Fairy Fencer F represents a shift in attitude in the Compile Heart mentality. It’s like a kid in high school: growing up into adulthood in some ways, but still very much a kid in others. Part of maturity is realizing that you don’t have it all figured out and accepting valuable input from others who’ve been around the block, who can help you turn something good into something great. In the case of Fairy Fencer F’s soundtrack, Kenji Kaneko was joined by a slew of heavy hitters to craft an exciting soundtrack that hopefully foreshadows Compile Heart’s growth into a stronger RPG developer.
The first disk of this soundtrack features the lion’s share of Kenji Kaneko’s work. Kaneko is a skilled composer, and his pieces work very well within the context of the game. Unfortunately, pieces of music that complement the overall experience of colorful graphics, rousing sound effects, and engaging gameplay are not quite as memorable on their own. The music itself is very good, well-composed JRPG music with plenty of Kenji Kaneko’s signature qualities, and you’ll love it while playing the game, but it may not stick with you after play ends. Even Kazuhiro Watanabe’s vocal theme “FULL CONTACT” falls into this trap. When I heard it in the game during characters’ magical girl (or boy) style transformation sequences, it pumped me up. But outside of the game, it’s just not as exciting without the elaborate transformation graphics and the interactive heat of virtual battle.
Disk 2 is where the music is fresh, exciting, and memorable, thanks to the contributions of several good composers. The disk comes out fighting with “ALL Our Might Tonight” by Kaoru Hayano, which is easily my favorite vocal theme on this entire soundtrack. When I first heard it in my car, I cranked the volume and was headbanging and waving my fist along to it. It’s a song I would play in my head while I’m riding my bicycle up a steep hill. The vocal theme that follows it, Kanako.s’ “Miraculous Bonds,” is a solid rocker too. The other vocal themes toward the end of disk 2, “Cradle of Time” by A.m.u. and “Goddess Recollection” also by Kaoru Hayano, are ballads that are quite lovely to listen to and don’t fall into the trap of being too cloying. I particularly liked “Goddess Recollection” because it displayed a completely different side of Kaoru Hayano’s vocal character.
I only have two complaints regarding the vocal themes. One is that the song “Theme of Galapagos RPG” that caps off disk 2 is just plain bad. It sounds like a bunch of old, drunk guys at the bar singing one of those stupid pub songs fueled by one too many beers. The other is that the song “Resonant World” that plays during the game’s introduction sequence is nowhere to be found on the soundtrack. That really stinks, because the song is quite good, featuring a happy blend of industrial rock sounds and powerful female vocals by the vocalist of StylipS. I fail to see why one of the best vocal themes in the game is not in the soundtrack and a really terrible and pointless “drunken pat on the back” song is.
Outside of disk 2’s vocal themes are a bunch of cool and interesting pieces of music by a variety of composers. Everything sounds like it belongs, both in the soundtrack and in the game. Sometimes soundtracks like this can seem like too many cooks in the kitchen, but in this case, every cook’s signature ingredient complements the meal as a whole. My personal favorites are the cool techno-inspired pieces by Yoh Ohyama, but everyone’s contributions are great. Even the two Kenji Kaneko pieces on disk 2 are jamming at this party. The only things I would consider lacking in disk 2 are traditional, classical-inspired JRPG tunes, but disk 1 already has that covered and smothered.
If I were to give Fairy Fencer F’s soundtrack a grade, I would give it an A- or B+. Disk 2, despite one bad song, is a solid A whereas disk 1 is a solid B. I would have loved if that stupid “Theme of Galapagos RPG” was absent and the excellent “Resonant World” was present, then I would be able to say that the soundtrack truly does nothing wrong. Okay, so a lot of the music is heavily dependent on being part of the game, but that doesn’t make it bad. I admire that quality of music being a “team player” and enhancing the overall experience rather than trying to steal the spotlight. Compile Heart is working hard to be taken more seriously with the Fairy Fencer F series, and this soundtrack is proof positive of that.