Note: our normal sample policy is to do 5 tracks sampled at one minute each. There is such a strong diversity of music on this album, we decided to sample 8 tracks at 40 seconds each. And now, the review…
I. Love. Masashi. Hamauzu.
Yes, Hamauzu had a couple of flops in years past, including Dirge of Cerberus. Maybe it was the deal he struck to compose the entirety of Final Fantasy XIII that rejuvenated him. Whatever the case, Hamauzu is back on the scene, and he’s better than ever. The soundtrack for Sigma Harmonics is second to none. If you’re reading this, and you don’t own it (or have not yet ordered it), it’s time for me to persuade you into a purchase. Because this one is a must-have.
The premise for this Adventure/RPG must have helped Hamauzu mold his compositions. The imagery alone really sets the stage. The main character waving a conductor, the grand piano, the ticking clock, the power of “harmonics” to give and take life; all of these things are expressed through Hamauzu’s genius compositions.
And to top it off, every one of these songs is a winner. Even on my first listen, as I was picking tracks that I would consider “sample-worthy” for our readers, I was picking out almost every track I heard. The complexity, the aesthetic, and the impressionist style of SaGa Frontier II, Unlimited SaGa, and Final Fantasy X are back in full force. These things are now accompanied by a stronger emphasis on artificial sounds and extremely fast-paced rhythms, somehow blending with Hamauzu’s expert piano and string arrangements. The “Dance of the _____” tracks, which I assume to be battle themes, are simply outstanding. How does Hamauzu combine a century-old music style with the soundscape he’s chosen? No one else is doing what Hamauzu is doing, and I LOVE what he is doing.
Themes are repeated, in a timely manner, throughout the soundtrack. For example, the melody in the main theme “Rippling Dream” reappears on track 32, “Words Were Shaken.” On this latter track, the tempo is upped a bit and the looped beat is enhanced. I love having alternate versions of my favorite melodies, and Hamauzu is a master of subtly working in these sort of repeated themes.
The only song I don’t like? “Harmonia Vita,” which is the vocal theme for the game. I just don’t like the vocalist’s performance. It doesn’t fit with the OST at all. Ah well.
If this soundtrack is any indication of how Final Fantasy XIII will turn out, then Final Fantasy XIII’s OST will be the greatest thing Hamauzu has ever composed, which would then make it my all-time favorite soundtrack for the entire series. But it could be a fluke, and I am prepared for that. It could be the case that Sigma Harmonics just had a lot of what I’ve wanted and expected from Hamauzu for about a decade now, and FFXIII could end up being entirely lackluster. So perhaps I shouldn’t be making the predictions…but one can’t help but hope, right?
My final thought about this soundtrack: with an OST this good, I simply must play the game. Even if it were as bad as Unlimited SaGa (which, I’m told, it’s not; they’re not even in the same league), I want to play this game. Here’s hoping Square Enix has the sense to localize Sigma Harmonics. The music is fantastic, the concept art is beautiful, and even if the gameplay suffers a bit, I can withstand it considering it’s mostly a graphic adventure title. I just want to experience Hamauzu’s stunning compositions in context, don’t you? Listen to the samples, and you’ll quickly see (or hear) what I mean.