Ar tonelico II ~absurdly long and difficult to translate subtitle~ (that’s a joke, see our subtitle translation above) has been released in Japan. As a long-time fan and follower of Gust’s publications, particularly in the audio department. Ken Nakagawa, Daisuke Achiwa, and Akira Tsuchiya have been wirting excellent music together since Atelier Viorate (though their mainstream recognition started with Atelier Iris). I look forward to every up-and-coming release from this crew, since they’re so good. But lately, I’ve noticed a mark shift in quality. This holds true with Ar tonelico II as well.
Now, the good news is that it’s not just “more of the same.” The Gust Sound Team is trying to experiment with new sounds, new musical styles, and that sort of thing. I’m happy about this. But there are some places on this soundtrack where the results of this experimentation are lackluster. The best songs, sadly, are the ones that do repeat the style of the previous Ar tonelico.
And what is that “style?” Generally, it involves a solid percussion track, intensely melodic sections, and non-verbalized vocals from the stars of Ar tonelico: Akiko Shikata, Noriko Mitose, Haruka Shimotsuki, and Yuko Ishibashi. There’s no way you can dislike these pieces of music; once those talented voices are added to the track, it is transformed into something new and lovely. And the way their voices are incorporated are definitely unique. Other music studios in Japan should take a hint.
But a lot of the instrumentals are bland. Between the two discs, disc two has a lot more to offer in terms of good, solid composition. The best tracks on disc one are the main themes, which caught the attention of anyone who visited the game’s official site. “The Second Tower” is a beautiful theme, and it is repeated with a different soundscape on track ten of disc one with some vocal accompaniment.
Being a game inspired by the fusing of music, spirituality, and technology, the OST incorporates elements of each of these points. Traditional instruments fuse with chanting and industrial-grunge sounds to make something you’ve never heard before, particularly in songs like “Crimson Scar” and “God’s Footprints.” One thing this soundtrack doesn’t have that the first Ar tonelico did have is annoying, cheesy rap samples. Apparently that guy took his “talent” to Persona 3 and stayed away from the Ar tonelico sequel. In this matter, I couldn’t be happier.
I was most disappointed by the opening and ending vocal tracks. The opening vocal, while taking on some interesting time signatures and rhythmic patterns, doesn’t hold a candle to the beauty and power of the first Ar tonelico opening theme. And the ending theme, while being more melodic than the opening, still doesn’t have the power that “PHANTASMAGORIA” had in the first game. I hate to play the comparison game, but I don’t know what else to say. These songs are, sadly, subpar to the first game’s opening and ending pieces.
If you look at the tracklist, you may think that this OST holds a lot more music than the previous game’s OST. Well, the inclusion of all the “Song Magic” tracks makes disc one look a lot bigger than it really is. Indeed, in terms of length, disc two wins out, particularly because of the lengthy end-game tracks.
All in all, this OST is only for the fans who want to follow the series (and the rest of Gust’s work). If you’re just now being introduced to this sort of awesome music, start with the first Ar tonelico. Take on AT2 when you’re looking for a little something extra. It’s good, but it’s not as great as its predecessor.