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UNLIMITED:SaGa OST
Catalog Number: SSCX-10078/9 (reprint SQEX-10242/3)
Released On: January 22, 2003 (reprint June 15, 2011)
Composed By: Masashi Hamauzu
Arranged By: Masashi Hamauzu, Shiro Hamaguchi, Ryo Yamazaki
Published By: DigiCube (reprint Square Enix)
Recorded At: SOUND INN, ONKIO HAUS
Format: 2 CDs
Tracklist:

Disc One
01 - UNLIMITED:SaGa Overture
02 - The Seven Travelers
03 - March in C
04 - Anxiety Towards a Wonder
05 - Judy's Theme
06 - Battle Theme I
07 - Victory
08 - Vent's Theme
09 - Battle Theme II
10 - Cash's Theme
11 - Perpetual Movements
12 - Battle Theme III
13 - Armic's Theme
14 - Mysterious Plan
15 - Hilltop Conversation
16 - The Raid
17 - Laura's Theme
18 - Battle Theme IV
19 - Ruby's Theme
20 - The Sacred Starry Sky
21 - Room of Surprises
22 - Momentary Respite
23 - Solitude
24 - Myth's Theme
25 - Off to Big Plans
26 - Pathetic
27 - Crushed Hopes
28 - Iscandar
29 - J & A
30 - A & J
31 - Flame of Mystery
32 - End of the Story
Total Time:
58'22"

Disc Two
01 - Journey Through Time and Space
02 - DG "sine"
03 - Battle Theme EX
04 - DG "listless"
05 - BT Ver.1
06 - BT Ver.2
07 - BT Ver.3
08 - DG "mixture"
09 - BT Ver.4
10 - BT Ver.5
11 - BT Ver.AG
12 - DG "comfort"
13 - BT Ver.6
14 - DG "sadness"
15 - BT Ver.7
16 - BT Ver.8
17 - Challenge to the Seven Great Wonders
18 - BT "ultimate"
19 - Liberation
20 - FINALE
21 - Soaring Wings
22 - Now Back to the Story
-Bonus Tracks-
23 - UNLIMITED:SaGa Overture 2ch Mix Ver.
24 - March in C 2ch Mix Ver.
25 - FINALE 2ch Mix Ver.
26 - Soaring Wings 2ch Mix Ver.
Total Time:
68'41"

I am not a very big fan of a growing trend in the video game industry that involves using fully orchestrated music for video game albums-whether it involves a studio or licensing live orchestras. The reason artists choose to use professional orchestras is that it supposedly makes for a more "movie-like" and less "video-game" like experience. I for one think video game music SHOULD sound like a video game, not a drama or action flick on the big screen. I have always been a fan of the old-school, almost cheesy tunes of yesteryear. Any fan of music from the Arc the Lad or Lunar series (or any album more than 6 or 7 years old) knows what I mean. However, UNLIMITED: Saga's music makes such a great use of a wide and interesting make-up of instruments it really builds a case for using orchestras for future games. And while the album isn't recorded by a live band (as far as I know), you’d never guess it given the quality of the work. So I tell you this: those of you who may be turned off by the fact that this album uses real instruments for its music and excludes your traditional quirky studio sounds...don’t be! And for those of you who do enjoy orchestrated albums, you are in for a real treat.

What makes the soundtrack so special is that all the songs have a distinct feel to them. Unlike some other albums that use real instruments, UNLIMITED: Saga’s music avoids the pitfall of having every song sound the same. For example, Xenosaga’s album, which took advantage of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was largely disappointing to me, because unlike Mitsuda’s music for Xenogears (my favorite album of all time), many of the songs on Xenosaga sounded too similar and therefore lacked personality. Similarly, some of the songs on the Star Ocean 3 OST Vol.1 balance on the brink of mediocrity because although most of the songs are good, they just sound too similar to other songs on the album, which kill any sort of originality they had in the first place. I notice this happening more recently with the introduction of live orchestras so my guess is for one reason or another, less originality goes into work when composers use live instruments, or maybe orchestrated music just sounds the same after a while...I could be wrong about both. Nevertheless, Saga’s music should be commended for avoiding this.

