I’ve always found Sting games to be fairly decent, with the exception of Baroque. Sting soundtracks, on the other hand, are almost always mediocre; fine to accompany the game, but weak as stand-alone albums. You can draw the parallel to Namco’s Tales series, and much like Tales composer Motoi Sakuraba, Sting’s Shigeki Hayashi has started to tread down the path of overusing particular motifs and just sounding repetitive. Knights in the Nightmare is a perfect example of this somewhat unfortunate artistic choice, and one we’ll explore in Knights in the Nightmare OST (PSP).
Now, before I get into the meat of this review, I should say that I’ve only played the first battle or two of Knights in the Nightmare on DS, so I can’t speak at length as to how the soundtrack complements the game. That being said, I’m fairly certain that they go together well. Knights in the Nightmare is a rather dark and brooding game: eerie environments paired with a morose storyline. The music flows much in the same vein, with ominous story themes and battle tracks that frequently use minor key. There’s not much joy here: this is a bleak world.
While the soundtrack fits the setting quite nicely, there’s not much else about this soundtrack that I consider worthy of praise. I didn’t find any of the music particularly memorable, as most of it blended together into a creeping miasma. It might be good for Halloween listening or setting the mood for a horror D&D game, but there are better options to choose in either case. What’s more, a lot of the music will sound familiar to those who have played Riviera and Yggdra Union (and, to a lesser extent, Baroque). Part of this is undoubtedly due to the systems the games were designed to be played on; the DS and PSP have the limitation of tinny speakers which, for the most part, don’t do the music justice. Still, this shouldn’t limit quality of composition, as any fan of Kenji Ito can clearly attest.
The soundtrack itself is split up into two discs; the first contains mostly cutscene and menu music, while the second is primarily battle themes. While disc one tends to distinguish itself from Hayashi’s other works with tracks such as “Knights in the Nightmare,” most of the tracks, including “Rumors” and “Clandestine Discussion,” will remind listeners of Riviera and Yggdra Union. Moreover, a lot of the compositions have overtones of Valkyrie Profile, which made me wonder if I understated the parallels between Hasyashi and Sakuraba I made earlier.
The second disc is even more true to form(ula) than the first. Hayashi manages to make all his battle themes sound relatively similar, and it would be difficult for me to pick out which game they belonged to if I hadn’t listened to them extensively (which, frankly, I haven’t). “Maria Sortie!” and “Clash with the Beast King Daudalos” are perfect examples of the reuse of thematic motifs from Yggdra Union and Riviera. While not bad tracks on their own, they don’t do much to rise above the flood of similar pieces on this and other of the composer’s albums.
When it comes down to it, the only real reason to purchase this album is if you were a fan of Knights in the Nightmare or Shigeki Hayashi: there’s nothing to recommend the album beyond that. It’s a shame, too, as Hayashi has the makings of an excellent composer. I just hope he branches out before he gets stuck in a formulaic “Tale” of his own.