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Monster Hunter 3 Tri Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Monster Hunter 3 Tri Original Soundtrack Album Title: Monster Hunter 3 Tri Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer (Japan Version); Sumthing Else Music Works (US Version)
Catalog No.: CPCA-10207; SE-2083-2
Release Date: September 16, 2009; August 24, 2010
Purchase: Buy at Amazon | Download at Sumthing Digital


Following the monumental commercial success of the PSP's Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, Capcom intended to create an even bigger and better game in the series for the Wii's Monster Hunter 3. Their ambitions extended to the music. Sound director Tetsuya Shibata decided to take a more expansive approach for the title in several ways. Rather than rehire Masato Kouda to continue the traditional orchestral approach of the series, he promoted Yuko Komiyama and Tadayoshi Makino to take the score in a new direction, featuring more ethnic instruments, wider orchestral and percussion palettes, and even more emotional melodies. Furthermore, he hired one of the world's top recording orchestras, the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, to perform the setpieces in a grandiose and traditional manner. The resulting soundtrack was not only a wonderful complement to the game, but an engaging two disc stand-alone listen too. In testament to this, Western record label Sumthing Else Music Works have now released a near-complete reprint of the album overseas too...


The title theme demonstrates the prowess of Shiro Hamaguchi and the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague right away. Following a serene introduction to reflect the gorgeous landscapes of Monster Hunter 3, the composition transitions into an action section from 0:29 featuring the series' characteristic bombastic brass and ethnic percussion. The final minute exposes Yuko Komiyama's lead melody of Monster Hunter 3 and, even in this initial form, the orchestral performance is tremendously emotional. The structure of this cinematic composition is comparable to the Monster Hunter main theme — including even a few fragments of its fanfare figure — yet it isn't so obviously derivative and is generally even more emotional. The main theme reappears several times through the soundtrack, including the majestic classically-oriented "The Door to the Hunter Life", the subtly elating victory theme, and the especially emotional "To One with Life" at the end of the first disc. Nevertheless, the Monster Hunter main theme "Testament of a Hero" does make its obligatory appearance in the soundtrack and sounds better than ever thanks to Yuko Komiyama's inspired arrangement and the polished performance by the FILMharmonic.

Refreshingly, the town themes for Monster Hunter 3 deviate from the somewhat tired approach of earlier instalments. Tadayoshi Makino initially makes an impact with "Village on the Sea, Moga", a six minute beauty that captures the imagery of a pastoral settlement by the sea. As with earlier town themes in the series, an ethnic flute takes the lead with a sedate melody, while an acoustic guitar provides arpegiatted backing. However, the percussion use is far richer this time and, in conjunction with the tasteful dabs of electronic noise, really enhances the coastal feel. Other nautical themes include the tuned percussion variation "Lullaby of Rippling Waves", folksy "The Sprouting Farm", and authentic improvisation "The Ship Has Arrived". The second half of the soundtrack centres around a desert setting and there are number of earthy African-influenced themes to accompany them. "The Great Desert Post, Loc Lac", "Strawhut Memories", and "Shooting Star and Airships" take a more ambient approach than the sea-based themes, though "A Moment of Rest" and "Loc Lac's Great Thanksgiving" are as melodically enchanting as the series' finest. Once again, the themes are a fine complement to the scenery and quite inspiring stand-alone listens too.

The battle themes for Monster Hunter 3 are also stimulating in and out of context. Rather than adhere to the standard orchestral approach of past instalments, Makino attempts something very different with Great Dajii's "Usurper of the Deserted Island", mixing rambunctious Indian string instruments and guitars with a web of percussive forces. The exciting result is fitting within both the specific battle and the rest of the soundtrack. These ethnic influences also colour the more traditionally crafted battle themes, such as Barroth's "Earth Sand and Firey Winds" and the Arena's "Give Your Back". This both makes the themes more interesting on a stand-alone basis and altogether more colour and energetic in context too. Probably the most conservative battle theme on the soundtrack is Ragiakrus' "Tremble of the Sea and Land", but this has the attraction of featuring a particularly charismatic version of the game's main theme. "The Voracious Devil" is also quite conventional in its orchestration, but its unrelenting intensity and unresolved progressions indicate this is no ordinary foe, but rather an ultimate challenge: Deviljho. For sheer pace and intensity, there's also a bonus track that must not be missed. Did I mention it features pipe organ too?

There are other twists on the battle theme approach. Gabao's battle theme creates a sense of being trapped by a brutal menace with its obsessively repeating motifs and dissonant orchestral chords. Belioros preserves this aggressive avant-garde influence and sounds more like something from BioShock with its prepared use of instrumentation. Agnaktor's "Sound of the Great Mountain" takes things one step further with some thrashes of electric guitar work. However, this isn't the primary focus and it's actually Makino's command of percussion instruments that makes it so compelling. In fact, his use of ethnic and percussive instruments is nothing short of exceptional. Yet perhaps the biggest outsider is Ceadeus' "Moonquake", which features nothing more than ethnic ululations and percussion work. This approach wouldn't often be effective in a battle situation but, thanks to the excellent image of sound director Tetsuya Shibata and the maturity of composer Yuko Komiyama, this theme is an exception and makes an incredible impact. Evidently, Monster Hunter 3's action themes are nothing short of phenomenal in all respects.

As with other Monster Hunter themes, there tends to be a number of cinematic tracks that break up the soundtrack. For the most part, the orchestral cues are sufficiently dramatic to grab one's attention, yet are too short to really offer definitive highlights. However, the relatively ambient "Land of Heat Haze and Meteors" or "Mountain of Sparls" are good scene-setters for depicting deserts and volcanoes respectively. Certain fans will also enjoy the reapparances of the silly "Well Cooked!", "Poogie's Great Delight", and "Scat Cat Fever" themes at strategic points in the soundtrack release. There are nevertheless some more expansive themes that help to form the emotional core of the soundtrack. In particular, "The Lunar Abys" is one of the most epic compositions on the soundtrack, blending expansive orchestral progressions with celestial vocals and rich percussion. Yet unlike many of the series' themes, the final result is not grandiose, but rather dark and depressing. The final set of themes, "The Time Has Come", "Jhen that Rides the Sea of Sand", and "Intercepting the Great Gong", do not disappoint and each is more momentous than the next. The game also features an understated vocal theme, "Everlasting Words", written in the spiritual and ethnic tone of the rest of the soundtrack. Ikuko Noguchi's vocal performance is mesmerising.


The Monster Hunter 3 soundtrack receives my highest score for several reasons. For one, its musicality is outstanding. The orchestrations, orchestral performances, and vocal solos are high calibre, while the ethnic instrument and percussion writing is the finest I have come across in game music. What's more, the album works wonderfully in context, whether to represent gorgeous scenery, accompany intense battles, or offer cinematic underscore. Finally, the album is an entertaining and emotional stand-alone listen. Whether the breathtaking main theme "To One with Life", serene town themes such as "Village on the Sea, Moga", or furious battle themes such as "Sound of the Great Mountain", this album has a lot to give and sustains interest throughout. Certainly, it is worth purchasing the well-presented domestic print in physical or digital forms, even if it lacks two bonus tracks featured in the import release. It's by far the best soundtrack in the series, thanks in large part to the great talents of rising stars Yuko Komiyama and Tadayoshi Makino, and stands up among the greatest game music scores too.

Overall Score: 10/10