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Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi OST
Catalog Number: PKCF-1036
Released On: February 9, 2011
Composed By: Joe Hisaishi
Arranged By: Joe Hisaishi
Published By: Frame
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 1 CD
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01 - Ni no Kuni Main Theme
02 - Morning of Beginning
03 - Hotroit
04 - Incident Occurrence!
05 - Arie ~Recollection~
06 - Shizuku
07 - Mighty Magic
08 - Field
09 - Neko Kingdom's Castle Town
10 - Desert Kingdom's Town
11 - Imperial March
12 - Crisis
13 - Tension
14 - Battle
15 - Jabo, The Black Wizard
16 - Imargen Battle
17 - Labyrinth
18 - To The Decisive Battle
19 - Final Battle
20 - Miracle ~Reunion~
21 - Fragments of Hearts
Total Time:

Joe Hisaishi is known almost exclusively for his work in scoring the films of Hayao Miyazaki with Studio Ghibli. When game developer Level-5 announced their partnership with Ghibli for animation on the Professor Layton series, I wondered how long it would take before more "Ghibli resources" found their way into gaming.

It wasn't the first time Ghibli did animation for a game, of course; Tamamayu Monogatari (Jade Cocoon), among others, had such benefit. But Joe Hisaishi rarely worked on any games; the last one I remembered was for an entry in the Tengai Makyou (Far East of Eden) series in the early 1990s.

But when initial details were revealed for Level-5's "Ni no Kuni: The Another World," you could tell from the trailer alone that this would be the full-on Ghibli experience. We have the art, and now we have the music. Joe Hisaishi wrote the entire score for the game. As of today, we don't know how much of the music for the DS version will be carried to the PS3 version, and/or if Hisaishi-san will remain the sole composer for the PS3 release of Ni no Kuni.

That's neither here nor there. Let's focus on the DS soundtrack. If you haven't heard Hisaishi's work in films such as Ponyo, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, or Laputa ... you may not be able to follow this review. I'm working almost entirely from the perspective of comparison, here, since I know almost all of Hisaishi's anime film scores and have found them to be absolutely brilliant.

And here's the conclusion I've come to: yes, it's still Hisaishi in all his brilliance. But it's not the same kind of 20th century, East-Asia-influenced orchestration we've heard in most Miyazaki films. Gone, for the most part, are the stacked fourths and the unresolved tones. In their place, this fully orchestrated soundtrack sounds strangely similar to Koichi Sugiyama's work on Dragon Quest. Considering the way Ni no Kuni mimics the DQ style of JRPG, perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. But when I listened to this soundtrack, I couldn't help but imagine it (both game and soundtrack) being described as anything other than "Dragon Quest meets Ghibli." Consider, too, that Level-5 developed the last two games in the DQ series. Very telling...

So if you like fully orchestrated DQ-ish stuff, pick this up. Don't expect these pieces to sound like Howl's Moving Castle because, except in rare instances (such as track 20), they don't fit the bill. Ni no Kuni's soundtrack is less exotic than I had expected, but every bit as beautiful as I had hoped for.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann