Okay, before we get to the nature, quality, quantity, etc. of the Summon Night 5 Soundtrack, it’s worth recalling the history of Summon Night and its various localizations. Namely, the fact that this is the first game in the actual numbered/sequential series to come to the US.
About a decade prior, Atlus localized a pair of GBA games, “Summon Night: Swordcraft Story” (1 and 2). Both games were unlike the main series, namely in that the combat was 2D action RPG in random encounters, a la early “Tales” games. Atlus would go on to localize “Summon Night: Twin Age” for the DS, an action-heavy dungeon crawler with the novelty of actively switching from one character to the other while exploring and fighting. All three of these games were good in their own ways, but none of them were anything like the actual Summon Night titles, which are tactical RPGs with strong visual novel / dating sim elements, a la Sakura Wars.
I thought that when Atlus tiptoed into the Summon Night universe, they might considering localizing any of the four Summon Night titles released up to that point … maybe skip the original trilogy and go right to Summon Night 4. But it didn’t happen. I figured that was the end of Summon Night in English.
Then along came Victor Ireland…
Vic has a storied career as the founder of the now-long-dead Working Designs, who brought us Alundra, both Lunar titles and their PlayStation remakes, the Arc the Lad trilogy, and so much more. Vic always had a knack for going after the unique Japanese games, mostly RPGs, that every other publisher passed on. In an incredibly bold move, Victor Ireland and his new company Gaijinworks decided not just to localize Summon Night 5, they decided to localize it in 2016. Keep in mind, this is a PSP game, and they released a physical version with the UMD! It’s been years since the last UMD-based game hit the market, and I doubt it’s going to happen again, at least not any time soon.
So there’s your history on franchise and on how Summon Night 5 miraculously made it to English-speaking markets. Now then, on to the music.
You’ll note that Gaijinworks packaged this soundtrack with the game, but not with all copies: generally, to get this soundtrack, you had to preorder the game’s special edition and/or support the Kickstarter campaign that helped bring the game to North America. Alternately, fans of Summon Night’s music can purchase the Japanese version, though the Gaijinworks soundtrack includes one additional track: the English opening track, hidden as track 38 on the disc.
The game’s vocal themes are composed by Chiaki Fujita, as has been the case for all previous Summon Night titles. The opening theme, “Rendezvous of the Stars,” is a very strong track with a ridiculously fun and bouncy melody. The instrumentation, particularly the violins, really add to its feel. One thing to note: listen to the English track for comparison. It’s my own opinion that the English equivalent suffers because Japanese is syllable-centric, English less so. In the English version, they’re matching the lyrics, per syllable, to the melody sung by the Japanese singer. That melody in the chorus, with its equal, driving emphasis on each syllable, just doesn’t work in English. I wish that Gaijinworks had considered crafting an alternate melody for the chorus. The verses were fine, but the chorus just sounds awkward.
There are also two vocals tracks for the game’s ending: “Requiem of Blue Skies” and “Lyndbaum.” Neither of these were given English equivalents, which is fine with me. Again, Fujita and team do an amazing job with these vocal tracks. They really do help to sell the OST, though it’s worth noting that a separate single exists for this and every other Summon Night opening/ending theme set, and those singles tend to sell well enough for the publisher to continue to release them separately from the full OST. That says something about the value of these opening and ending themes.
And that brings us to the OST proper … all the BGM for the game, somehow compressed to fit on a single CD. I doubt this soundtrack is exhaustive, but it’s as good as we’ll get, short of pulling a full sound set off of the UMD.
The composition was handled by some members of PURE SOUND, with some assistance by two members of CHOIR. Two sound teams on one soundtrack? I’ve seen stranger things, but not by much. Among the members of PURE SOUND who participated in this soundtrack’s composition, the name Minako Adachi stands out. Adachi seems to have a penchant for handheld RPG soundtracks. Her past work includes Riviera, Yggdra Union, Half-Minute Hero, many of the newer Pokémon titles (Black/White, Black2/White2, X/Y, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire), and of course, some of the previous Summon Night titles.
In fact, on Summon Night 4, it was just Adachi and one other PURE SOUND member (Masafumi Ogata) who handled all of the BGM. With a larger team, do too many cooks spoil the broth?
Well, not exactly. But it is a shame that Adachi takes on a lesser role with Summon Night 5. I can tell which tracks I like and which ones feel like filler. The ones sampled here, I suspect, are Adachi’s work: they are reminiscent of her work on Riviera and Yggdra Union, and they sound great. This is just my opinion and speculation, though; your mileage may vary with the quality of the music across the soundtrack, and you may care nothing for the history and pedigree of Adachi’s work.
But, yes, if you take note of which songs are available to listen to, I did not use random sampling. These are cherry-picked, some of what I found to be the best music on the soundtrack. Much of the rest of the soundtrack? It just isn’t there: it doesn’t match up to the quality of some previous Summon Night soundtracks, be they “main series” or spin-offs.
Even as I write this, though, Summon Night 6 is already out in Japan, as is its soundtrack, and Gaijinworks has already announced a 2017 North American release for the PS4/Vita game. Hopefully that soundtrack has a stronger, more consistent soundscape to it than Summon Night 5. All in all, this one was good, but definitely not the greatest, among the series’ published soundtracks. It’s better than, say, Summon Night 2, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Summon Night 4 or Summon Night X ~Tears Crown~. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for something great in Summon Night 6!