Dark Chronicle (or Dark Cloud 2 here in the US) is a fascinating story of two companions who travel through time, correcting mistakes and reshaping events in order to recreate a future that has been destroyed. While the story itself is sometimes dark and deep, the music is often very light and shallow. Most pieces are a single voice melody against either an ostinato background or ceaseless arpeggiations.
In RPGs, the first track is normally a composition that plays to an intro movie: something the player can view and get excited about as they are shown clips of what they will see in the game. As such, there is no second chance to make a first impression and most composers take this opportunity to shine (think the openings of Final Fantasy VIII and Suikoden III for example). Dark Chronicle’s opening score leaves much to be desired. A single melody, definitely solid, but not the epic fanfare you’d expect from the story.
The rest of Disc 1 follows suit. Listening to the music within the game fits like a glove: light hearted town music, character interactions and introductions and battles all with the brilliant cell drawings that Dark Cloud 2 boasted…but listening to the music on its own can be tedious. The instrumentation is oft-times questionable as there seems to be a high favorability for accordion and woodwind sounds and occasionally a sitar that sounds distinctly misplaced. Nearly all of the melodies are played with a single viola/violin sound against basic chord changes. A good number of times, the melody doesn’t seem to know when to resolve itself and notes just keep playing without the climax that is so needed for the piece and then there’s that horribly awkward trumpet in the track “Halloween.”
Theoretically speaking, the music is well-written: a heavy focus on secondary dominants and surprise minor chords. Most of the counterpoint is your standard fare, but not unpleasantly so; and though my distaste for the repetitive instrumentation used was made clear, the instruments themselves are good choices for their respective roles although there definitely could have been some more brass.
The soundtrack was obviously written for a video game and the composers made good use from the events with the compositions. There are four or five tracks for a circus scene that are heavy on the slapstick silly melodies and instruments one is used to hearing when they partake in a circus. The tracks used to accompany the ethereal butterfly story are all very heavy on music boxes, marimbas and xylophones. The vocal track, “Time is changing,” is once again pleasant, but missing passion. The words themselves are inspirational but the voice, lazy background, and typical chord changes make it seem amateurish when pitted against Xenosaga or the Final Fantasy series.
Disc 2 doesn’t really leave the set formula, though there are more relaxing tracks, original pieces and a few “huh?” moments like the first few guitar bars that sound amazingly like “Stairway to Heaven” on track 3 of Disc 2. The compositions follow the story and do grow a little darker and mature as Max and Monica continue to battle against impossible odds.
Overall, this isn’t a bad soundtrack, especially if you love the game. The tracks are decent and solidly based and it makes good use of melodic motifs. In my opinion, it’s just not an exciting soundtrack and doesn’t give me the pleasant feelings of nostalgia and desire to play a game that I am used to when I listen to other soundtracks. The music expert will have nothing to fault as the pieces are flawless in composition, if not instrumentation.