In my eyes, despite being incomplete, Phantasy Star Online’s OST was a truly a masterpiece. It’s originality and unique sound along with how it complimented the game’s environment and accentuated its atmosphere was masterful. And although I’d spent well over 100 hours playing the game itself, I could still pull out the disc and listen to it over an over again. Having said all of that, could you possibly imagine my excitement when I learned that the soundtrack to Phantasy Star Online Episode I&II would indeed be released as well as include all of the missing music from the original? It was like a dream come true.
Just as I dreamed, disc one is golden. Containing all of the tracks that were previously unreleased (including those added for PSO v.2), as well as a simple, yet very nice, piano arrangement of “Can still see the light,” and the previously missing “Rose confession” which was arranged by Yutaka Minobe of Eternal Arcadia fame, I couldn’t have asked for much more. This disc alone would have made me happy enough, even though we really should have received it a year ago. But late is better than never, and getting a chance to listen to this music outside of the game is a real joy, especially “Image of hero,” the character creation music and track that almost made me cry because it wasn’t included on the original OST. Until now, I never realized how good pieces such as “Day dawns,” the online lobby music, and “Crossing3084,” from the Hunter’s Guild, were until I was exposed to them outside of the game and given the chance to fully appreciate them.
But no matter how much I’d wanted to hear all the stuff I was missing, having the opportunity to listen to Episode II’s music well before I played the game had me the most excited. I really wish I didn’t have my hopes so high, though. Upon first listen, these tracks seemed to lack the emotion and drama of those of Episode I. Aside from “A longing to ancient times PART2,” which is an awesome battle theme in of itself, I wasn’t very impressed at all with the new music. Yet I was determined. Instead of placing this disc on my shelf to sit for all eternity, I forced myself to listen to it again and again hoping that something would catch. And it did.
I’ve often found that some music takes a certain amount of time to grow on a person; there are many factors that can deter a listener from absorbing and appreciating it, ranging from environment to the mood the listener is in at the time, but once he gets past those obstacles, the real treasures are often found. Here, I only needed to get past my high expectations to realize that these pieces were worth much more than just my first impression. Granted, there are those that still haven’t grown on me, (“Growl, from the digital haze” and “Revive the secred of rough wave”), especially “IDOLA have the immortal feather” and “IDOLA have the divine blade,” which don’t even come close to the final battle themes of Episode I. Perhaps they never will. Nevertheless, Episode II’s music is an incredible accomplishment by those same composers who created Episode I’s masterpiece. Although not quite as dramatic or emotional, the moody undertones continue where the first left off and retain that futuristic sound I’ve come to love. And just as Episode I’s themes excellently compliment the environments of the game, so does Episode II’s, which really do sound much better when heard within the game itself and fit the new levels perfectly. Many of the tracks are much faster and more upbeat than Episode I, but there are a good few that owe credence to its predecessor’s slower, more ambient pieces. “A longing to distant times PART1” and “Jungle -a lush load-” are both great examples with their atmospheric feel and musical imagery.
Unfortunately, the biggest gripe I have with this album is with Episode II’s vocals. I was never very fond of “The whole whole new world” from Episode I. LOREN’s performance had always sounded off key to me, and the vocal didn’t seem to flow very well with the orchestration. Episode II’s version’s addition of guitars and heavy percussion only makes the song sound even more awkward. No matter how bad the opening song is, though, the ending is worse. Instead of having a more epic and dramatic sound to it like Episode I’s “Can still see the light,” “World with me” is a cheesy R&B love ballad that does not fit the rest of the album at all, and was the biggest disappointment for me considering its excellent predecessor.
Yet, although I had my expectations a bit high for the newer music, and despite my misgivings of a few wayward tracks, I do believe Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II: Songs of Ragol Odyssey is an excellent purchase! No doubt, if you’ve played the game you’ll want it. And for those who’ve played the first and not yet the GC version, disc one alone should warrant its purchase. To get the game’s full OST you’ll need to pick up Phantasy Star Online’s OST, if you have not already. Considering the game’s popularity, you should be able to find both CD’s at just about all of the online game music retailers’ sites, but I recommend checking with Game Music Online first.