Valhalla Knights -Eldar Saga- Original Soundtrack
Valhalla Knights -Eldar Saga- Original Soundtrack
November 4, 2009
Buy at CDJapan
Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga, the third title in the Valhalla Knights series and the first for home consoles, was universally panned by critics, yet is fully composed by Motoi Sakuraba. Does the Valhalla Knights -Eldar Saga- Original Soundtrack stand up to the composer’s reputation, or does it fall in sync with the critical outlook on the game?
The soundtrack is very nicely split into distinct sections that don’t quite have any logic in their organization. The beginning third of the first disc is comprised of various opening and menu themes and jingles. “Opening Demo (Tokyo Game Show 2008 ver.)” is a typical bombastic Sakuraba theme accompanying the game’s opening cinematic and serving as a brief prelude to the title screen. “Opening” is short but develops beautifully from a simple harpsichord to strings and choir. “Title Menu” is a reserved piece that sounds great if one can tolerate the sharpness of the harpsichord as an instrument, though the track really goes nowhere terribly interesting. “Narration” is an interesting piece, the dominant instrument being an electric organ, accompanied by harp. An enjoyable track to be fair, reserved like the previously mentioned but having a soft sort of maturity about it.
The next section of the first disc is a collection of the various town themes in the game. A good chunk of these are quite enjoyable. “Chapter I Human Town” reminds one of Sakuraba’s similarly styled works from the villages on the underdeveloped planets in the various Star Ocean titles. The flute and harp work tremendously well together, and the earthy percussion exhibits its own special quality. The picture is painted of a decrepit, lonely town. “Chapter II Human Town” is dark as well, but not as lonely, as the dominant instrument here are the strings. There’s a bit of hope sprinkled throughout, especially in the second theme as the flute plays a nice melody overlaying quick staccatos in the strings. “Chapter I Elf Village” is a pleasant peace with piano, flute and chimes, as well as a string section popping its head up now and then. The melody is quite calming, though not outright notable.
“Chapter I Hobbit Village” perfectly captures the essence of the charming little creatures that form the track’s namesake. The quick staccatos played by various instruments in the bass along with the cheery flute melody that also lapses into staccatos now and then help reinforce this notion. “Chapter II Hobbit Village” is noticeably darker in places, and more hopeful in others. The quick staccatos are still present, in decreased quality, instead replaced mostly by sweeping strings and brief, softer interludes on chimes. “Chapter II Heavens,” a track somewhat mismatched due to its playing only during a cutscene, is a rather nice track, the predominant instrument being a church organ accompanied by an ethereal choir and harpsichord.
The final third of this disc is comprised of the Stage tracks from the game… none of which surpass 30 seconds in length. Despite this limitation, a few tracks stand out, such as the three “Field” tracks — “Stage Field East” being most impressive of these with its introductory flute melody, “Stage Old Castle (Hobbit Dungeon)” featuring somewhat tense and cloistered flute and harpsichord, and “Stage Last Dungeon” offering wailing choir and church organ. Even the tracks not mentioned would likely have been really quite impressive had they been lengthened to a more typical amount; as they stand, one only wonders at what could have been while making do with what’s provided.
The second disc starts with a collection of boss battle tracks. Most of these sound very similar to one another: heavy brass and discordant melodies. These are not terribly impressive, especially if the listener is familiar with similar works by the composer. They work in the game, but outside listening through them all might end up a test of patience. The notable and wonderful exceptions to the rule are “Queen Bee,” “Sebastian,” and “Ancient Dragon (Wi-Fi).” The former sounds pleasantly similar to the classical composition “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, but Sakuraba interprets the insect’s flight as far more haranguing and tense. The extremely fast paced strings and buzzing in the brass give off this impression with flair somewhat atypical for the composer. “Sebastian” is a virtuoso piano piece — to my knowledge the only instance of a solo piano piece used as a battle theme in a Sakuraba work where it is not an arranged album. The track is quite impressive to listen to and does not let up for a moment, featuring blisteringly fast dashes up and down the instrument that serve as the backbone for an enjoyable melodic sequence. The last piece sounds somewhat Celtic in nature at its most impressive moments, though even where it’s more bombastic, the effect is far more striking and melodic than the other tracks of its ilk featured in this collection.
The majority of the rest of this disc is comprised of various event tracks that range quite distinctly in quality. “Encounter with Aiden I” is calm and enjoyable, featuring a flute and piano. The second melody is quite hopeful in all the best ways heard in Sakuraba. “Contact with Amandala” is a solo music box piece, and it is quite wonderful and calming, yet also sad at times. “Jamuqa and Aigle I” is a quite enjoyable track, mostly a peaceful solo piano piece with some light percussion. It highlights the innocent friendship between the two characters quite nicely. Curiously enough, the final battle track, “Servent of Resurrected Gods,” finds its way here. It does not stand out terribly much from most of the other boss battle tracks unfortunately, being similarly brooding and heavy handed, though there are some neat moments in the choir. “Betrayal,” a dark, solo piano piece, is not terribly impressive. It works as a tense mood builder, but out of context the track is merely depressing and not at all pleasant, and certainly not distinctive from other similar compositions by the composer in other venues.
The final disc is a general collection of event and character themes. “Reunion” is another solo music box composition that sounds rather extraordinarily similar to “Contact with Amandala.” There are differences in places and the track is longer, but it does feature the same melody. The “Resurrection” tracks are somewhat interesting, the first featuring a malevolent sounding harpsichord that is soon accompanied by strings and the second being more bombastic, featuring discordant strings and choir supported by brass. The melody and instrumentation used in “Score for Farewell” is a perfect musical description of its title. A harp, chimes, and soft strings all provide a sad framework to the melody.
“Love Event Theme 1 (Contact)” is quite an enjoyable piece, simple though elegant, entirely soft but never in a sad way. “Love Event Theme 2 (Heroine Decided)” features a hopeful harpsichord. An interesting instrument to feature so prominently given the nature of this track, but it does give off a particular flair to the overall feel of the track, one of hope and the future. “Love Event Theme 3 (Declaration of Love)” is an exceedingly nice, simplistic piano piece for most of its length, displaying a sort of stability and assurance in its melody. “Theme of Ophelia” is a beautiful harp composition that only gets better with the addition of flute and ethereal choir at its halfway point, becoming a graceful, sad piece with a curious discordant note near the end of its melody that adds quite an intelligent bit of depth.
As for some others, “Joy” is an extremely happy victorious theme that honestly sounds just a bit too joyous, though I suppose that’s the purpose given the track title. “Comical” is also an apt title. It sounds like Sakuraba had a good deal of fun writing this track, with its interesting and almost random intervals of discordance interspersed throughout moments of frivolity. “Ending II (Chapter II Ending ~ Staff Roll)” is just as enjoyable as all the composer’s staff roll tracks. It’s not quite as long as his others, but it reaches across a wide array of moods and themes regardless, from hopeful to sad. It serves as an excellent conclusion, or would, if not for the curious placement of “Game Over,” at the very end.
This soundtrack really presents a mixed bag. Most of the tracks found throughout are event themes, which are either hit or miss, entirely dependent on what event the theme is attempting to describe. There are a good quantity of softer tracks, though few stand out melodically to Motoi Sakuraba’s less pervasive yet similar tracks on, say, the Baten Kaitos soundtrack. Regardless, the soundtrack is not bad by any means, though it is missing a finesse found on the composer’s truly great works.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Marc Friedman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.