Co-developed by Red (Sakura Taisen) and Atlus (Shin Megami Tensei), this traditional RPG / dating sim title that somehow managed to reach the US was one of the most unqiue PS1 titles I have ever played. Atlus was also kind enough to package together a soundtrack CD as part of a limited bonus for Americans who preordered. However, that soundtrack was not the complete soundtrack (though it did include Ayumi Hamasaki’s vocals, which this soundtrack lacks). This soundtrack manages to squeeze 66 tracks, the “complete” soundtrack, on one disc. The publishers did this to their own folly, as many of the songs cut off even before one complete loop through: it should certainly have been a two disc collection.
Regardless of this annoyance, the music itself (composed anonymously by the “Atlus Sound Team”) is some of the most lighthearted and fancy-free fun you’ll ever have in your music collection, should you be able to find this album after being many years out-of-print.
Not that the entire album is a romp through flowery fields. There are plenty of serious and tense themes, especially the near-end-game tunes (track 25 would be one good example of this). However, even with the more intense themes, the synths chosen for the soundtrack retain a feel that is cartoony, even tinny, helping us separate the fantasy of Thousand Arms from the reality of schoolwork, bills, etc.
Throughout the album, voice actress Tomoko Kawakami shows up to give story-related monologues to help guide us through this soundscape. I have sampled her opening track, though I enjoyed all three monologue tracks, particularly because of the enjoyable musical medleys taking place behind the voice acting.
Though the event themes were mostly happy with a spark of diversity in the form of tension, the character themes aren’t all super-happy upbeat songs either, and we can be thankful for this. Though Sodina’s Theme has synths that make you want to listen to the opening theme to “Doogie Howser,” the overall tone of her song is deeply atmospheric and not as peppy as, say, Muuza’s Theme. Wina’s Theme is much like Jean’s Theme from Lunar: Eternal Blue; you expect the latin percussion and the syncopated rhythms, so it’s easy to have a good time with a song like that.
If you were looking for the silly songs, Nelsha and Cliff both have the quirky melodies and percussion covered. What kind of title is “Virgin Chick Mode” anyway? Beats me.
My favorite character theme, one that I wish lasted for over a minute, is track 41, “Dark Theme.” This is the sort of song you hear in movies about kids taking too many drugs at a club and having a bad trip. In other words, it rules.
The “other” section includes various event and battle themes. Some of the best songs are found in this section. The battle themes weren’t entirely impressive, but the “emotional scene” songs (such as “Sadness” or “Impatience”) really left a mark on me. I mean that in a good way.
Like I had said earlier about the battle themes, many of the more upbeat songs are less inspired and creative than I would have wished them to be. The slower and more sentimental songs are really what make this soundtrack shine. Such should be expected from an RPG that doubles as a dating sim.
Overall, I have yet to be displeased by anything coming from Red, and Atlus has a pretty solid track record as well. As such, it comes as no surprise that I really enjoyed this soundtrack. Had it been two discs and included the vocal tracks from Ayumi Hamasaki, that would have made it even better. Even so, this soundtrack has value beyond being an obscure collector’s item: it is a very decent soundtrack, topping many of the PS2 soundtracks even though it is of the 32-bit era. I recommend this one to all VGM fans, and I highly recommend it to fans of Red and Atlus games.