Tales of Graces Original Soundtrack
Tales of Graces Original Soundtrack
February 10, 2010
Buy at CDJapan
Tales of Graces is the 12th mothership title in the Tales series, released in Japan in December 2009 for the Wii console. The soundtrack is lead by veteran Motoi Sakuraba once again while co-composer Hibiki Aoyama (Tales of Vesperia / Hearts / VS) also returns to form the pact for the newest entry. Let’s see if the duo can reach the limits it has achieved with Tales of Vesperia on the Wii.
“I Want to Protect You ~White Wishes~ (Tales of Graces Version)” serves as theme song for the game. It is performed by the Korean singer Boa Kwon (known as BoA) while arranged by Hiroo Yamaguchi. I really like this song; it has this typical Tales J-Pop sound within while BoA’s voice is very smooth and powerful at the same time. The full version with a bit of one minute more can be found on the official single. Like in the two previous instalments, the theme gets revamped as instrumental ending version with some absurd percussion in the background. It sounds like an amateurish MIDI work for me and it’s definitely not the type of track you’d wish to hear compared to the excellent opener. There is also a fragile piano rendition of the theme song in “Unspoken Feelings” with soft strings in the backgroun. It is quite emotional and far more enjoyable than the ending version.
In terms of battle themes Motoi Sakuraba has again some good things to offer. There are plenty of battle tracks on this soundtrack and some of them are pretty diverse as well. The normal battle theme receives two arrangements, “Grasp it With All Your Might” and “Sword-Drawing! Grind!”. The first version is popular with fans and is rather playful, since it serves as the children battle theme that plays during the prologue. The other arrangement is more generic with the chimes changed into distorted electric guitars. The overall melody isn’t that bad and it’s actually pretty catchy; however again, it’s a typical and somewhat rejected way of composing a standard battle theme for the series. Another normal battle theme, “Impatient Sword”, is one of those typical progressive rock tracks we have heard so often before and immediately screams Star Ocean.
“Scorching Brawl” and “Cold Wind Flash!” are two of the more interesting battle themes. The first has a typical desert feeling with sitar and rock organ, while the former has an very interesting rhythm paired with strong bass line and smooth piano harmonies within, giving it a feeling of cold and uneasiness. Both tracks rely on experimental developement instead of catchy melodies, which is a nice aspect to see from Sakuraba. “What Appeared in Eternity’s End” has a Celtic atmosphere and is one the most playful battle themes from the series. It has similarities with Tales of Rebirth‘s “The Trial”, which had the same thematic. As in Tales of the Abyss, a battle medley was created for some cameo battles. “Soul Evangelist” contains “Edge of an Oath” (Tales of the Abyss), “Battle Organization” (Tales of Rebirth), “Theme of Battle” (Tales of Destiny 2) and “Mysterious Arms Soma” (Tales of Hearts), but the overall quality of thematic and mixing leaves a lot the be desired compared to “Everlasting Fight”.
For the boss themes Motoi Sakuraba used his orchestral abilites to create some pompous and climatic music. Again pretty routine, but there are nevertheless highlights among them. “Perplexed Sword” is inspired by Classical music, yet paired with intrusive percussion and militaristic brass and strings. The resulting heroic atmosphere reminds me quite a bit of Sakuraba’s work on Baten Kaitos. My favorite battle theme, however, is “Mad Dance” from the fourth disc. At first I thought it would be another “Chaotic Dance” styled piece like from Baten Kaitos, but I was wrong — it’s pure orchestral. The use of violin, frantic percussion, and female choir is simply breathtaking, as is the overall development of the piece. The same goes for the final boss theme “Life’s Cry”, a typical, but at the same time fascinating, piece of orchestral beauty. Just listen to the developement of the strings in this one! Those are pieces which truly state that Motoi Sakuraba doesn’t need a live orchestra for his themes: he manipulates and arranges his synth so perfectly that it almost doesn’t make sense if they’re real instruments or not. Grandeur!
Motoi Sakuraba’s remaining themes range from lighthearted and playful works like “A Town of Dancing Wind” and “Prosterity in the Lake Shore” over to more military and grandious works, heard in “Progress in the Same Number of Dreams” or “Royal Capital ~Majestic Grandeur~”. The track “What Was Born Inside that Door” and “Crush that Steel!” are two particularly interesting compositions, where frantic beats are paired with dissonant melodies to create an experimental and surreal image. There are also plenty of orchestral tracks within the score which were written specifically for cutscenes. All of them fit perfectly in the context, but standalone they’re not that interesting to mention.
Hibiki Aoyama’s contributions rely on light-hearted and bouncy melodies with typical Tales sound, though he also contributes some ambient music for dungeons. “Invitation to a Voyage”, “To the Fascinating Oceans” and “To a Sea of Dancing Snow” share the same melody, but each with a different style, from bouncy over to melancholy, yet are crafted in typical Tales manner. “A Village Vanished Beyond the Woodlands” develops an interesting and surprisingly sad atmosphere while only the title of “A Wharf Mixed with Men, Things and Sand” makes me laugh. “The Surpreme King’s Cage” is a funky electronic composition fitting for a frantic mini game. Overall however, Aoyama has a lacklustre role here following his marvelous contributions on Tales of Vesperia.
Tales of Graces has one of the most classically-oriented soundtracks from the series, at least from Motoi Sakuraba’s side. Tracks like “Prosterity in the Lake Shore”, “Mad Dance”, or “Life’s Cry” shine with some excellent use of strings and overall orchestraton. Most of the tracks are orchestral instead of synthetic and also the theme is distinctly darker than in previous soundtracks; another sign of a mature progress in the musical history of the series. Hibiki Aoyama didn’t create that impact he created with his debut project Tales of Vesperia, but nevertheless his contributions work well within the context. At first I was pretty sceptical, but after several listens the music grew on me. I wish I could say there where pieces which are simply “unforgettable” or “highlight of the series”, but these couldn’t be found here, sadly. Still, it’s an decent yet generic soundtrack for a decent yet generic game.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Max Nevill. Last modified on August 1, 2012.