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Ogre Battle 64 Original Soundtracks :: Review by Dave

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber Original Soundtracks Album Title: Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber Original Soundtracks
Record Label: Datam Polystar
Catalog No.: DPCX-5203/5
Release Date: August 1, 1999
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Ogre series has always featured some great music and I am proud to say that Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber Original Soundtracks is no exception. Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata team up with Hayato Matsuo in this gem of an album to compose a selection of grand, orchestrated themes. The album contains an Original Soundtracks section which makes up the whole of the first disc and a MIDI Arranged Version which spans across Disc Two and Disc Three. Most people will more than likely prefer listening to the MIDI section, simply because the quality of sound is much better since the Nintendo 64's sound chip downgraded the music in the Original Soundtracks section. It's a mixed experience, and it's certainly not for fans of ambient music, as, after all, the Ogre series has always been decisively militaristic. Read on to learn more about the composers' contributions


Hitoshi Sakimoto's Contributions

It's not everyday that you see Hitoshi Sakimoto carry the same themes that he used in an album to its sequel, but this is one of those rare times. Sakimoto's themes on this album are built up from earlier contributions on Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, and in some ways, this just adds a bit of tradition to the album, despite the fact that it is dissapointing to see that there isn't a single original composition from him. Nonetheless, his tracks delve into a number of different emotions and they all create a meaningful experience. The first track on the album is "Overture," which is the main theme for the series. The epic, orchestral style of this track really gives the album a nice touch in that it is filled with pride, and, after hearing this theme, the listener is left wanting much more. The next theme that we hear from him is the pure "Fortune Teller 2," which received a beautiful arrangement on the Ogre ~Grand Repeat~ album. The ambient and mystical nature of this track does it justice, despite the fact that it seems out of place on an album littered with battle themes and militaristic tracks. The next theme also received an arrangement; "Revolt" is one of the most pride filled compositions on the album, and it is down to the steady beat, march-like drums, and roaring brass that it achieves this.

Soon enough, his darker compositions start to come through, and although there aren't many of them, they really stand out amongst the other tracks. "Notice of Death" was the composition that struck me the most out of his darker themes. There is a sense of mysticality brought about by a pure instrument that plays a continuous pedal in the background of the track, and, added to this, the string part adds a dominant undertone that is filled with a sense of fear and anxiety. The choices of dynamic positioning in this track are perfect, and due to this, the whole theme just seems to be a lot more fulfilling. "Prayer" is another dark theme that holds a lot of promise, but with it being even shorter, take any real development that it could have offered as being a non-event. The MIDI version of this track is twice as long, and it is certainly a lot more pleasing in that it features a choir, too, so at the end of the day, not all of the potential is wasted. "Theme of the Priest" is another ominous theme from Sakimoto, but it hardly has the same sense of atmosphere or the same dynamic range. Nonetheless, these are the best tracks that Sakimoto has to offer on the album, but with the contribution of some shorter, and certainly required, tracks, too, he really helps Iwata and Matsuo out.

Masaharu Iwata's Contributions

Masaharu Iwata also takes a laid back role in this soundtrack, but the good thing is that he creates some memorable and original themes along with tracks taken from previous instalments of the series. His pride filled themes are probably the most limiting, as, with there only being two of them, he doesn't really have the opportunity to show off any diversity or major musical skills. "Entrance Parade" is the first of these tracks, but it is really let loose in the MIDI section, where it gains a bit of pace as well. The orchestration brings out the best of this track, that's for sure, but, if you have listened to the All Sounds of Ogre Battle album, it can be so much more. "Hopeful Future" is another pride filled theme, but this time it seems to be a lot statelier, too. The brass section takes the lead in this theme, and, without a doubt, any other instrument would have ruined the theme. The ball finally starts rolling when he introduces the listener to some dark themes. First of all, the chilling "Fog of Phantom" from the Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together album is sure to wake anybody up. The Nintendo 64 version doesn't justify the full qualities of this track due to the poor sound, but with the MIDI section lying on just another disc, one can truly respect the beauty of the instrumentation and dynamics. "Deathrattle" and "Footsteps from Darkness" are just as good. Iwata just seems to find an equilibrium with his ominous themes, and this really does the album a lot of good.

