Star Ocean: The Last Hope OST
Catalog Number: SQEX-10139~42
Released On: March 18, 2009
Composed By: Motoi Sakuraba
Arranged By: Motoi Sakuraba
Published By: Square Enix
Recorded At: SOUND INN, misty inn studio
Format: 4 CDs (3 CDs, 1 DVD)
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Disc One
01 - Ruin and Creation
02 - Cosmic Voyagers
03 - A Place for Reflection
04 - The Bunny Hop
05 - Ladies and Gentlemen
06 - Silk Road in the Sky I
07 - Silk Road in the Sky II
08 - Magnificent Creations
09 - Memories in the Earth
10 - Dreams Frozen in Amber
11 - Yin and Yang
12 - Tears in the Sun Make a Rainbow
13 - Whistle on the Wind (Solo I)
14 - Blood on the Keys
15 - The Eleventh Hour
16 - The Incarnation of Devil (Next-Gen Remix)
17 - Seeker
18 - Peace of Mind
19 - Skyward Bound
20 - Awakening
21 - Shotgun Formation
22 - Nascent Pulse
23 - Night of the Chase
Total Time:

Disc Two
01 - Ruin and Creation (Monologue Mix)
02 - Good Morning, Miss Vineyard
03 - Walking on Air
04 - Whistle on the Wind (Solo II)
05 - Next Stop: Nowhere
06 - State of Emergency
07 - Wild Fight, No End in Sight
08 - Harlequin's Slumber
09 - Welcome to the Darkness
10 - Past Days (Fantasy Remix)
11 - Innocence (Cheerful Remix)
12 - Refinement (Elegant Remix)
13 - Sunny Place (Gallant Remix)
14 - DIM (Band Remix)
15 - Purge Thyself (Imperial Voices Remix)
16 - For Achieve (Brass Remix)
17 - Arrhythmia
18 - Event Horizon
19 - Like the Wind
20 - Chain of Explosions
21 - Cimmerian Halls
22 - I Do, Therefore I Am
23 - Roles to Play
24 - Sacrificial Lamb
Total Time:

Disc Three
01 - Cosmic Voyagers (Peace & Love Mix)
02 - Momentary Reprieve
03 - Whistle on the Wind (Tearful Remix)
04 - Expectations for the Future
05 - The Silver Lining
06 - Comeback Victory
07 - Brilliant Rose
08 - Symmetry
09 - Stab the Sword of Justice (Heroic Remix)
10 - Dark Heart, Dark Mind
11 - Shattered Dreams
12 - Apocalypse
13 - Don't Be a Hero
14 - Black Chaos
15 - Universal Dilemma
16 - Hour of Judgement
17 - Maelstrom's Clutches
18 - Golden Goal
19 - Consolation Prize
20 - Start Your Engines
21 - Eureka!
22 - Scientist's High
23 - Cosmic Voyagers (Spring Wind Mix)
24 - Worlds Yet Unexplored
Total Time:

-Bonus Features-
01 - Naturally: The World of Motoi Sakuraba
02 - Promotional Trailer for Original Soundtrack
Total Time:

Sometimes, in judging the merits of a soundtrack (or game, or movie), it's all a matter of expectation. For months, I had been dreading the prospect of reviewing yet another Motoi Sakuraba soundtrack. And, for a high-profile title like Star Ocean: The Last Hope (aka "Star Ocean 4"), that just compounded the anxiety and frustration. It's easy to get tired of this man's work, and there's no question that I was burnt out. Yet, here I am, ready to declare that I actually enjoyed the latest OST from Sakuraba-san.

And here's what did it for me: balance. Some Sakuraba soundtracks go all out on the prog rock style, and by "all out," I'm talking about an extreme fringe within the classified genre, and that fringe sound makes my ears bleed and my brain cry. Other Sakuraba soundtracks attempt to be softer, and in doing so, turn out to be monumentally dull. Star Ocean 4 has a wonderfully balanced soundtrack. The orchestral pieces still manage to have some excitement, and the prog rock battle themes show some restraint and (gasp!) creativity. The dungeon music "Brilliant Rose" was one particular theme that shocked me to my core. I didn't know Sakuraba had an ounce of originality left within himself. I was quite wrong.

Here comes another big surprise: my least favorite tracks on the album were remixes from previous tri-Ace pieces. There's a whole series of them on disc two, and some classic battle themes (Incarnation of Devil, Stab the Sword of Justice) make their expected returns. In my mind, these pieces didn't hold a candle to this new, refined sound that Sakuraba developed for SO4. The only exception to this rule is that the ending track, "Worlds Yet Unexplored," is a beautiful medley of themes new and old, and even contains sections of SO2's end credits theme "We Form In Crystals" as part of the medley. When I heard that melody coming through, faintly but surely, rising to the surface, then sinking back down as other melodies took the spotlight, I got goosebumps. What a wonderful experience! You'll probably find some of your own favorite Star Ocean themes mixed in this beautiful orchestral medley.

One of my all-time favorite Sakuraba scores is for Baten Kaitos Origins (known in Japan as Baten Kaitos 2). On this soundtrack, Sakuraba was intentional about using many real, acoustic instruments, including classical guitar and piano. When he mixes these natural instruments with his unique flavor of synth drum'n'bass, the result can be atrocious or beautiful, depending on how well he balances the instruments, and to which instrument he assigns melody, and in what octave range. All of these factors are what determine the song's "mood," if you will. On Star Ocean 4, a variety of moods are expressed, and they are expressed quite well.

If I were to make a comparison to another artist, I would say that this particular soundtrack sounds as though Sakuraba drew influence from Yoko Shimomura (specifically, Parasite Eve and Kingdom Hearts) and Chikayo Fukuda (.hack// series). But the music is deeper and more powerful on SO4 than the aforementioned soundtracks.

There are some atmospheric "filler" tracks on here, that serve well as an aesthetic enhancement to the game, but do not please one's ears outside the game's context. But, fortunately, these tracks do not make up the majority of the OST. Most of the songs on here are worth giving a full listen.

All in all, I have to give a big pat on the back to Sakuraba for straightening himself out. I wasn't a big fan of "Till the End of Time." And while I still hold "The Second Story" as my favorite of Sakuraba's works, if I must speak objectively, I will have to admit that there is far more variety, far more power, and far more of everything you wouldn't expect of Sakuraba on this soundtrack.

Props to Square Enix, as well, for bundling a DVD with this soundtrack (and so many others in the last three years). The bonus DVD gives fans a taste of what it's like being Motoi Sakuraba in this day and age, with specific focus on the music composition process for The Last Hope. It's just one more reason to pick up this surprisingly enjoyable soundtrack.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann