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DewPrism Original Soundtrack :: Review by Ashley Winchester

DewPrism Original Soundtrack Album Title: DewPrism Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10036; SQEX-10074/5
Release Date: November 20, 1999; July 19, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan

Overview

The dictionary defines an era as "an extended period of time that is reckoned from a specific date or point in the past and used as the basis of a chronology." A common idea practiced throughout history, such "labeling" often leads one to question the overall relevance and success achieved within a certain time frame. More often than not, terms used to describe historical periods of time are pretty clear, but in areas of interest that are based more on opinion, such as gaming, it's more relative than anything.

In early 1996 leading into 1997, the gate surrounding Sony's 32-bit machine seemed to burst at the seams with an endless amount of games and in the years that followed. For many, at the crest of the tidal wave was Squaresoft, and there wasn't any game of theirs I wouldn't try, especially considering my friends made a point of buying as many of them as they could. Amidst all the hours of gaming it's hard to grasp how Threads of Fate (aka DewPrism) managed to slip trough the cracks. As time went by, interests would change along with my perception of some of those past experiences. While somewhat disheartening, the pleasure received from the music that accompanied some of those games remained strong for it was the second time I knew game music was just more than just a part of a disposable backdrop.

Curiosity mainly stemming from the Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack inevitability led me to this soundtrack. Despite positive first impressions it was dumbfounding how quickly I began to question what I was hearing. Questions turned into discontent, discontent eventually resting on the edge of anger. Why? To put things simply, there are some Square Enix soundtracks — Chrono Cross, SaGa Frontier II, and Vagrant Story — that I've never understood the appeal of. The real kick in the pants is when asked the reason for my lack of interest, clichéd cop-outs like "I don't know" or "it's just not me" are all that emerge. However, the reasons are all too clear when it comes to Dew Prism; its false fa´┐Żade seeming to fleece me of my investment of time.

Body

The soundtrack starts off on the right foot; the raw percussion in "Theme of DewPrism" playing right into the hands of the composer as a preconceived vision of the game's "world" is illustrated within your mind. Quick to strike, the sharp sense of unexplainable phenomena of "Premonition" is difficult to ignore, as is the warm embrace of the angelic "Bonded by Claire" that brings focus back to the lighter side of things. "Passing Through the Forest" gives the listener gets their first real taste of Nakano's composing style, representing the majority of what's to follow: a free flowing experience that refrains from the use of rough contrast. Unfortunately, it not long before this is revealed as the soundtrack's main problem, leaving it exposed like a deer in headlights.

Regardless of execution, there's little doubt that repetition is one of the most powerful cards in any composer's bag of tricks. As it is, it would literally be impossible for any given person to put a number on the amount of compositions that have gnawed their way into their frontal lobe over the years due to this factor alone. Its effectiveness, like any tool or device is determined by the skill and technique of its wielder. Given this, it's not too long before related statements like "too much of anything can be a bad thing" are introduced into the equation. How does this concern itself with DewPrism? While less obvious at a casual glance, Nakano's implementation of repetition is hardly creative, the vast majority of compositions built upon musical backdrops that repeat for most of a piece's duration. There may be the occasional pause to let another instrument take center stage as the leisurely tempo methodically builds towards a musical climax (more on that later) but minimal boosts such as these usually fail to draw much attention and differentiate themselves from one another. Granted, tracks like "Roadblock" employ this to great effect, but this is undermined by the fact such progression is usually expected from a danger themes. The above usually results in monotonous tracks like "Blood & Smokey's Theme ~ The Foolish Rascal Brothers" and "Blood & Rascal Battle" that, despite the fact they probably work in the game, only serve to annoy outside it.

However, the overall lack of contrast is not just limited the base of the various compositions; development of the forefront is conservative as well. Like a book, most pieces of music can be divided into multiple parts — A, B, C and D for example — working towards the pinnacle or climax. A composer may have A and B build up C, the climax, before bringing things back to ground level with D. Parts A, B and D may share the same overall tone as C provides the contrast, containing the instrumentation that binds the composition together, the reason for being. So why reiterate basic musical theory? There are climaxes to be had in the music of DewPrism, but the concept of gradually gaining intensity as the track progresses is practiced here once again and fights this premise. As such, tracks either stay mellow or are ready to rumble right out of the cage.

So where is the contrast or point of interest? Much like seeing the twist or ending of a movie coming from a mile away it's right in front of your face. Unfortunately, once the realization is made — the interaction of the background and foreground being the main draw — you're simply disgusted by its obvious nature. It's like getting a super easy question on a test wrong only to subconsciously reflect back on that previous lapse of though all day. Even with the fusion of the aspects above creating a unique "meandering" effect — the element that undoubtedly sets DewPrism apart from its contemporaries — the experience isn't as foolproof as I desperately want to believe. Taking everything in all at once, it's actually quite easy to get lost in some of the longer pieces like "Rasdan" despite their pleasing nature. The various ending themes come with a little meat on their bones but at such a point it's too late to undo any of the damage done by the otherwise formulaic pretext that presides over the majority of the score.

Summary

Reading the above, to some it may seem I have enjoyed dismantling what DewPrism has to offer. It's true that Nakano's work isn't as brainless as my various ramblings make it out to be but the overall effort feels stunted from an architectural standpoint. Contrary to my earlier statements, I can safely say that my time with the score was not wasted and, if anything, has reaffirmed what I'm looking and not looking for in a soundtrack. Additionally, a greater understanding and appreciation for other soundtracks from the same era has also been a result. Despite its spirit being in the right place, the groundwork of the DewPrism Original Soundtrack is otherwise a little too transparent.

Overall Score: 6/10