When they turned the “Sora no Kiseki” series into a trilogy unto its own, I was simultaneously shocked and annoyed. The “Legend of Heroes” series, as it stands, was a spin-off to the “Dragon Slayer” franchise. Then, within the Legend of Heroes series, we had the Gagharv trilogy, which were (thankfully) numbered as III IV and V. Then, Legend of Heroes VI “Sora no Kiseki” (Tracks in the Sky) hit, and it was a success. So much so, in fact, that they made a direct sequel in the “Sora no Kiseki” tradition. Instead of calling it Legend of Heroes VII, we got Legend of Heroes VI Sora no Kiseki Second Chapter. With the advent of the PSP ports, they officially dropped the roman numeral. I wondered why, and then I found out: they were making a third one. What’s worse, word among importers is that this third installment was utter crap compared to Second Chapter. For some reason, I expected the same would be true of the music.
However, I had forgotten the near-universal “Falcom rule,” which reads as follows: even if the game sucks, you can count on an excellent soundtrack. As far as I know, this rule has only been broken once, and it wasn’t this game that broke the rule. I should have known better. Now I know that I love this soundtrack nearly as much as the other two installments in the Sora no Kiseki trilogy.
“Cry for me, cry for you” is the opening vocal for the game, and frankly, I think it’s the weakest opening vocal in the trilogy. Yes, it works, but the performer just didn’t sell me. However, the melody is strong, and I appreciated its use throughout the soundtrack, including the incredible battle theme “Dreamy and Boisterous Holy Land.” The ending theme, “Looking at the Sky,” makes up for what I believe is a weak opening track. This is the strongest ending theme of the trilogy, and perhaps of any Falcom game (unless you count “Endless History,” which is pretty much the greatest Falcom vocal ever). The vocal performance, the composition, the dynamics, the instrumentation: this is the perfect ending ballad. I loved this song. The strange thing is that the vocalist, Kanako Kotera, did both of these songs.
And then there’s everything else. And it’s all awesome. Nearly 50 tracks, spanning two full discs of music, and it’s excellent. There are two things at which the new Sound Team JDK excels. One is the “upbeat, but somehow still ambient” track. Lots of ethereal synths mixed with well-defined melody-carrying instruments. Examples: “Hermit’s Garden” and “Maze of Light and Shadow.” These songs are beautiful, and somehow memorable despite my labeling them “ambient.” The second bit of awesomeness Falcom provides these days is the battle theme. This, too, can be broken into subcategories. For example, “Determination to Fight” is a jazz/fusion battle theme that really gets you tapping your feet. The drum parts alone are amazing. Then there are in-your-face guitar rock themes, such as “Masquerade of Lies.” This song could be mistaken as a Motoi Sakuraba battle theme…and one of the good ones at that, not just some average drum and bass garbage. This is something special. Then, there are battle themes that invoke power and majesty, usually by using the now well-recognized choir sample that we’ve heard on every Falcom album since Ys VI.
Regular readers of the RPGFan Soundtracks section know that one of my criteria for determining the quality of a soundtrack is in my personal attempt to select audio tracks to sample. We generally stick to a rule of five per disc. On this one, I went to six per disc, and even then, I’ve left out quite a bit that I think every Falcom fan needs to hear. When the decision-making gets that difficult, and the music is just that great on a regular basis, that’s a good sign that you’ll want to strongly consider purchasing the album.
Well, I can’t put it more succinctly than that. Even if it was written for a lackluster game, the soundtrack to Sora no Kiseki the 3rd still outshines many of its peers. When OST tracks on this album rival the “Super Arrange Version” tracks of Falcom’s past, that’s when you know you it’s time to add it to the collection.