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Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack Complete Box :: Forum Review

Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack Complete Box Album Title: Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack Complete Box
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Catalog No.: TOCT-26221/9
Release Date: March 28, 2007
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Chris

As with the game, the music of Kingdom Hearts combines the Disney theme and music one would expect to hear in a fantasy Role Playing Game. Most of the background music and battle themes are based off of Disney titles that they pertain to whereas the character themes, and the 'event' music is all very original and very well done.

Although most of the tracks have a sort of light, sugar-coated feeling, the soundtrack tends to get darker as it progresses. The high points of this album are the beginning and end, as this is where most of the interesting plot points are drawn out through the scores.

The main theme, "Hikari," shows up in scattered remixes around the Original Soundtrack and most of them are really nice. The orchestrated version adds a nice epic opener to the Original Soundtrack, whereas the actual J-Pop performance adds some modern culture to the mix.

The best way to describe this album is to say that it's very balanced in terms of styles, moods, and even overall quality. It's a good soundtrack if you can get past it's 'cuteness'.

Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack

Disc One

1) Dearly Beloved (Written by Chris)

"Dearly Beloved," the title screen theme for Kingdom Hearts, is neither epic nor complex. Instead, it is something that can be described as plain 'nice'. Shimomura achieves wonderful things with the piano; the track's solo piano lines are fluently crafted and develop naturally to create the warm feeling of a new dawning. I cannot think of a better choice of title theme for the game. (9/10)

2) Hikari - KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version (Written by Totz)

This is the first appearance of the "Hikari" theme, and, gosh, what a beautiful rendition. Shimomura is not responsible for this, though. The genius behind this orchestral arrangement is Kaworu Wada, but Utada Hikaru is the composer of the original theme. I wish I could understand more about the instruments and stuff so I could give you a more in-depth review, but believe you me: this is pure gold. This track holds parallels with "Liberi Fatali," but is completely different and way more awesome. (10/10)

3) Hikari - PLANITb Remix (Short Edit) (Written by Chris)

When the word J-Pop is mentioned, a fair proportion of the gaming population immediately think 'Ugh!' and then just turn off. While it is inevitable that some people will dislike this theme because of this, I think a lot of people's negative preconceptions about J-Pop were reversed after listening to it. Its three primary elements — its funky electric beats, Utada Hikaru's superb vocals, and the effective ingrations of lots of unusual synth and electronic effects — ensure it is an unforgettable and extraordinary listen. Additionally, Russell McNamara does a great job arranging the "Simple and Clean" theme from a ballad into something much more upbeat. He also ensures that it synchronises aptly with the opening FMV for the game. While undoubtedly a controversial track, the open-minded listener should have no problem accustoming to it. (9/10)

4) Dive Into the Heart -Destati- (Written by Totz)

After the electronic-fest that was the previous track, we come to a more much ambient piece. "Dive Into the Heart -Destati" is played as the game gives you a brief tutorial and a couple of choices here and there. It is also the first appearance of the "Destati" theme and, as you'll tell by the tracks it's featured in, that theme means UH OH MISTERY or UH OH DANGER or UH OH BOTH. Anyway, it's another superb track that doesn't deserve to be skipped. (9/10)

5) Destiny Islands (Written by Neo Locke)

This is a nice little tropical tune to portray Sora's secluded paradise. As far as tropical tracks go, this is pretty good. It's got a nice simple melody and hardly any harmony. This gives the track a light feeling to it, a sort of innocence to put it in a more analytical light. There's no fancy instrumentation or motif; just a relaxing, fun little tune. (8/10)

6) Bustin' Up on the Beach (Written by Totz)

This is Destiny Island's battle theme. I didn't really have to say that, because it's easy to tell, because both tracks give you the same laidback, relaxing feeling. Just like "Destiny Islands," "Bustin' Up on the Beach" is a simple, fun tune that doesn't rely on over-the-top instrumentation to be enjoyable and memorable. In other words, it's got "Shimomura wrote this" written all over it. (9/10)

7) Mickey Mouse Club March (Written by Djinova)

This track starts off in a very satirical way. The heavy beats should indicate something serious — something stompy. But soon thereafter the track slips down into a cute, comical tune. It reminds me of certain Disney figures whose pompous outer appearance misleads people about their inner character. They are actually quite innocuous. All in all, it's a pleasant, light-hearted listen, although I do feel it's too short and underdeveloped to really be a masterpiece. (8/10)

8) Treasured Memories (Written by Chris)

This track is essentially a solo piano track with accompaniment from soft strings. The piano lines are very soothing, just like in "Dearly Beloved," making it ideal background music for the several sentimental flashbacks that occur in the game. Indeed, Shimomura really shows off her piano ability once again here, and while not quite as memorable as "Dearly Beloved," it's still very good. (8/10)

9) Strange Whispers (Written by Chris)

I swear that this track is heavily inspired by Junya Nakano's "Twilight" in the Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack: both consist of nothing but suspended strings; they use very gradual chord progressions; and are used heavily during mysterious scenes in each games. Most importantly, however, both are hellishly boring. Ambient music that is musically unremarkable never appeals to me. I don't think I'm alone there. (4/10)

10) Kairi I (Written by Totz)

Shimomura proves once again how powerful a simple melody with simple instrumentation can be. This track portrays perfectly the delicate and innocent Kairi and, while I think this theme is overarranged, this track is the best one. (9/10)

11) It Began With a Letter (Written by Chris)

This track consists of nothing more than a pizzicato bass, some poorly synthesised vocals, and a couple of tuned percussion motifs. The overall feel presented is a cross between being sneaky and mysterious. This track can be summarised as being tolerable, but completely unmemorable. (6/10)

12) A Walk in Andante (Written by Djinova)

This track would fit the description of unspectacular at best. It's short and doesn't develop into a highlight, but it is unnerving nonetheless. The innocent, cute tag of Kingdom Hearts is written on this track, which means is pretty enjoyable for a short period in which you hear it. It is indeed nothing peculiar, but I can't see any flaws or annoying features. (7/10)

13) Night of Fate (Written by Totz)

After two rather forgettable tracks, we get "Night of Fate," one of the best battle themes of the whole album. While not as powerful as later battle themes, it still manages to create a feeling of tension and danger as Sora fights against the powerful Heartless. Definitely a track worth remembering. (9/10)

14) Destiny's Force (Written by Neo Locke)

This is the battle theme whenever Sora fights a Nightmare. It's an ominous battle theme with a heavy accent on the strings. There's not much to say about this track — it's kind of slow for a battle theme, and mostly bland. Don't get me wrong — it's not among the awful tracks on this album, but it doesn't quite have the quality that is found in the more memorable pieces. (6/10)

15) Where is This? (Written by Djinova)

This track starts off very ominously. One might expect something serious to happen, but it slips down into a comical tone at 0:40, which is typical for a Disney theme. The transition between the contrasting parts was well done, since it was very subtle, thus creating no sense of interruption or incoherence. Still, unfortunately, the rest of the track was either way unremarkable or remarkably dull. The good parts didn't last long! (8/10)

16) Traverse Town (Written by Talaysen)

Most people have told me this track isn't any good. I'd have to disagree. While it may not be the best town theme out there, it's good enough on its own. In essence, it's just another peaceful town theme though. The melody from the saxophone is quite good. The accompaniment isn't all that interesting though, but it does the part. Overall, this is a good peaceful track to listen to, but nothing spectacular. (7/10)

17) The Heartless Has Come (Written by Chris)

This track seems like one big ironic statement to me. It starts off ominously, presenting a foreboding atmosphere similar to "Strange Whispers," creating a certain amount of tension concerning the arrival of the heartless in Traverse Town. However, the melodies that soon emerge are utterly ridiculous and are entirely 'slapstick'. I know the game is intended to appeal to a younger audience, but surely Shimomura could have represented the Heartless in a darker light than this. This track is so laughable, it's untrue. (5/10)

18) Shrouding Dark Cloud (Written by Chris)

One thing that the Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack has an abundance of is battle themes. There's a normal battle theme and boss battle theme to represent practically every area you go to within the game, and while each declares 'Shimomura' brightly, they all have their individual subtleties that make them worthwhile for frequent listening. "Shrouding Dark Cloud" is no exception. Its many elements — from its wide array of instrumentation to its chilling chord progressions, from its unforgettable melodies to its pulsing bass line — make it the embodiment of a strong yet stereotypical boss battle theme. What really makes it intriguing to me, however, are the chromatic descending runs that sporadically appear and the completely unintrusive piano use that can easily go unnoticed. Every time I listen to this track, something new seems to magically emerge. It's worth many listens! (9/10)

19) Blast Away! -Gummi Ship I- (Written by Chris)

A Come on, Sora, Donald, and Goofy!! We're going flying in an ubertastic gummi spaceship. Look at those psychadelic colours!! Have the game programmers been experimenting recently? Oh no!! There's other gummi ships shooting at me!! What do I do? *crashes*

Sure, every element of flying the legendary gummi ships sucked in the game. Well, nearly. The music accompanying these sequences is, of course, an exception. All three gummi ship themes make pleasant light-hearted listening and, while they are hardly revolutionary in musical terms, they add a certain amount of colour to the soundtrack. That's all that matters, right? "Blast Away! -Gummi Ship I-" is probably the most outwardly enjoyable and melodic of the three. It is also the happiest. What better way is there to start your journey? (8/10)

20) Tricksy Clock (Written by Totz)

Uh-oh, filler track alert! Incoming! I'm sorry, but what the heck is this? The track is 38 seconds long, but the actual melody only begins when it hits the 18 second mark. Not to mention it's not even THAT good. Sure, it's not bad, but it ain't good either. (5/10)

21) Welcome to Wonderland (Written by Totz)

Ah, now we're talking. After such a letdown, we are treated to this, the theme of the second world. It captivates perfectly the environment of the Wonderland, but, unfortunately you won't hear too much of it, because of those frickin' Heartless who keep attacking you. Anyway, alone, this track is great, but when you combine it with the next track, you get two excellent tracks that flow smoothly into one another. (9/10)

22) To Our Surprise (Written by Totz)

Ah, Wonderland's battle theme. Oh, how many memories I have of it. Battling the Heartless and. battling them again. Like I said in the previous track's review, "To Our Surprise" can be played either before of after "Welcome to Wonderland," and the flow would be the same. This is one of the great things in the soundtrack: Shimomura managed to do just that in most world theme/battle theme combos. By the way, the part from 0:43 to 1:01 is awesome! (10/10)

23) Turning the Key (Written by Chris)

Eh? How do you like 16-second filler tracks? Personally, I prefer them with one sugar and no milk. But, what about you? If you like them with synth harps, synth organs, and synth vocals then you'll like this track, I'd expect. (6/10)

24) Olympus Coliseum (Written by Chris)

Out of all the area themes in the games, "Olympus Coliseum" is probably the weakest. The opening melody is a little too pompous for my liking and there seems to be a few too many clumsy transitions as the piece progresses. The instrumentation and harmony are effective in this piece, but the melody just doesn't cut it. Bah. (6/10)

25) Road to a Hero (Written by Chris)

The battle theme for Olympus Coliseum isn't too shabby. While Shimomura insists on using that wretched melody from "Olympus Coliseum" throughout, it feels less pompous and 'in your face' when spruced up into an energetic and upbeat battle theme. Outstanding brass use is definitely what makes this theme more than just an average battle theme; the tuba basso ostinato is very quirky while the fanfare-like noises that sporadically appear throughout the track give it a lot more 'oomph' as it develops. Good job. (8/10)

26) Go for It! (Written by Hanta)

One of the battle themes for the Coliseum world and in typical Herculean style has a big brassy opening and a marching drum beat. The main feel of this track is "heroic" and at the same time I think it's quite a bit of fun with a xylophone peppering the track and nice use of the brassy instruments accompanying the violin melody. A very light-hearted battle theme that fits the comedic nature of Disney's Hercules. Not my favourite battle theme but it is appropiate for the colosseum setting. (8/10)

27) No Time to Think (Written by Hanta)

RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Well, this is another filler track and as you can guess it is extremely short and intense. Serves it's purpose though. (6/10)

28) Deep Jungle (Written by Chris)

This track is very reminiscent of Shimomura's most adventurous works from Super Mario RPG and Seiken Densetsu/The Legend of Mana. Its colourful melodies together with its extravagant harmonies and sharp ethnic beats make it a superb interpretation of the game's tropical jungle. It is also one of the catchiest tunes from the Original Soundtrack and has an inherent dance-like quality to it. This is probably the strongest location theme in the game. (10/10)

29) Having a Wild Time (Written by Hanta)

This is Deep Jungle's battle theme and one of my favourite pieces on the soundtrack. This track has a fast tribal beat and has a simple melody that is a bit subdued at first but grows in strength as Shimomura works in the brass and the strings. It can get repetitive sometimes, I admit, but it's very catchy and the simple melody just sticks inside my head. Very good. (9/10)

30) Holy Bananas! (Written by Hanta)

This track takes the melody heard in "Having a Wild Time," pumping up the bass and adding a bit of a techno touch to it. It also uses more of the brass and strings instruments, giving it more of an epic feel than "Having a Wild Time." A great track to dance to or for whenever you want slide down giant trees in the middle of the jungle. (9/10)

