Tactics Ogre ~ Let Us Cling Together


Review by · December 10, 2005

There’s something special about soundtracks from the era of the Super Nintendo. In the much earlier days of video games, compositions had to be both catchy and resilient in order to hold up to the sometimes ear-splitting tune produced by the primitive sound chips available to composers. In recent times, compositions have been able to rest on their laurels in favor of fancy live orchestrations or greatly improved sound chips. However, around the time of the SNES, a glorious thing happened. Suddenly, composers had both the technology and the skills to bring out the timeless classics that we all know and love.

It just so happens that this soundtrack is a perfect example of the wonders of this period of game history.

First of all, Tactics Ogre is strictly an orchestral affair. For those of you searching for wailing guitar music, this isn’t going to be your piece of pie. However, if you enjoy good, strong brass horns and a woodwind or two, then this is going to be right up your alley. Combining the original SNES music for the game Tactics Ogre along with two discs of the original music improved with better MIDI instrumentation, Let Us Cling Together is a memorable orchestral affair. It also features a number of particularly interesting tricks that one doesn’t hear too often in soundtracks from the same time period.

For starters, the soundtrack combines some of the best ideas from other SNES soundtracks and then gives it its own spin. “Chaotic Island,” for example, fuses a bit of Final Fantasy VI and Terranigma together for great effect, while “Avilla Henya” has a feel more reminiscent of Lufia. It all blends together perfectly without sounding one bit like a copy, however, so the soundtrack stays fresh. This said there are also a few themes that tend to run throughout the soundtrack, so everything also has an interconnected vibe to it. Nothing to the point of detriment, though.

Speaking of “Avilla Henya,” there’s something that I must point out about this album which is its wonderful use of drums and snares. Now, of course since this is an orchestral album, drums and snares are vital to keeping the music lively and to the beat. But Let Us Cling Together goes above and beyond the norm for this, to the point where one can almost feel the beats as they’re played. Just listen to “Three Kings” for example. The introduction to it features some wonderful drum and rhythm to it which sets a vibe that is wonderful exploited by the melody which plays for the latter half of the piece. This is somewhat of a rare sight in my experience and I enjoy it every time I come across it.

On the subject of the second two discs is where I lay divided. The new instrumentation is, in all truth, an improvement, however there’s a certain vibe I get off the original chip music that seems better to me. Perhaps it’s because there’s less of a feeling of accomplishment to me; with the new MIDI instrumentation, a lot more is possible musically, but at the same time you lose some of the original complexity of the base music in order to more fully feature the better instrument set. That’s not to say the latter two discs are inferior, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Many of the newly instrumented tracks are better than the originals. For example, I prefer disc two’s version of “Breath of the Earth.” But the new version of “Three Kings” loses the strong drums of the original that I liked so much. In the end, it mostly comes down to a choice of preference. It’s easier for the casual listener to hear the second two discs, but there’s nothing to say you can’t pick and choose from all three discs. That’s probably one of the beauties of this album: you get both the original and the rearranged music in the same package so that you, the listener, can decide.

Now I cannot say that I have the ability to appreciate this soundtrack to its fullest. As I have never played any of the games in this series, nor particularly been a fan of strategy games, the true power of this soundtrack is perhaps lost on me. But what I can say is that what it does, it does well, and it doesn’t need any live instruments to do it, either. This one is recommended if you’re a fan of the series or a fan orchestral music game music from those days of old.

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