The latest soundtrack from Motoi Sakuraba is considerable shorter than his usual epic-sized albums. Tales of the Tempest is the first major Tales game to be released for a handheld console (who cares about Narikiri Dungeon?), and just as the game itself has been struggling somewhat to gain rave reviews in Japan, so the soundtrack unfortunately reflects this. This is also Sakuraba’s first soundtrack for the Nintendo DS, and it’s fair to say that it isn’t one of his best. The tracks aren’t actually bad, and the instrumentation is fairly good for the DS, but the result is nonetheless a somewhat lackluster album. Encounter is a fairly solid track to open the album, if nothing new (this is Sakuraba, after all). Difficult Situation and Confrontation are, likewise, fairly solid tracks, but fail to capture the essence of Sakuraba’s usual battle themes.
There are, of course, some gems. As for me, National utilizes some impressively haunting choir samples and a church organ that makes it stand out as the best track on the album. These reappear on the later track ‘The Root of Various Crimes’ which I also liked, though not as much. Grassy Plain is a strong track that feels as if at least some effort was put into it, and ‘Reda’ is a quirky track has just enough variation to keep me listening throughout. Nevertheless, this is mostly a by-the-numbers effort with no attempt to experiment or try anything new for the DS. The field tracks are atmospheric, but their simplicity and refusal to go anywhere makes them uninteresting. Tracks like Frozen Ground, Black Forest and Are Mountain feel too long despite coming in at around two minutes. Feln Nals and Zhanna are also fairly uninspiring despite their fairly cheerful nature. In some ways, it’s a good thing that Sakuraba stuck to what he knew he could do, but going nowhere musically isn’t exactly an impressive feat, and it’s a shame that he couldn’t take the opportunity to be innovative.
The remainder of the disc is a fairly dreary affair. Of note is “A crisis it approaches, and to come,” which utilizes a grating synth that was so bad it made me want to immediately skip over the track. Tracks that would otherwise have been good, like Suffering, do not contain enough variation in them to warrant a second listening. However, the final few tracks do succeed in lifting my opinion of this soundtrack somewhat. My second favorite track on the album, The Opponents Side Before, uses heavy synths in a such way that it screams ‘final dungeon.’ The two ending tracks, A Day of Opening and The New Departure, are both pleasingly tranquil and fairly enjoyable despite their comparatively long length.
The quality of the tracks themselves is fair, and all of them are of a decent length; however, there are a few problems. The tracks just cut out after their allotted time without either an Noriyuki Iwadare-style ending or a simple fade-out, and this makes me question how much time was really spent on making this soundtrack. Two short versions of the likeably upbeat VS, written by misono, are included at the end of the album, but these feel tagged on and slightly oddly placed, given that VS is the opening song. Those who noticed that this album was two discs should note that the second comprises a drama soundtrack, which obviously is only really listenable if you know Japanese. That said, it’s a nice inclusion, and the album is no worse off for including it.
This album is damaged by a poor order of tracks (all the battle tracks are at the very beginning), lack of a fade out to the tracks, and for the simple fact that most of the song are boring to listen to. If you’re a Sakuraba completionist, then likely nothing will to stop you from getting this album. However, none of these songs would make it into my main playlist, and to all bur the most hardcore of fans I simply cannot recommend this soundtrack. It’s a shame, because some of the tracks hint at what it might have been like had more effort been spent on this.