Zone of the Enders Original Soundtrack
Zone of the Enders Original Soundtrack
Konami Music Entertainment
April 25, 2001
Buy at CDJapan
The score for Zone of the Enders (Z.O.E. for short — I’ll be referring to it as this throughout the review) is a very interesting mix of techno, dance, and electronic genres, with a little bit of pop and rock mixed in. Several games use an electronica score to try and match or enhance the mood of the game. However, few pull it off with such ease as Z.O.E. Each track blends seamlessly into the score as a whole, and every track keeps its own unique identity, while staying within a coherent theme. There are no tracks which hideously stand out as being different, but there is enough variation to keep it interesting. In this review, I’m going to be looking at some of the tracks which I believe represent some of the most fun, melodic, and interesting pieces of the album.
Let’s start on a strong note (quite literally). “Factory (Vivid Transparency)” begins with a very interesting, yet sharp electronic shot and roll. The main dance beat of the track is extremely appropriate, and it sounds great because it isn’t overpowering. The beat drives the track, while the sweeps pull the track back and forth. The sections of the track where the beat drops away are incredibly unique in that they make seamless transitions from techno-beat to orchestral-melody. That’s the other great thing about this track — it’s catchy, and yet it has very little melody, which is somewhat rare to see done well. Along similar lines, “Boss (Neves)” does a really cool job at combining a low, dance beat with other synthesizer sounds, while including a haunting operatic vocal line. In many ways this track goes against what I traditionally like in a game track, in that there’s too much repetition, however the vocal sweeps really create something special in combination with that repetition. At the same time, it also serves its purpose as a boss theme quite well. “You Need This Done to You” is another track which uses vocals to emphasize certain portions of the track, which create a more orchestral sound. The short piano segment also adds a creative break into the sweeping choral vocals and subtle bass line.
A lot can be defined about a game based on the ingenuity, and the musicality of its worldly themes. Z.O.E. features two world themes, both of which present a different approach for how to represent ‘the world’ of an RPG. “Global 1 (Forever and Ever)” is a bit slower, and focuses more on waterfall synth effects, supported by a heavy bass line and light percussion. But altogether, the track doesn’t capture your attention, and in more ways than one, attempts to get you off the world map as fast as possible. “Global 2 (Virus)” however, presents a very catchy, bongo-driven traveling theme. The bongo line in particular stands out in this track, because of its seamless integration with the otherwise exclusive synth instrumentation, but it pulls through and really gives the track its edge.
Taking a step away from beats lets look at “Viola (Silent Death).” This track begins with a piano solo, before moving into a more orchestrated arrangement, which is a fantastic contrast to the otherwise synth-driven score. I know I mentioned how no tracks really stand out as being different, and although this track is certainly different (and obviously not hideous), the statement still holds true. This track simply represents the light, melodic phrases we hear throughout the album, scattered behind all of the electronic beats and sounds. “Jehuty Will Self-Destruct” does an amazing job at supporting the softer side of the album, by bringing a large orchestral orchestration to round out the album.
From here, it’s only logical to look at how these two extreme opposites come together on the album when merged into the vocal pieces. “Title (Origin)” is probably one of the most haunting pieces I’ve ever heard. The vocal key and note choices are random, yet structured, and the echo compliments the sharp, yet smooth solo vocal performance. “Kiss Me Sunlights -Opening Theme-” is the first meld of instrumental vocal and techno beat that is heard in the game, but it isn’t horribly strong. The dance beat is predictable, and the vocals sound a bit weak. The track as a whole lacks any real glamour or shine that is needed to pull the player into the game world.
From here, we see two distinct themes emerge several times throughout the album, both in vocal and instrumental form. The first is the ‘Flowing Destiny’ theme. The theme is first presented as a whole in “Flowing Destiny (Piano Arrangement),” which isn’t necessarily the most complex piano theme ever heard, but it’s still pretty. “Flowing Destiny (Memories)” does a better job at representing the theme, through the duet of piano and violin, and later cello. Again, the melody is simple and the result is pretty, but having the melodic line through the strings provides a better opportunity for the piano to deliver an acceptable accompaniment. “Flowing Destiny (Resolution)” brings vocals to the melody, foreshadowing the ending vocal theme “Flowing Destiny -Ending Theme.” This was the first song I had ever heard from this game, and for some reason it struck me. The track is distinctly pop, and altogether isn’t particularly impressive or innovative, yet the track as a whole still has that certain appeal. It’s one of those tracks that you either love, hate, or choose to disregard.
The second main theme is ‘Celvice’s Theme,’ also titled ‘A Light With a Name of Hope.’ As with the other theme, it is first presented in “A Light With a Name of Hope (Piano Arrangement),” and like the other theme, it’s pretty, yet standard and uninspiring. “A Light With a Name of Hope (Protect Me)” directly mimics the style of the first theme, with piano and strings together again, and like the previous theme, allows the piano to play a supporting role with ease while still sounding strong. The track is also represented as a vocal theme, in “A Light With a Name of Hope -Ending Theme 2 / Celvice’s Theme-,” however unlike the previous theme, the orchestration is questionable, and sounds muddy. The otherwise pretty melody is lost in a sea of bad percussion and annoying synth sounds. In addition, the operatic vocals in the middle of the track are extremely out of place, and make the track as a whole sound like a stitched-together mess.
As I said at the beginning, this track is a strong expression of techno music in a video game score. The tracks which shine on this album are indeed the beat oriented electronica tracks. But many of the vocal pieces and the melodic segments fall short of their true potential, which is a shame. Altogether though, the album is strong and fun to listen to if you enjoy a little techno now and then. But if you’re allergic to dance beats, then my advice is to stay far, far away.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andre Marentette. Last modified on January 17, 2016.