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Star Ocean The Second Story Arrange Album :: Review by Chris

Star Ocean The Second Story Arranged Album Album Title: Star Ocean The Second Story Arrange Album
Record Label: First Smile Entertainment
Catalog No.: FSCA-10056
Release Date: November 6, 1998
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


From stunning symphonic epics to electrifying progressive rock battle themes, from touching piano-based love arrangements to cool jazzy saloon tracks, from imposing operatic choruses all the way to adrenaline-pumping rock organs, Star Ocean The Second Story's arranged album is a sea of dynamic contrast in practically every way possible. Those unfamiliar with Sakuraba works are probably thinking 'Ooh! I like the sounds of this. Let's find out more', while those who remember the Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack, Shining Force III Original Soundtrack, and Star Ocean Perfect Sound Collection will likely think 'It's Sakuraba. What can you expect?' There is a definite reason beyond just Star Ocean The Second Story's commercial success that explains why this arranged album is often considered the definitive Motoi Sakuraba arranged experience, however. The exact reason is difficult to pinpoint and certainly not explicable in one sentence, though it lies in the way Sakuraba so artfully uses the original material available in the most resourceful way possible while continually expanding upon it through the most subtle of means. It isn't a transformation album, and, despite a few exceptions, most tracks stay true to Sakuraba's originals and his general style. It is, however, an expansive album in a complete different way, and an intricate and detailed analysis of each individual track is really necessary to begin to understand how this achieved.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Silent the Universe

The original "Silent the Universe" has a special place in Star Ocean history in that it was the first major piece of music most fans heard from the series, and, for some, their introduction to Sakuraba. Needless to say, as its arrangement headlines easily Sakuraba's most well-known arranged album, it offers an effect of similar magnitude here. Like the original, it depicts exactly why Sakuraba's cinematic music can be truly marvelous. Like most science-fiction music, it creates profound imagery, features epic motifs, and uses grandiose instrumentation, but is separated from the genre by the way it is also so remarkably subtle, pure, and resonant. Opening with a single ominous bass note, the arrangement builds with the entrance of a slow fanfare-like brass motif that is supported by a quiet yet boundless suspended violin note. As the textures build further, with the introduction of some decorative harp arpeggios, some brass countermelodies, and floating string cues, one feels entirely captivating by the magical music being played, imagining the vastness and majesty of deep space.

Yet all is not pomp in this theme. No less than 0:28 in, Sakuraba begins to demonstrate his emotional range by suddenly quietening the theme and introducing a brief and slightly sinister choral interlude. The theme then reflects the overwhelming silence of the universe through developing the original brass motif further yet underscoring it with very little, creating both wholesomeness and emptiness in one utterly delectable blend. After all this lulling between silence and motion, the theme moves on and continually builds from the 2:00 mark, occasionally featuring the odd interlude and choral passage too. The first of two major peaks in the composition is nothing short of awe-inspiring, yet never feels abrupt or overwhelming, due to how carefully the music is developed and the timbres are handled.

With the first two and a half minutes aptly reflecting the full musical and emotional diversity of the arrangement, the last three all expand further on this. These three minutes are mostly original, though still loosely based on the initial material given. A particularly effective addition is the snare drum rolls, which give the theme some militaristic flair. The climax, though understated, is extraordinary, simply leaving one in a state of utter captivation. Some may described this theme as hackneyed, but all those who appreciate that a piece of music is not solely defined by its genre should at least appreciate some of its depth. Indeed, there couldn't be a stronger introduction to the album, and, it is to Sakuraba's credit that he managed to create a piece that is both powerful and grand, yet also ravishing and subtle. This makes him not just a strong musician, but also an imaginative artist and eloquent writer. (10/10)

2) Sacred Song

Sometimes arrangements turn out completely different to what is largely expected, and this is often to an arrangement's disadvantage, save for the pleasant exceptions out there. Certainly, nobody would have expected the majestic and mysterious vocal-based original "Sacred Song" to be transformed into an experimental fusion arrangement featuring abstract combination of jazz, progressive rock, and great operatic styles. Still, though quite a contrast to most people's vision of a full-blown epic, the arrangement is surprising well-liked, with Motoi Sakuraba, being the versatile fellow he is, managing to pull it off very well. One of the principle reasons for this is that he eases the listener in to the change of style, using the first 48 seconds to provide a fairly direct rendition of the original, complete with dramatic string underscoring, colourful harp decorations, and, of course, the wonderfully remastered epic vocal melodies. After these three principle forces have been introduced, Sakuraba carefully adds some drum samples at the 0:48 mark, giving the otherwise intense arrangement some groove. Unusual? Yes, but not inappropriate or blunt.

Once the listener has become accustomed to the drum beats, the arrangement undergoes a profound yet subtle change once more at the 1:18 mark with the introduction of a violin solo, which is given a certain edge by the use of more developed drum samples and the introduction of some distinct jazzy electric piano backing. After the re-use of the vocal-based melody once more and the belated introduction of the original's wind melody, Sakuraba expands on the electric piano passages by providing a whole solo for the instrument at the 3:23 mark. While it might appear to be a brash thing to do after a vocal-led passage, Sakuraba somehow manages to disguise the profoundness of the contrasts with his careful structuring of the piece to gradually make the electric piano grow more dominant. After this, the theme largely repeats itself, which is certainly welcome and helps to make all the various aspects of the arrangement come together as a cohesive whole.

The single element and this arrangement that lets it down is the ending, which is, quite simply, too abrupt and hardly a testament to the artistic arranging otherwise featured. Sakuraba would have benefited from intensifying the theme a little prior to the conclusion, making it a true resolution, not an apparently misplaced full stop. Like so many of Sakuraba's other unusual arrangements, he created this work principally to experiment as a musician and add an unusual touch to an already accomplished original, and this appears to have eventually made him become a little bored. His intention was never to globally satisfy his fans through simple means, but did so through indirect and complex means nonetheless, even if he didn't create a perfect creation. For stylistic reasons, of course, this arrangement is certainly not for everybody, making it one of the more controversial arrangements on the disc, though its unsual fusion is generally the only major reason people tend not to enjoy this arrangement. The more open-minded folks out there, keen not to dismiss music due to genre and unfamiliarity alone, should find it both accessible and extremely enlightening. (9/10)

3) Stab the Sword of Justice

The sole arrangement on the disc that is often considered inferior to the original, Motoi Sakuraba ultimately sacrificed some of the raw power of the original in "Stab the Sword of Justice" in favour of musicality and accessibility. In terms of power, it is certainly the opening that is weakest, having a slower pace, featuring a slightly less vivacious main melody, and suffering considerably due to its less frenetic drum beats. It's debatable as to whether this is even a problem, however, and this is for quite a few reasons. First, this is only evident when one compares the arrangement directly alongside the original, meaning that it wholly satisfies in terms of power when the arrangement is considered in its own right. Second, this makes the arrangement much more globally appreciable; while the original was well-loved, some found its jarring nature to be unbearable, particularly those who dislike techno or rock music, and some also found its frenzied nature to be unmusical.

In addition, like several other pieces on the album, Sakuraba actually adopts a modified musical arch form to develop the arrangement, meaning it only actually achieves its full capacity during the latter stages, with much of the first half building towards the climax; this is a stark contrast to the original, where the first section was probably the most dramatic, and ultimately ensures that the arrangement continually captivates during its extended development sections. Most importantly of all, however, the arrangement benefits from profound original sections, which ensure it not only quadruples the original in length, but also has much more depth. The epic section that begins at the 1:45 is simply musical bliss, featuring an intense combination of slick yet dominant electric guitar improvisation, atmospheric chanting, and some very effective driving drum beats.

The modification of the main melody in the latter half of the piece is also expertly done, adding a certain depth and cohesiveness to the arrangement as a whole, and is well-supported by a few light-hearted sections away from the core of the action. Following the much more powerful recapitulation of the main melody from the 3:55 mark, which leads directly to the climax of the piece, a coda is featured from the 5:20 mark, which shows a gradual and artistic lightening of textures, delicately supported by a guitar solo; this ensures the arch structure comes round full-circle, as the arrangement is finally left in a state of calm with the sound of the ringing of a bell being the last noise heard. Ultimately, this arrangement did exactly what was needed, and, though some may prefer the original's rendition of the main melody, this boasts so much depth, development, and subtlety nonetheless, making it wonderful for practically any game fan on a stand-alone basis. (9/10)

4) Resolution ~ Pure a Stream

As the incredible "Elegy of the Bewildered" from the Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack demonstrated, Motoi Sakuraba is extremely competent when it comes to arranging for solo piano. "Resolution ~ Pure a Stream" demonstrates his ability sufficiently with the instrument being dominant throughout the first three minutes. After an original and fairly heartening introduction, the arrangement moves into a direct yet elongated rendition of the solo piano theme "Resolution" from the soundtrack. It is hardly as fancy as arrangements such as the aforementioned "Elegy..." or the Live Concert piano rendition of "So Alone, Be Sorrow" from Star Ocean Till the End of Time, remaining homophonic throughout and utilising little other than primary chords. It still aptly demonstrates what Sakuraba is best at doing with the instrument, however — that is, creating an arrangement that is emotive yet not skindeep, which also subtly intensifies as it develops — and its overall subdued nature makes the development of the rest of the piece all the more refreshing.

Aside from its introduction and extended passagework, the first truly inspired new addition to the arrangement is the introduction of synth vocals to the arrangement at the 1:45 mark. In a not entirely disparate way to the addition of drum beats to "Sacred Song," the addition of this single new force simply changes the whole atmosphere of the piece, while everything else stays relatively untouched. It adds an element of purity to the arrangement and the refined nature of the synth certainly enhances this, and this prepares the way for the arrangement to move into a deeply evocative segue into the town theme "Pure a Stream" at the 2:50 mark following an impressive snare drum roll.

The rendition of "Pure a Stream" throughout the second half represents a profound change in the arrangement, showing it in full bloom. Gone is the piano, in favour of full-orchestral textures and Sakuraba's trademark harp, chorus, and percussion use, and this gives the second major demonstration of Sakuraba's symphonic ability on the album. The arrangement artfully combines immensely power and gushing emotion, yet retains the melodic simplicity of the original, demonstrating another thing Sakuraba is capable of — creating so much out of so little. It closes with another brief solo piano passage, leaving the arrangement in a state of complete calm and ensuring it hasn't become too tangential. It is simply a nourishing and inspired arrangement that combines symphonic and pianistic Sakuraba in a practically flawless way. (10/10)

5) Lavender

This is the first of two black sheeps in a flock of ten, as "Lavender," along with "This Fragile Life," literally seem to have appeared from nowhere. Neither were on the Star Ocean The Second Story Original Soundtrack or on any other Star Ocean albums for that matter, and the most likely explanation for their existence is that they are arrangement of pieces that didn't make the final cut on the Original Soundtrack. One of the many unusual aspects of this album is that it was released nearly two weeks before the Original Soundtrack, and, thus, it is quite possible that Sakuraba started production on the arranged album before the final cut of the original score was made. The often-quoted explanation that they aren't arrangements, merely original pieces that were added to the arranged album as bonuses after they were cut from the original score, doesn't fit, as they are too well-developed and elongated to be an original piece, and the timescale issue just throws the concept even more ferociously out of the window.

Presumably a battle theme originally, this theme has the same 'progressive rock meets techno' basis that "Stab the Sword of Justice" utilised. It is quite high octane, combining a fast pace with frenzied bass arpeggios, lots of dissonant overtones, and some intense melodic progressions. The improvisation section that begins at the 2:00 mark is definitely the strongest feature of the arrangement, with it gradually developing into a rock organ solo that beams power yet remains agile thanks to its intricacy. Oddly enough, the organ solo moves into a brief harpsichord-led passage, which adds a touch more originality. While the harmonies throughout this section remain largely consistent, it still succeeds thanks to its unrelenting pace and masterfully crafted solos.

While all appears to be fine and dandy, these features don't save it from its most significant flaw, this being that it is abundantly clear that the original theme itself wasn't really up to scratch. The passages that don't feature improvisation and are presumably derived directly from the original just feel dull most of the time; they lack the melodic distinction of "Mission to the Deep Space," the power of "Stab...," or the creativity of "Integral Body and Imperfect Soul," appearing to drone slightly, verging on becoming repetitious. True enough, the arrangement should be sufficiently entertaining for those unfamiliar with similar compositions from Star Ocean Till the End of Time or the Tales series, but it will definitely provide further evidence of the fact a significant proportion of Sakuraba's works are generic to those who doubt him. It's not a bad addition, merely disappointing compared to the rest. (8/10)

6) Theme of RENA

Many people buy Star Ocean The Second Story Arrange Album for this arrangement alone, widely considered to be the most emotive creation Sakuraba has produced. The original character theme employed use of surprisingly real female operatic vocals to hauntingly beautiful effect, radiated nicely by its unforgettable melody and pure harmonies. This version, however, is widely considered to be the theme's best rendition, except for the Motoi Sakuraba Live Concert Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile perhaps, featuring superb orchestration and inspiring vocal use, employing subtle progressions that ensure the piece remains a consistently emotional experience, and always emphasising the original's melodic wondrousness and harmonic sweetness over the 7 minutes it plays. It opens with just a series of simple solo piano motifs, given an airy tinge by the reverb employed. Here, Sakuraba succeeds in introducing the main harmonic material while also adding a significant amount of atmosphere.

