"The Spirit Engine 2" such vast improvements over its predecessor, it's almost not worth one's while to compare them. The same, it seems, may be said about the soundtrack. This mammoth four disc set provides VGM fans with over 100 tracks, all composed by Josh Whelchel. And boy oh boy, do I have a lot of praise to give to this soundtrack.
Think of some of your favorite songs from the following games/series: Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Ys, Seiken Densetsu (the "Mana" series). Put those favorite tracks together. Now, "Westernize" it a wee bit, and be sure to mix live instrument recordings with a variety of high-end and low-end synths. Now, you have the soundtrack for Spirit Engine 2. Sounds good, right? It is, trust me.
I noticed that this album is "frontloaded." Many of the best songs appear on disc one, though there's a solid collection of music on the final disc as well. As has been the pattern with many four disc OSTs, you have to scour for the best tracks on discs two and three, in case you're not interested in listening to the somewhat generic "filler" tracks that are necessary to fill the space of a large-scale RPG.
The vocal recordings for this album are amazing. Hymn of Death (2-20) blew my mind; it sounded like something from Mozart's Requiem. Also, 3-16 "Prophecy" used pipes and a female vocalist, making it sound like something produced by Yasunori Mitsuda. "The Day Chaos Died" (4-18)
Not only is the music awesome, but some of the track titles reflect the humor written into the game. You name a song "Ve Haf Vays" and it's clear you don't take yourself too seriously, which is always good. If I had composed music this good I might have gotten a swelled ego. But Whelchel seems to enjoy his position as an indie game composer, and is content to produce this excellent music for a small fee.
The only complaint I have about this soundtrack? There are a few synth choices that I would've done away with. There's this one whiny, pitch-bending synth that Whelchel seems fond of using; I think he uses it on about 8 tracks total across the soundtrack. I can't stand the sound of it. It is featured most prominently during the first 90 seconds of the "Closing Theme" track on disc four. Other than this, I think the soundtrack reaches toward indie (and even mainstream) excellence.
The bonus tracks are all worthwhile additions, especially those on disc four. It's a shame there wasn't room for them to be put in-game.
If you want to support the independent musicians among us, particularly those that are really creating excellent music, Josh Whelchel's soundtrack for "The Spirit Engine 2" is exactly what the doctor ordered. Do me a favor: get it. If you have the money to spare, it's worth the purchase, whether you get CDs in complete packaging or spring for the digital-only release. The album is available for purchase here.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann