When it comes to RPG music, I think the most important pieces are battle themes. After all, RPG players spend more of their game time locked in combat than anywhere else. Boss music is especially important because a great piece of music makes a major battle that much more memorable. This brings me to Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks 2. This soundtrack features arranged versions of various major battle themes from Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk, Tales of Eternia, Tales of Phantasia, Tales of Graces, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Destiny, and Tales of the Abyss.
I have to be honest, Motoi Sakuraba’s soundtracks throughout this series have been hit or miss. Some games, like Tales of Destiny, have really good soundtracks whereas others, like Tales of Symphonia, have completely forgettable music. And I must say that, like all the Tales games I’ve played, this soundtrack is hit or miss for me.
Tales of Graces has the most tracks represented here, and all three are fine. “Scorching Brawl” has some cool twists and turns throughout its duration. “Mad Dance” has a fun shredding lead section in it, but the piece as a whole is repetitive. “Impatient Sword” keeps a constant driving momentum throughout its course and is the best of the three.
Tales of Eternia (Tales of Destiny II in the US) has two tracks on here. “Eternal Mind” has a bunch of cool and catchy “money riffs,” but I didn’t think they gelled together cohesively. Each of the money riffs could have been the basis for a bunch of different songs. Sometimes “riff salad” just doesn’t work. “Celestia Battle” has a groovin’ little bassline in the middle, but it’s otherwise an average track.
Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk (Dawn of the New World in the US) may be regarded as a terrible game, but its track that opens the CD is a fun headbanger with a nice slamming breakdown. Unfortunately, the pieces from the original Tales of Symphonia are not as good. “The End of a Thought” is forgettable, and “Beat the Angel” is downright boring. Superior game, inferior music? In terms of what is represented on this soundtrack, yes.
Tales of Phantasia, Tales of Destiny, Tales of the Abyss, and Tales of Vesperia have one track each on the soundtrack. “Final Act” from Phantasia is one of the better composed pieces on this soundtrack. “Lion – Irony of Fate” is the most memorable Tales series boss theme for me and one of the best composed arrangements here. It is also the shortest track and never overstayed its welcome. “When Determination Strikes” from Vesperia has some nice contrasting fast and slow sections. My favorite track on the soundtrack is easily “Never Surrender” from Tales of the Abyss. I really enjoyed it, although it could have been truly awesome with fuller piano and guitar. And therein lies the biggest flaw in this soundtrack.
The overall sound quality is thin and tinny. When I hear heavy rock guitars, I want them thick, beefy, juicy and, well, HEAVY! I want the molasses-thick, overdriven tube amp sound and crunchy distortion of a wall of Mesa/Boogie stacks charging like a freight train to my face. Instead, I get music that sounds like emulated guitar sounds from a synthesizer. The sound is too thin, too clean, and, I daresay, wimpy. The heart of rock ‘n roll was choked out of these tracks.
I also feel that some of the tracks are too long. Now, I love lengthy instrumental songs (“Universal Mind” by Liquid Tension Experiment is nearly 8 minutes of pure awesomeness that I could listen to all day), but a lengthy song needs that special quality that prevents it from feeling long. Each track could have had 30 seconds to a minute of filler cut from them and been better for it. Quality over quantity, I say.
So, in the end, I liked some of the compositions, but found the majority of the them mediocre, although the sound quality is paper thin on all of them. The Tales of Destiny and Tales of the Abyss tracks are definite keepers, and the Knight of Ratatosk piece is a pleasant surprise. My final recommendation is that the whole album is not worth the purchase. The most judicious way to allocate funds would ideally be to cherry pick the best tracks and buy those individually.