Tactics Ogre -Wheel of Fate- Original Soundtrack
Tactics Ogre -Wheel of Fate- Original Soundtrack
November 10, 2010
Buy at CDJapan
Known by some as a prototype of Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together featured a nearly identical key staff to the worldwide classic, and itself possesses quite a large fanbase in Japan. Since the original developers, Quest, were bought by Square in 2002, and Tactics Ogre‘s spiritual successor already had a successful remake, Square-Enix went ahead and adapted the original Tactics Ogre to the PSP in the fall of 2010. Naturally, Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, the original composers, were on board to rearrange the entire soundtrack with the Sydney Scoring Orchestra and also compose a few new tracks for the game, but they were also joined in arrangement by a large portion of the Basiscape team. The result is the Tactics Ogre -Wheel of Fate- Original Soundtrack, featuring three discs of orchestral arrangements and a bonus disc sampling the original SNES version. How does this arrange stack up to other Sakimoto and Iwata collaborative efforts?
Hitoshi Sakimoto starts the album off with the rousing “Overture,” and the listener is immediately attuned to the fact that this score meshes the Sakimoto’s classic compositions and modern orchestrations. The track might not possess a melody as catchy as his more recent works — favouring instead a relatively stern nationalistic approach rather than something more modernist and distinctive — but it shows trademarks of his style all around. The orchestration here brings the composition firmly into the modern era and the top-quality brass and strings here are a major improvement on the SPC synth of the original (as respectable as it was for its time). In fact, listeners can compare the remake version with the one minute version on the fourth disc, and the difference in orchestration and implementation is substantial.
Sakimoto builds upon the military approach with a range of other orchestrations. The similarly boisterous “VENDETTA!” opens with a dramatic rise and cascade in the strings which meshes into a slower, tenser section; in classic Sakimoto fashion, this section steadily builds up, utilizing reprises of the aforementioned dramatic motif, until the track loops. Once again, the orchestration makes the most out of the original composition, maintaining Sakimoto’s distinctive fingerprints while taking the music to the modern age. “Air Land”, Sakimoto’s first true battle theme of the album, is excellently dramatic, shifting dynamic intelligently, with the arranger tossing the role of lead instrument amongst the entire orchestra. While the aforementioned portrays a guaranteed sense of victory, “Restriction” paints a picture of being backed into a corner, where hope is all that can be clung to. The piece is more dramatic, but also quieter, in a sense, featuring more subdued and less complex orchestrations similar to the already accomplished original piece.
The two “Notice of Death” tracks feature, of course, the same basic, sad melody, but are orchestrated differently enough to both be worth a listen. Aware of the respective strengths of his employees at Basiscape, Sakimoto let Azusa Chiba handle the exposition and Kimihiro Abe the reprise. Both have distinctive enough musical fingerprints to offer contrasts approrpiate for their in-game use; indeed, the original is slightly more downcast than the reprise, thanks to the instrumentation, though both are in the minor key. The “Prayer” themes follow a similar formula, with Yoshimi Kudo’s reprise arrangement being a slightly lighter version of Noriyuki Kamikura’s opening version. Fortunately, the melody in these tracks is probably the most thickly emotional that Sakimoto contributes from the Super Nintendo score, fortunately not coming off as forced or contrived.
“Limitation” is probably the best of Sakimoto’s battle themes on the album, featuring a memorable melody and great orchestration. It might be one of the longest tracks on the soundtrack, as was the original on the SNES soundtrack, but it’s also one of the most riveting. Another more lengthy addition, “Harvest Dance” paints a variety of pictures during its development, from hopelessness to a gung-ho addition. Mitsuhiro Kaneda handles its transformation very well, with the latter atmosphere blending into the former when the track loops. Another outstanding entry is “White Storm”, which reflects the technical prowess of the PSP with its addition of dramatic choir. Sadly the final battle theme, “A Meet with Destiny,” a new composition based on the classic “Theme of Black Knight”, is rather disappointing. It feels more like a mesh of disconnected ideas than a proper track, and can’t quite settle on what mood it wants to portray. Fortunately Sakimoto’s own remake of the credits theme, “Passing Moment,” meshes ideas together into a rather connected whole, and ends up being one of the most memorable tracks on the album.
Masaharu Iwata excites right out of the gate with the fantastic “Chaotic Island”. It’s easily one of the best battle tracks on the album, thanks to an extremely catchy and evolving melody that draws one’s attention until its exciting, classically-oriented climax. The orchestration is excellent here and the choir is a perfectly placed addition to the original. Indeed, Iwata carries on in this fashion throughout the album, with adaptations of some of the more evocative and memorable battle themes. “Fight It Out!” is excellently crafted and exciting, and “Impregnable Defense” is melodically profound like the Ogre Battle original. Less impressive, “Chivalry and Savagery” jumps at the listener immediately with a very nice opening, though the track goes slightly downhill from there melodically, while still retaining some fascinating orchestration. In this case, I actually prefer the original SNES version featured in the fourth disc. Likewise original pieces such as “Unleashed” and “Showdown” aren’t particularly novel, while the deceptively short playtime of “Viking Spirits” masks a compelling piece as well.
Whereas Sakimoto often relied on other arrangers to interpret his SNES originals, Masaharu Iwata arranges much of his own material and seems to take great pleasure in bringing his classics to the modern age (having previously been excluded from the remakes of Baroque and Final Fantasy Tactics). He moulds “Box of Sentiment”, in particular, into a central emotional theme on the album with both its original rendition on music box and its reprise on “Emotion and Absence of Mind” for orchestra. The melody is ghostly and eerie, yet hopeful, particularly on the music box. The orchestrated version doesn’t work as well as the original, arguably overcomplicating the piece, yet it has a profound effect evoking emotion in and out of context nevertheless.
Iwata’s “Fog of Phantom,” the lengthiest track on the album, uses its track length well, introducing new material at a steady, fulfilling pace. It starts off rather creepy with its descending choir (reminiscent of Super Mario World‘s ghost house theme, oddly enough), and only gets more gothic as a church organ is introduced, eventually accompanying the original melody with the choir. These epic production values once again ensure a pleasing transition from SNES to PSP. Hayato Matsuo’s music is also featured in two tracks, “Krypton” and “Accretion Disk,” both taken from the original Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. Both of these are rather rousing and effective marches, orchestrated maturely by Noriyuki Kamikura. The set is rounded off with a fourth mini CD featuring a small and seemingly random sampling of tracks from the original SNES version of the title. Still, a bonus is a bonus.
There are two distinct factors at play in this album: The original compositions, and their modern arrangements. Most of Sakimoto’s and a good chunk of Iwata’s original compositions are fairly weak, especially in light of the duo’s recent work, but the orchestrations that all the tracks have received have all but masked this quite extraordinarily, ultimately creating a rather capable soundtrack that can nearly compare with their newer works. Those who are fans of the original SNES version’s music will find the fourth disc too short to be satisfying and should stick to the game’s first soundtrack release instead. This might not be the best Basiscape effort, but it certainly should not be overlooked by readers who can pass up compositional quality for superior orchestration.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Marc Friedman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.