme of Ys VI: Ark of Naphistim and island themes of Chrono Cross, which were laid back and pleasant to hear. In “Unknown and Unnamed Spot,” I began to notice Iwadare was running out of gas and he fell into the hole of recycling old pieces. This piece is a heavily based percussion track just like “Ideling Idol” and “Itinerant Party.” The xylophones get tingled again and again as it masks the guitar in the back completely as if it came from a Super Mario Brothers or Kirby game. The Oceana flute of “Airy Feathers” is played lightly, but placed in the situation of being more of background music for an average rehashed filler track.
Then you get into some of the exotic and ethnic town themes of the game. “Magical World” has an Arabian sound to it, with some of those eerie strings as if you were going into an Indian temple for worship. This theme is unoriginal because you’ve probably heard a similar piece in just about every other RPG. To make matters worse, Iwadare created another partial track which is a recycled piece from “Magical World.” Hackneyed already and then some keyboard electronics trying to put some life to it just doesn’t work. The “Town of Deception” and “Exotic Exhaust” were no different from “Magical World,” except a few variations on the Arabic strings and cello. The partial track made this section even more tedious, because by now the listener is just agonizing for fresh material. A few chimes, out of tune woodwinds, and some electronica trying to form an experimental cutesy theme basically sums up the next town theme of Outsiders. Iwadare wasted six consecutive tracks on the album for incongruent town themes that brought no thematic development to his album.
But there were a couple of tracks which showed initial promise, but they ended abruptly with little room for listening comfort. Examine how Iwadare introduces the accordion in “Artisan” which brings that refreshing European life as if you’re in Paris or Rome. Light and bouncy, just like the “Ideling Idol” track. Done in fabulous fashion, but when the track only lasts 54 seconds, can you really give a solid judgment on that piece? Banjo playing in the background for “Men’s Dirge” and “Scarlet Wind,” fits well with the mood of the western cowboys or if you’re looking for a theme with some Spanish flavor. But both tracks with great potential lasted only a minute and a half is somewhat discouraging. Iwadare continues to impress us with “Perpetual Unsteadiness” brings long with the flutes stepping up and down for the first section and then the violin continues that type of movement creating those steps indicating indecision. This is a light hearted and bright type of track does well in terms of the context of deriving a whimsical or uncertainty feeling. I thought it was perhaps one of the more evocative tracks of this album as well as better executed ones. These tracks truly stand faithful to what a town theme should sound like, bustling and invigorating.
The vocals are another weakness of this album. “Paya Paya” is a cheesy tune driven with a synthetic female vocal, which is like bubble-gum electronica music that’s almost laughable as it is hideous. Imagine an annoying talking plastic doll who just wants to hum an old slap-stick tune. Only the jazzy background from the trumpets keeps it from being a complete stinker. At 1:22, this isn’t enough to satisfy the listener, unless you really enjoy hearing two consonants of paya-paya on a broken record player. Midi sound on a PS2 is truly unforgivable in terms of technology standards. By the way, “Paya-Paya instrumental” is essentially the same melody of “Paya-Paya,” except without the annoying synthetic female vocal. “Calm Melody” doesn’t improve upon “Paya-Paya”, and instead emulates an isolated guitar with the same synthetic doll voice. It sounds familiar to “Water” in the Final Fantay VII -Advent Children- Original Soundtrack that is just bland and unimaginative. The secondary vocal of Tekuteku Aruku is sung in Japanese, light-hearted, but not the type of dramatic music you’re use to hearing in RPGs, like “Song of Mana” in the Seiken Densetsu Legend of Mana Original Soundtrack. The Karaoke version played on a harmonica is done extremely well in comparison to the vocals.
The Radiata Stories Original Soundtrack is not Iwadare’s best up to date that I can recommend to other listeners. Most of the themes were extremely forgettable, and there were only a few tracks I could recall from it. Perhaps my expectations were too high of Iwadare since he created such memorable themes for the Lunar and Grandia series. Most of the themes were just reused, beaten to death, or unoriginal, and then some of them are even offensive when you hear Midi tracks like “Paya-Paya” or empty ambient tracks like “Silent Way” on a PlayStation 2 console. A few jazz tracks are done well, but there’s just not enough development for it to reach anywhere memorable when nearly each track never extends beyond a minute to a minute and a half. The partial tracks are horrendous when you consider the amount of self-rip-off and recycling of music. I could recall there were nearly 10-15 pieces in the album being partial tracks or just slow-paced variations of each other. Once you get past or endure the first disc, you’ll get rewarded on the second disc.
If you are new to Iwadare and hungry for Iwadare’s most enchanting works, I recommend you listen to his earlier works of the Lunar and Grandia series. Those works truly showed his establishment as a pioneer in the field of VGM. I put this soundtrack somewhere along the lines of a sister to Atelier Iris Mana and Legend of Mana, but quite a step below from it because of its level of inconsistency. If you enjoy jazz, then pieces like “Song of Freedom Fighters,” “Hopping Sun,” “Struggle III,” and “Legendary Sword” might just work for you. However, these tracks are just not enough to fill all the ugly deficiencies on this album. I must give acknowledgement to Iwadare for attempting new ideas, even though he came out unsuccessfully. As much as I give such a critical review on this album, I know he has more potential than what this album conveys. Let’s hope he comes back in the right direction with his next album. Lastly, do play the game first before you decide to purchase this album. After listening to the Lunar Series, I thought Radiata Stories would be an even better album. Because of that, I bought the soundtrack before playing the game, which was a mistake on my part. Borrow the soundtrack from a friend and try it out before you buy it.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Will. Last modified on January 16, 2016.