Hitoshi Sakimoto’s “Senjou no Valkyria” (Valkyria of the Battlefield) soundtrack is an impressive work given its range and the sheer volume. What it lacks in stand-out tracks it makes up for in generally good quality atmospheric music, as well as strong orchestration and production quality. While it is not as impressive as Final Fantasy Tactics or Vagrant Story, there is a lot to love here.
As a strategy war game, it is the battle music that really makes or breaks the soundtrack. It is here that Sakimoto slips a little bit. Several of the tracks seem either inappropriate or just uncharismatic. “Desperate Fight,” for example, is too bright, rarely straying much from a chipper C major driving string figure with a tonic pedal tone that sounds out of place in a battle song. “Hard Fight” has a nice blend of textures in its later section, but feels a bit dancy and empty otherwise. Finally, the track “Battle,” which is a mainstay of important story fights in the game, tries to channel the slower, more dramatic battle music of FF Tactics. The work is passable as background music, but lacks both a good chord progression and a memorable melody.
I did, however, enjoy “Street Fighting,” which has a great mixture of syncopated drum rhythms and a low horn pattern countered with a nice string section. This and “Final Decisive Battle,” are the only exceptional war songs in the game. The latter song reimagines the main theme of Valkyria and perfectly compliments the game’s dramatic conclusion.
While the battle music may underwhelm generally, there are other exceptionally good works in this collection. The opening theme “No Matter the Distance” is a nice J-pop ballad beautifully interpreted by JUJU. It struck me as a bit incongruent as the opening track to a war game, but that does not detract from its quality. “Succeeded Wish” and “Those Who Succeeded,” are also some of Sakimoto’s best works of all time. The first is vocalized, sung by a character in the game at an emotional moment (I shan’t spoil it) that just pulls at your heartstrings. The second is the string and piano interpretation of the same song. With the melody done on viola and violin, its simple elegance and confidence shines through. The tune does not move very much, staying in the same range and repeating rhythms and patterns, etching its way into your mind. It is one of the most moving songs I have ever heard in a video game.
While the Senjou no Valkyria soundtrack, taken as a whole, is not a top ten VGM album, it represents another successful collection of original work from a first rate composer. Sakimoto shows here that even without Masaharu Iwata at his side, he can assemble dozens of solid orchestrations and create a thematically consistent soundtrack that does justice to an excellent SRPG. The unforgettable “Succeeded” tracks, as well as the opening and main themes are enough to make this worth the price of admission for Sakimoto fans.