The Action RPG that almost wasn’t an Action RPG (according to the producer, anyway), NieR exists in two forms: one on Xbox 360, the other on PS3. This is a game developed by Cavia (Drag-on Dragoon, or “Drakengard”), and though I’m wary about whether or not I’d enjoy the game, I do have some definite opinions about the two disc soundtrack. Namely, that it’s one of the best game soundtracks ever.
Let’s get to it!
First of all, this is one extremely vocal-heavy OST. Whether male or female, lyrical or non-lyrical, Japanese, English, French, Gaelic, or some fictional language (I’m not sure what all is used on this OST) … this soundtrack is dominated by excellent vocals. The performers themselves are all fantastic, the mixing and production for the vocals also far above average quality. Though some tracks that feature vocals aren’t vocal-centric (that is, the melody is carried by something other than vocals), it’s easier to name the tracks that don’t have vocals instead of those that do. Ready? Here they are!
The last eight tracks of disc one (four versions each of Dispossession and Yonah) are fully instrumental, no vocals whatsoever. “Dance of the Evanescent,” which runs under one minute in length, is a fast-paced waltz tune with no vocals. …and that’s it. 9 of 43 tracks are free of human voice. The other 80% of the soundtrack has vocals. Yeah, that’s pretty serious right there.
A lot of talented folks worked on this soundtrack. Chief among them is Keiichi Okabe, a longtime composer for Namco that I (unfortunately) have little knowledge of. What I do know of Okabe’s work (in the Tekken series, among other places), I have enjoyed. But this soundtrack just blows everything else, by him or by others, out of the water. This is an insanely good soundtrack. Nothing here is skippable. You’ll be sucked in for 2 hours and come out wanting to listen again. What an incredible soundtrack.
The four versions of “Song of the Ancients” are all impressive. I’ve sampled two of the four in the tracklist to the left. There are a lot of great tracks on this OST where vocals take center stage, but “Song of the Ancients,” for me, ranks highest.
But to be honest, what’s most impressive about this soundtrack is that, for all that’s going on with it, it’s so accessible to the untrained ear. You don’t have to be really “into” music to enjoy this. The same cannot always be said about most music this meticulously-crafted. It carefully straddles the fence of “radio-friendly” (as much as any VGM can be this) and “for hardcore audiophiles only.”
Early in 2010 I was startled by the amount of vocals, and the quality of the music, in Final Fantasy XIII. I think I’ve already found a contender for soundtrack of 2010 to dethrone the early leader (FFXIII) in NieR. I wasn’t expecting the music to be this good, at all, whatsoever. I’ll want to check out the game to see if it can match the grandeur of the soundtrack. But until then, I urge all VGM fans to procure this soundtrack. It’s a winner, to be sure.