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Lord of Arcana Original Sound Collection :: Review by Chris

Lord of Arcana Original Sound Collection Album Title: Lord of Arcana Original Sound Collection
Record Label: Square Enix
Catalog No.: SQEX-50027
Release Date: October 27, 2010
Purchase: Download at iTunes


Lord of Arcana is a PSP action adventure title set in the same universe as Lord of Vermilion. The score was promoted as an unprecedented collaboration between Nobuo Uematsu and Hitoshi Sakimoto, but in fact neither composer had a direct role in the music creation process; their respective contributions are actually a range of arranged themes from Lord of Vermilion and direct reprises from Lord of Vermilion II. The Lord of Arcana Original Sound Collection is a digital release that focuses on the new arrangements and compositions for the game.


Though Nobuo Uematsu credited for composing the Lord of Arcana Original Sound Collection, his role was as a music producer, rather than an original composer. The score mostly comprises of arrangements of his central themes for Lord of Vermilion by several experts, namely Blue Dragon's rock guru Satoshi Henmi, versatile Square Enix alumni Kenichiro Fukui, Final Fantasy XIV's arranger Tsutomu Narita, and GEM Impact's cinematic composer Yoshitaka Suzuki. Each arranger brings a lot of character and emotion to the score and together they craft everything from distinctive RPG-influenced staples like "Kariyoporuto" and "Remembering the Past", to hard rock anthems like "Battle I -Arc Night-" and "Crimson Tower", to moody Hollywood-styled entries such as "Master of Arcana" and "Arcana Force". However, the diversity of the stand-alone experience is reduced by the subdivision of the soundtrack into discreet sections, i.e. cinematic, battle, and setting themes, when it would have been better for them to be mixed and matched.

The unique production approach, of focusing on arrangements rather than original compositions, is unfortunately somewhat problematic for several reasons. The first is that the focal material is simply too sparing to sustain two hours of repetition. The main theme starts to tire even in the initial tracks of the score, which are continually soft and cinematic in nature. Even those exceptional arrangements, for example "Remembering the Past" with its gorgeous flute and acoustic guitar performances, become somewhat less meaningful after the melody has already been focused on so much. By the time listeners come to "Vermilion" — intended to be a climactic guitar-heavy rock interpretation — it's difficult to care anymore. Many felt that the main theme was already laboured on the shorter Lord of Vermilion score, so it was a poor decision to allow it to dominate the spinoff to an even greater extent. No melody can sustain as many arrangements as this one receives and this particular theme isn't even among Uematsu's more' natural greats in the first place.

The other problem is that the arrangers seemed somewhat restricted by the melody in parts of the score. Kenichiro Fukui, for instance, seemed aware of the risks of labouring Lord of Vermilion's melodies on "Battle II -Genocide-" and delays their use until 90 seconds in during the rousing chorus. The remainder of the piece features an enpowering blend of overdriven guitar riffs and keyboard improvisations that is excellent from a technical perspective. However, the focus on these parts on riffs rather than melodies mean that the track lacks somewhat in character and charm. In pieces such as this it would have been preferable if the arrangers were permitted to introduce melodies of their own. Yoshitaka Suzuki's "Master of Arcana" and "Myth", on the other hand, sound barren in terms of both their usage of the themes and their actual arrangement. While beautifully implemented, the Zimmer-styled atmospheric soundscaping here is certainly a tough fit with Uematsu's music, and something entirely original along the lines of the arranger's Metal Gear music would have been more appropriate.

It is reassuring to note that, while the majority of the tracks focus on the main theme from Lord of Vermilion, there are a few deviations that bring some melodic diversity to the score. For example, "Subjugation" is an enjoyable revamp of "Renaaru Forest", combining rock instrumentation with an exotic array of percussion, while "Annihilation" and "Collection" transform secondary action themes from the arcade score into effectual atmospheric interludes suitable for console purposes. Uematsu also wisely revives his last dungeon theme from Lord of Vermilion in the first battle theme "Arc Night"; this arrangement is typical and straightforward, yet utterly enjoyable due to the superior lyrical qualities of the original melody. The melodic variety is also considerably enhanced by the incorporation of five original compositions. Satoshi Henmi's three original battle themes have a heavier and wilder quality than those restrained by Uematsu's melodies, while Kenichiro Fukui's playful adventure theme "Slayer's Guild" reveals the melodic opportunities more original compositions could have created.

As laboured as it is, there are some genuinely remarkable arrangements of the main theme for Lord of Arcana on the soundtrack. Among them are the subtle yet immersive opener "Master Guardian" and the epic guitar-punctuated orchestration "VS Master Guardian I", both of which are maturely composed and skilfully implemented. At the conclusion of the score, Yoshitaka Suzuki's "The World of Horodyn" undergoes a particularly remarkable evolution during its seven minute playtime, developing from an original segment into an emotional march arrangement inspired by military action movies. The self-titled vocal theme for Lord of Vermilion also receives an arrangement to close the score. The boy soprano voice brings new depth to the melody, giving it the natural and nostalgic aura characteristic of 'classic Uematsu'. Kenichiro Fukui's instrumentation is also remarkable, evolving from the atmospheric electronic opening towards a soft rock-based climax, incorporating various stylistic threads from the score while resolving and partly redeeming it thematically.


The score for Lord of Arcana features spectacular technical values, vast stylistic diversity, and considerable contextual impact. However, it lacks somewhat especially as a stand-alone experience due to its excessive focus on old rather than new melodic material. While there are occasional barren or generic moments, the arrangers generally did a good job of interpreting Uematsu's main theme and others from Lord of Vermilion. However, the final experience is too samey to be entertaining, in large part due to the misguided production approach. Many may wish to download this rather expensive digital score, as there are many highlights among the endless arrangements, but it is essential to splice the release to make it sustainable for repeated listens.

Overall Score: 6/10