Upon hearing the brilliant music of Atelier Iris, I was hooked. I had to track down everything Atelier I could find. Some would consider this a dangerous personality trait, but I took it as a sign for a spending spree, so I assembled myself a respectable little Atelier collection. One of the titles I bought was the Atelier Marie OST. Marie was the game that brought the series to life in the PlayStation days. How, I thought, would the game that started this beloved franchise sound? Surely it must be grand!
It ain’t so great.
That’s not entirely fair. While this simply can’t be compared to the brilliance of some of the Atelier titles, the music from Marie is certainly acceptable. The problem is nearly everything on here is very forgettable filler material. What hooked me so strongly to Iris initially was the inventive music. Nearly everything to be found here, however, fits into the generic “medieval RPG” sound.
The majority of the songs to be found here are, to be blunt, repetitive and boring. I’m very disappointed that I have to say this, as I’m a fan of nearly everything to be found in the series, but most of these songs are the kind of light, forgettable fluff passed off as filler tracks. Maybe previous Atelier titles set my expectations too high, but on my first listen I wanted to skip many of the songs, hoping for something more imaginative. It’s not that the compositions are poor, but there is very little that actually stands out. Many of the songs also sound extremely similar, making you feel like you’ve been listening to the same bland song for 20 minutes, which certainly doesn’t help things.
There are a number of very good songs to be found, and I would be unfair if I didn’t mention them. Snow and Memories is a slow, relaxing song done primarily with guitar and a flute. It sounds very, well, snowy. I Can Hear the Battle Cries! is an energetic song with a high woodwind and hand drums. It’s very Iwadare-esque. Hill of Beginnings is the perfect adventurous theme. Just Smiling Is Fine is a great touching piece. Slow piano, slow strings, it’s a very uplifting song. Where the album is good, it’s very good, but I wished more of it showed this flair.
If you look at the composer’s list you’ll find two perhaps familiar names, Bach and Pachelbel. The soundtrack makes use of an Etude and a Canon, respectively. I’m assuming that this collaboration was done posthumously, though who can say for sure? What you’ll find are synth versions of these classics, and I must say they sound exceptionally good in synth, Pachelbel’s Canon in particular.
Disc 2 ends with 3 Bonus Tracks, Extra Session #1-3. I’m not exactly sure why these are bonuses, but I’m glad that they were added, because they’re some of the best songs on the OST. Bonus 1 sounds like a battle or boss theme. It starts with a lone electric guitar before moving the rest in. The guitars die down to move some old school synth in, to great effect. The rest of the song is then altering between the guitars and the synth. Bonus 2 sounds to be another battle theme. This one is more akin to a Falcom track, with lots of fast, loud guitar and strong drums. Bonus 3 is most assuredly not a battle theme. It sounds as though it may be an ending theme or staff roll. It recalls themes from other tracks in a very laid back, jazzy sort of way. Regardless of how it’s used in the game, it’s a great piece, and probably my favorite on the soundtrack.
I wanted to love this; I desperately wanted to love this. Despite my efforts, the fact is this is overall a very weak entry compared to the rest of the series. While there are some very well done songs to be found, there is just too much filler. If you’re an Atelier fan already, you may find this a worthy purchase to see where the series came from. If you’re unfamiliar with Atelier, I would strongly urge you to look elsewhere. There are much better things to be found in the series.