As one denizen of the Internet put it: “this turned out to be a Falcom album.”
Now, granted, the Etrian Odyssey franchise itself owes something to some of Falcom’s early titles (though it holds more in common with Wizardry than Dragon Slayer). But the series’ sole composer, Yuzo Koshiro, was an early member of Sound Team JDK, composing for Ys, Sorcerian, and others. And, yes, the “Super Arrange Version” moniker was and is a Falcom staple for the inevitable arranged soundtrack to immediately follow the release of an OST.
But it’s more than that with the fourth game in the series. Head arranger Noriyuki Kamikura, a former member of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Basiscape (and you’ll remember, Basiscape handled EO3’s arrange album), used his connections at Falcom to make some very special things happen. First, he brought on Yukihiro Jindo to arrange two battle themes (“With Eyes Blazing” and “The Legend’s Successor,” each with Jindo’s trademark super-bright violin). Then Kamikura went one step further and brought in game music legend Ryo Yonemitsu, the man who did the “Perfect Collection” arrangements for Ys and Ys II, to arrange “Battlefield – Faith is My Pillar” for this album. Old Falcom meets new Falcom in an album arranging a Falcom legend’s compositions, using a Falcom-style album title … and all while having absolutely nothing to do with Falcom! This, ladies and gentlemen, is a true miracle.
It’s not all Falcom-esque pedigree, though. Kamikura handles over half of the arrangements on his own, and he even turns two of the songs (Labyrinth I and Labyrinth V) into vocal tracks (featuring, respectively, Haruka Shimotsuki and Miyu). Not only that, the album boasts a beautiful piano solo arrangement from impressionist mastermind Masashi Hamauzu (SaGa Frontier II, FFXIII etc). Then, in another sort of odd tie to Square Enix, we get one (and only one) chiptunes arrangement, from the venerable KPLECRAFT (whose work has been featured on both SQ Chips albums and the FFVII through XI “Chips” albums as well).
Finally, there’s mystery arranger “c.l.o.u.d.” — who that is, or who they are, I have no idea. But he/she/they do an incredible arrangement of one of my favorite tracks from the OST: “Labyrinth IV – Library of Puppets.” Granted, you’d have to try to screw this one up. Basically, this is a rock band arrangement of an already rocking song that uses a great complex / irregular time signature. The song is also effect-laden and features a few surprise instruments, including some very interesting auxiliary percussion and some crazy guitars. It’s a melting pot of great ideas.
Even though he shouldered much of the work, Kamikura’s arrangements do not suffer in comparison to his one-off peers. Take a listen to “Area I – Windy Plains.” This track was great in its OST form, but for this track, Kamikura takes a jazz band approach to the album, with that fast swinging tempo held down by a sweet trap set and some incredible comp work from the piano and the rest of the band. The soloists (clarinet (or is it soprano sax?) and trombone) all sound brilliant on this track.
The album sports a consistency that I frankly did not expect coming from such a diverse group of people. Even KPLECRAFT’s chiptune track fits sonically rather nicely with the rest of the album. The whole album is just full of win: it’s a win for Koshiro because he has all these great people doing new and interesting things with his source compositions, and it’s a win for all the arrangers, as they got to work on one of Koshiro’s best OSTs to date.
I’ll let the audio samples do the rest of the talking. Now, go buy this. Your ears will thank you.