At the 0:21 mark, the famous operatic synth vocal melody from the original enters, now being more pure and refined than ever, leaving one breathless and in awe of its indescribable beauty. Its accompaniment is light and functional, consisting of a string descant and the piano line, thickened in an effective way by the entrance of a single 'cello at the 0:48 mark. Sakuraba employs use of impressive interludes throughout this album and the one at the 1:06 mark is especially strong, consisting of a single harp, suspended strings, and, most interestingly, a three-note wind motif that forms cross-rhythms with the other instruments. It adds just the break that is needed from the use of the main melody, which is reintroduced with a drum roll to spectacular effect 20 seconds later. The melody reaches it peak with the introduction of a breathtaking new phrase at the 1:50 on brass, accompanied by light and jazzy piano that works amazingly well in reality by adding underlying colour.

Another surprise interlude occurs at the 2:33 mark after a misleading crescendo to a fortepiano. Accompanied by a repeating harp ostinato, this passage serves to develop the 'cello line further, which didn't receive the benefit of full exploration earlier, and also features a fine violin solo that is easy to initial underappreciate. This interlude continues after a second false buildup at the 3:17 mark where a modified version of the main melody is introduced at low volumes, while the earlier interlude's cross-rhythmic motif returns and the harp provides some pleasant decoration. The eventual reuse of the melody in its grandest represents the beginning of the end for the piece, as Sakuraba chooses to gradual calm the piece rather than explode with a grand finale. After more harmonic material from the earlier interlude is explored and a flute solo is introduced, the last minute of the theme features just a solo music box. It's innocence and simplicity reflects the major underlying aspect of this theme in a superb way and this almost tear jerking conclusion acts as a perfect kudos to "Theme of RENA (Music Box)" from the Original Soundtrack. (10/10)

7) Integral Body and Imperfect Soul

"Integral Body, Imperfect Soul" is the most radically changed track on the Star Ocean The Second Story Arrange Album and this makes it perhaps the most favourable on a purely musical note. The original track failed to create much sense of impending doom, despite being a final battle theme, and suffered from elongating organ and harpsichord passages that grew boring. It was an experimental creation, but lacked the flair that more electronic-based tracks like "Stab the Sword of Justice" possessed. Sakuraba seemed to realize this himself, as he received no fan input while creating the arranged album, and the thorough revamp that followed saw it, rather ironically, be transformed into an electronic work. It opens in the most gorgeous way possible, with some eerie suspended vocal chants being gently accompanied by some timpanis, foot-pedalled organ notes, and a high-pitched string note. As the textures thicken with the subsequent addition of a more prominent organ line, this etherealness turns into complete darkness and one cannot help but shiver by the cold-hearted nature of the motifs presented.

At the 31 second mark, these instruments all disappear as an acid techno beat suddenly enters that literally hooks the listener into wanting to hear more. At the 1:00 mark, the piece soon presents sheer fear once more with the addition of a gothic lead instrument, which plays slow-developing and heartless motifs, while the rest of the piece remains energetic and exciting. Between the renditions of this melody, an interlude occurs at the 2:00 mark, whereby ominous synth brass play a quieter motif that misleads one into believing it is a break from the darkness. As made clear by the way the techno beat unrelentlessly continues and the melody itself soon pronounces more subtle dark tones, it is clear that evil continues to dominate and the transition back into the main melody confirms this by being most incompassionate. The most significant diversion from the main melody occurs at the 3:27 mark as the acoustic instruments leave the arrangement entirely, allowing the electronic line to develop somewhat further before the theme undergoes a shocking chord progression from the 3:48 mark that is so wonderfully dissonant that it literally feels like the enemy is screaming in one's face.

