The Last Guardian Original Soundtrack
The Last Guardian Original Soundtrack
December 21, 2016
Buy at CDJapan
Takeshi Furukawa’s had big shoes to fill when composing the soundtrack for Team ICO’s latest and much-anticipated project: The Last Guardian. For his first major solo work, Furukawa received a plethora of live resources for recording, and the instruction to avoid falling into the conventions of modern game scoring.
Takeshi Furukawa has an orchestra – and he knows how to use it. This is unquestionably a soundtrack that benefited massively from Furukawa’s access to the London Symphony Orchestra, London Voices, the Trinity Boys Choir, and a range of talented soloists. The instruments incorporate the complete choral symphony, a piano, and a surprise dulcimer and mandolin that work their way into many of the tracks. Mostly, listening to the soundtrack as a whole, I’m surprised by how seamlessly the instruments work together.
“Overture: Lore” gives the listener a good idea of what to expect on the album. After a few thoughtful piano chords (performed by Furukawa himself), we are taken through an aural montage of the instrumentation and thematic content of The Last Guardian, from a snippet of the boys choir to a brief iteration of the main theme, to a few ominous chords that suggest the conflicts about to transpire.
“The Forest” introduces a quaint little piano theme into the soundtrack, with a delicate blend of woodwinds and strings accompanying the melody. “Sentinel I” seems to be a celebration of clarinet, with what sounds like a bass and a B-flat playing an odd duet with minimal percussion and strings. I’ve seen more than one comparison of Furukawa’s score to the works of Thomas Newman, and it’s an apt comparison. Everything from his expansive overture to the prominent use of clarinets – I can’t think of a game soundtrack off the top of my head that places clarinets in the spotlight in this way – feels like quintessential Hollywood. It reminds me of the Varese Sarabande CDs I collected growing up, in the best way.
The action-packed tracks have a similarly classic approach: racing percussion peppered with sweeping melodies in an almost lyrical pattern. “Falling Bridge” is one such track, ending with a quick version of the theme. “Sentinel II” brings the clarinet back for some more ominous notes followed by a clashing crescendo of fast-paced instruments. “Condor Clash” uses a chromatic melody for what sounds like a climactic battle theme. Halfway through, the action grinds to a halt as Furukawa returns us to those sweeping strings, letting the instruments (and the listener) pause for breath, before they pick up again for a final rush. The last part of the piece sees the main melody return, but this time on an inauspicious trumpet before the piece ends.
A pair of finales on this album break the two-to-three minute standard that most of the tracks set. “Finale I: Apex” brings the London Voices front and center for the first time in a while on the score. Because the voices are used sparingly, each appearance they make is that much more effective. The vocals follow an unusual melodic line, and sound more foreboding than ecclesiastical – if we’re going to continue our comparison of Hollywood composers, think Shore rather than Morricone. “Finale II – Escape” brings an air of solemnity as the choir returns, but this time for a far more traditional approach, complete with harp glissandos and resolving chords.
It’s an incredibly beautiful and rewarding piece; however, the highlight of Furukawa’s score is in “End Titles: The Last Guardian Suite.” Opening with a beautiful piano solo – so authentic, the pedal lifts make their way into the recording – the piece swiftly and dramatically enters a sweeping strings section, with a piano accompaniment and an oboe solo. The only thing that suggests we are listening to something other than 90s Hollywood at its finest is the hammered dulcimer unobtrusively accompanying every section of the piece. The second half of the suite introduces a beautiful piano phrases that repeats over and over, while the accompanying instruments pass through several key changes, bringing the piece to an emotional peak and gentle close.
I have to spend some time talking about what each version of The Last Guardian’s score comes with, as there are several. The Mini Soundtrack, which came with the pre-order of the game, contains four tracks, including the opening Overture, “Falling Bridge,” a beautiful but tenuous little track called “Homeward,” and “Epilogue,” which is essentially a condensed version of “Finale II.” The Collector’s Edition of the soundtrack is ten-track album that comes with the Collector’s Edition of the game. The tracks are a healthy sampling of what the album has to offer, but unfortunately does not include either of the two Finales or the Suite. The Composer’s Choice edition, available on the Playstation Store, would be my ideal purchase, as it includes all of the noteworthy music, including the aforementioned Finales and Suite. Finally, Hitokui no Oowashi Trico Original Soundtrack, only available at CDJapan and YesAsia, comes with the most complete set of music, ideal for avid fans of the soundtrack who simply want more of Furukawa’s sound. Coming soon will be a vinyl edition from iam8bit, but the tracklist on that is not yet announced.
It’s unfortunate that the purchase options for the soundtrack are so scattered; however, the pride that Team ICO had in this new score is evident in the multiple editions, and that pride is well-deserved. Furukawa’s work is an unusual direction for game scores, and something I hope we see more of in the future. While I don’t generally use “Hollywood” as a compliment, and I want game music to stand very firmly on its own as a genre, I also love the reach of this soundtrack, reminding us of avenues for game music that have not yet been fully explored. For the full soundtrack, visit CDJapan; Playstation users can purchase a smaller, but thematically complete, version of the soundtrack on the PSN.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on January 31, 2017 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on January 31, 2017.