Despite my love of Tactical RPGs, I’ve never really ploughed into the genre with much gusto, and have never played Yggdra Union. This made it difficult to consider the soundtrack in the same way as a player, who would no doubt recognise tracks left, right and centre. Considering the soundtrack in relation to other work by the same composers is also difficult, as Minako Adachi and Shigeki Hayashi are both fairly unknown, having only Riviera to their name. I tried to remedy this problem through repeated listening and I’m surprised to say that it – eventually – exceeded my expectations. The first disc, the OST, consists of straight rips from the GBA game. I’m sure for anyone who’s played Yggdra Union the addition of this disc will be a welcome improvement over Riviera’s solely arranged soundtrack. However, I’ve never been one for the low quality synths of the GBA and thus for me (and most casual listeners) this disc is less of a novelty. The majority of my review is therefore based on the second ‘Image’ disc, consisting of nearly identical tracks with upgraded instrumentation, similar to the Riviera Full Arrange Soundtrack.
The soundtrack is split into three parts, and the main roles of both composers are clearly defined. After Hayashi’s high-paced opening song, We’ll Never Fight Alone, the tone shifts, leading into the orchestral main map themes composed by Adachi. Handheld games and tactical RPGs often lay on the nostalgia factor, and Adachi’s tracks reflect this, bringing to mind the more epic RPGs of my youth. Slower tracks are rare on the soundtrack, but there are a few strategically placed to break up the action. Heaven’s Gate in particular stands out apart from the rousing ‘Advance’ pieces.
The highlight of the soundtrack is Hayashi’s battle music. The twenty or so Sortie! tracks in the middle third of the disc rely heavily on percussion, electric guitar samples and lead synths. This again inspires feelings of older RPG’s, though where Adachi’s tracks are reminiscent of the music in Estpolis Denki, Hayashi’s pieces would be more at home in a Lunar game. The exception to this is the final battle, Nessiah Sortie!, which uses choir samples and a surprisingly effective church organ to round off the battle tracks with a somewhat dark and oppressive track. The final third of the soundtrack switches back to Adachi again, for some more orchestral pieces used during various cutscenes and a rather subdued end credits theme which gives the soundtrack a polished and classic feel to it.
There are a few negative points, of course. The Army Advance tracks are far too similar, even after repeated listening, and this lack of variation suggests that it was a mistake to group together the Army Advance tracks and the Sortie! tracks. More disappointing is the lack of good arranged tracks. Judging by the Riviera soundtrack, both Adachi and Hayashi are very talented, and I’ve imagine composers working with low quality synths would long to create high quality variations of their more impressive tracks. Certainly I had hoped to hear some impressive remixes. It’s unfortunate, then, that the last track on the OST disc, Battle Medley, is a lacklustre patchwork of earlier Sortie! tracks and sounds like it was thrown together at the last minute with no effort. The remixes at the end of disc 2 are considerably better, but they are too brief to make any substantial impact.
I strongly suspect that people who have played the game will get the greatest experience from this soundtrack, but it does stand on its own if you’re willing to listen to it enough times to get to know it.