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Phantom Kingdom Arrange Album

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SCDC-00434
Released On: April 20, 2005
Composed By: Takayuki Aihara, Hiroshi Takagi, Ayako Saso, Ryo Sakai, Hiroto Saitoh, Tsuyoshi Kaneko, Tamiya Terashima
Arranged By: Takayuki Aihara, Ryo Sakai, Ayako Saso, Hiroto Saitoh, Tamiya Terashima
Published By: Scitron Discs
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 1 CD
Tracklist:

01 - Phantom Kingdom
02 - Demons Party
03 - JOKER
04 - First Campaign
05 - Darkness Darkness
06 - Madness of the Moment
07 - Transition of the Soul
08 - Alexander the God of Destruction
09 - I am a boss!
10 - Another Ending
11 - Apocalypse -The Master of Evil-
12 - Royal Road -Noaptea spiritelor-
Total Time:
58'16"

Nippon Ichi made an interesting decision with Phantom Kingdom (known as Makai Kingdom in the US), their fourth in a line of unique strategy RPGs. Rather than having Tenpei Sato return to compose the soundtrack (as he had done with Disgaea, La Pucelle, and Phantom Brave), they instead chose to bring together a whole mess of composers to create one phenomenal soundtrack.

Featuring twelve of the best songs from the original soundtrack, the Phantom Kingdom Arrange Album has all its composers (sans Takagi and Kaneko) return to arrange two or three tracks, making this album another joint effort with plenty of diversity. The phrase "too many cooks spoil the broth" may not apply in this case, as Phantom Kingdom is a dish all its own, with a richness and diversity of flavors: avoid this one only if you prefer the bland taste of a hamburger to the spicy taste of an Indian curry.

Featuring a diversity of ethnic musical styles (Middle-East and East Asian stringed instruments, Latin guitar solos, European-style orchestras and operas), many merged with the use of techno beats and tripped-out synth, this arranged album is one of the better arranged albums I've heard for a single game in years. A short way to summarize would be to call this album a close second to Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange. This, in my book, is a gigantic compliment.

Rather than tell you the tracks I enjoyed, I will begin by naming the three tracks I found to be subpar in comparison to the rest of the album. They are "Demons Party" (which is too short and has changed little from the original version), "I am a boss!" (which is too cookie-cutter boss music for its own good), and "Another Ending" (which is lackluster in many respects).

The rest is outstanding. My favorite two tracks are Terashima's, a veteran composer that has worked with Falcom in the past and done many anime scores. Mike Wilson bashed Terashima's ability to compose in his review of the Phantom Kingdom OST, but I believe this to be a matter of personal taste. Terashima is known to write music that incorporates opera-esque vocals, repetitive string sections (that grow and diminish as necessary in the song), clever use of both soft and booming percussion, that sort of thing. Many VGM composers lack these abilities, so his entrance on the VGM scene is very much welcome. He composed and arranged the last two tracks, and they are both sampled: listen to them.

Other songs feature pulsing techno rhythms or different styles of jazz as their foundation, and then branch out from that point to make something wholly original (such as the scat-singing, which I believe has been sampled from a much older recording, found on JOKER). From a musical standpoint, these arrangements are high enough quality to be worth producing en masse. It is my sincere hope people choose to purchase this album: it is worthy of the praise I have given it. Though it sports a hefty price tag at many online shops, I think that it is still worth it. If you enjoyed the game, you will enjoy this album all the more.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann

I really enjoyed this arrange album. Phantom Kingdom is probably the most unique soundtracks of 2005, and I didn't think Super Sweep would be able to top it. I was wrong. For the most part, this arrange album is extremely well done.

First off, this album is the poster child for diversity. There are more styles here than you can imagine, and it's not uncommon for one song to have two or three different styles going at the same time (like "Alexander, God of Destruction," which uses Salsa and Techno styles simultaneously). Another example of this is "Another Ending" (aka "One More Conclusion"), which starts off as a ballad, but escalates into a rock piece. If you’re looking for something new and exciting, look no further.

There are some great arrangements on this album. My favorite is "Transition of the Soul." The original version is the coolest song ever, and the arrangement does it fair justice. Another good song is "Demons party," which is a piano and violin duet that reminds me of "Enigmatic Scheme" from UNLIMITED:SaGa. It doesn't win any awards for originality, but it's a good listen. "JOKER" is another interesting piece that has a late-night lounge feel; the jazzy vibraphone solos are well done, and the scat-singing in the middle of the song sounds like it could have been pulled from a Louis Armstrong record. Other good songs include "Alexander, God of Destruction" and "Madness of the moment," which are the two strangest songs on the album. The former is an infectious techno tune, and the latter is abstract rock.

Now, let's talk about Tamiya Terashima's arrangements for a second. I absolutely despised his contributions to the OST, but, for some reason, his arrangements are a bit more tolerable here. I'm definitely going to give him credit for his arranging skills---he took his old songs and spiced them up, a lot. While they're still not to my fancy, I can at least see why Patrick Gann appreciates them so much. They're definitely fitting enough to be in an anime score.

The good tracks aside, there are some pretty mediocre arrangements here as well. The first one that comes to mind is "Phantom Kingdom," which succeeds in being unique, but fails miserably at being enjoyable. The fast beat and the overbearing horns are just too much for my elephant-sized ears to bear. Another song that is less appealing is "First Campaign," which is a boring march. It gets better near the end due to some great chord changes, but other than that, it's not impressive. Finally, the most appalling arrangement here is "Another Ending," which disgraces the original song in almost every way. From the notorious synth instruments to the rock section near the end, it's just bad.

I only have one problem with these arrangements: they could have been a lot more experimental. For example, the saxophone solo and the scatting in "JOKER" are so short that by the time you notice them, they're gone. Also, the break down sections in "Alexander" could have been a lot longer. This bothers me because the composers threw so many unique concepts into their songs but they didn't do anything with most of them. This is just a nitpick that doesn't detract from the overall score, since most of the arrangements turned out just fine, but I do hope they step outside of the box a little more next time.

I wholly recommend this album if you're willing to shell out the money. If you aren't nitpicky when it comes to VGM arrangements, then none of the things I complained about will even make sense to you. If you liked Phantom Kingdom, you should try to import this album immediately. I'm giving it an 8 out of 10.

Reviewed by: Mike Wilson



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