The second CD released in the Arc the Lad series was, fortunately, an actual “original” soundtrack. The previous album had actually been a misnomer and was actually an arranged album. Arc the Lad II Original Game Soundtrack gives us a thorough look at the compositional styles of Masahiro Andoh (and Hirotaka Izumi).
Opening the album is the Arc the Lad Theme (which opens all Arc the Lad soundtracks), followed by the game-specific opening, which we notice as an immediate turn from a live orchestral performance to the early PS1 synth. Ah, 1996: a good year, a good year.
The rest of the album is a spread of battle themes, town themes, and character/event themes. Be sure to listen to the sampled songs to get an idea of what these songs sound like. I found myself especially impressed with the Theme of Elc (the main character of Arc the Lad II), as it is a rhythmic and exciting theme. The synths used are also remarkable: the percussion and flutes remind me of Lunar music, and the French horn reminds me of the exact same synth that was used in Final Fantasy USA (Mystic Quest). I love the sounds used, and the composition itself is definitely catchy.
Oh, and then there is that one shining exception to the four types of songs on this album: track 12, “Music Man.” This is a slow jazz ballad sung in English by someone who is either an American or else has lost the Asian accent. The song is beautiful in every regard: and I searched everywhere to discover if Andoh had just stolen this song as if it were a jazz standard…but I could not find it anywhere, which leads me to believe that Andoh wrote this song. If that is the case, then I have to say that I am shocked! This song is really a wonderful performance, and I have to wonder what it’s doing right in the middle of this nearly-50-track OGS. Whoever thought to put this song into the game was a genius: this is the sort of creativity I’d like to see more of in RPGs.
For what it’s worth, the album does sport a lot of jazzy songs, such as the West Ardia theme. We knew that Andoh could write standard “weather channel” smooth jazz based on the first Arc the Lad album, but now we see that it sounds great even in its original synthesized form.
Note that unlike nearly every other Arc the Lad album, this album did not get a reprint past its original (and very hard to find) Antinos Records release. This is because all 47 of these tracks can be found on a two disc set that also contains the original soundtrack for the first Arc the Lad: “Arc the Lad Sound Track Complete.” Obviously, I’d recommend picking up the two-disc set over this album alone, but if you were to come across this album for a low price, I’d suggest you go ahead and get it simply because it is quite the rarity these days. And, of course, Andoh has created a really solid soundtrack for this classic PS1 RPG.