Star Trader / Music from
Music from Star Trader
April 21, 1989
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Falcom has almost exclusively been a developer of RPGs during its 25+ years in the games industry. However, Star Trader is an interesting exception, essentially a challenging shooter with some adventure elements. Scored solely by Mieko Ishikawa, the soundtrack is a little more ambient and hostile than Falcom’s RPG soundtracks, but not all that different otherwise. Music from Star Trader features all the original tracks from the game and three bonus arrangements. It has been dubbed one of the weaker items in discography by some, but does it have some merit?
The opening theme “Legend” sets a spacey scene. Gradually a slow boundless melody emerges against a repeated synth motif and eerie sound effects. Everything is kept very simple and unobtrusive, but the intended effect is still created on the humble sound chips. “The Charge” is closer to an anthemic composition with its catchy opening hook and more expansive melody. It seems to capture a sense of adventure fairly well at the start of the journey. However, it undeniably sounds a little thin compared to Mieko Ishikawa’s other classics, perhaps due to the droning bass line. Other charming compositions include “Angel Dust” with its charming counterpoint, “Lefi’s Theme” with its pensive soundscaping, or “The Siege” with its slight rock influences. At the end of the soundtrack, “Star Trader” is also undeniably catchy and poppy, clearly written in the tradition of the Ys series.
While the melodically guided compositions tend to be good on Star Trader, there are a lot of weaker compositions. Tracks like “Volkt’s Theme” or “Voice” that are merely gimmicky jingles; they’re a tiny bit catchy, but over in a flash. Tracks like “Power-Up”, “Misty Way”, and “Premonition of Terror” meanwhile are built entirely around repeating ambient elements and have no melody at all. Though they create a degree of tension or moody in context, they’re in no way interesting on a stand-alone basis and lose the direct quality that made the music of Ys and Sorcerian appealing. Sadly, the use of just three chords and a few seconds of additional development isn’t enough to make “The Fortress Morgana” intimidating or significant. At least the concluding action themes have a real grit to them and manage to convey a series of mechanical terrors.
While the majority of the original music is underwhelming, at least Keiichi Oku’s six arranged tracks are fully-fledged. “The Charge” at last receives the rich yet gritty arrangement it deserves and introduces a new industrial-tinged rock style to Falcom’s discography. This style is elaborated upon further with the successive interpretations of “The Manufacturing Plant”, “The Missile Warship Berserk”, and “The Military Satellite Myornil”. Oku meanwhile makes the most of what was essentially a few chord progressions in “Moon Drive”, building up a dramatic arch that culminates in a flashy guitar solo, while “Star Trader” features a sassy trumpet-led rock arrangement filled with plenty of character. Perhaps fittingly given the hostility and chaos preceding it, the arranged section ends on a soothing yet bittersweet note with a synthy reprise of “Lefi’s Theme”.
The original music for Star Trader is distinctly lacklustre. There are some decent compositions, but the majority are repetitive and unmelodious, quite in contrast to Mieko Ishikawa’s work on the Ys and Sorcerian series. Thankfully, the rather good arranged tracks provide some salvation. However, only those with some affinity for the game should seriously consider this album.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.