The Granstream Saga Original Soundtrack


Record of Agarest War Aksys Banner Advertisement
Review by · December 25, 2003

Talk about a diamond in the rough. Of all of the weird, ugly, obscure, and otherwise bad RPGs for the early years of Sony PlayStation, The Granstream Saga took the cake…and ate it…and then took another one. Everyone gave the game terrible reviews. The only reason the game got coverage in most magazines was because of the fairly good anime sequences (including the oft-shown shower pictures). Many people avoided this game like the plague: hence, they never heard the music. But what if, WHAT IF, the music isn’t all that bad? Let us turn to 1998 and listen to the voice of Esque, one of RPGFan’s earliest reviewers. From their review:

The music is interesting and one of the better aesthetic aspects of the game. The compositions are simplistic but fit the game well. They don’t intrude upon scenes, but merely accompany them nicely. The sound quality is excellent and the game features some of the best dungeon-crawling music I’ve heard. You know it’s good if it can keep you going through the repetitive and boring mazes that the game offers.

This is no ordinary statement coming from Esque, whom I remember to be very critical of every aspect of every RPG. But there you have it β€” the music is good. Let’s take a look at why it’s so good.

First of all, the game overcame the challenge of making good synth music for early PlayStation technology. Most games failed horrendously at this, but The Granstream Saga turned the weaknesses into strengths: Loads of mallet percussion synth, a lot of fast-paced music, quality composition with a variety of standard chord progressions, and six strong live orchestra tracks that any music lover can enjoy (these are the first six tracks, composed by Kouhei Tanaka). Putting the live tracks into the FMV was the obvious choice…but these tracks are simply stunning. They stir the imagination. They are some of Tanaka’s best pieces. These six tracks really did me in when I first put the CD in my computer…but then, no one could’ve prepared me for the synth music…

I expected this music to be bland. I expected the synths to be terrible. I expected a lot of things. But I was wrong. First of all: much of the synth instrumentation will remind you of the Super Nintendo classic Chrono Trigger. I kid you not: from the tabla drums to the penny whistles, from the synth bass to the vibraphones, from the synth vocals to the auxiliary percussion, EVERYTHING sounds great. I was well-pleased with every instrument chosen. These songs are downright catchy: I loved them.

The three synth composers (as Tanaka only did the orchestrated work) seemed to split up the work well, each taking an equal stab at composing: each giving us what must have been their best work. These composers are a part of the QUINTET staff, responsible for the classic soundtrack to Tenchi Sozo (Terranigma). Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is bad. None of these tracks are skip-worthy; a full listen through the OST is at once inspiring and relaxing. I cannot help but praise the compositions more: I shall stop now before I ramble too long.

The packaging is that of a DigiPak (book-style paper case). The insert includes an interview with Kouhei Tanaka (available at Chudah’s Corner) and a collage of pictures from the anime sequences. At 37 tracks, each track gets approximately 2 minutes to shine, usually looping through once.

I urge you to listen to the samples…over and over and over, until you’re so inspired to buy it. I suggest that one buy this CD and never play the game, so that the music is never spoiled by the horrific gameplay. Yup…this CD is just good stuff. Perhaps a remake of the game with a more complex story and better gameplay is in order? If someone pulled that off, I’d be glad to see it, simply because I’d like to hear the music in the context of a solid game. Thanks for reading, and for listening, and be SURE to pick this one up if you’re a fan of Tanaka, obscure music, or solid synth composition.

For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview. Learn more about our general policies on our ethics & policies page.
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.