NIS America knows how to please its fans. With the release of Atelier Iris, they’re finally bringing this long overlooked series to American gamers. They’re also continuing the pleasing trend started with Phantom Brave of giving fantastic preorder bonuses. To commemorate this release, those who preordered were given the Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~ Bonus Sound Track CD. This isn’t a small offering either: it’s actually track-for-track disc one of the Japanese released Atelier Iris OST. And how is it? In a word, amazing.
Things certainly don’t start off slowly on this disc. The opening vocal theme, Midnight Illusion, starts strong and remains captivating throughout. It starts with drums and chanting, really setting it apart from anything I’ve heard in game vocals. It slows down a bit but moves frequently throughout, with many changes in tempo, volume, and mood. These shifts could have lead to a disjointed sounding song, but it flows beautifully and is very captivating. Rest assured you’ve never heard anything quite like it.
The bulk of the tracks on here are light and uplifting, and extremely well done. Songs like “Forest of Innocence,” “Little Boy,” and “Lakeside” lend themselves extremely well to playing over and over, and fit the game’s bright and cheerful look perfectly. Picking a favorite on this disc would be very hard to do, but I’d likely go for either Forest of Innocence or Little Boy. Both are so fun to listen to I find it hard to not keep repeating them.
The compositions for the more serious and mysterious tracks fare just as well. Rain Drop Waltz plays a slow melody on a violin while a variety of percussions and chimes mimic the sound of water drops. The overall effect is beautiful and very captivating. Sleeping Truth goes back and forth between a slow, determined violin and a livelier piano.
Many styles, some stranger than others, are touched upon on here. IRIS starts with a woman whispering something in Japanese, then movies into a brief piano section. The piano dies down and the whispering woman returns for a much lengthier appearance. The piano and accompaniment return more prominently than before, stop, and leaves the rhythm to slowly fade out. Moment of Wind has a strong, beautiful violin and a kind of Celtic feel. Space of Horror has a subdued string melody and a slow drum. I’m not sure how to describe the song other than spacey. It would feel right at home in Earthbound. And Hagel’s Song is…something else. It features a man repeatedly shouting “Go!” accompanied by beat boxing (!). It’s not something you’d expect, to say the least.
And what would an RPG be without battle themes? (It would be Harvest Moon, but that’s beside the point). Even though this is just a half OST there are a number of battle themes on here, and (surprise) they’re all well done. Alchemic Blast is a more standard sounding battle theme. There’s enough movement in the song to keep things from being too repetitive. “Bullfight” moves along quickly with strong, fast drums.
The disc ends with two more vocal tracks. Walking Path is more of a standard RPG vocal theme. It has a woman singing a slow, melancholy song. It’s pleasant to listen to but nothing is really unusual or stands out. The last song on the disc is Midnight Illusion, but overlaid with sound effects. There are plenty of explosions in this version, which are included as sound effects that accompany the opening movie sequence. The sound effects give it a bit more “oomph” and provide great emphasis to parts of the song.
I use the word captivating a number of times, because it’s the best way to describe this CD. You want to listen to every track over and over again. It’s probably too late to get it by preordering by now, but when picking your copy up you may want to ask the clerk if they have extra copies. If not, I’d recommend ordering the full Japanese OST. I know I will.