On the crappy tri-Ace Battle Collection, the two Star Ocean: Blue Sphere battle tracks were its redeeming qualities. In fact, after hearing “Like the River Styx,” I put SO:BS on my “to do” list. Now that I’ve listened to it, I’m a little disappointed. The arranged tracks leave a lot to be desired and the original music is a little bland.
The first disc of this soundtrack contains 12 arranged tracks from the game, courtesy of the great Motoi Sakuraba. The best track here is “A Heavy Heart,” which pulls on the heart strings with a sad melody and great chords. There’s even percussion added in the middle of the song, topped off by a subtle choir, which is a fantastic touch to an already fantastic song. “No Mercy” is a battle track that was turned into an 80s power-rock fest with crazy drums, ridiculous solos, and Sakuraba’s trademark 5/4 time. This is the good side of Sakuraba; he can be crazy and pleasing to listen to at the same time. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of that here.
I’ll admit that Sakuraba has a knack for creating kickass arrangements, but they can be a tad repetitive at times. It’s not uncommon to hear an interesting melody, only to hear it again and again with hardly any change made to it at all. Take “Peace of Mind,” for example. It’s a nice arrangement with a good piano and an orchestra with an extended middle, but that same chorus plays again and again like a broken record. Another problem is that most of the music itself is bland. I’ll give Sakuraba the benefit of the doubt here, since his music usually works best in the context of the game, but you’d think that after fifteen years, you’d be able to get over a road block like this.
The second disc contains the original soundtrack to SO:BS. This disc fares a little better because it’s not repetitive and the Game Boy synths are pretty easy on the ears. It starts off weak, but it gets better as it goes along; however, the first few tracks did little to hold my attention (except for the awesome “Like the River Styx”).
Some of the goodies include “Legacy from the Past.” It’s my favorite track because the melody is solid and I like what Sakuraba tried to do with the bass line. Next, there was “Like the River Styx” is the traditional Sakuraba battle fare, and it sounds great, even on the Game Boy. The section at 0:20 sells the song. There’s also “Penance” is a sorrowful tune that seemed to be written just to invoke thought. Sakuraba can do that to you; for some odd reason, I imagine a bald man going through a midlife crisis every time I hear this song. Please, don’t ask me why. “A Heavy Heart” is another brooding piece that Star Ocean fans have become so accustomed to hearing, with its minor chords and . There were other decent tracks, but these stuck out the most.
All in all, SO:BS is slightly above average, and it didn’t propel him into fame like Star Ocean 2 did. But if you like Sakuraba, then I recommend this album, just so that you can say you tried it. It’s not going to blow you out of the water like SO2 did, but it’s certainly not bad. Be prepared to listen to it several times, though, because if you’ve never played the game, it won’t do anything for you. I’m giving it a solid 7.5 out of 10.