Motoi Sakuraba’s “Star Ocean: Till the End of Time Director’s Cut OST” is a perfect blend of brilliantly written orchestrations and awful instrument selection. Sakuraba’s genius and flair are as dependable as ever, but the sound of these pieces range from mildly irritating to downright absurd. As a mostly synthesized soundtrack, I had to lower my expectations as I will eternally be a fan of the human element, but there was a very palpable disappointment to this soundtrack.
Track 1 “More Complicated” is typical Sakuraba; a nicely written setup, surprising chord changes, excellent flow and build up: but the sound just disappoints. The main instrument for the melody can’t live up to the live intensity that the piano and drum has set up and the melody sounds weak and tinny in comparison. As the piece progresses to the bridge, the music grows a little murky as sound effects are attempted and melodic minor scales on overly whiney woodwind sounds lead us back to a restatement of the melody. The most frustrating aspect of this track is that the feel is there…I know nothing of this story, but you can feel angst, complications, character drama and depth…the chords, oft-times led by a piano are emotional, intense and driving (especially at the second climax at 2:22-2:30) but when the instruments are re-introduced, it sounds like a child got to play with the vibrato and control levels as decorative sounds are taken into realms of psychotic absurdity.
Track 2 “Beyond the One” incorporates some great percussion, but the prominent organ sounds just don’t captivate, especially in such a hectic and intense melody line. And once again, silly sounds hinder rather than decorate. Contrastingly, “Over the Planet” starts out with great potential: sweeping strings lead to a majestic synthesized brass group. And for all my gripes about the quality of sound, the brass and string ensembles sound fantastic in this piece. The melody itself is pretty simple, but grand and eloquent in statement. The piece continues to grow, sweeping and carrying the emotional feel through several restatements and climactic finale.
“Flabbergasted” is your typical ambient background to a definitive story point revelation complete with dark slow-moving chords and string effects. “A Critical Moment” is clearly another example of story-point background with subtle drive and effective tone. “Intricate Match” incorporates some of the previously heard melodies and gives them a deeper feel, but the instrumentation is once again weak and what attempts to be a wind effect sounds more like a clown whistle in the background.
Track 7 “Crisis of the Earth” is by far my biggest gripe and any aficionados of classical composer Gustav Holst would understand why. The first 30 or 40 measures bear a striking similarity to the famous composition “Mars: Bringer of War”. The two differences are that the staccato beats played in the background contain one quarter note rather than two eighth notes on the fourth beat and the piece seems to be in a 6 rather than a 5. Other than those small rhythm variances, the rise and fall and gradual intensity mirrors that of Mars, though in a smaller scale. Track 8 “You Know it Fails” uses the obnoxious organ again and what should probably be a fast and furious depiction of story once again falls short.
The band recording of “Confidence in the Domination” features the ubiquitous organ this time in rapidly shifting time signatures and chord changes; though in this track, the percussion provides fantastic setup. “Track 10” is a band recording of “Highbrow” and once again, with a live piano and drum kit, the synthesized melodies just don’t compete and don’t invoke the feelings that should be there. The bonus track is a pleasant, if not overly decorated and airy piano piece. It rises and falls with Sakuraba’s usual consistency, and I can even appreciate the strange avant guarde bridge.
I actually just obtained this game and I plan to give this soundtrack another spin once I’m done with the game, thinking that perhaps it may give me more of an understanding. As of now, I think it’s a fantastically written soundtrack and score, and the only real issue I have is regarding the quality of the synthesized instruments.