Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Original Soundtrack Vol. 2
Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Original Soundtrack Vol. 2
April 9, 2003
Buy at CDJapan
When I think of Motoi Sakuraba as composer, the first thing that comes into my head is the variety of ideas he tries to give in his music. Listening to many of his classic works, such as Star Ocean -The Second Story- Original Soundtrack and Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack, he has almost two completely different sides to him. One is a side that seems to range from orchestra-style epic pieces to peaceful, dreamy ones that easily compare to those from any other soundtrack — game or movie. However, the other side is the complete opposite — fast, exciting, experimental, and sometimes downright frightening are what I would use to describe the music he ends up writing for battle themes and dungeon themes. You would be able to slip the majority of them into a fighting game and guess they were written for one, as opposed to an RPG. Tracks like “Hard Chain Reaction” and “First Unison” from Valkyrie Profile and the classic “Stab the Sword of Justice” from Star Ocean -The Second Story- show that Sakuraba isn’t afraid to just blast the listener from out of nowhere on the soundtrack, and bring some serious gas in two areas that a good number of VGM composers struggle in. In the previous works, these two sides weave in and out of each other so seamlessly that it makes you wonder just what his limits are. For Star Ocean -Till the End of Time-‘s soundtrack, the decision was made to separate the two different Motoi Sakuraba sounds and enhance the music with real instruments (as opposed to his familiar synth). In Volume 1 of the game’s soundtrack, we were given the first Motoi Sakuraba I mentioned, complete with an orchestra. Here, in Volume 2, we are given the second, complete with a live rock band.
My thoughts on Volume 1 aren’t exactly overwhelmingly positive. The orchestra didn’t offer much of an advantage over his synths (it wasn’t bad, but I mean that more out of respect for the synths), and compared to the more emotional pieces in Star Ocean -The Second Story- and Valkyrie Profile, I felt very empty listening through both CD’s. Maybe it was because I missed having the more engaging pieces in there to possibly break up some of the monotony, or perhaps it would go better within the context game. If nothing else, it really got me wondering just how much would Sakuraba change his style for Volume 2.
For the most part, my earlier description of Sakuraba’s wild side is accurate. The CD liner notes credit an electric guitar player, an electric bass player, a drummer, and a tenor saxophonist, but it also features plenty of that delicious synth that die-hard Sakuraba fans can’t get enough of. The pieces don’t quite attack the listener like the ones in Sakuraba’s previous works do — the electric guitar shines in some spots, but it is used sparingly. Imagine Second Story with more complexity and some jazz elements and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Unlike Volume 1 though, there is absolutely no question Sakuraba is the mastermind behind these. It just has that special feel to it. Overall, I think it stands on its own much better than Volume 1 does; each track is just bursting with character and they get my imagination rolling as to what parts of the game they accompany. I would go so far as to say that Volume 2 would be more than enough to score most regular RPG’s on its own, leaving me to wonder just how big the game itself actually is.
The soundtrack doesn’t waste any time getting started, as the first track of Disc One is the main battle theme. “Cutting Edge of Notion” is probably the perfect example of how the synths are used in relation to the guitar throughout the soundtrack… They intertwine throughout the piece, sometimes making the listener mistake one for the other, but never losing momentum. This effect can also be heard in “Around in the Wilderness,” a much lighter piece where both the synths and the guitar sound like they’re having fun dancing into and out of the melody. Of all the pieces I’ve heard from Sakuraba, I can say this is hands-down my favorite. Of course, the guitar gets its chance to shine by itself in some places; both “Expiration” and “The Divine Spirit of Language” are good, clean rock tunes with great melodies.
The jazz elements are much more noticeable, not in the sense that so many of the tracks use the style, but in the way the soundtrack just has that smooth progressive feel to it. The whole thing is very easy to sit down and just listen straight through, something I can’t say for Valkyrie Profile or Star Ocean -The Second Story- all the time. The saxophonist is used very sparingly, but he gets some action in both versions of “Moody Goddess” and in the very catchy “Star Ocean – Jazz Ver.”. Generally speaking though, it’s either the electric guitar or the synths that accomplish this smooth feeling. The elements are much lighter toned on the first disc, but they equally assist the feeling of darkness present throughout the second disc.
Earlier, I used the word experimental to describe this side of Sakuraba, and that fits some of these tracks perfectly. Just flip on “Bitter Dance”; the last thing I was expecting was a Bemani-style piece in this kind of RPG soundtrack. The lyrics are cheesy as hell and more than a little out of place, but I get the feeling the piece itself isn’t just mini-game filler — somehow it feels important. “Mission to the Empty Space” is a wicked twist on Sakuraba’s classic “Mission to the Deep Space” with a different melody and “Do Evil” is wildly unpredictable, with some great synth-action in there. Tracks like “The Virtual Image” and “Moon Base” use the synths to create a really good futuristic feel. “The Virtual Image” is probably the best I’ve heard a game music use synthesized voices before; they’re seamlessly integrated, but scary as hell. Finally, there’s the 10-minute monster known as “Highbrow.” This is an overdose of great beats, various synth sounds, and references to previous works, mostly ones from Valkyrie Profile.
At the end of Disc Two, we have a series of arrangements, which include the aforementioned alternate version of “Moody Goddess” and “Star Ocean Forever – Jazz Ver.” These are classic Sakuraba tunes, beefed up considerably with the additional instruments. The one that sticks out the most in my mind is the new version of “The True Nature of All.” What was originally a weak-sounding boss theme in Valkyrie Profile has been strengthened, extended, and actually sounds much more like an epic final battle piece between two heated rivals. The excellence of these arrangements put the lackluster arrangements on the Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Arrange Album to shame even further.
As good as this soundtrack is, there is one thing that bears mention: Many of the tracks simply do not loop. I’m starting to get annoyed with this trend (it happened on both Star Ocean -The Second Story- Original Soundtrack and Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack, as well as the Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Original Soundtrack Vol. 1) and I hope whoever puts these soundtracks together, whether it be Sakuraba himself or the publisher, realizes that it’s a real pain in the ass to have to keep hitting the repeat button to make sure such great music stays on longer. On the one hand, the added complexity adds more length to the pieces, so I’m not suggesting that they all be looped; some are fine as they stand. On the other hand, they can at least make some effort in filling up the CD’s by looping some tracks that just seem to go away too quickly… I honestly feel more people would start to notice tracks like “Around in the Wilderness” and “Bracing Forest Wind” more if they played longer.
That lone gripe aside, I give this a full recommendation to any game music fan who enjoys a rock touch. If you decide to invest in a Star Ocean album, this should be the one to get.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andy Byus. Last modified on August 1, 2012.