Romancing SaGa 2 Eternal Romance :: Review by Dave
After the deviant French-styled arranged album for Romancing SaGa, Kenji Ito and Kensuke Matsushita decided to produce a more conventional orchestral album for the sequel. Romancing SaGa 2 Eternal Romance continues to emphasise the romanticism of the series with its elaborate orchestrations and choral passages. However, this romanticism is so obvious here that the result will alienate certain listeners.
The album opens with a rendition of the expansive prologue theme. In contrast to the original, Ryo Fukui incorporates several themes, including the trilogy's overture, to achieve a fluid and cohesive whole. Furthermore, the emotional performance of the string group and the crystal clear recording quality are a welcome departure from the often drab synth of the Super Nintendo. The orchestration throughout has a strong romantic influence, with gushing suspended strings and rich piano underlays. While these qualities will be embraced by many listeners, many will also find the resultant effect sounds schmaltzy. This will be a disappointment for those expecting something as creative and subtle as Romancing SaGa La Romance. However, the arrangement quality and production values are nevertheless top-notch.
While romantic influence of Ryo Fukui's orchestration is featured throughout the soundtrack, not all tracks are as gushing as the opening. A tone poem of sorts, "Myriad Mystique" is more influenced by Mussorgsky than Rachmaninoff, with its foreboding chalumeau clarinets and tense tremolo strings. "Aspirants" is more influenced by the older cinematic composers and achieves quite a dramatic development, reflecting the outward effect of war with grandiose orchestrations and thrusting percussion, while reflecting its personal effects with its lamentations and humble kazoo-supported interjections. These two tracks are among the few that reflect the darker influence of the original soundtrack. "Embracing You in My Heart" meanwhile focuses more on conveying intimacy, capturing the romanticism of the main character with a humble but expressive violin solo, that is progressively orchestrated as his feelings are reciprocated.
A particular highlight of Romancing SaGa 2 Eternal Romance is the incorporation of choral tracks. "Colors" transforms a once typical town theme into something potentially spiritually enlightening. The track seems to bloom throughout its multi-tiered development and the way the vocal lines reverberate over the romantic strings is truly moving. "Nereid Song" is also an inspired rendition of "Voyage". It gradually thickens from a soft piano introduction into an intimate chamber orchestration and finally a lavish aria. While transient, the voice in this track is exquisite and captures the sound of a mermaid. The female vocals used in "Bitter Prophecy", on the other hand, have a tragic and wailing quality. They add a whole new level of humanity to the dark romantic orchestration that precedes.
Among other deviations, "Exotic Dusk" maintains a mature approach of the rest of the album while offering an unobtrusive cinematic quality. The authentic use of Chinese strings and percussion enhances the scenic nature of the arrangement without disturbing the orchestration or Kenji Ito's original vision. Oriental instrumentation is also used in a less prominent manner in "Mermaid Tears", an affecting if somewhat shameless display of emotion. Finally, "Preciousness" captures a sense of relief at the conclusion of the album with its combination of children's chorus and serene strings. It'll be an astonishing and emotional composition for those who enjoy extremely gushing music, though will be overdone for those expecting artistic restraint. Either way, it's a fitting and encompassing way to end the album.
Romancing SaGa 2 Eternal Romance is easily one of the most richly arranged and beautifully performed orchestral albums in the history of game music. Some of the orchestration and choral writing here is nothing short of exquisite. However, Ryo Fukui's approach is so exuberant that many will find the orchestrations too dramatic or sentimental for their tastes. Most of the remainder will consider the album a masterpiece.
Overall Score: 8/10