Note: according to the CD’s packaging, disc two’s tracks are listed as if they continued from disc one (that is, they are tracks 21-43 instead of another 1-23). For the sake of consistency with the site rather than with the soundtrack itself, we have chosen to list the numbers as they would appear when sticking the CD in a CD player.
In the past, I have had no interaction with the Nobunaga series. I’ve had no desire to, either. The only thing I’ve ever enjoyed about Koei is that they had a lot of music done by Yoko Kanno. Imagine my surprise when, after purchasing my first Nobunaga soundtrack, I discover that it is not Kanno, but Kenji Kawai, who did the music. In other words, getting this soundtrack was, for me, a complete “stab in the dark.”
Usually, when I listen to an OST whose game I am unfamiliar with, and I am not particularly taken by the music, but recognize the quality of the compositions, I will usually call said OST “solid.” I find that it is a fitting adjective in a lot of cases. However, with Nobunaga’s Ambition Online, I determined that I could not refer to the soundtrack as solid.
For me, there was a lot of “hit or miss” going on with this soundtrack. Be it area music, battle music, shop music, fast or slow, I found good and bad on this soundtrack. The good that I did find was very “atmospheric”, making for great background music. I would consider it reasonable to compare this soundtrack, especially its better tracks, to the Shenmue OST. The music is great to listen to, but it’s not memorable. Because of this, I have decided that I would like to call this soundtrack “liquid” instead of solid. It slips through your aural fingers when you try to grasp it, but it is refreshing nonetheless.
To give you an example, listen to “Snow Country”, track six of the first disc. There is a beautiful melody, the percussion is fitting for that “ancient Chinese dynasty war game” feel: there’s nothing to complain about. But, try listening to a classic song from Ys or Final Fantasy, and then check for yourself mentally: which is more memorable? This song just doesn’t stick with you, though it is beautiful.
For a faster song, listen to Offensive Maneuver.” Choir-style vocals introduce what turns out to be a standard horn-blaring, percussion-pounding quick march. I love listening to the song, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember it two hours after listening to it. It’s liquid!
One melody that has stuck with me is “Prosperity.” Listen to this song: I think it is definitely a stand-out-among-the-crowd composition from Kenji Kawai. The traditional Asian feel merges with a pop/jazz style to make one awesome song. And, I can remember it long enough to hum it in the shower or in the car!
Fans of the game are also treated to a few unreleased tracks, which are by no means lesser than the overall soundtrack.
Compared to previous Nobunaga soundtracks, which were by and large composed by Yoko Kanno, these tracks are not quite as memorable, though they do still have a lot going for them in the way of recording quality and length of composition. If you like MMOs, or you like Nobunaga, this game and its soundtrack are both something worth considering.