Code Age Commanders Original Soundtrack


Review by · October 30, 2005

When Code Age Commanders was first announced, I was one of the few people I know who wasn’t skeptical. Everything about this new world intrigued me: especially the environments and character designs. And, when I heard that Kumi Tanioka would be doing the soundtrack for the game, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I had enjoyed her very original compositions for FF Crystal Chronicles, as well as the few tracks she had done for FFXI. However, due to her work on Crystal Chronicles, I was expecting this soundtrack to retain that organic feel, even though I knew the premise of the game had a futuristic tone and setting.

Well, alongside the arranger and synth programmer Yasuhiro Yamanaka, Tanioka made this soundtrack one of those futuristic-techno-sample-loop OSTs. Two discs of it. Yikes.

Okay, okay, let’s not be so quick to judge. First of all, let’s talk about some of the non-techno-ish tracks. There are a few songs that were recorded live with a chamber-sized orchestra, and even one track featuring vocal work from the famous Yoko Ueno (in the Prologue). These songs sound gorgeous: I remembered them from the trailers I had seen for the game, and they sound brilliant. Check out disc 1 track 2 as well as disc 2 track 25 to hear these non-synthesized songs.

Also, some of the synthesized songs aren’t very “techno” at all. My favorite example of this is “History”, which features a beautiful oboe sound and a wonderful repetition of strings. Yeah, listen to this one too, and enjoy it. This might be it as far as enjoyment goes for you.

If you are a fan of the harder techno stylings, however, the rest of this soundtrack will also treat you right. Let’s get started.

Color seems to be a big theme in the Code Age universe. Disc one is a yellow disc, and disc two is red. Then we also have this white and hollow (presumably black) stars for the different versions of the field tracks (which are pretty much all that comprise the first disc). Between the two discs, I must say that disc one is certainly more bland. These field tracks are the definition of forgettable. Some of them were “atmospheric” to the point of being bland and atonal: others were very hard, with almost a “rock” edge to them. I did manage to find a few songs I liked from the field tracks on disc one, and I have sampled one of the two “Mintaka Valley” tracks to give you an example of one of the better songs. Though the song is repetitive, it features some great marimba work, and the repetition is syncopated enough to be worth hearing over and over. The second half of the song also makes incredible use of some basic piano arpeggiations. When I first heard this song, I was ready to say that Tanioka had created quite an OST; but at that point, I had not yet heard the rest, so now I know better.

Some of the field themes near the end were also decent. The last three tracks of disc one are also good, though short. Be sure not to miss the sample of the “Main Theme”, which combines the techno-samples with a beautiful horn-based melody. Well done, Ms. Kumi Tanioka!

Disc two fares somewhat better, though it too is another hit-or-miss in terms of decent composition. Most of the character themes are good, especially Alize and Fiona, due to the piano work. In fact, I’d say that most any song where Tanioka incorporates piano turns out to be good. Fiona’s is especially good, so take a listen to that sample.

The “Memory” section, which I suspect are the “event” themes for the game, were all letdowns for me. All except the last one, of course, which is the second of the “live instrumental recording” songs. “Gene’s Determination” was a catchy tune that I believe worked off of his character theme, just with more spunk this time around. But, again, these songs were not the best.

Now the battle themes: these are pretty decent. Not only are they better in terms of composition, they also make more use of traditional sounds (notably the four “decisive battles”, and especially Gerald’s). These tracks have some familiar melodies, ones that are worth hearing more than once. I’m sure that these songs, even more so than the field tracks, are exceptional in-game.

The “Epilogue” tracks contain some reworked versions of the character themes and a few other quick jingle-tunes, but then it ends with the six minute long “Ending” song (which I assume to be the end credits music). It’s the main theme on musical steroids, and it’s good. It’s quite good. This song alone is one of the album’s few true selling points.

The “Otero” themes (which, by the way, I suppose should be “Othello”, but whoever made this tracklist for the packaging made a bad choice in romanization) are nothing special: note that they are composed by Yamanaka, not Tanioka. They have an extra robotic-techno sound to them, and that’s a neat thing to hear now and then; but they’re nothing special.

Also not so special are the four bonus tracks. These remixes are fun in that their “mix” names refer to how it is they are mixed. For example, the “PubMix” of the main theme makes the song sound like it could be heard in a bar setting; and the “EffectMix” of Keid Crater uses sound effects to recreate the melodic strain of that particular song. I liked these songs, but I would’ve prefered a live instrumental performance as a bonus track over these remixes. A vocal song might have been nice too, but that didn’t happen.

One last “plus” for this album is the packaging. If you like the art designs for this game, the soundtrack booklet and discs feature some of the most beautiful settings I’ve seen for a videogame since 2000. Honestly, they are breathtaking. Staring at them while listening to some of this soundtrack’s better tunes has been a recent hobby of mine.

However, even with the nice art, Tanioka’s score is, unfortunately, a letdown for anyone expecting either the organic sounds of FF Crystal Chronicles or something more epic. I was hoping that this would be the soundtrack where Tanioka proved herself as not just a competent composer (which she is) but as a great composer, along the ranks of Shimomura and Mitsuda. That didn’t happen with this soundtrack. Maybe next time.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.