Rhapsody ~A Musical Adventure~ Original Soundtrack (US) :: Review by Charles
The Rhapsody ~A Musical Adventure~ Original Soundtrack was enclosed with the domestic release of Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. The title certainly requires a specific taste, being the over-the-top cutesy musical that is. This is ultimately one of composer Tenpei Sato's largest and most ambitious productions so there's bound to be some craftsmanship here that everyone can at least appreciate. Nonetheless, some may find themselves wanting to stray as far away from this music as possible.
I commend this game for trying something fresh with the whole "musical" idea. There's also a certain polish here that can't be found in many non-Square Enix PlayStation games. The first track, "Someday", starts out so crisply and I was immediately drawn in by the magical fairytale adventure sound. I love the chord progression in some of the beginning measures. Of course, that's what I have to say about the music before the singing starts. There are simply some great instrumental parts on this album and Tenpei Sato does a great job giving off this rich fairytale adventure sound that I am assuming he was going for. A decent portion of the album actually contains instrumental tracks that we'll get to in a moment, but first we'll look at the star vocal tracks of this album.
If you compare it to some of the famous musicals out there, then this game just looks amateur really. Also, keep in mind that this is the first game musical out there. No matter how great The Sound of Music might be, for example, it can't say it's the first. Some may find it to be like listening to a really bad Disney movie soundtrack. I personally find it to be that way when it comes to the lyrics and singing in general. The lyrics are very childish, though it's a better translation to English than many games out there. I don't get the feeling that this is a translated game once. The vocal tracks have a bit of light hearted charm to them if you don't take it to seriously and I'm sure that it helps make the game that much more amusing. Bad or not, I have nothing against amusing. I strongly suggest playing the game before thinking about buying this album, as it's just hard to appreciate musicals if you've never seen them.
Let's go back to "Someday", which is basically the intro song. It's truly a catchy piece, but the singing is simplistic, childish, and cutesy. Indeed, some will hate that. I say this looking at the singing style and the lyrics at the same time. I'm not trying to be macho here because I do like cute music. I just think it's a little shallow. Cute and shallow aren't exactly the best of friends when it comes to getting a good rating. Any kids that might be young enough to enjoy it probably are not old enough to play the game. The singer, Sara Thomas, is a bit out of her element doing the main character Cornet's voice, but it's a very easy to listen to voice that most will be able tolerate at the least. Nonetheless, "Someday" is a catchy song and I just can't say it's a flop because it has that amusing charm to it along with having a crisp sound.
Then I hear a song like "Our World" and I start to seriously question this album. "Our World" is a duet with our main character Cornett (Sara Thomas) and her lover. This new male voice is simply awful and out of tune. Once again, it demonstrates Sato has a tendency to be hit-and-miss with his choice of vocalists and he appears to particularly struggle in English territory. And with the song being extremely generic, it just makes for a big flop. I'm sure some people will still appreciate this for the cheesy, mushy song and at least it was somewhat novel at least in the context of game music. However, some songs end up being so silly that anyone with out the select sense of humor that the songs calls for will probably be turned off. I'm talking about tracks like "Amphibian Paradise", "Mountainmen's Song", and "Amazing Pirates". They still bear that amusing charm, but I'm sure many older gamers will cringe. And tactical RPGs aren't exactly meant for very young children either. Maybe some age in between will find a liking for these silly tunes.
Despite his questionable choices of vocalists, Tenpei Sato is truly a great composer in many ways. There is great attention to detail here. Although amusing and jolly at times, the vocals can become distracting of the instrumental talent that Sato has. I'm not saying this is a perfect album instrumentally, because it undoubtedly has its flaws. There may be some memorability issues when listening to the instrumentals and some tunes fall into scenarios and backgrounds a bit much for me. I think a lot of those issues can be subdued by playing the game through. The instrumentals are still just as well composed as the vocal tunes and, if you don't like the idea of a bad Disney movie, then that won't be found here. All instrumentals are synthesized, but it's never an apparent problem in the least.
"Spirit Wind" is one of my personal favorites. It's extremely unique for being a battle theme for starters. It has a high energy level while keeping with that feel of the game. It doesn't exactly have much of a melody, but it's a great beginning battle piece. "Rhapsody Afar" is another notable highlight. The vast and quiet sounds of the orchestra compliment the solo flutes, bells, and brass and makes for this "lighthearted yet epic adventure" feel. That's what this game is in the first place so I definitely commend these pieces for giving off that same feel. "Shooting Star" is one last notable piece with its slower take and pretty flute sounds. I just wish the rest were a bit more memorable.
Overall, Rhapsody ~A Musical Adventure~ Original Soundtrack is a very hit and miss soundtrack. Nobody will deny that it's a quality production for the PlayStation's time, but some people will be all to eager to insult the vocals. Indeed, the Japanese reease Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom Original Soundtrack generally did better in this regard. The vocal haters may possibly like the instrumentals, but there's a slim chance that many of the pieces will be that memorable. It's a refreshing album fundamentally, but despite its quality, it falls short of what could have been a magnificent album appealing to a much larger crowd than the sub-standard Disney music lovers and tactical JRPG enthusiasts.
Overall Score: 7/10