It’s probably beyond doubt that fans of Xenogears’ vocal tracks, “Small Two of Pieces and Stars of Tears,” have been anticipating a Yasunori Mitsuda song with Joanne Hogg vocals for quite a long time. Of course, I can’t blame them one bit. Xenosaga Episode 1’s two vocal songs hardly disappoint.
The songs, “Kokoro” and “Pain”, keep the same formula as that of the Xenogears vocal songs – a blend of Hogg’s strong voice with a Celtic arrangement that just wouldn’t be the same without the signature low whistle, and/or those pipes. “Kokoro” is more on the somber side, and tends to build up emotionally closer to the end. “Pain”, despite the track name, is a bit more upbeat and lighthearted musically, and much like “Stars of Tears”, takes an almost sudden turn near the end, going into an Riverdance-like interlude (though this time, the rhythm is slower) before the song ends. The lyrics, composed by Tetsuya Takahashi, are well written and on the same caliber as those in the Xenogears vocal songs, if not a notch or two better.
Releasing the two songs on a single was a very good idea. Despite being a bit short, the piano version of the “Kokoro” theme is simply beautiful (not to mention simple), though I am personally a very big piano fan to begin with. The instrumental versions of “Kokoro” and “Pain”, despite the absence of a singer, maintain their emotional power. And if you’re into karaoke, the lyrics are included in the CD insert for your singing enjoyment.