Tale of the Last Promise Original Soundtrack
Tale of the Last Promise Original Soundtrack
May 25, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Tale of the Last Promise (aka Saigo no Yakusoku no Monogatari) was the first self-published title by prolific RPG developer Image Epoch. Having outsourced their previous soundtracks to veterans such as Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuzo Koshiro, and Yoko Shimomura, the developer chose newcomers to handle this production. Specifically GainGauge, an independent techno unit comprising NEK and Manabe Akiyoshi — both of whom are skilled in composition, programming, and performance. While their choice was intriguing in an age when veterans dominate the industry, it sadly seems to have been made out of desperation rather than creative reasons. The soundtrack release confirms that GainGauge were, in fact, completely unsuited for this project…
Staying close to RPG tradition, GainGauge introduces the soundtrack with an exposition of the main theme on solo piano. The melody draws listeners in with its rich shape and, while fundamentally simple, it is explored beautifully through a series of improvisations. However, its full potential isn’t realised due to the sloppy implementation of the track — the piano is so compressed that it sounds unnatural in places and the electronic overtones were completely unnecessary. Featured in short and long versions, “The Last Promise” by 164 gives the game a darker and grittier image. While the chorus of the soundtrack is mundane girl band material, the moody spoken opening and thrashing rock segments are more appealing. It manages to have mainstream appeal while being a little different.
A large portion of the background music features ethereal blends of electronic and acoustic textures. For example, “The Cathedral” and “Lost Time” blend solo violin and piano performances with suspended synthpads and subdued percussion. Such tracks certainly explore the spiritual component of GainGauge’s musicality — otherwise an undercurrent in their solo works — but they may be too subdued to be easily appreciated. The unit attempt to stir deeper emotions with the intimate guitar solo on “Momentary Silence”, elegaic chorus support of “In the Devastated Town”, and the shifts from silence and motion in “Sadness and Fate”. However, their implementation means they don’t evoke as deeply as they wanted: the instruments sound artificial, the balance is off, and the mixing is muddy.
GainGauge shine most on the more contemporary-flavoured tracks. Though there are no pieces that reflect their distinctive electronic sound, there are a few fusions that evoke memories of their solo work. For example, “VS Leclaire” features an exciting blend of electronic, rock, and gothic textures — unlike their orchestral pieces, it is full of rhythmical and timbral variety from start to finish. Meanwhile “An Iron Mass Blocking the Way” and “The Imminent One” are enjoyable if unpolished tributes to Falcom’s fiddle rock anthems — the former of which is especially catchy. “Defensive Battle” is the most convincingly stylised here — with charismatic guitar performances and hard drum beats. But further reflecting how unsuited GainGauge were for the project, it was eventually omitted from the game.
However, it’s clear throughout the release that GainGauge aren’t versatile enough to deal with the diverse demands of scoring an RPG. The numerous action-packed orchestrations here match the pace and intensity of the on-screen action, but are underwhelming on a stand-alone level. For example, the melodic charisma of “War of Attrition 1” is soon lost by its rhythmical awkwardness and repetitive sampled percussion line. GainGauge try so hard to make “Soul Strike” sound epic that they lose the textural and dynamic variety essential for fulfilling compositions. Everything is heavy, loud, fast, and frankly ugly from start to finish here. Even the obligatory main theme reprise on “Lost Soul” struggles to impress — the modest nature of the melody is certainly corrupted in this heavy-handed and often sloppy orchestration.
Clearly GainGauge were wrong for Tale of the Last Promise. While the unit have produced numerous enjoyable semi-amateur original works in recent years, they lacked the versatility and knowledge to cope with the leap to game scoring. But the failure of the soundtrack also lies partly with the producers, who not only chose the wrong artists for the project, but didn’t make the most of their talent. After all, there are no tracks here that really capture GainGauge’s unique electronic sound and most others are pale imitations of RPG staples. What’s more, given the game’s visuals were so heavily compressed, the producers should have allocated more ROM space for the music — rich performances and balanced mixes would have brought so much to this release. With just 27 tracks, the soundtrack also fails to offer the vast archs and astonishing diversity that other Image Epoch releases have boasted.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.