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Stella Deus Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dave

Stella Deus Original Soundtrack Album Title: Stella Deus Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Aniplex
Catalog No.: SVWC-7215
Release Date: October 6, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity, designed by Atlus Co., was a big hit in Japan. A strategy-RPG, it was said to be the best of its kind since Final Fantasy Tactics, in terms of storyline and gameplay, at least. Another parallel the game had with Final Fantasy Tactics was that its score was composed by the same two people: the classic tag team Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, also known for their collaborations with Hayato Matsuo in the Ogre series. If you have listened to the Final Fantasy Tactics Original Soundtrack, then you can expect more of the same. The melodies are similar, and the structures are alike. The synth that they use is once again remarkable; their string synth is amongst the best to be heard. It all adds to the effect of a beautiful album.


Hitoshi Sakimoto's Contributions

Influenced by the Yellow Magic Orchestra and the Becker Brothers, Sakimoto is one of the top composers around. Well, due to the sheer amount of time he puts into his work, it would be very strange for him not to be!

"I do not endorse any style or environment. I just love my music and my job, no matter what the scale." - Hitoshi Sakimoto

On this album, what he says in this quote is highly evidential, as he does seem to wander. However, with tracks like "Alchemy (The Theme of Man)" you know instantly that he cannot go wrong! This theme is a proud and monumental account of the trials of a group of people torn in half by opposing tribes. This is a track all about the achievements of mankind. He expresses this openly with the use of regal brass instruments. The percussion provides excellent transitions from section to section. The harp, flutes, and oboes provide a transition to the passionately composed line of the main theme. This theme is one of the best that Sakimoto has ever written.

Sakimoto seems to have the ability to compose a variety of tracks in this album, each with an entirely different feeling. He expresses dark themes the best; however, this is too generalised, as he has his own different versions of what this means. We have the more active and alarming tracks, like "Danger," more tragic pieces, as in "Game Over," and the pure evil ones, such as "While Feeling Doubt." As well as this, some of the darker tracks feature much slower melodies. "Requiem," for example, has unpredictable modulations in its horn section, yet the slow melodic smoothness of the track is still retained. Furthermore, we have "Main Battle Music," another great track, which has an innovative rhythm and a very wide use of timbre. Sakimoto also composed "Disciple of the Darkness," which is a rather slow chorale. The suspensions used in this track are unbelievably good and add a great deal of heartfelt emotion to the track.

Sakimoto's lighter side is just as impressive; with lively tracks like "Name Entry," "Save-Load Screen," and "Bright Atmosphere," one can see that this side of his composition is also very effective. These all contain wonderful melodies, bright orchestration, and fine harmonies, fitting the score well. Sakimoto's grandiose and "royal" tracks are amongst the best on this album, particularly "Prince of a Ruined Country," which actually becomes filled with uncertainty after its initial steady pace. Another wonderful track is "Recollection of the Past Theme," which sounds extremely pure and delicate thanks to the use of the tuned percussion.

To cap off his contributions, we have his last track, "Holy Spirit (Spirit Theme)," which truly startled me when I eventually listened to it. Following an introduction comes the voice of arugarei. She sings the theme to perfection. In comparison to other game music divas, who tend to be quite bland or shallow, this seems to be quite a feat. Following accusations of this soundtrack being bland, I think that "Holy Spirit (Spirit Theme)" may change a few minds — the structure of the track, its spiritual nature, and its singer's beautiful voice ensures it all works! It's an amazing achievement, which is Hitoshi Sakimoto's first vocal work to date.

Masaharu Iwata's Contributions

Iwata and Sakimoto met in a game plaza 14 years ago, and since then they have collaborated on numerous occasions. Iwata is fascinated with nature (herbal supplements, mainly). This seems to reflect very much so in the music that he writes. In no way does he imitate Sakimoto, and that is why they make a great pair — diversity is paramount!

"Game music fills the deficiencies of games and it has a meaning more than sound." - Masaharu Iwata

He sees through music and fiddles with the intricate details behind it. His method of composition, although not unique, is very impressive. He is a composer who wants to make the best out of a situation, and wants to make everything piece together. Iwata has had a lot of experience along the way, originally composing for Quest's Ogre series, and the experimental score for Sting's Baroque. His compositions are impressive, and this album is no exception! He and his composition seem to have evolved over the years, and it has been clearly beneficial! The majority of the tracks he has composed for this album are very energetic — "Guild," "Time for Activity," and "Shop," for instance, show this. As well as this, he is great at making the more noble tracks stand out. "Vize" is the most classic example of this. It is truly a remarkable track!

His dark side however, when compared to Sakimoto's, doesn't seem as dominant. It finally emerges in the battle themes. His crisis tracks like "Powerful Enemy," and "Unfavorable Circumstances" are well done, yet there seems to be something missing. However, he does become more prominent in the more dramatic and militaristic sequences. "Decisive Battle" is the best occurrence of this. It is climactic; the use of timpani is prominent and the brass section is also powerful. You can't help but to feel a sense of need for success though, and a need to fulfil ambition. Finally, there is "Epilogue," which is a little disappointing, especially after the wonderful ending and staff roll themes Sakimoto provided for the series. A beautiful trombone plays a wonderful line that begins this grandiose track, but it ends too soon, and just needs to develop further. At least it transitions well into "Holy Spirit (Spirit Theme)."

As well as all this, he has a number of other great tracks dotted all around the album, with "Everyday," and the slow "Highlands" being amongst the most prominent contributions. "Highlands," the final dungeon theme, is expressive in its own right and crescendos to a peak at a fortissimo passage before moving into a brass section. Iwata's greatest contribution is "Disciple of the Light." A melody on bells mesmerises you as the track proceeds. A harp plays a wonderful arpeggiated accompaniment. When the soprano voice is added, it just makes the track more magical. This composition is just superb. It is angelic, touching, and sublimely written. Indeed, overall, his tracks are very prominent, and it would seem that there is no instrument that he cannot manipulate well.


The tag team duo Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata have really given us a treat with this masterpiece. It is noticeable that their styles have matured since Final Fantasy Tactics. The colour and flare though is all still there! Iwata and Sakimoto's deep respect for each other also truly shines through in this album.

"I think [Hitoshi Sakimoto's] music is wonderful. I can't imitate his music, because it has a magnificent scale." - Masaharu Iwata

Not only does this provide them with an excellent work ethic, but plenty of inspiration. What they have achieved here is truly remarkable, and though not as long as some of their previous albums, its quality is still there. Even tracks like "Name Entry" and "Save-Load Screen" are profoundly composed, and not filler tracks like many albums of similar caliber.

To conclude, get a variety of rich instruments, excellent sound quality, and some of the finest composers in game music, and there you have it! If you liked the Final Fantasy Tactics Original Soundtrack, then you are in for a treat with this one. This is an album that you shouldn't miss, so go out and buy it. Now!

Overall Score: 10/10