Crimson Shroud Original Soundtrack :: Review by Don
Crimson Shroud is a component of a four game compilation, called Guild01, recently released for the 3DS. Created by legendary designer Yasumi Matsuno, the title is a fantasy RPG reminiscent of classic titles. Once again, Matsuno requested that Hitoshi Sakimoto led the soundtrack for the title, joined by some colleagues at Basiscape. Despite being part of a compilation, the soundtrack is surprisingly vast and even features some live orchestra performances by gaQdan. Whereas other titles in the commercially disappointing compilation have yet to receive soundtrack releases, Sakimoto nevertheless proudly released his latest soundtrack through his in-house label.
The album opens up with "Main Theme". While brief, this track is classic Sakimoto with its bright melody and magical orchestration. Featuring moments of mysticism, heroism, and tension, it really does sum up the majority of the soundtrack styles quite nicely. In many ways, it's reminiscent of Sakimoto's classic openers for other Matsuno RPGs, albeit somewhat lighter. A defining and more outstanding contribution to the soundtrack is "Sinner's Requiem". Opening up with a very magical and joyous passage that focuses on woodwinds, it creates a very charming melody that incorporates the main theme of the game. As the track progresses, the overall atmosphere shifts to a bit more heroic and grandiose with a small spattering of some mysterious passages. Here, the orchestra bring additional drama and depth to the music, just as Eminence on the Valkyria Chronicles series. It's a wonderful way to tie the soundtrack together.
In addition to the outwardly focused major themes, a number of tracks explore more personal aspects of Crimson Shroud. "A World Where Magic Never Was" offers a very touching and poignant melody using lonely but beautiful strings and woodwind passages. It reminds me in some ways of the Valkyria Chronicles series' more heartfelt themes. Similarly, "Her Reputation Precedes Her" offers a similar soundscape, although a bit more hopeful in terms of soundscape. The woodwind work stands out here, thanks to its much more playful tone in contrast with the somber strings work. Speaking of somber, "Was It All a Lie?" has a regretful tone to it that is demonstrated by the violin lead and the equally depressing strings harmonies.
Of course, Sakimoto also contributes some themes fit for battle, though they're nothing remarkable. "You Have Erred" is quite chaotic, featuring militaristic percussion, swelling and powerful brass leads and harmonies, as well as frenetic strings work. In many ways, it sounds much like any dark Sakimoto battle theme, but at the same time, it is still quite enjoyable. "They Haven't Seen Us" is also typical of a Sakimoto battle theme. Incorporating the heroic portion of the main theme, it surely carries with it a frenetic atmosphere, but it would fit quite nicely in the Valkyria Chronicles series as well. Rather than create a frenetic and fast tempo atmosphere, the focus on brooding and powerful tones in "Seven Years" makes the theme a bit more enjoyable.
Among the more ambient entries, "She Broke the Rules" and "The Crimson Shroud" employ Sakimoto's standard soundscaping techniques. There are ominous strings, brooding percussion, and, in the latter, some mysterious passages that all create a dark, magical atmosphere. features ominous strings and brooding percussion to create a very uneasy atmosphere. More creative is "The Underground Labyrinth", with its striking choral tones and dark orchestration. In some ways, it reminds me of some of the darker area themes in Final Fantasy XII, but not as engaging. Out of all the tracks, the one that stands out as particularly different is "No Picnic for Me". Instead of dark and magical orchestrations, here Sakimoto incorporates an upbeat pop style. Yoshimi Kudo even colours the theme on acoustic guitar. While it is a fairly enjoyable theme, it definitely seems to be misplaced on this soundtrack.
Although the majority of the soundtrack was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, the supporting composers produced the most interesting entries. For example, Mitsuhiro Kaneda continues the moody focus of the soundtrack with "Have Faith" and "Why Stop Now". While the latter almost copies Sakimoto's style verbatim, the former passage includes some intricate percussion and unusual orchestration, bringing much-needed variety to the gameplay and album. Kaneda also incorporates Sakimoto's ideas into "I Think It's Angry", this time quoting the main theme. But the way he does so is quite brilliant, bringing a heroic air to a theme filled with twists and turns. "The Palm of Her Hand" also stands out on the soundtrack. Kaneda's manipulation of the brass truly shines, providing a driving force behind the album. In addition, the brooding percussion and the beautiful, haunting choral tones really help accentuate the overall atmosphere.
The rest of the contributors only make guest entries, some more notable than others. Kimihiro Abe contributes two battle thmees, the relatively unremarkable "They Don't Look That Tough" and the more inspiring "Show Your Mettle"; while the latter does have a Sakimoto-inspired sound to it, I feel that the live orchestra performance, in particular the violin line, really helps manage to make it stand out. Azusa Chiba also incorporates the main theme into her contribution "The Last Thing", this time as an uplifting piano interlude. As for the rest of the track, all the elements, from the militaristic percussion to wonderful strings and brass tones, work quite well to create a very oppressive environment. Masaharu Iwata's single contribution "Fight or Flight" really captures that tense feeling of battle quite nicely. While I find the horn melody to be the stand out of the track, I must commend the strings and horn harmonies as well, as they really offer a nice textural contrast to the music.
The Crimson Shroud Original Soundtrack is a mixed bag. Sakimoto's pieces revisit his classic orchestral sound, but often sound uninspired and rarely have the breadth of his greatest soundtracks. There are nevertheless some beautiful gems, such as the main theme and contemplative tracks, while the guest contributors generally supplement the soundtrack with solid tracks. Despite being part of a 3DS compilation, all the tracks are also meticulously composed and competently implemented, even benefiting from orchestral performances. Fans of Sakimoto will surely enjoy this, as it's a bit of a mix of old and new, but listeners shouldn't expect anything groundbreaking. If you've played the game and heard the samples on the official site for the album, you might want to pick them up if you liked what you heard.
Overall Score: 6/10