While the DS is not known, yet, for having a big library of Traditional Strategy RPGs, Luminous Arc is one of several strategy games for Nintendo's dual-screened handheld. It was released in Japan during the winter, and months later, a soundtrack was released. Akari Kaida is the primary composer, but a few other composers did a few songs in the album, including Yasunori Mitsuda. In my mind, this album is one of the best handheld soundtracks released in recent years.
The primary style of the album is traditional orchestra. A lot of songs have some degree of finesse and wonder with battle themes having similarities to Final Fantasy Tactics. The album contains the "original" versions of every song since the DS plays a particular form of synthesized sounds.
The album starts off with some great songs. The game version of "Brilliant World" is a great J-Pop song with solid vocals and an addicting melody. While I am not big on piano music, "Prelude" is a nice, simple piano piece and it's one of the few songs Mitsuda did for the album. "Theme of Luminous Arc" is another good song that started off easygoing with the flute and harp being played then shifts into an orchestra style to convey a sense of epic wonder for the things to come. My favorite song in disc one is "Iridescent Journey." It has a similar vibe to "Theme of Luminous Arc," but the violins made the melody deep, giving off a strong sense of adventure and wonder.
Afterwards, I didn't find the next few songs to be interesting. I assume they're songs that set the mood for the scene. They might work for the game, but they weren't interesting to listen to. The only exception is "Between Light and Darkness," as I liked the melody to this particular piece. The style is calm, but it has a sense of mystery and eerieness within the melody. The album picks up once again starting from "Fellow." The song has a very slow tempo, but I like its sophisticated melody, using the clarinet and then violin as the songs gradually picks up. The styles of "Brace for Battle" and "Attack" are similar to a few other songs in the same genre, especially with "Attack," utilizing an orchestra style to give the battle an epic feeling. Regardless, I liked both songs, especially "Brace for Battle" due to how well-done the violin, flute and trumpet were used.
The last few songs in disc one were also good, but I enjoyed the songs in the beginning the most. I liked the easygoing, fun nature of "Spring Scenery Blowing in the Wind" and the tranquil mystery of "You Can Wander the Forest." I find "One Trick" to be interesting as the light Arabic style reminds me of Final Fantasy XII. The rest is passable to my ears.
Disc two is overall weaker than one, but I liked numerous songs on the disc. Its unfortunate the disc didn't staff of as strong. "The Tension" has a powerful orchestral presence, but the melody and instrumentation are similar to things I've heard in many other games. "Dangerous Magic" is interesting as the orchestral instruments are played in an upbeat style, something I find to be atypical.
Other songs are fine, but I felt the disc has gotten interesting with "Light of Spirits." All I can say is that it is great! ...and, on a personal note, it is the song I've listened to the most from this album. I loved the violin and flute combo to create such a serene melody. I get goose bumps whenever I hear it. "A Night We Cannot Meet" is another song I enjoyed. It starts off a bit mellow, but becomes a lot better when the violin is being played complemented by the guitar to create a sorrowful melody. It does loop frequently, but I don't mind for such a nice song.
"Endless Desperate Battle" is my favorite battle theme in the album. It has the same style as "Attack" and "The Tension," but the melody is more dynamic and engaging. "Heartbreak" is a very nice piano piece that became even more enjoyable when the violin comes in. I also liked "Epilogue" which plays an orchestral arrangement of "Brilliant World" followed by "Prelude." The original versions were great so the appeal is high.
The last two songs in the album are the most unique. "Non-Stop battle!! –Battle Medley-" starts off with a simple piano piece, but with a bit of techno in the background. The tempo rapidly increases and one minute into the song, the melody shifts to an arrangement of "The Tension." The song is the same overall, but it kept the momentum the previous part built up and electric guitars are played in the background. At 2:30, the melody changes to an upbeat "Endless Desperate Battle," using electric guitars to play the melody with synthesized drums in the background. The song was great, but the ending was completely abrupt.
"Brilliant World –Brazilian Club Mix-" is an interesting remix of the game's opening. It retains the same magic that I liked about the song in the first place, but made it a lot more hip. Both versions are great in their own way.
There may numerous songs I didn't find great, but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. It was a great album, fitting for a Traditional Strategy RPG, and enjoyable outside the game. It's hard to say how long this album will be around, but get it while you have the chance. It has my recommendation.
Reviewed by: Dennis Rubinshteyn