Note: the mis-spelling of Opening (Openning) in the tracklist is the mistake of the publisher (Team Entertainment), not RPGFan.
After two less-than-memorable scores for the two PSP games in the new RPG series "Valhalla Knights," the developers contacted veteran Motoi Sakuraba to score the Wii installment "Eldar Saga." Was it more of the same prog-rock insanity we've heard on dozens of tri-Ace and Tales games? Or would we find something different here?
I now have the answers. And while this soundtrack is a "mixed bag" in terms of quality, the mix contains very little of what you'd expect from Mr. Sakuraba.
The first disc is my favorite of the three. It contains, among other things, the fantasy-race-based "village" tracks. And all of these tracks are beautiful. Here, I'll let the audio samples speak for themselves. The "Stage" tracks are okay, but they're too short to get into (most are 30 second mini-tracks). The first disc comprises a delightful mix of moderate-tempo tracks with plenty of instruments one might expect in a chamber music setting.
Disc two is mostly comprised of tension/conflict/battle themes. And these aren't the usual Sakuraba prog-rock affairs. They are much more like a Rachmaninoff-esque grandiose orchestral experience. Consider "Queen Bee," which makes an allusion, both in name and in melody, to "Flight of the Bumblebee." The piano solo track "Sebastian" is a beautiful track as well. But not all of the tracks on disc two are enjoyable. The tension becomes too much in, say, track 22 of disc two. This is a good example of the grating/annoying bombast that Sakuraba sometimes turns to when writing to create a particular mood. Perhaps he succeeds in his goal for the in-game experience, but as a musical piece, I just want to shut it off!
The third disc goes to the other extreme. These are all soft, emotional, love and sorrow themes. And of course, the negative descriptive term for such music is "the boring stuff." I only found a handful of the tracks on disc three to be boring. I'm routinely impressed by Sakuraba's softer pieces, complete with decorative harps, piano, and either solo or duet string+wind parts.
It's a rare treat to hear an album like this from Sakuraba. I doubt it has staying power: having played the game and listened to the soundtrack separately, I'm not sure this is a soundtrack I'll want to hold onto long-term. It ranks slightly lower than Baten Kaitos for me. But Sakuraba gets points for originality, relative to his own repertoire.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann