The Atelier Best album was released as a promotional item that could only be received by preordering Atelier Viorate in Japan before its June 26, 2003 release. As a result, this is a rare item indeed. Is it worth the trouble for an Atelier fan to hunt it down?
Only if you don’t plan on owning other Atelier soundtracks…Or if you want to get the super-duper-extra bonus item, a blue washcloth with Viorate imprinted on it.
There are only two tracks on here that can’t be found anywhere else: they are the first two tracks, arranged exclusively for this CD. The first track, a slower theme from Atelier Marie, is a decent arrangement, but doesn’t really catch my attention (I’m not entirely a fan of Marie’s music in the first place). However, the next track, an arrangement of “Sad Vampire” from Atelier Elie (which did not even make it onto Unknown Origin, only the out of print release from Sony Records has the original version!) is phenomenal. I do not hesitate to say that it is one of the best Atelier songs out there. Atelier Elie music is generally some of the best, as it was all composed by series veteran Akira Tsuchiya, but this arrangement really goes out of its way to blow your mind. The techno-baroque-rock style featured here is similar to what Suikoden fans loved about “Gothic Neclord”, though I tend to appreciate this song even more.
After these first two tracks, we are treated to 18 tracks of background music (3 from each of the five Atelier games, plus the Hermina and Culus sidestory). Personally, I feel that many of these selections are really not the best songs found from each game’s respective OST, but that could just be my taste.
Atelier Marie’s tracks start off, and as I said before, I am not too fond of Atelier Marie’s music. These tracks, however, are particularly poor, almost wearing me down after enjoying the incredible arrangement of Sad Vampire. “I’m Working Right Now!” is a familiar melody, but the others aren’t anything special.
Elie’s tracks are wonderful, and probably some of my favorite from the game. These are some of Tsuchiya’s all-time best compositions. “Seagull…” is deserving of its own instrumental single with multiple arrangements, I believe, because it is simply that good of a song. It does not fail to impress even the most ardent VGM critic. “My Paradise?” is sort of a silly song in a waltz-y 3/4 with all sorts of atonal background junk and weird mechanical noises; the sort of thing you’d expect in an alchemist’s workshop. Finally, I’m not sure if “Catch Hold…” is a battle theme or not, but whatever it is, one thing is for certain: it’s another spectacular song that I cannot praise enough. Outstanding.
If Marie’s OST is not my least favorite, Lilie’s might be. There are a number of solid compositions from Lilie that do stand out, but it seems whoever made the tracklist for Atelier Best batted one for three. Each of the songs here are pretty good, but they also seem to be lacking in certain regards. Plus Battle is the one I am most impressed with, but that is probably because it’s just another upbeat battle theme. There is a guitar synth that runs through the whole song that I find to be very unbalanced: it doesn’t belong with the rest of the instruments. Track 9, the song I chose to sample, is catchy to be sure, but Lilie does sport a lot better overall songs. This song contains a good melody, but it is running on a simple jazz chord progression; I am not entirely impressed with it.
The Hermina and Culus OST can be viewed as “more Atelier Lilie”, but for some reason, I take much more pleasure out of these compositions. Furthermore, the tracks picked for this “Best” album are right on. Of the three tracks, “My Will” is definitely the best. However, I think that these songs were all picked well.
Next up are the tracks from Atelier Judie. Let me preface this statement by saying that I am almost obsessed with the Atelier Judie OST. I have a complete bias towards Judie: composed by Tsuchiya and the two Kobayashis, this soundtrack managed to do things that Elie and Lilie had been unable to do. If I had things my way, I would’ve sampled all three tracks from this section. I chose simply to sample “The Loanshark”, a nice jazz-groove piece with incredible synths. The upgrade from PS1 to PS2 sound technology is obvious in this transition from Lilie to Judie.
The BGM tracks end with three from Viorate, and while they are good in their own right (the whole Viorate OST is phenomenal, trust me), I think that Gust is yet again making a mistake by calling these tracks the “Best.” Track 19 is probably in the top 10 from the OST, but the other two, in my opinion, are definitely on the lower end of the Viorate songs. They don’t rank well compared to many other Viorate songs: though, again, they are all beautiful.
The extra-special treat comes at the end: five vocal tracks! I sampled the song from Hermina and Culus, which is definitely the most “cutesy” of the five songs, but it also has a good sound going for it, if it is a little cliché. The most exotic of these vocals is track 24, from Atelier Viorate, but this is (unfortunately) the shortest as well. The Atelier Elie vocal is good, but the versions on the (later-released) Unknown Origin second disc are all better in my opinion, as Mami Horie does something marvelous to them.
Looking back, I can say with some confidence that this does showcase the Atelier series’ music well, but if I were to make my own “Atelier Best” CD, the tracklist would have looked fairly different, and probably would’ve become a two disc set. Nonetheless, if you find this one on Y!J or eBay for $20 or less, pick it up. Along with containing some of the best Atelier songs, the packaging also features some beautiful artwork (including the front cover, showcasing the six Atelier heroines: from the top clockwise, it’s Viorate, Lilie, Hermina, Elie, Marie, and Judie). Gust has already sold me on the Atelier series, so I guess if you aren’t sold yet, this might be the album to convince you.