Note: This soundtrack was released as part of a package deal for those who ordered the limited edition version of the Japanese PS2 title. NIS has traditionally done this with many of their games.
Soul Cradle: Sekai wo Kurau Mono is a strategy RPG by NIS that is slated for a Fall 2007 release in the US as Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. One interesting thing about many NIS SRPGs is that they put you in the shoes of an anti-hero. Soul Nomad appears to flip the script even further and allow you to do bad guy things like pillage towns and steal from people. One would expect that such an interesting game would have equally interesting music. And though the music presented in this 47-track 2 CD OST is quite good, the soundtrack is what I would call a “grower.” When I first listened to it, I wasn’t super thrilled by it, but as I listened to it more and more I grew to enjoy it more and more.
The music is generally the classical orchestral fare seen in most RPGs. There are your typical battle themes, boss themes, event themes, all that. There are fast paced themes, slower more emotional themes, loud themes, soft themes, heroic sounding themes, villainous sounding themes, whimsical themes, everything you’d expect in an RPG musical score. One trend that seems to be in some RPG soundtracks is the fondness of incorporating Celtic music with more Asian themes. Though the instrumentation is mostly synthesized, the composer made effort to utilize a wide variety of instrumentation in many pieces often fusing Eastern and Western instruments and melodies. Dragon’s Eye on disc 1 is a good example of this Celtic fusion and is a personal favorite track of mine. Other interesting tracks were the blues inspired “Cradle Blues” and jazz inspired “Jazzy Glass” which incorporated elements of blues and jazz respectively into the Asian/Celtic fusion.
The game trailer on the NIS America site had a really nice J-Rock piece called “Rock’n Rocks” playing in the background (found on disc 2); although I liked the Celtic/Asian blend of many of the songs, I wished I could have heard some more rock pieces like that one in the OST. “Speed Queen” is an example of a track that I thought would have kicked butt as a rock track. It’s good as it is, but some punchy guitars would have really given it some pepper. “Desperado” had a great rock feel to it, but the synthesized guitar sounded cheesy and fake. Use an actual electric guitar, please. Speaking of cheesy synth, there were many pieces that used synthesized choir vocals and I always find those fake and cheesy sounding. If any of the vocals were done by actual singers, it certainly didn’t sound that way. I don’t like overly processed vocals.
The final track on disc 2 is a lengthy vocal theme, and quite frankly it’s not as strong as the other music in the game. The vocals have way too many effects on them making them sound processed and fake. The music in this song has some shining moments, but I did not find it as present as other tracks in this OST. It is no secret that the overdone vocal effects were easily my least favorite part of this track. At least the final track didn’t feel as long as its 6.5 minute runtime would have me believe.
Although I did like the soundtrack, I do have some issues with it. The mostly synthesized instrumentation is one of the things I did not like. Especially after listening to the Soul Cradle arrange album, there is simply no comparison between, say, synthesized violin and real violin. The music on this OST did not sound bad at all, but it seemed to lack that organic intangible “mojo” that real instruments and real vocals could impart. I personally believe that synthesized instrumentation works better in more pop oriented soundtracks than in orchestral fare like this. In addition, I don’t think all of the songs could stand up well on their own without the context of the game. There are tracks that certainly do, but there are many others that I think I’d enjoy more with more exposure to the game. I personally found disc 1 a lot more engaging than disc 2. Soul Cradle does not have a groundbreaking or revolutionary soundtrack, but the music for the game is well-composed and enjoyable.