Well, here it is. The Gust Sound Team is back (sort of), alongside a big pile of female vocalists who are eager to play the part of "Reyvateil," in Ar tonelico III. Graphically, the game took a big jump into cel-shaded characters and 3D battles. it also took the console jump from PS2 to PS3. But, musically, there wasn't a big leap.
In many ways, this two disc OST is more of the same. But then, it's not. There really aren't any "stand-out" tracks like there were on the first Ar tonelico. This is a solid, completely consistent two disc soundtrack.
Stylistically, you'll find what you've come to expect. About 30% of the tracks have female voice of some form; often manipulated, often with that whisper, frequently spelling out A R T O N E L I C O. You know the drill if you've been following these games half as closely as I have.
There are a few small, and enjoyable, surprises. Tracks 32 through 38 on disc two are all NES-style chiptune tracks. That's just awesome. Take a listen to the sample for 2-32. I could really go for a full arranged album in 8-bit / chiptune form for this series. That would make my day.
There were definitely a few things lacking on this soundtrack. First, a complete lack of good, guitar-rock battle themes. They just aren't here. The songs that I assume exist as battle tracks are all tense orchestral cues and atonal madness that, frankly, I don't care for. I'd count that as one blow against the soundtrack. The mellow tracks help to mitigate the pain, but I do very much miss the powerful battle tracks that I know Akira Tsuchiya and Ken Nakagawa can pull off.
The end credits music doesn't appear on the OST. You have to get the "Side Blue" hymmnos album to hear it. You also will only hear the "game size" opening track, not the full 4 minute version.
Final verdict? It's still the same great quality, oft-eccentric sound of the Ar tonelico series. But there's nothing that really reaches out and grabs your ears. The melodies are a little less inspired, and there isn't much new or exciting about the soundtrack. But if you just can't get enough of this kind of music, consider this OST a "booster shot" to keep you going. Hopefully, though, the Gust Sound Team will find a way to bring their music to new heights again, in the same way they broke through with Atelier Iris in 2004 and the first Ar tonelico in 2006. Can newcomers like Kazuki Yanagawa make it big like Ken Nakagawa and Daisuke Achiwa (strangely absent from this album) did six years ago? Time will tell.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann