Star Ocean Soundtrack
Star Ocean Soundtrack
March 24, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
Star Ocean, a series developed by tri-Ace and originally published by Enix (now Square Enix), features veteran composer Motoi Sakuraba as the main composer. The overall themes of the games have a sci-fi story to them with some beautiful setting within its vast galaxy. Motoi Sakuraba, known for his progressive rock style, contributes his musical styling to the soundtrack to the series. While the original game in the series was released for the Super Nintendo in 1995, it took a whole nine years for it to receive a true soundtrack release thanks to the popular demand generated by Star Ocean -Till the End of Time-. The arranged album Star Ocean Perfect Sound Collection was released soon after the game, but this didn’t compensate for the lack of the original score. When it did come, it was really worth the wait. It’s my personal opinion that this underexposed score wonderfully exposes the Star Ocean sound and it is also beautifully remastered to achieve a sound quality far superior to the original, the final twelve bonus tracks aside.
The Star Ocean series utilizes a series of musical styles. Within the games you’ll hear progressive rock, soft elegant pieces, orchestral pieces, and the occasional playful piece. It’s a very diverse series, although the focus is mainly on the progressive rock and the softer themes. Sadly, there are only a few playful themes that really stick out in this soundtrack. “Innocence,” I believe, is a town theme. It has an airy disposition to it, created by the rhythmic percussion and the flowing woodwind passages. It’s very pleasant. The other track that sticks out is “Sunny Place.” It has a more prominent flute section that adds to the playfulness of the piece. In addition, the orchestral highlights and the catchy bass line all work quite well together in producing this beautiful sound.
While the orchestral pieces on this theme are also few in comparison, there are a few that offer a nice soundscape. “Labo of Tas” is a very dark theme. However, the epic nature of the brass combined with the haunting string work and chorus work makes for a track with tons of cinematic potential. The contrast between the sweeping, powerful sections and the softer slow sections makes for a very nice treat. “First Experience” is a very powerful piece of music. The brass synth is a bit obnoxious, but not as obnoxious as those found in Star Ocean -The Second Story-. The sense of urgency in this piece is prominent, especially when the strings come in to create a very crisis-driven piece of music.
“Past Days” is another powerful orchestral composition. The overall melody of this piece is quite epic and, while the focus is mainly on the brass, there are softer woodwind passages that contrast nicely with the main theme, creating an air of mystery as well. This is probably my favorite of the orchestral pieces. “New Age” combines many different atmospheres. Starting off suspenseful, the string work really makes the beginning of this track. As it progresses though, the percussion takes on a militaristic sound and adds to the depth of the piece, creating moments of triumph. It’s an excellent theme, and I believe it’s the ending theme to the game.
One of the major strengths of this soundtrack is definitely the soft compositions. “Ambition” and “Calm Time” are definitely influences for later Star Ocean soundtracks. There is a tender magical atmosphere present in these pieces and the instrumentation executes the melodies quite nicely. They are easily a few of my favorites from the Star Ocean series. “Full of Sorrow” is a very somber piece of music, played mainly on the violin. However, the inclusion of some choral work and harp accents makes the track all the more sorrowful. It may be a bit clichÈd nowadays, but I still find it extremely touching. “Stream of Wind” has an Asian influence about it. The haunting combination of piano, acoustic guitar and woodwinds makes for a compelling theme. “Purge Thyself” is a nice, chilling piano work with some harp and choral accents. It builds very nicely, although the introduction gets a bit repetitive, into an excellent theme with hints of purity.
Lastly, I’ll brush up on the progressive rock style found within the soundtrack. The major boss battle theme, “Tense Atmosphere,” has a nice focus on woodwinds for the majority of the piece. The accompanying rhythm is highly addicting and the melody is just superb. As the piece progresses, the more prominent progressive rock elements are introduced with a shift in the bass line rhythm and the addition of that classic keyboard sound for which Sakuraba is famous. The normal battle theme, “For Achieve,” is another excellent piece of work. It has the same elements as the boss battle theme in it, but it isn’t as strong. It’s a fun battle theme, but I prefer the boss battle theme.
“Dancing Sword” reminds me a lot of some of Sakuraba’s more experimental battle themes, such as “Chaotic Dance” and “Bitter Dance” from Baten Kaitos and Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- respectively. It’s got an infectious rhythm and the melody is fairly decent. The inclusion of choral work is an interesting development. It’s not the strongest piece on the album, but it is enjoyable. “Ancient Ruin” is definitely reminiscent of some of his later dungeon themes. Although it has a very tribal focus, especially in the rhythm, I like the inclusion of the progressive rock elements and how they contrast with the organic feel of the piece. “True Figure” is an excellent theme. It has a very sinister aura and the introductory piano and choral work that leads into the progressive rock frenzy just adds to the overall depth of the piece. It’s a simply stunning piece of work.
There are also a few pieces from the original sound version of the soundtrack. They don’t really offer much to the soundtrack, but they do give a sense of how it originally sounded in game. They also include the opening themes for the game, “Departures” and “New Age”, surprisingly omitted from the remastered sound version such that the battle theme “Tense Atmosphere” opens the album instead. The ending theme “Mother Ocean” is entirely absent from the soundtrack.
The Star Ocean Soundtrack has a nice mixture of elements that the Star Ocean series is known for. Sakuraba crafts themes using his signature progressive rock style, but at the same time he is also able to craft some much softer and elegant themes. The soundtrack also has some playful pieces as well as more orchestral focused ones. Overall, it’s a fairly solid bunch, although I find it to be the weakest of the series.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 16, 2016.