31) Squirming Evil (Written by Hanta)

A very deep and heavy boss theme. Lots of drums and brass with some very subtle use of strings and piano making it seem quite chaotic. The bass is really heavy in this track, sometimes drowning out the other instruments and is a little too dominant for my taste. It's a simple battle theme that doesn't change much from it's beginning and so it gets rather repetitive on repeat listens. (7/10)

32) Hand in Hand (Written by Terraguy)

A steady beat that emanates throughout the soundtrack, this song is very well used as a plain field map. Evoking thoughts of times in the past, the use of the snare drum and cymbals keeps it from totally becoming a loving type theme and more of an all-around usage track. The cadenzas around 0:53 minutes and bass drums are great fillers and keeps a normal track from becoming too mundane and repetitive. The rest of the melody makes you feel as if you wanted to be marching with every character at the moment. Unfortunately, this theme, after multiple hearings, becomes a part of the background and starts becoming repetitive. (8/10)

33) Kairi II (Written by Chris)

There's actually very little that differentiates "Kairi I" from "Kairi II." In fact, they are so similar that it is extremely difficult to tell which one plays where in the game. While this track is equally as sweet as "Kairi I," and perhaps even a little richer, the arrangement here isn't at all creative. Although some might call it a subtle arrangement, I would prefer the terms 'blatant copy' and 'filler track'. (6/10)

34) Merlin's Magical House (Written by Terraguy)

Well. The organ and the little bouncy notes are well used and add a mystical quality to this track. It is perfect for someone of being magic, yet this track is a tad too short. If you're devoted to get everything single magic spell, summon, practice magic without cost, or constantly take a trip to the Hundred Acre Woods, you'll get very tired of this track. (7/10)

35) Winnie the Pooh (Written by Terraguy)

Oh look! Here comes that strange yellow stuffed bear with honey! Well, if you like Winnie the Pooh, then you'll love this track. Taken right from the Winnie the Pooh main theme, with a bassoon that creates the bouncy line of the familiar bear and strings making repeated eighth notes, you get the traditional Winnie the Pooh track. A tad slower than the regular one, but many can live with that. Whenever you hear this, you'll know that the Hundred Acre Woods fellows are coming along! (8/10)

36) Bounce-o-rama (Written by Hanta)

Another wonderful bouncy piece from Shimomura. Inherently, it's quite simple but the bouncy beat and the sound of that piano just sends my toe tapping and my head bouncing from side to side. It's quite infectious too, with a lovely child-like quality to it that really reflects the mini games you do in the Hundred Acre Wood. I really love the fun and bright arrangement of this track that seems like it has always belonged in the Winnie the Pooh universe. (9/10)

37) Just an Itty Bitty Too Much (Written by Hanta)

Well, I suppose this can be classified as a filler track, but I like this track for some reason. It's a little more interesting than other fillers as it sounds quite funny and frantic with piano and xylophone playing side by side. You can just see that Pooh is stuck somewhere trying to get his honey and everybody's rallying around trying to get him out of his mess. As with most fillers, it's too short, which is a shame as I would've liked to see this be a full track. (7/10)

38) Once Upon a Time (Written by Terraguy)

This definitely is a filler track. At only 21 seconds, it does not qualify as a real track. A slower, more sweeter arrangement of Winnie the Pooh, it uses only the xylophone. While sounding not too shabby, as the xylophones gives the piece a feel of light-headedness, it is too short. (5/10)

39) Shipmeister's Humoresque (Written by Chris)

This theme is used in the gummi ship workshop in the game. As you might expect, its melodies are broadly based on the three "Blast Away! -Gummi Ship-" themes. However, it is arranged in a way that makes it sound much more mellow and much less brash than these counterparts. In fact, it even sounds 'cute' in certain places. Still, as the track lacks development, this only really constitutes background music in the game and offers little enjoyment when listened to as a standalone track. (7/10)

40) Precious Stars in the Sky (Written by Terraguy)

The main track for the Gummi Ship location chooser, it's actually not a bad piece, considering how horrible the mini-game was. The rattle was gave the piece a different sort of tone, and the melody was nice and calming. The flute and bells added a final soft touch. However, the piece repeats the same theme over and over, with just a change in the key and then back again. Maybe if this piece had some more of a melody and more development, it would garnish a nice score. Yet, without a twist in the track, it is not very noteworthy as being heard alone. (6/10)

41) Blast Away! -Gummi Ship II- (Written by Chris)

The second direct arrangement of the three "Blast Away! -Gummi Ship-" themes is probably the least remarkable. However, it follows the natural progression of the game by being much faster and more agitated than "Blast Away! -Gummi Ship I-," but not as dark and climactic as "Blast Away! -Gummi Ship III-." By being this intermediate, it provides tension and interest in the middle of the game, but doesn't get too dark too soon either. The arrangement itself is quite straightforward, but it suits it purpose appropriately. (7/10)

Disc Two

1) A Day in Agrabah (Written by Terraguy)

Starting out with a deep string instrument, it quickly brings in the tambourines and drums to bring out the desert city theme. It is easily memorable and easily distinguished as the "Oh! I'm here!" thought. At 0:33, when the violin comes in and plays a high melody, it is then that you really fell as if you're in the Middle East. A highly distinguishable track that is sure to keep you fighting fit, it is a great track aptly suitable for the world. (9/10)

2) Arabian Dream (Written by Hanta)

A nice if not rather typical arabian style theme. Not a particularly nasty piece of music, but it does not really stand out. It does have a nice beat and an Arabian dance-like quality to it, but nothing in this piece really makes it stand out from the other battle themes really. It's not as creative in it's arrangement as other battle themes, but it does the job, and lets you know there are heartless around the corner. Best reserved to be listened in the game. (6/10)

3) Villains of a Sort (Written by Chris)

Like the name suggests, this is one of the main villain themes within the game. Unfortunately, Shimomura adopts the oldest cliché in the book to represent it; low suspended strings create a dark atmosphere effectively, but something more creative is warranted for this track to stand out. (6/10)

4) A Very Small Wish (Written by Chris)

"A Very Small Wish" is probably my favourite area theme in the game. Played in Monstro, the thing I love about it is the way there are enormous textural and instrumental contrasts as it develops. It manages to be heavy and dainty at the same time! The pizzicato strings and light wind melodies all create a certain airiness about the theme, but are directly opposed by the cymbals and other percussion instruments that are distinctly bombastic. It manages to be catchy, well developed, and original at the same time, which is no mean feat. Definitely a classic. (10/10)

5) Monstrous Monstro (Written by Hanta)

Now this is a battle theme! A fun and frantic number that is awesomely arranged by Shimomura. A colourful mix of instruments from piano to drums to brass serve to create a great fun and exciting battle track that really gets you going. It really is a funny piece that reminds me of the type of music you'd hear in old black and white comedies. I love how Shimomura plays with the tempo of this piece slowing it down and going low with the piano before speeding up and breaking out with the big band. Just awesome. (10/10)

6) Friends in My Heart (Written by Hanta)

In contrast to the last track, this is a simple and relaxing arrangement of "Dearly Beloved." It sounds like the arrangement was made in heaven with the soothing vocals, lightly plucked harp and the piano carrying the melody. you just feel like floating away. Not outstanding, but a nice track to relax with. (7/10)

7) Under the Sea (Written by Terraguy)

Well, it's the old classic "The Little Mermaid" track "Under the Sea." Good use of xylophone and bells, and the trumpet sets off the lively tune that will make you remember the movie. The "stomp" with the orchestra hit and woodwinds add a nice touch. You might even sing along. This was a rubbish field track, especially the transition from field to battle, in the game. As a standalone, however, it makes a nice track, but it has no ending "smash." (8/10)

8) An Adventure in Atlantica (Written by Chris)

This battle arrangement of the "Under the Sea" theme is fun to listen to. The theme fuses the classic melodies of the "Under the Sea" theme together with a steel drum bonanza (in the style of a Jamaican calypso) and heavy brass use (in the style of Tijuana brass). This abstract fusion is pleasing to listen to, but soon gets annoying when you've heard the theme loop too many times already after listening to it for just five minutes. There are pleasing things about this theme, but it is best listening to it in small quantities. (7/10)

9) A Piece of Peace (Written by Terraguy)

Simple. Very simple. Consisting of a xylophone, piano, and pizzicato strings, it creates a small, lovely melody. However, it is repeated over and over, and it has the same tune, rhythm, and style. If you do not like short notes, then this is a track that is not for you. It is short and unremarkable, with no flowing lines or distinguished shapes of the piece. A filler track. (4/10)

10) An Intense Situation (Written by Chris)

One filler track after another. This 48 second track can be considered as the preparation before the storm that is the next track. It's good for building tension, but does not stand up well on its own thanks to its passages being so repetitive. (4/10)

11) The Deep End (Written by Hanta)

One of the best boss themes on the soundtrack. Shimomura pounds away a dramatic and chaotic boss theme. It really is a storm of instruments of which drums and percussion mainly dominate and there is this awesome section around 0:30 where chords are pounded away on a piano amid the chaos of the drums and the brass. It is a relatively short loop, but, even so, it's still enjoyable to listen to and I love fighting to it in the game. I can't even imagine how Shimomura manipulated the track to make it still sound so good with the PlayStation 2's limited memory. Excellent track. (10/10)

12) This is Halloween (Written by Chris)

Composed by Danny Elfman, the original version of "This Is Halloween" was a vocal theme for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Shimomura's arrangement of it for Kingdom Hearts is a purely instrumental one and, while quite straightforward, this doesn't stop it from being a great track. It manages to portray the disturbing nature of Halloween Town effectively. In addition, it's probably the catchiest theme in the entire game — it's so catchy, in fact, that it'll probably be playing away in your head whenever you go. Listen to this track at your own risk — while it is extremely good, its sheer catchiness might just consume your subconsciousness and drive you further down the slippery slope that leads to madness (if you're not already at the bottom, that is). Be warned!! (9/10)

13) Spooks of Halloween Town (Written by Talaysen)

Shimomura takes the "This is Halloween" theme and puts it behind a more intense battle-like track. Although the track used is kinda repetitious, the theme itself really isn't. There's usually something different about it even when it's the same theme being played. Another great feature of the theme is the little quiet spots strewn throughout the theme followed by a crescendo into the more intense part. This theme is further proof that Shimomura definitely knows what she's doing for battle themes. (9/10)

14) Dopsy-Daisy (Written by Aevloss)

Just 21 seconds long, this lively tune doesn't develop nearly enough to be particularly enjoyable outside of the game. Sporting an unremarkable composition, this track is clearly just another filler track. (4/10)

15) Captain Hook's Pirate Ship (Written by Chris)

Ssshhh! You're infiltrating a pirate ship so you need to keep quiet. While melodically unappealing, "Captain Hook's Pirate Ship" is ideal for representing your party sneaking around the pirate ship in the game. A 'cello, some pizzicato strings, and various percussion instruments are heard throughout the theme; while such a combination of instruments may seem abstract, each instrument used supports the ambient purposes of this theme in their own unique way. While I would choose not to listen to it standalone, the use of this theme in the game that makes it creditable. (8/10)

16) Pirate's Gigue (Written by Totz)

Once again, Shimomura amazes us with another well-crafted, great to listen to battle theme. As opposed to the sneaky "Captain Hook's Pirate Ship," this is a full-blown theme, incorporating everything we've come to expect from the battle themes on this Original Soundtrack: it's just too damn enjoyable. Even if it's a bit short, I can't help but listen to it over a gazillion times in a row. (10/10)

17) Never Land Sky

Written by Chris - Look everybody! Sora can fly! *stares in amazement as Sora flies all around the Big Ben* This triumphant piece of music is perfect for representing this situation — it's bold, free, and adventurous. Melodically, it is beautiful, and while the bass line is a bit too jerky and repetitive for my tastes, everything else about this theme gives me a reason to smile. How can you not love this one? (9/10)

Written by Totz - A light-hearted theme that is played when you're flying around London, around the Big Ben. Why it is called "Never Land Sky" still puzzles me to this day. Nevertheless, it serves greatly as background music for the game, and even if you're just wanting to chill out with your homies at home. The melody and the simple yet effective instrumentation, aka Shimomura's trademark, appear once again, and what a delight it is. (9/10)

18) Kairi III (Written by Terraguy)

As with the other Kairi themes, it has the basic tune and flowing sound reminiscient of the other two. This version, however, uses the celesta and a few string instruments, with small plucks dispersed throughout. It also has the piano. The track is a tad bit slower than its counterparts, and incorporates the same peaceful melody. The track shows the timid side of Kairi with the detached notes, but it is a tad too detached to sound beautiful. There's already two, and a third one is not exactly needed, but it does make a nice and different addition to the Kairi themes. (7/10)

19) Blast Away! -Gummi Ship III- (Written by Terraguy)

The evil counterpart to another revised version of a track, it sounds the most haunting; it does give the track its best evil feeling and creates an effective "almost there" feel. I personally feel this is the best out of the three, using bass and a lot of brass instruments to create the mood. Great theme, and it fits into the story well. (9/10)

