Question: what has the Tales series been lacking? Answer: arranged albums.
Finally, perhaps after fighting for the rights to his own work, Sakuraba has the opportunity to do some arranged albums for the series that he, primarily, composed for. What we have here is a solid collection of rock-influenced battle themes, arranged for a typical band setup (guitar bass keyboard drums), from 9 different entries in the Tales series. One can’t help but hope for a great arranged album.
The album is, literally, track-for-track, a hit-or-miss. Fortunately, it looks like the good outweighs the bad. Let’s start by singling out the stuff that didn’t seem up to snuff.
“Take Up the Cross” from Tales of Phantasia, while showcasing a couple impressive solos, didn’t perform well overall. I thought the arrangement was weak, and I never really was fond of this composition. There were better options to choose from Tales of Phantasia. “Inferia Battle” had a decent organ solo, but was otherwise generic Sakuraba-stockpile rock.
As for the good stuff? Get ready, it’s a long list.
“Full Force” was so good. This was an excellent choice from the Tales of Symphonia OST, though some would argue you couldn’t go wrong with any track from that OST. The arrangement is strong. “The Arrow Was Shot” wasn’t a personal favorite, but on a technical level, it’s strong. Tales of Rebirth’s “Battle Organization” was straight up awesome, with a really interesting avant-garde piano solo appearing in the middle.
Tales of Vesperia’s track “Furnace of War” actually broke the rules and went orchestral…it was good. Piano was the key instrument. Skipping ahead, both tracks from Tales of Destiny2 were rock solid. They were just crying for an arrangement. Indeed, if there was one Tales OST that I had always wanted to see arranged, it was this one. So I’m glad Sakuraba chose two tracks from this game.
The biggest surprise was that there was a great arrangement from “Tales of the Tempest.” “Confrontations” uses violin and piano, with the standard rock band for the rhythm section. This arrangement came out really well.
Any other tracks I didn’t mention fell somewhere between the “great” and “awful” scale, though mostly leaning towards the more positive side of the scale. All in all, this album was a pleasant surprise for Sakuraba fans and “Tales of…” fans alike. Know that while the style is similar, you’re getting a fairly different package from other arranged albums Sakuraba’s done (particularly tri-Ace projects). Be sure to give this album a fair shake so that you can decide whether or not to add it to your collection.