Battle themes and chaotic themes are pretty much Iwata's forte on this album, and it shouldn't be a surprise to you that the superb "Billow of the Dark" makes a return. This track works really well alongside Matsuo's "Rrrowf," and this is simply because of the suspense enhancing bass line that it fits in so well. The start of the track consists of a rushed sequence which is both announcing and fear enhancing due to a crescendo that is also added in. The greatest asset is the way that every part interweaves in a snake-like fashion and then suddenly comes together to create a perfect climax. "Decisive" is one of the best standard battle themes out there, but why is this? This track has a great melody and the dynamic contrasts give it an awesome replay value, too. The way that it is structured is another great asset to the album, because, at one point, the whole track just stops and then carries on as normal as if there was no interruption. The intensity of this theme is like no other on the album, with an exception being the next track, namely "Deliverance." "Deliverance" is a militaristic and upbeat theme that portrays the main character's refusal to lose, perfectly. Ideally, this track should have been a lot longer, but the MIDI version seems to do it as much justice as possible in this area. On the whole, Iwata's contributions are a great success, and with some fun pieces thrown in too, namely "The Fatty Rat," what he offers is splendid.

Hayato Matsuo's Contributions

Hayato Matsuo was never really recognised for his work on the Ogre series, but this album changed that. Matsuo has composed more tracks for this album than Sakimoto and Iwata combined, and, considering the size of the album too, this is quite an immaculate achievement. The tracks that he has composed for this album generally take a dark and sometimes chaotic form, but what he has composed in the light and pride filled areas of the album are quite a pleasure to listen to. "Accretion Disk" is an amazingly upbeat theme that has a sense of honour and pride about it, but there is one problem that arises in that it has no climax. The theme is perfectly orchestrated, but that really lets it down. "Sally Forth" is a pride filled track that is filled with a sense of honour and obedience. The timpani bass in this track is the sole provider of rhythm and a brass section melody is the main provider of tonal goodness. Nonetheless, this theme is no match for "Revolted," which takes the melody from "Revolt" and makes it even more meaningful with the use of a great chord progression.

Even so, it is his darker themes that stand out the most on this album. There are relatively few sad themes as such, seeing as though he concentrates the most on chaotic themes, but, like the light-hearted themes, what he does compose really has an everlasting effect. "Premonition" is the first sad theme on the album, and although it eventually expands into something militaristic and triumphant, the start of the track is quite emotional. He follows this track up with "The Funeral" and "Amazing Grace" later on in the album, both of which use some airy instruments to enhance the feeling of dismay. Even so, these themes don't compare to his work with the battle themes and other chaotic themes for the album. There is a series of tracks that he composed for the album that are aimed at certain worlds in the game. "The World of Today" is an ominous track that features a quickly played piano which seems to have a certain bite to it. Initially, the focus is placed upon the piano line, but as strings are added on top of this, the track explores a whole new mystical dimension. The next track, "Under the World" is announced with some rampant brass that stutter upon some staccato notes, and, following this, a similar melody to the one used in "The Bloody World" is played. By far the best world theme on the album, however, is "The World for the People." "The World for the People" has a great melody that is used to its total justification, and with a bit of development on top, this is one of the best tracks on the album.

Matsuo also composes the ending themes for the album, and although this job is usually taken up by Sakimoto, he was too busy working on Vagrant Story at the time. The first of the ending themes, "Alone" is a perfectly quaint and pure gem. Violins play a glorious melody as a 'cello moves in the background of the track alongside a harp melody. A flute takes over the melody for a while as the violins begin to play a small accompaniment. This track would have been so much better with a climax, but as it stands, it is quite an effective track. "Terminally" is much more ominous in nature, but there are fragments of hope dotted about the track. The brass section returns in this theme to make it sound militaristic, too, which is an added bonus, seeing as though it relates to the death of one of our battling heroes. The second to last track, "The Lingering Imagery" describes the way that journey will have an everlasting effect on the group, and, judging by the minor tone, it is one of regret, reluctance, and loss, too. The same violin and partly orchestral instrumentation in this is carried on into the final track of the album, namely "After Words," which is a thrilling experience. The strings take a much more dominant role in this track however, and, with a little flurry of pride and joy added in at the end, this theme ends the album on a high.


All in all, this is a great album. Having three composers join together to create such a refreshing score is a blessing, if not a godsend. Sakimoto's contributions were dissapointing in quantity, but quality-wise, they were certainly an enjoyment. Admittedly, I was surprised to see Iwata and Sakimoto take such a laid back approach to the creation of this album, but on the whole it seems to have worked out pretty well. Hayato Matsuo finally receives his long awaited recognition with this album, and with each of his themes showing off a certain bit of skill, this was a great way to show the fans of the series that he was also behind the music in the earlier games. There aren't many flaws in this album, but the short length of most of the tracks is a letdown in most cases. I wouldn't class this as the best Ogre album to date, but with all things considered, it's a pretty good one. Let's hope that Matsuo keeps on composing for Square and that every ounce of that hidden potential will finally be released.

Overall Score: 8/10