Yet at the very same time, each song on the album carries a same sort of…feel to them. Masashi Hamauzu laces each song with tunes very consistent with "UNLIMITED:SaGa Overture", which really sets the tone for the duration of the soundtrack. So while each song is distinctly different, they each share common traits that serve to contribute to a whole piece. In the end your left with a very cohesive (and for the most part, consistent) album. This, ideally, is what every artist strives to achieve-a group of songs that all work towards a common theme while each standing on their own right as great individual pieces. Masashi Hamauzu passes with flying colors.

It should be noted, however, that the two discs that make up this soundtrack are very different from one another. Many claim this to be a pitfall of the album. I disagree. The songs on disc two aren’t bad by any sense, and to fault Hamauzu for separating them from the others is wrong. If in fact the songs would have been mixed up, the album would be very inconsistent with the types of music between tracks. As it is, Hamauzu leaves you with a choice of what style of music you want to listen to. Whereas disc one has your mellow, emotional, town-like, and character themed typical RPG music, disc two concentrates almost entirely on a hard rocking, techno driven, sometimes even jazzy sound. James McCawley did an excellent job describing the work on the separate discs in his review so I won’t go into great detail here. It should be noted that even though the two discs sound quite different, you will still hear many of the same sounds, themes, melodies and instruments from disc one. So while the two discs are very different stylistically, they each support the other to create one of the better albums in a long time.

You really can’t go wrong with this soundtrack. For you emotional saps out there (like me) disc one will captivate you with the power of some of its songs. For those that prefer to pick up the pace, the battle themes from disc one and almost all of disc two will surely satisfy your needs as well.

Reviewed by: Jeff Tittsworth

Masashi Hamauzu finally seems to have acquired a long-deserved series association, this being his second score for a SaGa game. You’d never guess though, as he makes no allusions to any of his themes from SaGa Frontier 2 and separates this new score from the former with an entirely different palette of sound.

There is a clear and intentional distinction made between the content of the two discs, with the first one consisting largely of orchestral and acoustic material, and the second experimental and electronic work, cleanly exhibiting the split sides of Hamauzu's musical character. I will say that the first disc had me expecting the whole score not to measure up to the dizzying heights of his work on SaGa Frontier 2 or Final Fantasy X. The technical crafsmanship of the orchestral writing and lucidity of compositional thought is impeccable, but the disc lacks Hamauzu's customary inventiveness and searching originality. Turns out a number of tracks on this disc were written several years ago and rescued from the bottom of the drawer, which creates the illusion of a minor regression of style, with many of Hamauzu's characteristic phrases and progressions on display in incipient form. There's also a great deal of purely light-hearted, even flat-out cheerful music, as opposed to the light but fantastical, whimsical qualities of Chocobo’s Dungeon and SaGa Frontier 2, with a few tracks sounding more like Koichi Sugiyama than Hamauzu. However, there’s also a detectable South American influence flitting around the periphery, apparent in Hamauzu’s use of bossa nova and tango rhythms in select tracks that adds an ingratiating tincture to the composition of the whole, and the orchestral material towards the end of the disc begins to acquire the darkly redolent overtones more characteristic of Hamauzu. Overall, disc one contains a fine collection of music overflowing with character, charm and wit, and some exceptionally realistic acoustic sound modeling mixed together with live performances. Still, on hearing only the first disc, one may question whether Hamauzu hadn’t played the safe bet with a largely atypical homogeneity, and miss the stylistic embarrassment of riches his previous scores provided.

One will then have his doubts summarily rejected and sent back to shame him once the second disc starts up. For here is crammed all of the creative electronica, abstract ambience, twisted funk and general Hamauzu craziness that makes his music the most potent force in VGM today. His first vocal song is also highly appealing, with a melodic countour structured like a classical chanson set to a fantasy rock arrangement, neatly reconciling the score’s diametric personas. True fans of Hamauzu won’t be disappointed; this work matches his best.

Reviewed by: James McCawley



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