NieR Re[in]carnation Chill Out Arrangement Tracks
by Patrick Gann
Sometimes Square Enix makes surprising picks for which games get their own dedicated arrange albums. In this case, it’s NieR Re[in]carnation, the mobile game side-story with a soundtrack that is strong but certainly less noteworthy than Gestalt/Replicant or Automata. For the arrange style, Square Enix went with the “chill” route, fun lofi remixes akin to the Mellow Minstrel Mix albums that were also released this year. There are plenty of great tunes on this album, my current favorite being the closer “Aun,” arranged by Yuki Kawamura. I would say “don’t sleep on this one,” but actually, maybe the better plan is to get the album and then use it as a sleep aid. It truly is that chill.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Choir Arrangement Album
by Patrick Gann
It’s not every day you come across a game music album whose focal point is a choir. In fact, this might be a first. I know it’s a first for Square Enix. There’s no question that if any game deserves the choir arrange treatment, it’s NieR. After all, the soundscape for this game is based on the human voice, whether solo vocalists or large choirs. The shift from NieR’s OST to an arrangement that is almost exclusively choir is, thus, not too far a stretch.
All ten tracks of this fine album are worthy of praise, though my personal favorites are “Song of the Ancients” and “Fleeting Words.” Arranger Sachiko Miyano came with her A-game for this album. I’ll not soon forget it.
Persona 5 Royal Original Soundtrack
by Audra Bowling
Confession time: as much as I enjoyed the original Persona 5, I’ve yet to play Persona 5 Royal. That didn’t stop me from purchasing the amazing Persona 5 Royal OST as soon as I was able to though! Truthfully, the catchy and memorable new tracks I’ve heard have certainly made me all the more eager to dive into Persona 5 Royal whenever I get the chance. I especially love Lyn’s vocal songs on this album, but I’m also blown away by the versatility and depth of the various BGM tracks. Even without knowing the full context of the story in which a particular track plays, I more often than not feel something from this soundtrack, which is quite an impressive feat! Getting the chance to listen to this OST in its entirety this year has been a delightful musical treat.
Shadows Over Loathing (Original Game Soundtrack)
by Hilary Andreff
One of the reasons the Loathing games work so surprisingly well is the juxtaposition of wry, witty writing with outlandish circumstances and cartoony stick-figure imagery. Ryan Ike, in charge of music for the series so far, must have seen this and concluded that the only possible way to create fitting music was to lean so hard into genre music it blends with the writing and creates whimsical contrast with the more base elements. I gave him a special award for his amazing Western ambiance in West of Loathing, and Shadows Over Loathing is a more than worthy successor.
The game is set in the 1920s and, right from the start, the main theme hits hard and sounds like it belongs in the credits of a beloved murder mystery. You get more of this fantastic string-heavy sound with tracks like “It’s on Like Necronomicon” and “Academia After Dark.” The soundtrack covers a range of period-appropriate atmosphere by throwing in specific callouts to popular music of the time like the brassy ballad “Smooth Sailin’, Francis Waylan’.” Just make sure you’re hep to the difference between a xylophone and glockenspiel and everything will be copacetic. Ya follow?
Shin Megami Tensei V OST
by Stephanie Sybydlo
The Shin Megami Tensei series typically starts each game strong…by ending everything and having protagonists figure out what they want to do with their new post-apocalyptic life. The games then play with characters of both demonic and divine allegiances, culminating in epic clashes with other godly forces. The games therefore demand music to meet its high-stakes premise. Shin Megami Tensei V goes all-in on music that sounds both powerful and overpowering, utilizing loud instrumentation, layered and complicated arrangements, and even “chill tracks” that still manage to exude a lot of cool. SMT games are challenging and often require time spent grinding, yet feature soundtracks so good that hearing the battle theme a thousand times can still have you tapping your toes to the beat.
Square Enix – Mellow Minstrel Mix Volumes 1 & 2
by Bob Richardson
Man, do we need another Square Enix music arrangement album? Yes, yes we do. Both volumes of the Mellow Minstrel Mix are stellar. Arrangement enthusiasts will likely find familiar tracks here, but what’s nice about these two volumes is the theme. These are truly mellow beats; if that’s what you’re in for, Sqwecks (my term) has done the work for you. A little less than half the tracks are original to the albums, but it’s hard to tell them apart from the re-releases, as the vibes are so consistent. What makes these tomes of two- and one-and-a-half-hours of aural bliss especially impressive is the unique instrumentation across all tracks. While most tracks emphasize hard beats, clapping, and airy winds, there’s so much variety and skill in its meshing that it’s hard to draw one’s focus away from the tunes.
Square Enix Jazz – Chrono Trigger
by Bob Richardson
Where some arrangement albums go wild with all sorts of instruments, the Square Enix Jazz – Chrono Trigger collection of eleven tracks on one disc remain loyal to what jazz is all about: brass, piano, percussion, and standing bass. What makes jazz arrangements so powerful is that jazz is largely defined by its heart. This isn’t a sterile adherence to sheet music with an emphasis on precision: there’s emotion here. Even in a studio recording environment I feel the music, and that’s thanks to the recording team and performers. My only complaint is the omission of “Secret of the Forest,” but with what I would argue is the best gaming soundtrack ever created, almost any track from the OST deserves a spot.
Triangle Strategy OST
by Patrick Gann
Did you notice how good the music is in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood TV anime series? That music comes from a master composer who rarely ventures into the realm of game music: Akira Senju. In fact, this is the first time the accomplished anime and live-action TV composer composed the entire soundtrack for a game. His prior experience in crafting strong melodic motifs shows in spades across Triangle Strategy’s four disc mammoth of an OST. Whether you enjoy chamber orchestra work (“The Grand Duchy of Aesfrost”), pulse-pounding battle themes (“Until That Day -Frederica’s Battle-”), or memorable vocal themes (“Song of TRIANGLE STRATEGY”), there is plenty for audiophiles to discover here! For more on this excellent album, give my review a read.
by Patrick Gann
The soundtrack for Tunic stands out as one of its greatest strengths: not because it overpowers the player, but because it uses a nuanced, ambient approach to build a holistic experience. Even so, it serves as a great album even outside the game, perfect for relaxing or studying. Composers Lifeformed and Janice Kwan did something special here; the music flows seamlessly from one track to the next, taking the listener on a journey from one ambient soundscape to the next. Even the more intense, powerful songs (such as “Epochalypse”) manage to fit the aesthetic without breaking the musical trance of the full album. The Tunic soundtrack is not one to be overlooked.
P.S. Don’t miss my Tunic OST review!
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
by Gio Castillo
I’ve noticed a slightly more mixed reception to this soundtrack than its predecessors. I would chalk it up to expectations; it seems like fans were hoping to hear more tunes in the vein of “Tantal” or “Battle!!/Torna,” so they were understandably let down by the relatively subdued, melancholy energy of the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 OST. (Which, outrageously, isn’t officially out yet. Why Nintendo??)
But Yasunori Mitsuda and company don’t miss. They never miss. Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s OST isn’t even in the same universe as a miss. Somehow, this team of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists managed to craft a 12-hour, 140-track OST so cohesive, creative, and emotionally resonant that I still struggle to put it into words, as anyone who listened to the MOTY 2022 Rhythm Encounter episode might know.
I’m not at all qualified or willing to proclaim the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 soundtrack is one of the greatest ever made, but I suspect that, along with the game, its stock will rise in the years to come.