Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack
Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack
AVCD-17741/3 (Copy Protected)
August 24, 2005
Buy at CDJapan
Those familiar with the Tales series will immediately think of Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura as the sole leaders of the series’ music until this point in time. While Sakuraba and Tamura were busy with the next “main” Tales entry, Namco decided they were going to take a somewhat different approach and release a new Tales game developed by a different team. Dubbed “Project Melfes”, Tales of Legendia was the beginning of a sub-division of the Tales Studio that would produce games that focused more on the battle system and less on the development of the world as a whole. With this new idea, they also decided to assign “Mr. Driller” composer Go Shiina to the score. Shiina never had much experience prior to this, so his announcement came as a shock to most fans of the series. Nobody had anything to worry about though, as Shiina set the bar about a thousand times higher than any past Tales soundtrack to date. How so you may ask? Keep reading to find out!
Shiina introduces us to the title screen with a lush orchestration full of hope and determination, “Melfes ~ Shining Blue”. The woodwinds lead us into this piece tossing the melody back and forth with the orchestra. This goes on for a bit, and then the piece suddenly stops. After a dramatic crescendo, the full symphony pulls out all the stops for one of the most beautiful sections of any orchestral piece I’ve ever heard. I can’t seem to listen to this section without getting a little teary eyed. It is just amazing. Shiina keeps up this powerful orchestration in “Forest of No Return”. Here we get to hear just how good he is at incorporating a powerful violin section without pulling from the somewhat darker tone this piece has over the last. It really is hard to believe this is played in a dungeon.
Moving on to some of the darker orchestral pieces, we have another dungeon theme “To Deliver the Feelings”. This is the first track that I could tell we were working with a live orchestra for several of the pieces. Shiina demonstrates his skill as a composer by constantly offering unexpected twists and turns in the melody, which makes this piece have a very sinister feel to it. This isn’t my favorite of the orchestrations but its effectiveness for stressing the player out is unparalleled. The last live orchestra piece I’ll discuss for now is the game’s final ending theme “Tales”. This track does an amazing job closing the story of Senel and company by incorporating bits and pieces of themes from throughout the album. Now I say bits and pieces, because nothing here is technically arranged from anything else. The influence from the rest of the album is obviously here, but no one melody is actually reused.
It’s time to take a little break from the live orchestra and move on to something that is highly regarded as the best track on the album. “Enemy Attack” has a lot going on in it, so I’ll try to do the best I can in explaining it. The track is almost entirely piano driven, with the strings playing only harmony. A deep rolling piano progression opens the piece with a sharp high pitched piano driving through the intro. This high pitched piano takes the majority of the melody, while the strings, orchestra, and lower piano all take turns in backing it up. This track is only played in a cut scene, but could have easily passed as the normal battle theme. It carries such a sense of urgency that you might actually find yourself getting stressed listening to it. This is one of many absolute must listen tracks on this soundtrack.
One thing I thought was a little strange at first was just how “in your face” most of the compositions on here are. “The Meeting Place Is the Fountain Plaza” plays in the main city of the game, but it’s very hard to tell that it is a town theme with its prominent violin and powerful orchestral harmony. Another example of this would be “March”. This track again pulls out all the stops with a chanting intro and epic choir in the A section. After the choir is finished, we get to hear the first signs of electric guitar use mixed with an ethnic flute melody and a marching percussion. Shiina then decided to show off his skill with drums as a small drum solo opens the next section. The strings take the march here for a small interlude. After that, the choir returns, with an electric guitar solo playing over top the piece. In game, this is where the piece loops, but Shiina decides to be sneaky and fit the orchestral and choir game over theme to close the track. As odd as that sounds it fits perfectly.
