Ys X -Nordics- Original Soundtrack

 

Review by · February 16, 2024

The time has arrived! Adol is on his tenth adventure in Ys X: Nordics (stylized Ys X -Nordics- in Japan). And as the name and artwork suggest, Adol will be encountering his fictional world’s Viking equivalents this time ’round. Does Falcom’s “Sound Team jdk” have what it takes to write an appropriate score for this game? Will we get ambient Nordic folk songs, or maybe some Swedish death metal? I’m here, listening to the¬†Ys X -Nordics- Original Soundtrack, to find out precisely what the soundscape of the latest¬†Ys¬†game is all about, days after NISA announced the game’s upcoming localization.

Early in this three-disc set, my initial takeaway was that Falcom wanted to hearken back to an older sound style in keeping with the PS2 era: synth-heavy, sequenced MIDI music throughout. In fact, in the game’s first few tracks, I was worried that the team had lost their footing. Thankfully, I was wrong: it just so happens that the first few bits of music aren’t as memorable as what comes next.

And by “next,” I am, of course, referring to early field, battle, and boss battle themes. It’s not quite death metal, but there are some incredible progressive rock tracks with excellent guitar work. “Throbbing Heartbeat” features complex time signatures at the forefront and Falcom’s signature rock style before the minute mark is up. Only a few tracks into the first disc, we get the wildly catchy field music “To Be Free” and a follow-up battle theme, “Overblaze.” In these two tracks, the listener is treated to those beautiful crystalline key synths, excellent technical guitar work, pulsing drums, and that signature violin. Though the violin is not as prominent in¬†Ys X¬†(performed by Kazuhiro Tanizaki) as in some past¬†Ys¬†titles, they are every bit as memorable and wonderful as can be (examples: “Violent Warriors,” “Destined to Keep Running,” “Operation Sandras,” “If I Could Go Back to Those Days“).

Truly, though, the guitar work is center stage throughout¬†Ys X. Is there anything that feels better than two electric guitars playing a riff in harmonic 3rds? I submit to you that, at least in terms of Falcom soundtracks, there is not. Therefore, when I hear those 3rd intervals across 16th note lines in tracks like “Heat Hazard,” I feel like I’m transported back to epic arrangements of¬†Ys II‘s “To Make the End of Battle.”

Even more exciting for this reviewer and amateur pianist is the inclusion of piano-driven rock numbers. “Burn With You” makes me wish I could play keyboard in a prog rock band, post-haste. Alongside clean piano work, the keyboard-based bells and synths with intense percussion in the climactic “Deep Unconscious” have an effect on my perception of the world. Which is to say, it’s trippy and I love it. On the slower side, the chill/ambient piano-centric work on this OST (check out “Depths of Gray” as an example) is every bit as good as the slower tracks in, say, Ys VIII. I daresay it’s on par with some of my favorites from Ys VI, which I recently named my all-time favorite soundtrack from the series.

Another thing I will say in Ys X‘s favor is that it offers a great balance of songs in terms of varying tempos, keys, and dynamics, all within the limitations of the few recorded instruments accompanying the synthesized base. In this regard, I would place it above soundtracks such as Celceta or Ys SEVEN. The limited scope of the music and lack of any vocals leaves room for (hopefully!) a killer arrange album in the coming months!

Listening to a major new release from Falcom without the context of playing the game first is a risky endeavor. Even as I make strong declarations about the style and overall quality of the Ys X -Nordics- Original Soundtrack, I feel unsure of my footing without having the context of playing the game. However, I can safely say that the quality here is on par with the past few Ys soundtracks, and the music absolutely motivates me to purchase and play the game itself upon its localized release later this year. Until then, if you want to listen to the Ys X soundtrack, you can stream it on Spotify. Digital purchase is currently available through iTunes / Apple Music, or you can get yourself the physical 3 CD set direct through Falcom or other online retailers!

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.