20) Hollow Bastion

Written by Hanta - As the track for the penultimate world, it certainly sounds ominous and, yet at the same time carries with it a sense of urgency as Sora's journey is close to reaching it's end. I love the beat of this track and the way the background vocals and organ become progressively louder adding to that epic kind of feel alongside the urgency of the violin melody throughout the track. I would've loved a little more ambience at the start of the track using the background vocals and have it build up from there, but, in any case, it has a really intense and epic feel to it that I really like. (9/10)

Written by Talaysen - This is easily my favorite field theme in the game. The track starts out quiet and gradually gets louder and more intense. While being intense, it's not pounding or way upbeat, which is a welcome change. The orchestration and flow of the track is amazing, and the slightly unnerving 5/4 beat helps shake it up a bit. That also fits in with the environment the track is played in. I'd consider this track to be one of Shimomura's greatest compositions actually. (10/10)

21) Scherzo di notte (Written by Chris)

Three 'D's — dark, dramatic, and driven — summarise why this theme is so good to listen to. Contrasting heavily with the lighter battle themes heard earlier in the game (e.g. "Bustin' Up the Beach," "Hand in Hand," and even "Pirate's Gigue"), this theme provides a revealing and reliable insight into how much the atmosphere of the game has changed as it approaches towards its climax. Its sharp melodies and pulsing harmonies are embroiled with drama, bursting with energy, and shaking with agitation; however, the theme never feels forced and develops naturally, albeit spectacularly, as it progresses. Accomplished on the musical scale and multifaceted on an emotional level, this theme is simply a magical one that is absent of all apparent flaws. Certainly, Shimomura does it again. (10/10)

22) Forze del male (Written by Z-Freak)

I've been patiently waiting to review this particular track. As far as I recall, this was used during the climactic battle of Sora vs a possesed Riku. Shimomura chose to go all out with a track which is mainly comprised of a menacing organ and an energetic piano. The "marriage" of both instruments creates the tension, the feel of despair and most of all, it's extremely dangerous in making you lose the fight as it is so good it ends up being distracting To me, this track screams "POWER" all the way through. It really gets the point across that Riku means business and he's after YOU! In my opinion, this is Shimomura's crowning achievement on this soundtrack, as far as battle themes go. (10/10)

23) HIKARI -KINGDOM HEARTS Instrumental Version- (Written by Terraguy)

The main theme of Kingdom Hearts has now been placed into a lovely short orchestral version. While this is a nice version, with deep vocals, a piano, flute, and strings to round out the music, and has the all-too-familiar and beautiful theme, it is a short piece, not enough to fully create the beautiful and enjoyable atmosphere of the game. The "Hikari - Kingdom Orchestral Insturmental Version" is a lot better. (7/10)

24) Miracle (Written by Terraguy)

A filler track. What do you expect at 0:16 minutes? While it is a filler track, and has only a long, drawn out organ and vocal "ahhs" part at the beginning, the best part is hearing the piano play the "Dearly Beloved" theme at the end. Yet, the best part is not too effective, and this is a disastrously short piece. Once again, filler track. (4/10)

25) End of the World (Written by Talaysen)

Really similar to "Dive Into the Heart -Destati-," but much less intense and a bit lighter, mostly because of the bells in the background. Other than that, there's not really a difference here. Although, I do have to say I like "Dive Into the Heart -Destati-" much better. (7/10)

26) Fragments of Sorrow (Written by Totz)

Wow, talk about aggressive. This track grabs you right from the beginning with its syncopated beat and doesn't let go. And if you think it can't get better, it does. The choir, entering at 0:43, just makes it a lot more dramatic, with their "Destati" chanting and stuff. Sure, "The End of the World" is not a fun place to be, but it's a hell of a place to do battle in. (9/10)

27) Guardando nel buio (Written by Totz)

Ah, we've finally come to what we've been waiting for: the final battle theme. After a rather powerful beginning, the track slows a bit down, leaving us only with a few instruments and a choir. That is, until the track reachs 0:43, when it gets more intense. A lot more intense. If you listen to it closely, you'll notice it borrows the melody of "Destati." Now, "Destati" means "awake," or wake up or something. And the "Guardando Nel Buio" means "looking in the dark" (or something). Fun, eh? It might not sounds as good by itself as it does during the game (it works wonders, trust me), but it's still great. (10/10)

28) Beyond the Door (Written by Chris)

Initiating the string of themes that accompany the ending of the game, this track is suitably epic. A suspended long note from synth vocals accompany some gothic synth organ motifs up until the 0:30 mark of the piece. After this, the theme bursts into a gushing climax featuring bells, a synth organ, and yet more synth vocals as 'Kingdom Hearts' is revealed. Although short, this does exactly what is needed and has a high level of impact nonetheless. (8/10)

29) Always on My Mind (Written by Terraguy)

A very peaceful and lovely track, expertly epitomizing the beautiful end of Kingdom Hearts. Using a guitar, piano, bells, flute, and some vocal "ahhs", the piece is very nicely put together, able to swell the sad feelings in association with the end and the closing of the final door. The small xylophone part at the very end 1:18 finish off the whole game (basically) in a very touching and small, timid end. Instead of big instrumentals, the track ends gently, slowly switching to the touching track of. (9/10)

30) Hikari [Japanese Version]/Simple and Clean [European Version]

Written by Terraguy - Well, the (almost) ending track in what has been a long journey through the fine world of Kingdom Hearts! While I'm impartial to the English version, "Simple and Clean," the Japanese version has a few notifying best parts, such as the superb connection. This track, the tempo having dropped from the PLANITb Remix, has the perfect mood to fit with such a sad ending. The words, and in conjunction with the meaning, tells about how love, promises, and friendship coexist as one, and that promises will never be broken. A very powerful theme that fits very well with the story of the game. With the music, the lyrics are very well sung. The harmonizing is nice and lovely, and the synthesis with the FMV fits well. The superb vocals, and the use of the unfamiliar "rock band" instruments, such as electric guitars leave a different tone entirely. The drums will get your foot tapping and your head bopping; it'll leave the track stuck in your head! Yet instead of leaving a negative feeling, the track ends off in an entirely great end and soars off into the unknown future. J-Pop, it seems, is not to be considered lightly! (10/10)

Written by Hanta - We are in the final straits with the ending theme to Kingdom Hearts. This version is the original that was written and arranged by the talented Utada Hikaru (whom Tetsuya Nomura is a huge fan of) and is played in the Japanese version of the game. The lyrics also differ somewhat between the Japanese and US version (renamed "Simple and Clean" and available only on Utada's COLORS single). But anyway onto the music. Utada is a talented woman and I really like how Hikari's lyrics summarises the themes of Kingdom Hearts and it's great how she can hit those low notes as well as she can hit her high notes. I've never listened to much JPop but I really like this track and I really like the background vocals that harmonise perfectly with her voice in the chorus. The sounds I think are mainly synthesised with a selection of bells and trills accompanying the beat and the vocals with spurts of acoustic guitar accompanying the more calmer sections of the track. A really energetic song with some very nice lyrics that tie in very well with the Kingdom Hearts storyline (moreso I think than "Simple and Clean") and it is a bit of a change from your more slower ballad type songs in other RPG's.

31) March Caprice for Piano and Orchestra (Written by Terraguy)

I'm left speechless by this track. It's one of the few tracks composed to sound like a true classical piece, and I'm stunned by it. It's beautiful! Using first the piano to lightly bring the piece in, then swelling it using brass, to start the main theme with a solo violin and then bringing in the rest of the orchestra, creates a lovely tone. Shimomura then uses drums and many other instruments to launch it into its regular phase. With the piano playing a smaller melody in the background, it creates a double tone that is absolutely heavenly. Starting with the "Always on My Mind" melody, it then goes into its main theme that just became second nature and memorable. With the strings and woodwinds to create that lovely feeling, Shimomura uses the piano to great effect, playing chords that fit very well. At 1:34, a snare drum sets in, and the march starts. From there, the piece adds on a small variation at a time, with either music or instruments. Using percussion delivers the extra "oomph" needed, and at 2:35, the piano gets a solo of a re-rendered version of "Dearly Beloved." Continuing from there, the piece just grows with intensity. At the finale, the piece launches into the final brass and then a solo piano part playing chords before slamming down the strings playing tremolos into the final "bang" of the piece, and in essence the end of the credits and game. I must note two problems: one was the repetitive theme, which in truth was not at all too repetitive, just a bit of extra usage; the other concern is the ending-the string tremolos to the final "beat" of the piece; they were weak. Yet some people might enjoy such a thing, and the problems do not wholly detract from the track's main sound. Providing an upbeat and uplifting, but transitional, track to the sad ending, the "March Caprice for Piano and Orchestra" is, in my mind, one of the best tracks there is. Prepare to feel a great piece come to a majestic end, and along with that, the game. *tears form* What a gem, suitable for any event where you must end with a strong and majestic track. (10/10)

32) Hand in Hand -Reprise- (Written by Hanta)

A light orchestration of the same theme found in the Original Soundtrack that accompanies the last scene after the credits. It's by no means an inspiring track but it is a bit of fun with a drum tap tap tapping and some light brass instruments carrying the melody and does give you the feeling that there will be many many more adventures to come. (7/10)

33) Dearly Beloved -Reprise- (Written by Hanta)

Ah, "Dearly Beloved" is the beautiful meloncholy theme of Kingdom Hearts and is the last track you hear at the very end of the game. In this arrangement, the main melody is played by a music box while a harp is plucked for the bass and soothing vocals in the background that give it the "lighter than air" feel. A nice track but the best arrangement of "Dearly Beloved" by far is in "March Caprice for Piano and Orchestra." (7/10)

34) Having a Wild Time -Previous Version- (Written by Hanta)

I don't think you actually hear this track within the game but it is a nice addition (I think they might have wanted to use this in the final scene but decided instead on "Hand in Hand -Reprise-"). It's an orchestration of the jungle battle theme, one of my favourite tracks, and doesn't deviate too much from the original except the instrumentation is of a higher quality. (8/10)

35) Destati (Written by Hanta)

Saving the best for last, this track is a short orchestration of "Destati -Dive into the Heart-" and "Fragments of Sorrow" by the Tokyo Philaharmonic Chorus and Tokyo Philaharmonic Orchestra. Sure it isn't arranged that much differently from the originals but there is something about a live chorus and orchestra that make the track so much more intense and really adds the mood of the whole track. This track was never played in the game but in the first trailers for Kingdom Hearts. A mysterious and enigmatic track that is one of Shimomura's best and shows just how versatile she is as a composer. (10/10)

Kingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack

Disc Three

1) Dearly Beloved (Written by Don)

"Dearly Beloved" is a reprise from the first game, but the effect is much more pronounced in this version, in my opinion. The arrangement by Kaoru Wada is a beauty to hear and despite its simplicity, this track always manages to amaze me. The subtle piano and string melody, in conjunction with the beautiful placed woodwind passages, works together to create a very magical and enduring piece, despite its repetition, and is one that shouldn't be missed. This piece proves that sometimes simplicity is the most beautiful thing to consider when writing a piece of music. (9/10)

2) Passion - KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version (Written by Chris)

The orchestral version of the vocal theme "Passion" is simply incredibly. Orchestrated by Kaoru Wada, it captures all the beauty, sadness, magic, colour, and, above all, passion of the original theme and often even intensifies the drama. Thanks to Wada's genius, Utada Hikaru's original melody transitions effectively across but is treated completely different as a romantic orchestration rather than a pop song. I believe this excels even the orchestral version of "Hikari" and is undoubtedly one of my top five pieces on the soundtrack.

After a massive crescendo and ascending chord progression in the introduction, the theme subsides to become quiet and reflective like "Hikari" before it. With a fragile ethereal timbre created by soft strings, tuned percussion, and church bells, the oboe presents the melody wistfully. At 1:55, however, the theme suddenly becomes more dramatic as a powerful harmonic line is added and several build-ups occur. The theme exudes the percussive exoticism that the original piece provided and continues with dramatic intent right to its fulfilling end. (10/10)

3) Passion ~opening version~ (Written by Don)

After we are introduced to the melody of "Passion" in the orchestrated version, we are officially treated to the first vocal performance of it. The tone of this song is much slower in pace than the opening version of "Hikari" from the previous game, and I think this does wonders for the track. While the song demonstrates Utada Hikaru's strength in the J-pop scene, having composed this herself, some might find it interesting to know that she wrote the English version of this song first, and had trouble writing the lyrics for this version.

Onto the song itself, Utada Hikaru's voice lends itself well to the melody. It's both strong and subtle and was really a good choice for this game. The rhythmic development and that of the accompaniment is simply amazing. The percussion lends itself well to create a motivating and inspiring track while the remainder of the accompaniment uses synth in order a very easy-listening effect. This combined with her voice makes for an excellent combination.

My only gripe with this track is the section where the pace quickens, and the "My heart is a battleground" line, along with the reversed lyrics, heard in the very beginning of the song, are introduced. To me, it wasn't needed and detracted from the overall feel of the song. This is another fantastic track, which is better than "Hikari" in my opinion, and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of J-pop or Utada Hikaru. (10/10)

4) Lazy Afternoons (Written by Sophia)

This gentle horn and string combo is a bit on the melancholy side, but it's a beautiful piece that complements the scenes in the game where Roxas and his friends are hanging around on a lazy afternoon. It's subtle enough that, even if you had to listen to it on a loop, it never really becomes irritating. It's different than the usual upbeat town themes and sets the mood for the game. The only downside is that it's a bit short. (8/10)

5) Sinister Sundown (Written by Chris)

The battle theme to complement "Lazy Afternoons". It is pretty light and bouncy due to the use of a vibraphone for the melody, but is otherwise very similar to the typical Kingdom Hearts battle theme. Probably its biggest asset is its dynamism — it always seems to be pushing forward and thickens in the second section to add to the drama. My main criticism is the string use to answer the vibraphone. Nothing wrong with Shimomura's composition, but Ishimoto's synth just seem feeble and cringe-worthy here. Overall, a little unoriginal, but the mix of new and old was just what was needed for the first battle theme. (7/10)

6) The Escapade (Written by Baltimoore)

This synth-oriented piece, created in the often despised style of 'Happy! Cutesy! Bouncy!' is used for many of the small mini-games found throughout Kingdom Hearts II. Just the very image of this being classified as the always so dreadful "mini-game music" will turn off many, and it should, because even if this was not mini-game music, it is still quite a bad piece of music, terrifically displaying 'Irritation! Annoyance! Cringe-worthy Moments!' at the same time. It is centered around a jolly little jingle that repeats without much development for two minutes and three seconds. Listen and cry... (4/10)

7) Dive into the Heart -Destati- (Written by Chris)

The well-known choral theme from Kingdom Hearts makes a return here. Shimomura doesn't change the composition at all but it is resynthed by Takeharu Ishimoto. The consequence is the theme sounding less dramatic than the original due to some pathetic-sounding choir synth. Still, the dark and mysterious aspect of the theme is retained and remains certainly an enjoyable, if slow-developing, track. Some will find it disappointing that this theme wasn't arranged or that a new composition wasn't made for its purpose. I don't mind, but I would have preferred a direct port rather than a poor resynth. (7/10)

8) Fragments of Sorrow (Written by Don)

This piece is essentially a battle theme version of "Destati." Unfortunately, it too suffers from the horrible choral synth of Ishimoto. Despite this, the remainder of the track is pretty good. The battle theme itself is another Kingdom Hearts-esque one, but it's extremely motivating through it's use of percussion and does have a sense of sinisterness through the use of the chorals, despite their sound quality. Overall, this is a decent track. (7/10)

9) Tension Rising (Written by Muzza)

One of my favourite boss battle themes on the soundtrack, "Tension Rising" is a very impressive addition to a somewhat lackluster score when it comes to boss battle themes. The organ and mad percussion nicely symbolize the implied tension, and the bridge between loops, which showcases some light-hearted albeit very fitting instrumentation, lives up to the previous section's standards. Also of note is the sporadic piano samples, which add a welcome variation to the potentially monotonous primary part of the track. Overall, a nice track that conveys the necessary chaos and tension extremely well, with pleasant instrumental elements and a rhythmic melody. (9/10)

10) Kairi (Written by Chris)

The first character theme on the soundtrack and, once again, a Kingdom Hearts reprise. The piece isn't elaborated on much, retaining its emphasis on a brief but sweet melody. However, the instrumentation has changed beyond simple resynthing giving a more mature sound to the theme to represent how Kairi has grown up and is now perhaps more than just a childhood friend to Sora. I find it less aesthetic compared to the other versions of the theme because of the more jarring synth use. However, it was a necessary inclusion that fits the game well and is enjoyable nevertheless. (7/10)

11) Missing You (Written by Baltimoore)

If I didn't know which came it came from, I would have guessed the melody here — a sweet, emotional, and somewhat somber one — would have been from Kingdom Hearts. It really does contains the sound created from other pieces of Kingdom Hearts, such as "Dearly Beloved" and "Kairi". Simple and beautiful. While it doesn't expand much from its uncomplicated pianowork and light-weight string accompaniment, it works. (8/10)

12) The 13th Struggle (Written by Muzza)

By using the organ, violin and piano, Yôko Shimomura has created a very intense piece in "The 13th Struggle". The tension, suggested by the powerful bass and foreboding melodic piano and organ sections, makes a perfect battle theme (used when fighting Organisation XIII), and would work well even as a hurry theme. As with the rest of the score, the synth quality is below-average, but that doesn't act as a major hindrance here; this track is a very solid solid addition to the soundtrack. (8/10)

13) Roxas (Written by Sophia)

One of the more beautiful pieces from this soundtrack, "Roxas" is a haunting yet sad flute melody with a piano accompaniment. It's just unfortunate that the main tune is rather short and it doesn't develop into something more substantial. It is a character theme however, and it fits into the storyline very well and is easy on the ears. (9/10)

14) Sora (Written by Scherzo)

At last, after a lengthy introduction, the adventure is underway! This track marks the entrance of the hero Sora into the story, and does it with vigor and flair. It's a reprise of a familiar melody from the original Kingdom Hearts and that familiarity gives it an added kick. The actual music is fine enough, with the substandard synth adding a bit more whine to the triumphant melody than is desirable. (6/10)

15) The Afternoon Street (Written by Muzza)

The second BGM to Twilight Town, "The Afternoon Street" plays when Sora, Donald and Goofy roam the cozy, amicable town. This enriching amicability is presented some very light-hearted and whimsical instrumentation. The melody gradually grows, and a violin is introduced to add a more mature tone to the track. A very nice piece, and given that it bears similar traits to its 'predecessor' "Lazy Afternoons", the enjoyment factor is enhanced here, due to the accessible lazy and cordial tone both tracks possess. (8/10)

16) Working Together (Written by Muzza)

"Working Together" comes across as a light-hearted tune, even flagrantly so; this is somewhat perplexing as this is a battle theme. This is suggested by the upbeat, face-paced melodic progression, which is adequate if a tad irksome. Admittedly, I find this track extremely melodious, and as such it is one of my favourites on the first disc. However, considering that this track is used in a game where Disney characters make appearances, the wacky, goofy (I had to say it) mood is acceptable, and even pleasing in a way. Thankfully, there is a limited amount of happy-go-lucky battle themes on this soundtrack, so you can enjoy this one without feeling guilty of supporting something widely considered a condemnable act (i.e. composing frivolous battle themes: an oxymoron, in a sense). (9/10)

17) Friends in My Heart (Written by Sophia)

"Friends in my Heart" is a slightly more upbeat and delightful variation of "Dearly Beloved" on the piano. As the core theme of Kingdom Hearts, generally all the different versions of "Dearly Beloved" are pleasant to listen to. I am particularly fond of this one because it's uplifting and hopeful, a welcomed contrast to some of the other tracks. (9/10)

18) Magical Mystery (Written by Chris)

For a track with such a colourful title, "Magical Mystery" is disappointingly boring. I didn't think magic or mystery was conveyed in anything but the most functional yet uninspired way. It's a very plain ambient piece that contrasts a fluid piano line and dissonant suspended stings. Moderately interesting is the way the piano intersynchs with a dynamic tuned percussion line to create a unique timbre in the treble portion of the piece. Unfortunately, no aspect of the track is emotional or interesting, even if it is decent scene-setting music in context. (5/10)

19) A Twinkle in the Sky (Written by Chris)

A laid-back rendition of the Gummi Ship theme. The piece conveys a much better magical atmosphere than the previous track, mostly through creating a resonant soundscape and the use of tuned percussion. The violin leads the piece, playing the enchanting exploratitive melody, while cello provides the highlight of the piece with a brief countermelody before the 0:40 loop. The track sounds a bit sappy, even ugly, in places due to the especially artificial violin synth used here. However, the arrangement itself is quite charming and the piece is pleasant to revisit. (7/10)

20) Reviving Hollow Bastion (Written by Chris)

"Hollow Bastion" was one of its most popular pieces. It depicted one of the game's final and darkest dungeons with briskly paced repetition of a single string motif and some fantastical layering on top. Unlike most reprises, Shimomura chose to significantly arrange "Hollow Bastion" for Kingdom Hearts II so it had a bit more variety. Was the choice a wise one? In my opinion, the arrangement is inspired but unpolished.

It opens with a jovial and magical ostinato very loosely based on the original. Soon a prominent but badly synthesized violin plays a solo; its dark resonant tones create a metamorphosis in atmosphere leading to a jarring transition into the main body of the piece. The body lacks the flair of the original due to its sluggish pace, awkward instrument choices, and occasional awkward chromatic shifts. The transition back to the original segment is sudden and unappealing.

Overall, the arrangement gives a different atmosphere to Hollow Bastion to represent its revival. However, it isn't satisfying on a stand-alone basis since it lacks coherency or finesse. (6/10)

21) Scherzo di Notte (Written by Scherzo)

A simple re-synthing of the same piece from the first Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack. It's much less effective than the original, as on the whole the voicing is very muddy and distant. The violin in particular sounds as it were being played in a particularly large cavern. It's a fine piece, compositionally, but there are too many small turns in the melody that are lost here. (3/10)

22) Laughter and Merriment (Written by Scherzo)

A fun filler track, complete with bouncy bass line and a perky marimba melody. The long string chords that come in later serve well to complement the upbeat mood. The harmony is quite simple and gets stale after a bit, but the merits of the instrumentation and character of the track manage to overcome that potentially ruining flaw. (7/10)

23) Desire for All That is Lost (Written by Don)

This piece is quite motivating and I love the mood it conveys. Hints of sinisterness and sadness, this track is definitely one of my favorites on the first disc. The piano line is something that I love and, while it may be a bit repetitive, once it fleshes out a bit, it really adds the sense of sinisterness to the piece. The strings produce a fantastic melody helping to convey the sadness in the piece. Overall, I like this effort by Shimomura. (9/10)

24) Organization XIII (Written by Don)

This theme is used to represent the main antagonist group in the game. The piano produces a nice haunting melody with hints of evilness. Unfortunately, the synthesized choral work is extremely detrimental to this piece. The shoddiness of these vocals make the entire track a bit less enjoyable. Personally I would have preferred a solo piano piece as opposed to the addition of the chorals, but I do see that if properly synthed, the chorals would add to the atmosphere of this piece quite well. (7/10)

Disc Four

1) Gearing Up (Written by Scherzo)

There is a general disconnect here between the bright quirky melody and the strangely gloomy orchestration. Though the track still succeeds at achieving a happy motivational feel, I'm somewhat confused by the dark omnipresent string bass and the scoring of the melody in the pipe organ, of all instruments. These elements are at odds with the title and general mood of the piece, and add little overall. But given the short length of the piece and the low number of compositional ideas contained within, such minor quibbles can be overlooked in favor of the general mood, which I'm happy to say survives intact. A humorous melody and a nifty drumkit carry this track through. (6/10)

2) Shipmeister's Shanty (Written by Don)

This track is played when you are in your garage building or editing your gummi ship. It's quite a bouncy track and boasts an enjoyable melody. The shift in pace for the melody is an interesting addition, however, I feel that this track is extremely repetitive. It's enjoyable to a point, but this track is entirely too long, even before the loop. I still like the idea here, but it seems to lack the charm that I'm looking for. (6/10)

3) Blast Off! (Written by Don)

This piece also incorporates the motif found in "Shipmeister's Shanty" but the main melody is different. It's heroic sounding and bouncy in nature once again, but it's very short and serves it's purpose as a "launch gummi ship" piece. (4/10)

4) Asteroids Away! (Written by Don)

This is one of the first gummi ship stage themes. It's motivating, has a nice melody, and some nice development as well. The incorporation of the "Dearly Beloved" theme is a nice addition to the track and I think gives it a nice flair overall. While a bit repetitive, I think it is a decent track; however, I think there are better gummi ship themes on the soundtrack. (7/10)

5) Crossing the Finish Line (Written by Scherzo)

A simple triumphant piece used to indicate a successful voyage. There's nothing too exceptional about it: in fact, it's quite boring after a couple of listens. But at 47 seconds, there's not much to complain about. A filler track, through and through. (4/10)

6) Waltz of the Damned (Written by Scherzo)

After all of the gummi ship-themed tracks, this quiet waltz serves as a welcome respite. The melody is charming enough, if not overly catchy. But what makes this piece interesting is the emphasis on the second beat of each measure, which is traditionally the weakest. This gives the piece a bit of added syncopation. Overall, quite an enjoyable track. (7/10)

7) Dance of the Death (Written by Chris

The waltz ups the pace in "Dance of the Daring", the battle theme for Beast's castle. This piece excellently maintains thematic and stylistic continuity of its predecessor while establishing an appealing dynamism and crispness of its own. From the gothic harpsichord accompaniment, the flute leads with the main falling phrase of "Dance of the Daring" except with some agitating rhythmical twists. The secondary melody is more rhythmically settled but maintains the tempo of the piece while adding a somewhat wistful character to the piece. Overall, though short, it's easily one of the best pieces on the soundtrack. (9/10)

8) Hesitation (Written by Don)

