Chantelise is the 2006 Action RPG from independent Japanese developer EasyGameStation, who some gamers may have heard of thanks to the 2010 English release of Recettear. Chantelise shares common elements with Recettear such as the graphical style, character art style, and combining the names of the human girl and companion fairy protagonists (in this case, Chante and Elise.) Of course, Chantelise differs from Recettear in that it’s a straightforward action-RPG rather than a sim-RPG with dungeon crawling elements. Another difference lies in the music. While I thought Recettear’s music was alright, the equally charming but infinitely more complex and in-your-face music for Chantelise leaves it in the dust.
Melodies of Memories, the lengthy opening track, took me by complete surprise. This piece was simply lovely and featured loads of melodic variety. The flute and string driven introduction was simply gorgeous. The rest of this orchestral sounding piece had many layers of sonic flavor with melodies and harmonies that were ear-grabbing but never overly simplistic or conventional. Making music that is both accessible and challenging is not easy, and Niya did a fine job on this piece.
Niya also composed the final track on this soundtrack, entitled Starting Tale of Two People. It intertwined the feel of a determined young heroine embarking her quest with the more comic-relief feel of her sometimes exasperating relationship with her sister. Although this was a solid piece, I found Niya’s other composition more formidable.
The lion’s share of the soundtrack was in-game music by M Box. I generally found the music sweet and charming without it getting too saccharine. I was impressed by the melodies and harmonies grabbing my ear, but rarely proceeding in a predictable fashion. Most of the tracks seemed to have multiple movements to them and everything was very complementary. Just as my ear got used to the vibe of a song, it would change with a burst of flavor making the soundtrack a joy to listen to throughout its course. As with the Niya pieces, the M Box music was accessible, yet surprisingly chewy and challenging.
I also really liked the extensive use of orchestral sonic textures rather than modern synthesized sounds to craft this soundtrack. The few times modern synths were used, they were used tastefully. I am always a sucker for compositions with multi-layered parts, and this soundtrack delivered here. It really felt as if the composers went the extra mile to make the music good rather than just quickly churn something out for some doujin project. In other words, both the compositional and sound quality here is fantastic and on par with what I would expect from a big name, mainstream game’s soundtrack. Considering that Chantelise is an indie/doujin game, that is quite a compliment.
The penultimate track was a vocal track performed by the seiyuu for Chante and Elise, the titular heroines. Sure, the vocals were helium-voiced, but I wouldn’t expect husky vocals from a young girl heroine and her feisty and somewhat immature fairy companion. Musically, though, I found the pop-rock melodies and harmonies too simplistic and clichéd. I had definitely heard this before somewhere. I also found that the modern instrumentation fell in stark contrast to the more classical instrumentation of the rest of the soundtrack. To end on a positive note, the instrumentation had plenty of space and never once felt like it was fighting with the vocals for attention.
I thought Chantelise might be a fun game to try since I enjoyed Recettear, but after hearing this soundtrack, that sentiment has changed to, “I have to play this game.” I want to hear the great music in the context of the game now. Here’s hoping Recettear does well enough to warrant a localization of Chantelise so that more people can play this game and thus hear the compositions of Niya and M Box.