TearRingSaga Original Soundtrack


Review by · September 20, 2005

TearRingSaga (or, if you prefer it, Tear Ring Saga, or TearRing Saga…the spacing changes on different products) is, I’m told, one of the better strategy RPGs for the PS1, rivaling the standard-setting Final Fantasy Tactics. However, the game would be more rightly compared to the Fire Emblem series (the game was originally scheduled to be titled “Emblem Saga”, and was developed by key members of previous Fire Emblem titles for Super Famicom). Nonetheless, this tactical RPG sported a two disc soundtrack from composers that I, personally, had never heard of in my life.

(As an aside, the “44.0” listed in the credits is a pseudonymous “artist name” for some composer who clearly prefers being identified as a number.)

What kind of music will you find on the two-disc OST? Well, for starters, you’ll find a lot of short songs. Putting 90 tracks into two discs is always a risky procedure, and I feel as though the result made the soundtrack lose its sense of grandeur.

Stylistically, I felt that this soundtrack expanded well beyond the boundaries set up by Sakimoto and crew in other strategy RPG soundtracks. For example, listen to disc 1, tracks 26 and 34. The former is a great “battle prep” theme, with the piano hitting a rhythmic low note to simulate the pulsation of one’s own racing heart as a group of men scramble to put together a last-second strategy to face the impending army. Then, in track 34, soft electronic synths contrast a crisp and clean piano that startles the simple beat and structure of the soothing background. This music is great for when one has to sit and read those lengthy historical accounts that are necessary for any game with depth.

If you’re looking to find some “Sakimoto style” on a soundtrack that lacks Sakimoto, you can hear some harp in track 12 of disc 2, and the classic battle music in “Duel” (disc 2 track 4) will also suffice for that craving. Nonetheless, you can hear a melodic run here or there that sounds nothing like Final Fantasy Tactics: some parts of “Ocean, Holmes’ Theme” are very reminiscent of something you’d hear in a Seiken Densetsu game (my apologies for turning to Square soundtracks, but in my mind, they have set the standard in so many ways).

All the other tracks sampled are, in my opinion, some wonderful and catchy songs. However, there are plenty of songs that I didn’t sample because they were the bland and mediocre junk you expect to find on an album with 90 songs. Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that: more filler tracks.

And what PS1 RPG could be complete without a vocal theme?! TearRingSaga goes above and beyond the call of duty and offers both Japanese and English versions of the end theme. The Japanese version is performed by three vocalists (I believe they were voice actors for the game), and the result is not so great. It immediately reminded me of some other poorly-produced image albums, proving that not all voice actors are also singers. The English version, however, goes too far in the other direction. The performer, Liz Constantine, goes over the top in her performance. At the end of the day, “Never Ending Dream” is a solid ballad in nearly every regard: it’s the sort of thing you could use to audition on American Idol (and, if given the chance, I would!). However, I feel that this song just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the game. To look for a vocal track that fits the game’s soundtrack, go to Stella Deus.

Also, take note of the release date for this soundtrack. PS2 games were in full force by 2001, and while I know this soundtrack was released after the game, the game hadn’t been released too far behind. One would expect some incredible use of the PlayStation’s sound capabilities in this soundtrack: yet, it’s no better than things I heard in 1998. This is a bit of a drawback in my mind.

This game was highly overlooked in the US (so much so that, as of this review’s being written, RPGFan has no other content on the game other than a few news stories). But a cult following in Japan has secured its place, and a sequel entitled “Berwick Saga” has come forth for PS2. That said, let’s be glad that we have this two disc set to use when we hear Berwick Saga’s music, so we don’t have to make the tired comparisons to Squaresoft titles.

I recommend the TearRingSaga OST without reservation to anyone looking for a fresh take on the “tactical RPG soundtrack” style. There is plenty of filler, but the occasional stroke of genius (which I believe I captured well in the audio samples) will help you to appreciate this fine soundtrack. Keep an eye out: it’s out of print, but not too hard to find.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.