"Hesitation" is one of the very few extremely dark pieces you'll find on this album. The elements that create this darkness, mainly strings and a small harp motif, are fantastic. However, the overall quality of this piece is a bit lacking. While I can understand it's mainly an ambient piece, a bit of melody would have made this a stronger track. It's still enjoyable and serves its purpose in game, but out of context, it's a bit weaker. (5/10)

9) Dance to the Death (Written by Jared)

Though this piece is rather short, and very repetitive, it is incredibly effective as a battle theme. The constant low bass line, and the ominous mallet percussion rolls that last throughout the duration of the piece add a huge feeling of tension. The melody is very haunting and dangerous, and the jarring piano and string motifs even further contribute to the tension. When all parts come together, this battle theme can actually be quite unsettling and, in game, is one of the most potent battle themes I have yet heard from Shimomura. (10/10)

10) Beauty and the Beast (Written by Don)

This is an arrangement of the "Beauty and the Beast" song from the Disney movie of the same name. It's quite poignant and sticks true to the original, but it's too short to garner much of a score. (5/10)

11) The Home of Dragons (Written by Don)

This piece is used for the setting of China from Mulan. It definitely conveys that Asian flair that one would expect from ancient China. The percussion rhythm is rather strong, albeit repetitive, and it really helps to bring the main melody to life. The piece conveys a sense of honor and exploration and is one that shouldn't be missed. (8/10)

12) Fields of Honor (Written by Don)

This piece essentially takes the music found in "The Home of Dragons" and adds some more intense rhythm, a bit of melodic development, and Shimomura's style for Kingdom Hearts battles. The percussion this time around is quite intense and really helps to convey battle. I'm glad the feeling of honor is kept because it really helps to tie the idea of Chinese tradition, like that found in Mulan, and battling to keep your honor. While I prefer "Home of the Dragons," this piece itself isn't too bad overall because it does offer a lot to the listener. (7/10)

13) Apprehension (Written by Bryan)

As the name implies, this piece is meant to build tension. It holds its own on that front, but fails to go anywhere beyond that. A repeated piano melody randomly comes in with Shimomura's staple percussion following in the backround. This basically repeats throughout the entire piece. The piece is great in context, but fails outside of the game in my opinion. (5/10)

14) Vim and Vigor (Written by Bryan)

Now here is where this soundtrack gets tricky. I usually love most of Shimomura's battle tracks, but this entire soundtrack is hit or miss with me. Let's take this track for example. The same quick percussion thats heard in all the battle tracks on here is back again, with a piano carrying the lead. Strings take up the harmony, giving the track a sense of danger. While I said this was a hit or miss for me, that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. It just doesn't do for me what some of her older works did. A decent addition to the soundtrack nonetheless. (7/10)

15) Cloudchasers (Written by Don)

"Cloudchasers" is another gummi ship stage theme. As such, it's very prominent in the use of electronica. Unfortunately for this track, it's extremely repetitive and once some development comes in, it's rather boring still. I can see that you would want a motivating force to keep you along and it surely fits the action on the screen, but it's probably one of the weakest gummi ship themes. Overall, this is probably one of my least favorites on the album. (1/10)

16) Olympic Coliseum (Written by Chris)

Another minimalistic arrangement, "Olympus Coliseum" returns from the Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack and is as divisive as ever. Many, myself included, found the original's opening brass fanfares to be pompous and overbearing. They're just the same here, unaffected by Ishimoto's synthesizer operating, but at least fitting of the environment. The development has moments of sweeping beauty as the motif that constituted the fanfare is explored. Unfortunately, the quiet middle section of the piece — in my opinion, the most accomplished part in the original — has undergone some changes that makes it sound awkward. As opposed to the conventional but fulfilling accompaniment of the original, some very thin-sounding and badly synthesized drums are used. Overall, this piece struggles to maintain moderate ground, going from an obnoxious introduction through a brief development section to an empty middle. (6/10)

17) Road to a Hero (Written by Don)

This is also an arrangement of "Olympic Coliseum" and plays during the tests that Phil requires of you to become a hero. I'm not a fan of this arrangement myself. While the melody is rather solid, the underlying accompaniment is a bit too lackluster and playful for what it's meant to convey. The flute is a nice addition, but it suffers from occupying a repeating role, as do the xylophone additions and the rather mundane drum line. I can't entirely fault this track, since the melody is quite good, but I can't really say much for the track either. (5/10)

18) The Underworld (Written by Don)

"The Underworld" is a track that just seems to be a bit underwhelming. While the elements and technique employed seems to be rather promising, we are treated with a track that seems to just plod along and becomes extremely repetitive very quickly. The problem with this track is that the xylophone sections are extremely repetitive and offer very little melodic development, despite being catchy. There are a few redeeming factors though. The use of piano, even if only as an accent chord, at times helps to convey the sense of sinisterness one would expect in the Underworld. In addition, the use of organ and haunting chorals help to accentuate this feeling. Unfortunately, these small additions can't help a rather lackluster piece. (4/10)

19) What Lies Beneath (Written by Don)

This piece is the battle theme for the Underworld. As such, it employs some of the same motifs as the area theme track. You'll notice the distinct repetitive xylophone in the accompaniment, but fortunately, the track is much more melodically developed. The melody itself, played by a mixture of low brass and strings, almost has an Arabian texture to it. The addition of chorals also helps to tie this piece in with the respective area. Overall, this track is satisfying, compared to the former, but still lacks something. (7/10)

20) Villains of a Sort (Written by Bryan)

OK, by the name of this track you think it would have a sinister and dark feeling right? Well, it does to an extent. This is one of the most repetitive tracks I have ever heard and it kind of destroys any emotion that you should have felt with the purpose of this track. The piece is mostly all strings, with some quick flute chimes. Other than that though, its a 13 second piece that repeats too many times. (3/10)

21) Beneath the Ground (Written by Bryan)

This piece has a very odd percussion beat, and it somewhat takes away from the enjoyability of this track. Instead of the percussion being on the down beat as what would be natural, the drums hit on every beat, creating a frantic feeling. However, this is again set back by the repetitiveness of the track as a whole. While this serves its purpose, it is not listenable outside of that game at all. (4/10)

22) Rowdy Rumble (Written by Baltimoore)

Unfortunately I can't for the life of me remember where this excellent battle theme is played, even though I recognize it well. As stated, this is basically the epitome of a great Shimomura battle theme, being rhythmic, dynamic, well-orchestrated, melodic, well-developed, and powerful. It typically conveys something whimsical and witty, and at the same time something harsh and quite deadly. I mean, really, this is just... swell. (10/10)

23) Mickey Mouse Club March (Written by Baltimoore)

The theme for Disney Castle, is, perhaps not suprisingly so, the old March from the Mickey Mouse Club. But instead of a Disney arrangement I really look upon this as a reprise from the first Kingdom Hearts, as that is exactly what it is, in reality. Difference is, then it was a cutscene theme, and it worked much better as that instead of a area theme, which it is now, with its distinct opening and really quite underdeveloped melody. It works. In one minute, that is. (5/10)

24) A Walk in Andante (Written by Jared)

This track is extremely short, and rather underwhelming. It holds to its title well, but isn't much to listen to. A repetitive bass line, typical harmonies, and a simple melody are the main components to this track. (3/10)

25) Monochrome Dreams (Written by Don)

"Monochrome Dreams" is used as the area theme for the Timeless River, a homage of old to the black-and-white cartoons which Disney first started producing. The music itself is very playful, which can be attributed to the use of the woodwinds, and the use of a tuba adds a bit of humor to the piece. However, I feel that the track is a bit on the weaker side. It doesn't really develop too much, but still remains enjoyable. (7/10)

26) Old Friends, Old Rivals (Written by Don)

This is the battle theme for Timeless River and it essentially ups the tempo from its area theme counterpart. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it does come off rather nicely, the extremely repetitive bass line really detracts from the piece as a whole. Melodically though, I really enjoy this piece. It's not my favorite battle theme, but it isn't bad either. (7/10)

27) Floating in Bliss (Written by Don)

I believe that this is another gummi stage theme. Unlike its counterparts, this one seems to have a very mellow feel to it. Unfortunately, it has a bit of a repetition to it as well. While I'm not a fan of the xylophone sound, the violin melody, although rather drowned out by the aforementioned instrument, is quite nice. The inclusion of "Dearly Beloved" is also a nice development, but sadly, it's a very short motif. (5/10)

28) Winnie the Pooh (Written by Chris)

This uses the same arrangement as Kingdom Hearts but, of course, resynths it. The drop in quality is large, meaning the introductory fragments of the main theme drag rather than entice. Nevertheless, the body of the piece remains moderately enjoyable thanks to the solid arranging of the original. An inferior, obligatory, but listenable rehash. (6/10)

29) Bounce-O-Rama (Written by Chris)

The Winnie-the-Pooh theme of the original game is rehashed here. Interestingly, it wasn't included in the original version of the Kingdom Hearts II soundtrack, but only the box set due to the insane need to cram so many themes into one disc. The synth is fine allowing the relaxed playfulness of the original comes across quite well. As the original was only average, though, I can't say its inclusion gave me a reason to buy the box set. (6/10)

30) Bounce-O-Rama (Speed Up Version) (Written by Don)

This piece is the exact same melody as the previous track. As such, the playfulness of the track is kept. In addition, the track is sped up considerably. While I don't think this really helps or hurts the track, it does make it, ever so slightly, more enjoyable. (6/10)

Disc Five

1) Isn't It Lovely? (Written by Don)

This track is used in the underwater world of Atlantis from The Little Mermaid. As such, it has a very aquatic feel to it, but sadly, it really doesn't work too well overall. The beginning, while sporting a very nice rhythmic pattern, seems to drown out the violin at times. The violin is the best part of the piece though and really helps to draw attention to the melody and the solo in the middle really helps to accentuate the piece as a whole. (7/10)

2) Let's Sing and Dance (Written by Don)

This small little tune includes a small motif of the next track and helps to serve the purpose of the singing mini-game that ensues. It's fun, but very short. (5/10)

3) Swim This Way (Written by Don)

Before I even start reviewing any of these, let me just say that Japanese vocalized Disney songs freak the hell out of me! As for this piece, the melody is quite fun. It adopts a very calypso like atmosphere, but it really doesn't do much for me. The Japanese vocals aren't the best in this song, but they aren't too bad either. The melody itself is rather wishywashy, but at the same time, it is a bit catchy so it doesn't entirely make me want to skip the track. Overall, this isn't a bad piece, but it's far from perfect. (6/10)

4) Part of Your World (Written by Don)

In time around, we are treated to a Japanese version of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. The arrangement is fairly nice. The use of the xylophone and violin really help bring the track to life while blending old and new aspects of the track together. Overall, I don't feel the vocals really hurt this track one bit and I find this a wonderful listen, despite the initial freak-out that it was in Japanese. (9/10)

5) Under the Sea (Written by Don)

Wow, talk about freaky! The instrumentation is essentially verbatim to the original music. The calypso feel that the track adopts is extremely fitting and quite fun to listen. Unfortunately, the vocals destroy the song. Sora's voice and Sebastian's voice just really irk me. They seem too harsh for the track as a whole. It's not a bad listen, since the music is fantastic, but the vocals really hamper this track for me. (7/10)

6) Ursula's Revenge (Written by Nirvana69)

This track brings back rather bitter memories. This is the song that plays during the "battle" with Ursula. While it's not that enjoyable, it's also not that bad. It does well at holding the Disney villain theme and even if you can't understand the lyrics, you know something sinister is taking place. It's bad enough that you're probably better off skipping it, yet good enough that if you were forced to listen to it, you wouldn't need a shotgun to end your misery. Bonus points to the Japanese vocals for making this track creepier than the English version. (7/10)

7) A New Day is Dawning (Written by Nirvana69)

I have to admit, I actually like this one. The best Little Mermaid track off the soundtrack as far as I'm concerned. It's not really a whole lot different than the other ones, but it has a certain little charm to it that makes it special. Besidse, hearing a Japanese Donald Duck "sing" is always good for a chuckle. (8/10)

8) Any Time, Any Place (Written by Muzza)

This is the last track from the Atlantica suite, so you can stop hyperventilating now! "Any Time Any Place" goes for about 20 seconds and contains Sora and Donald (I can't perceive Goofy's voice...) singing. In Japanese of course. There is no accompanying melodic instrumentation, so all you're left with is the raw, creepy voices. Due to this track being so short I won't give it a score... but if I did... it would probably be an laughable one. (N/A)

9) Night of the Cursed (Written by Nirvana69)

With so many melodically driven area themes on this soundtrack, it's nice to hear Shimomura try something ambient. This actually reminds me of Nakano's work in its use of suspended strings and focus on percussion. However, it also reminds me of Nakano's work in the sense that it has very little development and is rather uneventful. Nonetheless, Shimomura does a good job at creating a dark, tense atmosphere and this is one of my favorite area themes. (9/10)

10) He's a Pirate (Written by Don)

Double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble! That's the recipe for disaster, or at least in this case. Take one part excellent film theme, one part arrangement (well, more like transcription), and one part Ishimoto synth, and you get this track. While the melody and overall feel is a timeless classic, Ishimoto's synth just ruins this track. It's still listenable, since most of the original instrumentation is kept intact, albeit at lower quality, so the entire track isn't a waste. I find the percussion the strongest part, but since that isn't the focus, the melody just doesn't live up to any semblance of the original. (6/10)