Following a lengthy recapitulation of the main melody, the piece begins to repeat a motif from the 5:30 mark in an almost hypnotic way, leading to a huge amount of tension prior to its surprisingly sudden end. The theme essentially repairs what is lost in the original by carefully combining the epic gothic melodies with an accompaniment that maintains interest and movement. Indeed, it's completely unlike all other techno creations Sakuraba has been involved in, as it still emphasises the original's dark edge, creating an unusual gothic-electronic fusion. Electronica is a controversial matter to most musicians and this is exemplified in many video game arranged albums, which see electronic takes on original themes that are completely different to the original and add no further depth. This is a very positive exception and truly adds a great deal to the original while also being completely different in terms of genre too. (10/10)

8) This Fragile Life

Like "Lavender," "This Fragile Life" is the other arrangement on the album of a theme that wasn't featured on the Original Soundtrack. This unknown work, as expertly arranged as it may be, detracts from the marvelous build-up created by "Theme of RENA" and "Integral Body and Imperfect Soul," and the equally substantial conclusion formed by the two subsequent tracks. The album's already eight tracks in and is due to close very shortly, yet this addition will probably only have a neutral effect to the casual listener. It may well also make such people reflect on just how many great themes from the actual Original Soundtrack didn't make the final cut here, such as "Field of Exper" or "Field of Nede," two potentially excellent additions that could have been put here. It reflects the Star Ocean The Second Story Arrange Album's most significant bane — that is, having been developed before the original score was complete — and some fan input would have made the album considerably better in places in terms of track selection.

Rant aside, there is nothing actually wrong with the arrangement itself, but merely what it represents. It opens in a sublime way, with a single ascending bass motif undergoing a gradual crescendo while more and more instruments are added on top of it — such instruments include an incredibly rich 'cello melody, some ominous piano bass notes, yet another gorgeous violin descant, and, eventually, a drum kit and some tribal percussion. By the 0:42 mark, the theme really begins to gain substance, with the piano playing some more high-pitched accompaniment to the violin, and, by the 1:00 mark, all the forces have finally entered. From here, it becomes clear that the piano is the leading instrument, as it changes mood once again to become sombre and reflective, though the 'cello melody remains an integral feature to the track's development.

The most interesting part of the track is reached at the 2:11 when a piano solo enters that brings back fond memories of "Elegy of the Bewildered" with its slightly improvised nature and romantic beauty. Its eerie accompaniment adds a supernatural feeling to the piece here and the transition back to the main melody at the 2:42 mark with an eerie synth vocal pitch-bend makes this feeling become even more significant. Another noptable original passage added is at the 3:17 mark where piano and synth vocals both play together only before more forces enter, creating more eeriness. The last minute or so features a similar piano solo to the original one and it seems Sakuraba understood just how haunting the pitch-bend was, as the last 15 seconds feature this followed by some final piano notes. It's an excellent arrangement, but it's a pity it wasn't added to some unreleased tracks album. Still, one can't have it all and it should be very satisfying after a few listens if one treats it like they would an original theme. (9/10)

9) Mission to the Deep Space

Just like "The Incarnation of Devil," "Star Ocean Forever," and perhaps "Confidence in the Domination," "Mission to the Deep Space" has become a classic, having featured in at least eight tri-Ace soundtracks. This version, though perhaps not as strong as the arrangement on the Star Ocean Till the End of Time Arrange Album, succeeds in that it was the first accomplished arrangement of the theme, boosting nearly all the elements of the already superb original by a considerable amount. Some might call it the antithesis of the arrangement of "Stab the Sword of Justice" — relative to the original, its pace has certainly quickened, it has grown more frantic due to the large ensemble used, and it is half way there to screaming 'raw power' — though it certainly shares the common qualities of being well-developed, easily accessible, and highly melodic. After a few notes on the drum kit, it opens just like the original, with an enticing bass line accompanying an ascending synth chord progression. Soon enough, the Sci-Fi feeling is strengthened with the addition of some superb ascending synth portamentos, which give a feeling of elevation right into the unknown.

At the 0:28 mark, the melody finally enters, representing the party's eventual arrival to deep space, and it is appropriately exciting and one of the themes that it is unforgettable when heard, just like "Stab the Sword of Justice" and "Theme of RENA." Yet another interesting interlude occurs between the 1:59 and 2:23 mark with the use of some descending chord progressions that dampen the theme slightly, allowing for another build-up to begin that peaks at the 2:47 with the reiteration of the introductory motif. One of the greatest features of this track is the way this repeat is completely misleading, as it actually leads straight to the main development section rather than a repeat of the main melody. A prominent guitar solo is heard at the 3:00 in time with the third iteration of the ascending synth chord progression. The section that follows is a little more subdued, but has underlying depth and is made even more delightful by the exploration of the portamento figure.

