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Tales of the Tempest Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Tales of the Tempest Original Soundtrack Album Title: Tales of the Tempest Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Avex
Catalog No.: AVCD-23187/8
Release Date: February 21, 2007
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


One of several Tales titles not developed by Namco Tales Studio, Tales of the Tempest's production for the DS was actually handled by Dimps. The producers of the game nevertheless opted to use one of regular composers for the series, Motoi Sakuraba, while his less famous partner Shinji Tamura did not return. The score topped off a demanding 2006 schedule for Sakuraba that also included Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria, Tenshou Gakuen Gekkou Hasumi, Baten Kaitos Origins, and a string of remakes. Did the score add to a collection of good soundtracks or reflect his exhaustion? For me at least, it reaffirmed the often crude generalisations about the Tales series' music. Sakuraba's heavy workload resulted in the output of an acceptable but unexuberant soundtrack and its dubious presentation in album form exposes his lack of inspiration.


The soundtrack opens with a series of battle themes. Despite lacking the qualities needed to be an effective opener for an album, "Encounter" is nevertheless an enjoyable normal battle theme; that's mostly due to the prominent repetition of a particular motif within a rock framework at a few points during the piece. The boss theme "Difficult Situation" is dominated by frenetic chord progressions, but the brief reuse of the "Encounter" motif provides some hopeful fanfare-like cries so the passagework doesn't become overpowering. The relatively airy "Confrontation" is worth revisiting thanks to the quirky development of the bass line a little before the loop and the occasional lyrical cadence; unfortunately, it also samples one of Sakuraba's more distinctive works so may create an image of the Mario brothers frantically running around the court in the first round of a Mario Kart 64 tournament. Less impressive is the organ-based "Sincerity is Solemn". Sakuraba directly samples the opening diminished chord progression of Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria's "Celestial Troupe" and slows it down to become a focal point of the piece; the development sections are significantly better and gathers some rhythmical impetus, but feels carelessly sandwiched within stale bread. Despite using much of the same instrumentation, "As For Me, National" ends up being the most natural of the battle themes, peaking with an epic section featuring haunting synth vocals after considerable pace has been generated.

The soundtrack moves on to focus on the setting themes, all of which are quite atmospheric. A sense of alienation is created through the classic Sakuraba combination of rasping low brass and hard drum kit polyrhythms in "Different World". "Desert" feels expressive with its gentle combination of pizzicato strings and double-reeded woodwinds, whereas the field music "Grassy Plain" is lovely in its interludes but otherwise obnoxiously dominated by Sakuraba's bright brassy style. More spiritual additions include "Frozen Ground", featuring chorus and tuned percussion use reminiscent of Sakuraba's Star Ocean work, and "The Capital of Ramorn", whose gorgeous soundscaping and lead cello work makes its static harmonisation tolerable. Moving on to later additions to the score, "Black Forest" fuses mysterious melodic and harmonic progressions with the reedy Germanic town theme approach featured in Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria. More hopeful pieces include "Are Mountain", suitable for placement in the middle of the game thanks to its very personal melody, and "The Girl's Side Before", a motivating brassy final dungeon anthem. Two other enjoyable tracks are the slow-paced "Feln" and the festival-like "Reda", which are united by a harpsichord focus and particular chords despite their divergent characters.

The rest of Sakuraba's work on the score is diverse but variable quality. Like his other minor recent effort, Tenshou Gakuen Gekkou Hasumi, Sakuraba also creates a few novelty pieces. "Business Prosperity", for example, feels like one of Iwadare's scarily happy Radiata Stories themes, though you know who's ever predictable chord progressions are here. There is also a pile of miserable ambient pieces, successful in context but either boring or unaesthetic on a stand-alone level; they include "Underground Waterway", "Night of a Plot", "Suffering", "The Root of Various Crimes", and "All Was Over", which are each inspired by or precursor to particular pieces from Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria. The biggest blotches on the score are "A Crisis It Approaches, and To Come" and "Enemy's Raid"; both suffer from Star Ocean The Second Story's "Desert Island" syndrome by using ugly synth and intrusive passagework to make them deafening to listen to. Reflecting the convoluted track listings, the penultimate instrumental track is the warm cinematic opening theme "A Day of an Opening". The ending theme "The New Departure" focuses on evoking deep emotions and, for me, succeeded even without the context of the game itself. With wonderful tracks like these, it's regretful that the album release wasn't structured to attain a dramatic arch.

At the end of the game side is the opening vocal theme "VS" and its karaoke version. Composed by misono, it's a brief rock composition featuring upbeat female vocals seemingly inspired by Avril Lavigne as well as some above-average instrumentals (for this subgenre at least) in the bridge sections. Nothing special and rather like a generic anime opening theme, but it's enjoyable enough. Such a theme song would normally be present in a single given Tales soundtracks themselves tend to distance themselves from vocal themes. This just seems to be clumsily tagged along at the end and a jarring contrast to the Sakuraba style. Again, it's the presentation of the album rather than the music that's at fault. The second disc is a drama side featuring an interpretation of the game's story from Japanese voice actors with musical backing. It seems well-acted, standing out for its use of distinctive voice actors, and is enhanced by a competent selection of sound effects. Non-Japanese speakers will generally be able to decipher the basics of what's going on and hearing the game's musical score change in conjunction with the mood adds a bit of novelty. However, this feature will mostly appeal to Japanese speakers. It's thus a decent bonus that will be useless for many.


An unremarkable release from a remarkable composer, the Tales of the Tempest reflects the negative consequences of Sakuraba's unbelievable workload. The biggest problem with the Tales of the Tempest Original Soundtrack is its presentation in album form. The placement of battle tracks at the start and cinematic tracks at the end stops any dramatic arch being formed, while the battle and town themes would be much more interesting if dispersed across the soundtrack rather than clustered into discreet sections of the soundtrack. I would enjoy it twice as much were the track listings carefully revised. The music itself is very derivative and most pieces have similar and often superior counterparts present in Sakuraba's past work. Nevertheless, there are a handful of stand out tracks and the setting themes are especially emotional. I also felt Sakuraba largely did a good job producing a score that complements the game within a short production time. The soundtrack sounds technologically commanded and often powerful on the DS. I recommend it mostly for those who especially enjoyed the soundtrack within the context of the game and those who haven't quite overdosed on Sakuraba yet.

Overall Score: 6/10