11) The Corrupted (Written by Muzza)

This is another one of Shimomura's boss battle themes, and as such you can expect some more mediocrity here. What's eccentric about this one is the peculiar use of a trumpet; unfortunately, while this may sound harsh, this brass aspect comes across as extremely forced and uncomfortable. I guess that's tolerable given this track is used in anxiety-filled boss battles. The melody is very underwhelming and awfully generic, and the melodic progression is limited and tedious. I do like the tone this piece exudes, however, so I guess that trumpet was effective, after all! Somewhat, at least. (6/10)

12) Hazardous Highway (Written by Don)

What's this? A good gummi ship stage theme! I know, I'm shocked too. I really like the rock arrangement that Shimomura took here. While it does boast a stronger melody and instrumentation than some of its counterparts, it still does suffer from a bit of repetition. Fortunately, the motivating pace and the strong melody helps keep this gummi ship in the air. It's not a bad piece, and probably one of the better gummi ship stage themes. (8/10)

13) A Day in Agrabah (Written by Muzza)

To be honest, I actually think that this track improves on the original! I know, it's shocking, considering the appalling attempts at arrangements shown on this soundtrack. The original "A Day in Agrabah" was a very effective and sensuous track, which presented a decent melody by using some Arabic instrumentation. This arrangement focuses less on the melody and more on atmospheric qualities, meaning the aforementioned sensuousness is drastically improved here, due to a downplay in pace and tempo. The instrumentation is now much more subtle and lush, making it much easier to wander the streets of Agrabah and picture yourself walking alongside Sora. (9/10)

14) Arabian Dream (Written by Don)

This is the battle theme for the world of Agrabah. As such, it contains what one would expect in an Arabian piece. Full of exotic instrumentation, the battle theme really shines, as opposed to others. As opposed to the same rhythmic drumming, it's replaced with a more exotic rhythm and percussion. Overall, this track is one of the better battle themes to grace this album. The Arabian flavor is in full force and I love the violin solo in it. It really brings an air of mystery to the piece and contrasts nicely to the hectic accompaniment. (9/10)

15) Arabian Daydream (Written by Don)

I assume this is the theme that plays in the magic carpet areas for the Agrabah area. Either that or it's the boss theme. It's been a while since I've played the game. Unfortunately, it's a rather dull rendition of the previous track. The sounds sound more subdued and while most of it is the same, there is very little to differentiate this track from its predecessor. It still has that same catchiness and strong melody as the former, but unfortunately it seems rather uninspired to me. (6/10)

16) This is Halloween (Written by Baltimoore)

Well, well. You all know what this is, I'm sure. Which also means I don't have to say very much about the piece. Mad with props given to Mr. Elfman for the chillingly macabre and dreadfully entertaining melody, perfectly representing such a humorously twisted place that is Tim Burton's Halloween Town. Shimomura's arrangement of the piece differs very little from the Kingdom Hearts version of the town theme, I can't actually find any difference at all, and in a strange event, Ryo Yamazaki's past synth-operating compared to Takeharu Ishimoto's current makes very little difference as well, so I can't really state which version of them is the better. The arrangement itself is highly enjoyable, and keeps itself dark but colourful throughout the piece. One might argue there's some overuse of strings, but there's really nothing wrong with the piece at all. (9/10)

17) Spooks of Halloween Town (Written by Nirvana69)

Well, the battle theme for Halloween Town doesn't seem to have changed much at all, which some might consider as a good thing but I personally thought this was one of the weaker battle themes in the first game. And as such, this seems to be one of the weaker and less exciting battle themes on this soundtrack as well. Plus, we are treated to yet some more of Ishimoto's low quality synth work. (6/10)

18) Adventures in the Savannah (Written by Nirvana69)

After the somewhat surprising and out of place synth drone opening, this turns into a great area theme. Shimomura depicts the Savanah almost perfectly in this piece with it's combination of horns, tribal sound percussion, and woodwinds. Definitely one of the better area themes in the game. (9/10)

19) Savannah Pride (Written by Don)

"Savannah Pride" serves as the battle theme for the Pridelands area. I really like the tribal feel that the track itself gives off, but I'm not really a big fan of the percussion. It's decent, but it could be so much more. The melody itself is quite epic in nature, and the use of brass in this track, as opposed to the others, seems a bit more refined. While it still isn't the strongest battle track on the album, this one has more listenability than others on the soundtrack. (7/10)

20) The Encounter (Written by Don)

If I'm not mistaken, this is the boss theme for the Pridelands area. I personally really enjoy this one. The use of chorals and brass really help to make a gripping melody, while the string work helps to accentuate the overall feeling and bring out the melody even more. The percussion work is still a bit on the annoying side, but it's more enjoyable than in "Savannah Pride." This is one of the boss themes that I do go back to, mainly for the use of the various instruments. (8/10)

21) Space Paranoids (Written by Chris)

The musical accompaniment to the world of Tron is one of the most experimental and effective on the score. The enticing introduction contrasts a dynamic and colourful synth line with haunting synth vocals and dissonant chord progressions. The main section of the piece features rapid discords from forces that sound partly synthesized and alien despite having qualities of some tuned percussion. The result is an excellent accompaniment to the confusing and mesmerising journey Sora and co. embark on in this world. (9/10)

22) Byte Bashing (Written by Don)

I'll give Shimomura one thing. She really captured the spirit of the music of Tron with the themes related to that movie. Unfortunately, the tracks themselves don't really do much for me. "Byte Bashing" serves as the battle theme for the land of Tron and it really doesn't give off that battle like atmosphere. The use of electronica, rather than standard fare orchestration, works to its advantage here, but I find the melody rather unmemorable. (6/10)

23) Byte Striking (Written by Don)

This is the boss battle theme for the Tron area and it still fails to captivate me. It's essentially a rehash of the battle theme, but at an increased tempo. There are some additions to the track as a whole, but overall, it doesn't really add anything groundbreaking or remarkably interesting to the entire mix. It emulates the sound of Tron nicely, as mentioned before, but it still turns out to be lackluster in the end. (5/10)

24) Sinister Shadows (Written by Hengun)

A rhythmic ostinato with the piano leads throughout this piece, making it sound quite exciting. The battle melody performed by brass and string instruments is really captivating. One minus: The track is quite repetitive and lacks diversity. (7/10)

25) The 13th Dilemma (Written by Hengun)

Now that's a track! It builds up dramatically, like a boss battle theme is supposed to. A piano alternates with strings to perform the main melody of this piece, which is in a contrast with the undercurrent percussion / brass section. What is likeable about this track is that it's quite creative and diversified. One of the better boss-battle themes by Shimomura. (9/10)

Disc Six

1) Showdown at Hollow Bastion (Written by Chris)

The start of the final portion of the soundtrack is marked by 48 second piece of music to accompany a cut scene. Doesn't sound great, does it? Except it's orchestrated by Kaoru Wada and features full orchestra and choir. This results in a dramatic and emotional piece of music that nicely culminates the "Other Side" motif previously exposed in Final Mix. Sadly brief but it's not long to wait for something even more impressive... (9/10)

2) One Winged Angel (Written by Chris)

And this isn't it. A resynthing of the abrupt arrangement of "One Winged Angel" fortunately using the same choir as Kingdom Hearts. The instruments are poorly synthesized, detracting from the drama of the piece and making it often seem cumbersome. Still, it's good to see that "One Winged Angel" actually made the soundtrack this time after it was relegated to Kingdom Hearts' Final Mix album in its previous version. Still a fan pleaser for sure. (6/10)

3) Battleship Bravery (Written by Don)

I believe this piece serves as the final gummi ship stage. As the stage itself is quite epic, some of that atmosphere is transferred over to this piece, while at the same time, producing a very calming effect. To me, this stage theme is worlds above some of the others out there. It actually has some development. While I think that the epicness seems to be overpowered by the calming harp, the greater sense of adventure is always present. It adds a nice touch to the track and distinguishes it from other gummi ship stage themes in my opinion. (9/10)

4) Sacred Moon (Written by Don)

"Sacred Moon" is a very rhythmic choral piece. In some ways, this is a beneficial thing, but at other times, it's a bit of a downer. In terms of benefits, the chorals add a nice contrast to the piano and percussion, but at the same time, their lack of variation makes them seem like more of an add-on for atmospheric purposes rather than for compositional purposes. That being said, I rather enjoy the entire piece as a whole. The rhythm is extremely catchy and the instrumental contrasts are duly welcomed. (8/10)

5) Deep Drive (Written by Don)

I assume this is another battle theme. As usual, the bass line percussion is rather repetitive, but in this case, I can forgive it because I actually think it works well with the melody. The piano, the strings, and the chorals all work together to create an engaging melody and are a strong suit to this theme. Granted, it's not the best battle theme Shimomura has done, but it's one of the better ones on this soundtrack. (8/10)

6) Riku (Written by Nirvana69)

Character themes are certainly not a strong point on this album. That being said, Riku has probably the most enjoyable and representative character theme of them all. Riku is the subject of much ambiguity in this game and his character theme showcases that ambiguity very well. The suspended strings, choppy piano chords, and rapid synth ostinato all contribute to this feeling of mystery. This would have been an easy 10 if not for two major problems. For one, it is rather short and undeveloped. And for two, the string sound used simply gets on my nerves. Sound quality has never been a very big issue with me, but in this case it simply irritates me. It's a shame such a trivial thing had to spoil what is otherwise a solid 9 piece. (8/10)

7) Courage (Written by Don)

This is a short track utilizing heavy woodwind instruments to move the melody along. String synth helps to accentuate the melody. Interestingly enough, the brass sections in this track are used mainly as an accompaniment alongside some percussion. It's not the weakest track on the album, but it's rather generic, repetitive, and rather stale. (4/10)

8) Disappeared (Written by Don)

While there is nothing truly remarkable about this track, I have to give it points for dramatic build up and an overall implementation of suspenseful elements. The use of the chorals, piano, and strings over a very fast paced percussion bass line really make for an enjoyable listen. It's a shame that there really isn't too much melodic development. (7/10)

9) Fight to the Death (Written by Don)

Ah, my favorite battle theme on this album. While it may be a bit repetitive at times, I feel that it works amazingly. The rhythmic brass bass line, the brass melody, the addition of chorals, the implementation of piano arpeggios, the strings, and the inclusion of the "Dearly Beloved" motif shows Shimomura's true strength in creating battle themes based around the piano. It's a truly remarkable feat and this is one of the Kingdom Hearts II pieces that I frequently revisit. (10/10)

10) Darkness of the Unknown (Written by Mac Tear)

Ah, finally here it is, the final battle theme for Kingdom Hearts II. Compared to its predecessor "Guardando nel buio" from the first Kingdom Hearts, this one uses a more direct way of combining rhythmnic, melodic, and harmonic elements, but the style is nearly the same. The first part from 0:00-1:12 uses an repetitive piano/harp motif with choir and dominant percussion in the background. It reminds me a little of "The Extreme" from Final Fantasy VIII. After this long introduction, the snare drums settle in and other instruments like organ or violin are added.

From 2:03-2:42 the track reaches its climax with strings and horns in the background playing tender melodies to each other. After that the violins take the lead role again and the organ/choir combo shows up again like before. At 4:20 the percussion holds on and we hear an slow interlude of the main melody. Breath out and collect your forces for the final blow! From 4:45 the harp motif from the very beginning plays again, accompanied by violins and choir and this combo plays until the track fades out. A great track by Shimomura; it may be a bit repetitive compared to "Guardando nel buio" and has got a lesser power, but all in all it's a worthy final battle theme! Good job, Ms. Shimomura. (10/10)

11) Passion ~After the Battle~ (Written by Don)

For the ending cinematic, we are treated to a slower version of the opening version of "Passion," similar to the treatment of "Hikari" in the first Kingdom Hearts. Unfortunately, I find this the weaker of the two pieces. While I appreciate the focus on the piano, I find that the life and vigor found in the opening version is subdued in this version. It's still a pleasant listen, but it seems to drag on. It fits the cinematic well though. As the track ends, the vigor that was once found in the opening version makes a reprise. While it's a bit too late in the song to make any real impact, the instrumental treatment is rather pleasant. (8/10)

12) Fantasia alla Marcia for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra (Written by Baltimoore)

One point has been made clear throughout a number of pieces on all three Kingdom Hearts albums released over the years: live orchestral arrangement plus Kingdom Hearts equals love. And while Shimomura's compositions and melodies often present a virtually flawless picture describing all the light and darkness that is the universe of Kingdom Hearts, it is masterful symphonist and orchestral arranger Kaoru Wada that really makes the pieces shine. You've heard their successful companionship glimmer earlier in Kingdom Hearts ("Hikari - KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version" and "March Caprice for Piano and Orchestra"), earlier on this soundtrack ("Passion - KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version" and "Dearly Beloved"), the remakes Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix ("Memories in Pieces" and "Fate of the Unknown" respectively), and more. While all of those were remarkable masterpieces, "Fantasia ala Marcia for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra" is probably their strongest achievement yet.