After an absolutely marvellous rock organ solo and a brief drum break, the track finally moves back towards the main melody, first reinstated at the 4:27. The comprehensive nature of the development before makes it all the more breathtaking and the way the melodic voice is doubled from the 5:30 mark allows the conclusion to be even better. The final few bars feature another drum break and a rock organ fanfare; it's unusual and unexpected, but does the job well, exploring the jazz feeling a little further that underlies the track yet never really defines it. All in all, this is an extremely nourishing theme that makes the most out of the original's melody while expanding upon it in a sometimes devilish way during the thorough development passages. It could well be the most appealing action theme on the album for most listeners. (9/10)

10) We Form in Crystals

While all the arrangements on this album, save for "Integral Body...," "Lavender," and "This Fragile Life," were based upon highly accomplished original themes, each had room for improvement, and this came largely through further development, with the exception of "Imperfect Body and Imperfect Soul" and "Sacred Song," which were far more tangential. Unfortunately, however, when an original theme is near-perfect — that is, comprehensively developed, stylistically refined, emotionally profound, and otherwise creative and unusual — creating an expansive arrangement from it is near-impossible. This is the case with "We Form in Crystals," which shared all these qualities, being the longest original theme on the Original Soundtrack, one of the most evocative ending themes ever created, and one of the few ending themes not to be a medley of tracks, but rather an inspiring avant-garde piece, topped off wonderfully with some gorgeous violin solos.

The arrangement doesn't expand greatly on the original material much, which is as much of a bane as it is a merit. Some reviewers might even describe it as merely a remastered version of the original, except with an extended end, though this isn't really fair, as there are plenty of subtle changes made, which all emphasise the theme of purity. The arrangement particularly allows way for the manipulation of timbres and dynamics more effectively, and the way the first 55 seconds progresses is a perfect testament to this, with the piece gradually crescendoing as a harp motif is ever-repeated, with the addition of some rich violin overtones acting as a perfect segue for the introduction of the rich and beautifully remastered vocals at the 0:55 mark. The changes made are not especially grand, but it requires more than resampling of sound modules to achieve the rich effect that is created.

The central portion of the piece is principally based around the original's violin solo. Carefully integrated around mild harmonies and delicately remastered, the contrasts between the colourful portamentos featured in the more active passages against the long-held radiating notes in the interludes are emphasised wonderfully, making the track's inherent imagery much stronger. As mentioned earlier, the end is the most significant difference here, and, though mostly a repeat of the vocal passage and introductory passage heard earlier, it benefits the track greatly, making it more structured and less through-composed. This ultimately ensures the album ends on a refined and appropriate note in a state of complete calm. True, this arrangement is not creative, but Sakuraba did all that was needed to make it stand out as a superb musical accomplishment, and, even with subtle changes, it still remains the definitive version of "We Form in Crystals." (8/10)


The track-by-track reviews should speak for themselves by providing an affirmative 'yes' to the question of whether the average video game music should buy the album. They should also reflect the crucial element of the album that separates this album from most others. That is, its subtlety and intricacy. The obvious exception of "Sacred Song" and the two 'new' tracks aside, all the arrangements stay true to their original's styles and wonderfully emphasise not just their melodies, but the harmonic, textural, and emotional features that made every single one of them so distinguished in the first place. With the possible exception of "Stab the Sword of Justice," all arrangements not only expand on the original in terms of development, but also enhance them in terms of power. By power, this doesn't just refer to the raw power synonymous with "Integral Body and Imperfect Soul" and "Mission to the Deep Space," but also the deeply moving experiences provided by "Theme of RENA" and "We Form in Crystals," and the awe-inspiring moments featured in "Silent the Universe" and "Resolution ~ Pure a Stream." This album has the capacity to leave in the most hardhearted listener touched to an extent and should provide a vast array of consistently enjoyable yet constantly different emotional and musical experiences to the average video game music lover. An all-round gem, this is an ideal introduction to Motoi Sakuraba's works for the newbie and a must-have for the veteran.

Overall Score: 9/10