Xenogears and piano. In the world of game music, there are few more obvious combinations, and yet there had been no piano album based on Mitsuda’s excellent score for the game, until now. OneUp Studios, in collaboration with a talented group of young arrangers, have finally combined these two powerful musical forces to create Xenogears Light, which is arranged, as the title suggests, in a generally light style.
The disc comes in a great looking DVD case with comments from each of the arrangers in respect to their individual tracks. An especially great addition is the quotes from Xenogears’ less than perfect English script translation that cover the other side of the cover, and can be seen through the clear plastic case. While the layout of the back is something I could probably replicate on my home PC and print program rather easily, it still maintains a generally professional look for a fan-arranged album.
As previously mentioned, the music is arranged in a “light” style, but there is actually quite a bit of variety within the album. There are arrangements, such as “Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the People,” which go for a darker, more emotional tone. Also, there are other instruments used in these arrangements besides piano: violins, flutes, and even a saxophone in one track. All of it is live recorded, and the sound quality is fantastic.
The arrangements themselves are top-notch. Don’t expect to hear something ike the simplicity of a Dragon Quest Piano Album, for example. Some of them are instantly recognizable, yet are altered enough to change the flavor, so to speak. “One Who Bears Fangs At God,” for example, has changed from a fantastic piece of layered synth choral work to bring out the ethnic style of the original with tribal percussion and flutes. It draws upon the beauty that already existed in the melody to change one’s look at the original. “Ship of Sleep and Remorse” was one of my favorite tracks from the original soundtrack, and this arrangement, with an acoustic guitar as the accompaniment, retains the slightly melancholic feel of the original, while adding a very authentic live sound.
“Broken Mirror” is a great solo piano arrangement of “Small Two of Pieces,” and modifies the melody and rhythm enough to make it far more than a simple transcription of the original song. The electric guitar section, the weakest part of the original track, has been transformed completely, and it is played very well. The sheet music for the entire 5-minute piece is included with the disc, and it made me wish I could play the piano myself.
Some of the arrangements are more difficult to recognize, however. This is not a bad thing, but it may be a turnoff to fans who wanted to see a collection of simple arrangements that could have been transcripted to live instruments in under an hour each. In particular, “Valley Where the Wind is Born” seems to have been altered quite a bit, with its newfound jazz sound. The ending track is an odd choice. “Into Eternal Sleep” was arranged from the main battle theme of Xenogears, and although it’s difficult to recognize without the loud fanfares and harsh strings, parts of the melody are retained.
The oddest choice, however, and the one track which does not really benefit from its arrangement, is “Grahf, Conqueror of Darkness.” The original was far from being one of the best tracks on the soundtrack, and this arrangement just seems kind of out of place in an album such as this. I would have rather seen a dark, atmospheric version of “One Who is Torn Apart,” probably one of the most underrated tracks on the Xenogears soundtrack.
All things considered, however, this is a great album for fans of both the Xenogears soundtrack, and those who love piano arrangements. It has a few weaker tracks on it, but most arranged albums do. It’s only available on OneUp Studios’ website, and it costs $30 + $5 for shipping. If you want a copy, get it quickly, because this album is available in limited quantities.