I realize a lot of people have been disappointed with this soundtrack (myself included), but this track makes all the pain go away. Problems with Ishimoto's synth-operating? Trouble with Shimomuras repetition of old Kingdom Hearts themes in a lamer form? Think the composition standards weren't up to date alltogether? Don't fret! Here comes absolute musical beauty, and the without a doubt best piece on this soundtrack in my honest opinion, so hold on while a try to review this monster of a work. I'll do my best, and that, unfortunately, is all I can give you.

The piece begins with arpeggios of a clarinet and the faintest glimmer of tremolo strings, while some deep brass underneath builds itself up, and anticipation begins to stir within you. And when the trumpets ring out their joyous fanfare, you know the time for celebration has come, for you have saved the universe from a cosmic dark catastrophe — again. The fanfare rings out for a moment longer, until you can hear a fully orchestrated (and much better) version of "Sora", which signals the Keyblade Master's triumphant return through the door of light. This theme soon swells away from its jollyness and brings forth an old classic — the "March Caprice" theme is upon us, in all its glory once again. It marches on, through great emotions, only to make room for Shinko Ogatas passionate piano, singing the all to familiar "Dearly Beloved" theme. This section, and the one after, in a samey style playing "Always on my Mind", particularly showcases Wada's fantastic sense of texture, with the constant piano arpeggios, the holy choir, the mighty brass, the light woodwinds, and the lovely strings.

Also worth noticing is how Wada seamlessly intergrates all these contrasting moods and different harmonic styles under one emotional setting; the one which I would call hope, and how extremely natural the transitions between the different themes feels because of it. He seriously is awesome at this, I tell you.

But through all this victory, passion, beauty and hope one can't forget the suffering that has been endured, the friends lost and the pain caused, and that is exactly what is coming. After the agonizingly beautiful "Always on my Mind" passage, a mysterious horn suddenly gives a feeling of further anticipation, and with a smash of cymbals (which still feels very natural) a section of darkness and brutality comes along. You guessed it — "Destati" is here, fully orchestrated. The rich chorus contrasts greatly with the rhythmic thundering of timpani and the piano, and the power of the theme easily leaves one feeling a bit overwelmed. The bit goes on, and through a fantastic development section of further might and power, the piece (oh so naturally) transists into "Another Side". Though it's short, the driving strings and the mysterious piano chords feels just so right and fitting. And in an even more stunning move, "Dearly Beloved" and "Always on my Mind" are back again, feeling more passionate than ever.

And after a further swell of musicality, the piece calms down, and thinks of the breathtaking story it has just told, looking with both sadness and strength towards a hopeful future. And what a future it is. The strings, calmly and full of compassion, start humming an encore of the "March Caprice" tune, and the warmth it gives away is just so comforting after the extremeness of all the music played up till now. But, not suprisingly, it soon gains new wings, and lifts again, further and further up in the sky, and for a breathtaking finale the whole orchestra and the choir join together in the glorious companionship that is Shimomura and Wada. One long final coda, and the game ends.

A complete and utter masterpiece, "Fantasia..." will forever be ingraved in many a video game music fans hearts, and the partnership of Yoko and Kaoru gets stronger and stronger for every piece, easily holding up with classics from other splendid teams such as Uematsu/Hamaguchi and Sakimoto/Matsuo. The soundtrack's highlight, for sure. (10/10)

13) Destiny Islands (Written by Chris)

It's been a long time since Kingdom Hearts gamers heard the youthful theme for the original Kingdom Hearts' outset islands. What better way to commemorate a return here with an arrangement from Kaoru Wada. The arrangement is brief and simple, but entirely effective. Led by the piano, its interpretations of the happy-go-lucky melody is accompanied by its own jazz harmonies, gorgeous strings and woodwinds, and, to add the tropical edge, an acoustic guitar. It ends after 1:11, but still makes a big impact. (8/10)

14) Hand in Hand (Written by Chris)

In Kingdom Hearts tradition, "Hand in Hand" is briefly reprised here. Kaoru Wada offers a bombastic orchestration that makes the triumphant utterings of the main melody all the more heart warming. At 0:28, piano chords hinting at "Dearly Beloved" are offered before the theme fades into nothingness. Exciting if brief. (7/10)

15) Sunset Horizons (Written by Don)

"Sunset Horizons" is a track that portrays a very dark time. The pounding percussion, the suspenseful strings, and the mysterious piano all come together to create a very short, but powerful track. (8/10)

16) Dearly Beloved ~ Reprise (Written by Don)

In this piece, Shinko Ogata lends her graceful hands to play this theme. While simplicity is my weak point, I rather enjoy the Wada arranged version a bit more. The piano definitely has the range of notes and emotions, but the orchestrated version felt more dynamic and contrasting. This is still a good piece by any standard though. (8/10)

Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories Original Soundtrack

Disc Seven

1) Dearly Beloved (Written by Chris)

Re:Chain of Memories opens with what is largely a resynthing of the rendition of "Dearly Beloved" from the original Kingdom Hearts. It's a delicate and beautiful piano piece with some nice synth effects on top to encapsulate the fantastical feel of Kingdom Hearts. Nevertheless, there is a small change at 0:29 when a xylophone melody enters and adds a childish aura to the piece, meaning the loop occurs at 1:00 rather than at 0:30. In many ways, the synth from Hirosato Noda or Keiji Kawamori is as good if not better than the original. No complaints here except for the lack of originality. (8/10)

2) Memories in Pieces (Written by Don)

"Memories in Pieces" is the only orchestrated track on the Re:Chain of Memories soundtrack. It's also an important piece because it introduces us to many of the game's themes. The track starts off with an arrangement of "Hand in Hand" played by string and pianos. As the track progresses, it shifts between both happy and dark atmospheres. The mysterious "Scent of Silence," the beautiful "Namine," and the foreboding "Castle Oblivion" all make their way into this piece. I feel it's a nice way to summarize the new themes for Re:Chain of Memories. (10/10)

3) Traverse Town (Written by Don)

This piece is a re-synth of "Traverse Town" from the first Kingdom Hearts and the transition is very good. The melody creates one of the more beautiful town themes and I love how the woodwind carries it with playfulness. I find it enchanting and it's definitely one of the highlights, at least for me. (9/10)

4) Hand-in-Hand (Written by Chris)

Another rehash with new synth. I prefer it to the original Kingdom Hearts version because the synth sounds so much smoother while returning the adventurous sound of the original. Over the series, this has developed into a classic Kingdom Hearts theme and its presence here is welcome if, again, unoriginal. (8/10)

5) Just Wondering (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is one of those typical Kingdom Hearts tracks we've heard from Shimomura. It accompanies a scene where Leon (Squall) and Yuffie appear in Traverse Town. The main melody is played by catchy pizzicato strings and piano and later an female choir is added, making it more mysterious. But all in all, it's an very short and monotonous track, which may work in game well, but on the soundtrack not so much. (6/10)

6) Struggle Away (Written by Mac_Tear)

Another of those typical Kingdom Hearts battle themes with the typical repartoire of instruments (violin, piano, snare drums, organ, choir), we heard before. The melody is pretty nice to listen to, it captures the feeling of danger and confrontation well, but there seems to be a lack in the developement (too repetive). The synth patterns are a nice effect. The percussion is pretty much the same we heard in the previous battle themes, only with a bit more variation (see at 0:45). That Shimomura can do better battle themes than this we'll hear later in "The Fight for My Friends" or "Graceful Assassin". A good addition the soundtrack, maybe lesser original, but effective and arranged well. (7/10)

7) Welcome to Wonderland (Written by Don)

This is another rehash from the first game. As such, there isn't much that has changed. The synth sounds really similar and doesn't seem to falter in many areas. The melody is rather cute and it seems to fit the Wonderland theme quite well. (8/10)

8) To Our Surprise (Written by Don)

This is another rehash. This time, it's the battle theme for the Wonderland world. To me, it's a typical Shimomura battle theme, but I do think that the string section is the strongest section. It adds some sharpness to the rather dull woodwind and percussion. Rather fitting for the world, but still a bit weak in my opinion. (7/10)

9) Piccolo Resto (Written by Mac_Tear)

This track is writen in a style very similar to the previous "Just Wondering". The main melody is played by xylophones, accompanied by pizzicato strings and a lush female voice in the background. Maybe not as mysterious as "Just Wondering" — it has more of a silly tone on it. Filler. (5/10)

10) Olympic Coliseum (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is the third version of the famous theme, and in my opinion the one with the best sound quality. Not as powerful as the first version from Kingdom Hearts, but a lot better than the Kingdom Hearts II version. Melody and arrangement is still the same as the previous ones, so nothing new here to say. (8/10)

11) Go For It! (Written by Baltimoore)

This is almost starting to look like an alternate Kingdom Hearts forum group review. Another rehash, and it does sound better than ever. Maybe the texture is somewhat too thick at times, but the treatment received to this old classic (which I think is fair to call it, as many times one went to the Coliseum to fight...) is really quite awesome. Brass sounds clean, strings sound lush, and woodwinds and percussion sound suitably jolly. Good stuff. (9/10)

12) Disquieting (Written by Baltimoore)

Some dark orchestral ambience. Nothing special. Think "Villains of a Sort" and you get the picture. Tremolo strings, pizzicato, and piano. Not boring at aaall... (5/10)

13) The Fight for My Friends (Written by Don)

This is another new battle theme to this soundtrack. Unfortunately, I don't really think it stands out that much. The brass accompaniment is a bit harsh at times and I find the melody on the weaker side. I do like the inclusion of the organ and I feel the strings do help salvage a weak melody. It's not bad, but it seems rather generic. (7/10)

14) A Day in Agrabah (Written by Mac_Tear)

Like almost all rehashed tracks I personally think that the versions from Kingdom Hearts are unchallenged. This one is no exeption. Even if it has different percussion with a feeling of more modern than traditional, it captures not the feeling of the first version (let's not talk about the second, we all know the sound quality). The rest is still the same. (8/10)

15) Arabian Dream (Written by Mac_Tear)

Much like the previous track, this one features an different percussion. It's more Parasite Eve-like with a little from "Arabian Daydream" from Kingdom Hearts II. I prefer the first rendition as well. (8/10)

16) A Very Small Wish (Written by Mac_Tear)

One of the catchiest and best area themes from the first game now returns with an slightly quieter and chary arrangement. It has almost lost all the power and the waltz-like atmosphere which the first arrangement has, but all in all it's not BAD — I just prefer the original version. (8/10)

17) Monstrous Monstro (Written by Mac_Tear)

Read the above text. The battle theme for this world is just as powerless as it's area theme. Nuff said. (8/10)

18) La Pace (Written by Chris)

One of the original pieces for Re:Chain of Memories, "La Pace" nevertheless has the very familiar Kingdom Hearts sound. It is just a slow tuned percussion melody accompanied by high-pitched synth vocals and some pizzicato strings. Despite its brevity and functionality, this piece is quite touching and beautiful. I'd imagine it'd be very effective in the game. (7/10)

19) This is Halloween (Written by Chris)

The same arrangement for the original Kingdom Hearts is used here, but the instrumental palette is changed by the synthesizer operators. The piece has significantly more definition as a result, featuring less reverb and more articulated instruments. The choice of lead instrument takes a bit of time to get used to, but adds a whimsical side to a slightly darker interpretation. This is probably the best of the Shimomura versions of this piece and stays closest to her true intentions. (8/10)

20) Spooks of Halloween Town (Written by Chris)

Another competent resynthing with more timbral contrast to the original theme thanks to some clever implementation. This amounts to an intense but appropriate battle theme for Halloween Town. (8/10)

21) The 13th Floor (Written by Don)

This piece strikes me as an accompaniment to a very dark area or event. Strings are used to build suspense, while the tolling of the bells helps to create a bit of a creepy atmosphere. It kind of reminds me of Shimomura's Parasite Eve days. It's a nice ambient piece, but it loses something on its own. (7/10)

22) Under the Sea (Written by Don)

Here we are given an instrumental of "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. Given that this is a reprise from the first Kingdom Hearts, there isn't really much to say. The synth sounds a bit less sharp, but it's still the same enjoyable track we've heard before. (8/10)

23) An Adventure in Atlantica (Written by Mac_Tear)

The arrangement is similar to its predecessor, only with of course different sound quality. The drums samples for example are the main difference. While Kingdom Hearts had energic and rich bumping beats, Re:Chain of Memories has soft snare drums, which sound almost powerless to the original. The same thing goes for the trumpet samples. But the rest is still the same, so nothing more to say here. (8/10)

24) Face It! (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is another of Shimomura's typical Kingdom Hearts themes. Played by harsh strings and an synthesized organ, the track intercedes the feeling of danger and confrontation. It's played, for example, at the beginning of the game during the tutorial battle with the mysterious hooded figure. Nothing special, just a short and not well developed panic track. (4/10)

25) The Force in You (Written by Baltimoore)

An original Re:Chain of Memories battle theme this time around. I usually like these typical battle themes from Shimomura, but this one lacks some strength, I guess. The texture is a little thin, and doesn't add much to the tension, which makes the piece fall short a little, as it obviously aims to be full of tension. There's not much rhythmic variety either. The melody works, but it's nothing special. Not as good as these sort of tracks should be. (6/10)