So far you are probably wondering where all the emotion is. We heard it in the opening, so it has to surface somewhere throughout the album as well right? “Whisper of the Crystal” is another dungeon theme, with yet another unorthodox presentation. The piece is basically a piano solo with ambient sounds backing it up. The strings and brass take the several climaxes this piece has. Once this piece loops though, a flute is added to really suck all the life force out of you. While this seems like a very strange dungeon theme the track is executed with absolute perfection. This theme is used again in a track I like to call my guilty pleasure of the album. “Spinning Thoughts, Bound Hands” uses an electric guitar with an echo effect to play the melody. The theme comes off as pretty simple at first, but once the climax hits the electric guitar goes insane and brings out a side of this melody I never thought possible. Add this as yet another track that brings tears to my eyes.
Just to prove Shiina can be considered a master at many different genres, let’s move on to two pieces that show styles that haven’t been discussed yet. “A Cheerful Bandit” is a fusion jazz piece just spewing with energy. This track doubles as Moses’ character theme and a dungeon theme, although the dungeon theme is somewhat rearranged. Shiina tries to make this track sound as professional as humanly possible, by switching the melody between piano, trumpet, and saxophone. Shortly after it starts we are even treated to a string bass solo that just further shows the talent this man has in this genre.
The other track I wanted to discuss here is Shiina’s sole electronic composition on the album, “Short Circuit”. While this style is scarce here, this is the style he uses in most other work you will find from him. I can’t really explain this track in order, so we’ll take it like this. Shiina uses an orchestra to cover the harmony while looping an erratic drum loop and operatic male and female vocals. The coolest part about this though is what happens halfway through. He starts to give the track a feeling that things are getting worse. First of all, it begins by making the track “skip” which is then immediately followed by the tempo of the track being slowed down to almost nothing, then sped back up really quickly. The opera vocals come back, which immediately transposed up to make them have a “chipmunk” sound. While this track isn’t as listenable as some others, the innovation behind it is incredible.
We’ve discussed Shiina’s violin skills somewhat, but I’m going to showcase them here. “Chasing Shirley” is yet another one of those unorthodox dungeon themes that keep popping up. The entire melody is violin based, and it is flawlessly implemented. The jazzy bass-line and fulfilling percussion do an outstanding job filling in all areas where the violin might not be crazy enough. If you like violin jazz you must listen to this. It is the most fun track on the album, which could only be rivaled by the next track on my list, “Big Sister Honwaka”. The jazz theme stays in this one, although much more laid back. The flute section in the beginning is really only a buildup to the solo section following it. The trumpet blares out the melody of the track, leading up to the best violin solo on the album. While it begins as a mirror to the trumpet, the violin proves its worth by carrying the track all the way to the loop, showcasing some violin skill very hard to come by these days.
The last thing I’ll discuss today is a few of the vocal themes from the game. “TAO” was written for the game by the popular Japanese band Do-As-Infinity. Tomiko Van’s alto voice fits perfectly with the setting of the game. It is not used in any in game scenes, but Shiina does arrange an instrumental “TAO -melfes version-” which you will have to check out. The other vocal theme I will discuss is one that has received some criticism for being too cheesy. I just have to let it be known I do not agree with this notion at all. “My Tales” is a duet featuring Gab Desmond, someone I have not heard of before, along with Donna Burke who would probably be most known for lending her voice to the English version of “Kaze no Ne” from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Both singers have very powerful voices and Shiina’s pop-esque instrumentation make this a very fitting and wonderful addition to the album. I especially enjoy the inclusion of all the voices at the pinnacle of the track. It really makes for a moving experience that shouldn’t be passed up!
I should tell you right now I left out some outstanding pieces and for good reason too. If I feel strongly enough about an album I feel that readers should have the opportunity to discover some gems on their own without my direction. I say this, because this album represents one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in terms of a video game soundtrack. Shiina has made an instant masterpiece with this soundtrack. The only flaw with this album is the tracks being positioned out of chronological order. While this makes it hard for a listener to engross themselves into the album as a gateway to the game, it does introduce a level of originality that makes the album even easier to digest outside of the game. We really didn’t need that though. Shiina’s skills as a composer are more than enough to make a fan out of just about everybody out there. This is solely my opinion, but I believe this album ranks up as one of the greatest in game music history. I urge every one of you to do whatever you can to snag this album, and I hope it gives you the same experience it gave me.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Bryan Matheny. Last modified on August 1, 2012.