The newest Atelier game is Atelier Rorona for PlayStation 3. It takes a turn back in time, going for the style of the older Atelier games (such as Atelier Marie) instead of the more recent, combat-heavy Ateliers (Atelier Iris and Mana-Khemia). The all-star trio of the Gust Sound Team (Akira Tsuchiya, Daisuke Achiwa, and Ken Nakagawa) has been whittled away over the years since they first united with Atelier Viorate. For this particular score, Ken Nakagawa flies solo.
Being less focused on combat and more focused on traveling from town to town, performing fetch quests, and synthesizing items into new alchemic creations, the soundtrack required a more soothing sound. And through my first listen of the album, up until near the end of the second disc, these were my impressions:
“The music is simple, provincial, and comfortable. There is not a single track on here that I would consider awe-inspiring, spectacular, or sublime.”
I was almost certain I would need to put this statement in my final review. And if the score ended at disc 2, track 19, I could’ve kept it in. But let me strike that statement from the record!
For some reason, Ken Nakagawa decided to load all of his best compositions at the back end of the OST. Starting at disc 2, track 20, and moving forward to track 27, what we find are some of Ken Nakagawa’s best compositions ever. Surprise! They are “dungeon” and “battle” themes (well, sort…). The point is that they are up-tempo, engaging, and they manage to keep a feel all their own while still bringing back the best bits and pieces of previous Gust scores. If someone were to create an arranged album for Atelier Rorona, I suspect that vast majority of the arrange album would cover the eight tracks here at the end of disc two. They are phenomenal.
The first disc of the OST is largely forgettable. The only tracks that stood out to me were the opening vocal (which, after the first 45 seconds, goes against the grain of a typical Atelier opening), and the town theme that is track 4 (parts of it sound nearly identical to the Atelier Iris town theme!). There are some interesting musical themes to be found on disc one, yes. But by and large, after having listened to the first disc (as I mentioned earlier), I suspected that this would become one of my least favorite Atelier OSTs.
But, honestly, disc two really makes up for it. The section of awesomeness that I’ve already talked about certainly helps things. But there are plenty of good tracks throughout the second disc as well: more in the vein of “happy town music,” but still more interesting than what I heard on disc one. Reoccuring Atelier traditions, such as the synthesized male vocalist for the weapon shop clerk, make their return here.
The ending vocal theme is painfully cheesy, though it does have a great non-lyrical (“la la”) extended fade-out, which comprises the last minute of the track (check out the audio sample, disc 2 track 31).
I don’t know what recommendations to make about this album. I’m still excited about the game, and its art style, and if I had to compare this soundtrack to Atelier Marie or Lilie, there’s no question that Ken Nakagawa trumps those old-time composers. But if you’re looking for another Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~ OST, you won’t find it here. This is something new and different. I hope that Nakagawa-san is able to continue refining his style, and that his next OST will have more “stand-out” tracks than this one did. If you’re willing to shell out money for a full two disc OST, keeping in mind what I said about the first disc, you’ll still be rewarded with a few amazing instrumental tracks at the end of disc two. I’ll let the audio samples tell the rest of the story.