Miyoko Kobayashi worked with Akira Tsuchiya on Atelier Lilie, the third game in the Atelier series. Hermina and Culus is a side-story to Atelier Lilie, and for this small title, Kobayashi was given the chance to flex her own musical muscles and stand on her own. The result is surprisingly good.
Opening with the vocal “Another Story”, we immediately get the impression that this game is light, but will have its moments of depth (at least musical depth!). The vocalist has one of the highest, “little-girl”-ish voices I’ve heard in ages. The song runs at a fast 3/4 pace, like a constant pulse-waltz, and the instruments used make the song more beautiful than I had expected it to be. One point for Kobayashi, zero points for my skepticism.
If it weren’t for the credit information, I would have sworn that Tsuchiya did some work on this soundtrack. Many of the songs on this one-disc soundtrack retain that Atelier vitality that we recognize through the use of quick and syncopated rhythms, simple melodies from unique plucked string instruments, and the occasional killer bass line. For a supreme example of the “Atelier feel” on this soundtrack, take a listen to track ten. Yeah, now you see what I mean.
Yet, it wouldn’t be fair to just peg Kobayashi as some sort of “Tsuchiya” clone. A reasonable explanation for the “Atelier feel” still being found on this album is, first of all, the use of the same synth programming that we found on Lilie and Judie. And, of course, the fact that Kobayashi did compose many tracks for those two games as well. She has a style that is somewhat different from Tsuchiya; for example, I would be surprised to be told that Tsuchiya composed track 22, “My Will”, a song that definitely has a style and feel all its own. Kobayashi really outdoes herself yet again on this song. Color me impressed.
Not that every song is a hit. There are a few tracks that, for the sake of the game, are composed in a fashion as to be irritating, and these aren’t pleasant for the sole purpose of listening outside the context of the game. Also, there are a number of slow and simple songs that use various music box-esque sounds to play the melody, and then the song is over. These aren’t too impressive, but they also do not outweigh the prowess of Kobayashi’s more enjoyable songs. Honestly, some of the lighter songs could pass as the work of Yoko Shimomura in Kingdom Hearts or some other high-profile title.
In a final summary statement, I would have to say that this album fits right in with the other Atelier soundtracks as being 1) quite good and 2) worth purchasing. And not only is this album good, but it’s available (at least when I wrote this review) and it’s cheap! Retailing at only 2000 yen (about $20) on Gust’s site (shop.salburg.com), all it takes is a special order with Shopping Mall Japan or some other middle-man service for international shipping, and the CD is yours. I recommend it to, well, anyone. The soundtrack was much better than I expected it to be; but don’t expect any killer battle themes. It’s not that kind of soundtrack. The samples should help you determine exactly what you’ll find on this album.