Disc Eight

1) Captain Hook's Pirate Ship (Written by Chaos777)

I actually enjoyed this theme more in the first Kingdom Hearts because of the deep heavy strings in the background. While this piece starts out lighter, it quickly gains momentum. There is a lovely sense of mysteriousness as the pizzicato string fades out at certain points, and the cymbals clash at every climax. The piano is heard more clearly as it plays in synch with the strings and horns to deliver a mystifying sensation. It definitely works well, especially since it comes from a piece that was originally already well-composed. (8/10)

2) Pirate's Gigue (Written by Chaos777)

Wow, this piece starts off fantastically! What I like about Shimomura is how she is able to use the original concept of a "gigue" being a type of dance to creating a battle theme from it. The percussion begins to rise with timpani beats to accompany, but what I love most about it is what I believe to be a violin. At moments when the violin carries the melody, it seems to rise with such intensity to represent a valiant and quirky struggle. The accompanied percussion also has its time to shine in between sequences. I must say, this battle theme is in many ways a great reinterpretation of identical elements from the first one! (9/10)

3) Scent of Silence (Written by Don)

"Scent of Silence" is a Re:Chain of Memories original piece and bodes a very dark and sinister melody. Unfortunately, it relies too much upon the same piano motif and the track, while succeeding in creating a tense atmosphere, becomes rather repetitive and dull. It's a nice effort in creating ambiance via piano, but there's just something missing. (6/10)

4) Hollow Bastion (Written by Chaos777)

I find this piece an interesting experiement from its predecessor in the original Kingdom Hearts. We have the same melody, but with different instrumentation. I love this theme. The piece begins with a bell, which contributes to announcing the finality and feeling of a final place of conflict. The strumming harp plays an important part because it creates feelings of wandering and being lost within the world, unsure of your next trial. Another feature is how the voice begins and then fades out, resonating sound so low to be melancholy, yet emphasizing the struggle, and the belief in hope. The alternation between the piano and plucked strings add a large amount of diversity to the piece. I feel as though each instrument is somehow telling a different story, through the melody taking off different directions, and yet they all come back to the same place. This piece definetely creates a feeling of unity, and no matter how far apart we are, we will once again find each other. (9/10)

5) Scherzo di Notte(Written by Chaos777)

Superb... Once again, Shimomura knows her musical history. The scherzo is a lovely melody with a three beat repetition that evokes a "joking" mood. With this is mind, she can still make a battle theme out of it. What I appreciate most is the variety of instrumentation used. She combines a strong bass motif in the piano, odd-sounding string patterns, and a violin to carry the melody. Together, these instruments make the "joke" but simultaneously create a tension within the listener. The large amount of staccato notes in the piece lend to that spontaneaity, that sense of dangerous adventure. While the scherzo may appear by definition to be a simple form, she does so much more. She uses it, adds to it, reinvents it. This is one of the things composing is about. (10/10)

6) Revenge of Chaos (Written by Chaos777)

Anyone remember the beginning 6-chord introduction from "Forze de Male?" Well, this piece begins with it. However, listening to it, the percussion seems to be held back a bit. The horns could also have more energy, however I can understand them being restricted in order to create a sense of struggle against the odds. The melody does sound very familiar to "Forze de Male" but I think there could have been more done to make the piece more emphatic. The development for it is pretty short as well. What stands out about this piece is the predominant use of the horns which create a feeling of trying to break free from captivity. Their chord progressions alternate between bass and tenor, and the percussion, while not particularly interesting, does support the melody as it progresses. (7/10)

7) Winnie the Pooh (Written by Chaos777)

I've always been a fan of Shimomura's renditions of traditional Disney themes. This one is no exception. The melody is the same from the first, but there are differences in instrumentation that allow some parts to stand out more than others. The beginning is fantastic, starting off with welcoming strings and a solo woodwind to catch your attention, as it leads you into the main melody. The percussion is well done because it doesn't just mimic and support the melody, but shifts enough to remain entertaining. I love the use of glissendo low horns and the clarinet to create a charming sound to complement the character of Pooh. Very inventive, and not at all boring. (9/10)

8) March-A-Long (Written by Don)

"March-A-Long" is a track that seems like it would accompany a very fun scene or area. It boasts a strong melody, but at the same time, this melody is also hampered by the bass line. It's a bit repetitive and seems to detract from the piece as a whole. However, the melody is one of Shimomura's stronger ones for this game, and I find enjoyment in that. (8/10)

9) Dash-A-Long (Written by Scherzo)

This track is characterized by short chromatic phrases in the melody and a basic harmonic backing. I can see it being perceived as either exceptionally annoying or catchy and fun, depending on the listener's mood. It strikes a delicate balance, teetering perhaps a little too much for comfort. At about 0:45, the track develops into a fuller, more mature sounding piece with a longer more singing melody. A welcome change. (6/10)

10) Thirteenth Discretion (Written by Don)

Shimomura creates a rather ambient and dark atmosphere with this theme. Unfortunately, it relies too much on plucked and bowed strings to get the job done. While this isn't always bad, using the same motifs for each throughout the duration can get a bit repetitive and boring. (4/10)

11) The 13th Struggle (Written by Scherzo)

This is what a boss battle theme should sound like. Shimomura combines hectic chromatic melodies with a relentless backdrop of militaristic snare drumming and intense string motifs. Some of it is material we've heard before in the series — she quotes the "Another Side" motif briefly, and the track on the whole is reminiscent of "Forze del male" from the first Kingdom Hearts game. But there is enough unique stuff here to make a track that is both engaging enough to stand out, but is still homogeneous with its surroundings. A good example of Shimomura at her best. (9/10)

12) Lazy Afternoons (Written by Chaos777)

This piece is absolutely amazing. I am throughly impressed by Shimomura's ability to use exactly the correct instruments in this rendition. This gem begins with lovely guitar arpeggios and a xylophone, until the accordion (I believe) enters with a graceful feeling of restfulness and relaxation. It is by far the most important instrument in the piece because it carries the melody so smoothly, as the percussion and accompaniment maintains the soothing feeling of a nice day. The use of long legato phrasing connects notes nicely, and unites the theme without being drawn out. The tempo is just the right speed, because it allows the melody to development completely, allowing us to hear every note clearly and passionately. This has the greatest renditions of "Lazy Afternoons" I have heard. Excellent job. (10/10)

13) Sinister Showdown (Written by Chaos777)

Compared to the last track, and to the previous version of this song, this song doesn't seem to carry the same amount of intensity or depth. I find that the choice of instruments hold the power of the song back, and the accompaniment can be repetitive if you are paying specific attention to it. I believe it's a glockenspiel, or a xylophone that is playing, progressing the melody, and while I believe it does not add much, I do respect and appreciate the diversity and new choice of interpretation. This piece does incorporate the aspect of danger, but not as heavily as the first one. All in all, this is a pretty nice track. It's not going to upset you because there is nothing grating about it. (7/10)

14) Destiny Islands (Written by Mac_Tear)

The second revamp of the jolly island theme (after the orchestral arrangement from Kingdom Hearts II). This time it's an piano solo, sometimes accompanied by a mandolin. The piano lines are nearly the same as Kingdom Heart II's version, only a little faster. Neat, but I liked the previous arrangement more. (7/10)

15) Night of Fate (Written by Mac_Tear)

Finally, one of the better and more original battle themes from the first game is new arrangement! The structure is the same as always, but the drum line is a bit more "peppy". Some instruments, for example piano or strings, sounds better in the original (more deep, better quality), but all in all it's a nice comeback and re-arrangement. (8/10)

16) Namin�

Written by Don - This is the character theme for the newly introduced, Namin�. Since I won't give away any spoilers in my review, suffice it to say, she's an important character. The theme itself is a simple piano melody, both captivating and beautiful. The introduction of a harp motif really doesn't do much to add to the track, but it is a nice addition nonetheless. Not the best of character themes, but there is an intrinsic beauty about it. (8/10)

Written by Chaos777 - I find this piece to be one of the most remarkable character themes I've ever heard from Kingdom Hearts. It only features two instruments, the piano and the harp, but that's all it needs. We begin with a keys that create a feeling of resolution and content. The piano melody is simple, flows nicely, and is well supported by the arpeggio harp that flows up and down, giving us a nice ornament to listen to. One reason why I believe this piece is exceptional is because its use of cadences at the end of every sequence. You never walk away from this piece unresolved. Another interesting thing is how this piece easily flows between happy and sad. It takes aspects of the minor key, but never places itself solely in the major key. Like Nobodies, this piece also flows along the twilight, which makes it exceptional. This allows the listener to experience a sense of accomplishment, and gives that person hope and faith, for better days to come. This music has a crowning feature using a simple piano melody, and a common, but not overused harp to apply itself outside of in-game context. (10/10)

17) Castle Oblivion (Written by Chaos777)

Very repetitive, and very dismal. Yet, in some way it works. The piece begins with an organ, which is not uncommon, especially when writing castle themes. However, we also realize that the chorus is used throughout to add to feelings of "displacement" and "depression." The organ plays mainly chords, and when it does play at all, the piece relies on an homophonic chorus and violin to carry the melody forth. What they achieve is a greater sense of morbidness. Even percussion gets to play a part in this piece at 0:43. The alternation between organ, solo strings, chorus, and percussion keeps an ongoing melody from becoming too repetitive, and ultimately unenjoyable at all. However, I would like to see more innovation in this piece, because I can definetely see it becoming annoying if you are listening to it non-stop. But, in the end, it does a good job at portraying the final dungeon, and does not dissapoint. (8/10)

18) Forgotten Challenge (Written by Baltimoore)

A marvelous composition. The battle theme for Castle Oblivion begins with a powerful organ, playing a menacing string of notes whose chord progression reminds me a little of the organ parts in the excellent "Ultra Violet" theme from Devil May Cry, along with harp arpeggios. It sounds extremely well, and soon the timpani enters with a steady beat, the choir sings out a heartfully, and the violin echoes a sorrowful tune. The atmosphere created is nothing short of astonishing, and it is one of the best tracks in Chain of Memories, without a doubt. It is quite short, and some ideas could be developed further, I guess, but I can't help but love it anyway. (10/10)

19) Graceful Assassin (Written by Don)

I can only assume that this is another battle theme, given the title. Perhaps the most different quality that this battle theme has over its counterparts is the inclusion of the organ. It really helps to add a bit of sinisterness to the entire piece. The rest of the piece relies on a rather static bass line and an interesting piano and violin melody. The track itself isn't bad, it's just that it sounds very similar to old ones. (8/10)

20) Scythe of Petals (Written by Chaos777)

I'm kind of iffy about this battle theme. We begin with an organ and disconnected harp phrases that introduce a larger melody of background percussion with occasional staccato notes. The violin also does a good job of creating an atmosphere of struggle as it slowly rises upwards. However, I feel that the melody can be overly repetitive, reusing the same instrument motifs frequently. The chorus is a nice additon to the mood, as it presents us with a surrealistic heavenly conflict. The music suffers from lack of development, and actually seems to be a bit held back, preventing it from creating a truly epic feel. I do believe that the instruments used fit the scene perfectly, but the basso obstinato in this piece can definitely get tedious after listening to it for a couple. However, the music is not particularly terrible either, and has its exciting points. (7/10)

21) Lord of the Castle (Written by Chaos777)

This track operates on many of the same features as the previous one, but I feel that the newer innovations in the music compensates for what "Sycthe of Petals" lacked. One thing I find very appealing are the erratic piano apeggios. The instrument represents loss of structure and order quite well, supported by the chorus. The strings serve an important role during the beginning, and shift to the horns as the melody proceeds. There is also a sequence at 1:20 when the percussion is heard most clearly. Afterwards, the strings resume with a much appreciated and noticed epic feel to them. Their volume, and layer effect bring much life to the piece. However, I feel that certain motifs, such as the blaring horns, become too overused throughout the piece, and can come up to be dry or displeasing. This piece appears to be a little better than the last one, but can suffer from similar flaws at times. (8/10)

Kingdom Hearts I & II Final Mix Additional Tracks

Disc Nine

1) One Winged Angel (from Final Fantasy VII) (Written by Terraguy)

What a great battle track. Starting off with symbols and a lot of strings creating the mysterious effect with the piano creating a strange melody that shows another mysterious side, the track opens strong. Then, when the vocals break in, all hell breaks loose. The creepy vocals add very well to the track's battle effect, and the feeling of desperation sets in. The use of drums and more cymbals, with bells, add to the immense effect of "hurry hurry". A great battle track, and something to keep people immersed in the track easily. (10/10)

2) Night on the Bare Mountain (Written by Hanta)

We've frequently seen this translated as "Night on the Bald Mountain," which is incorrect. This track is particularly famous for being used in Disney's Fantasia and returns in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (and the American version of Kingdom Hearts) as a boss theme, arranged by Shimomura to fit in with the rest of the game's soundtrack. The arrangement remains fairly faithful to Mussorsky's composition with Shimomura utilising a synth orchestra with some good results. Admittedly, this is a track made to be played by an orchestra but Shimomura does get away with it using nice strong brass instruments and woodwinds but the synth violins are a little to be desired. This a strong and dramatic yet mischievous piece that Shimomura manages to translate well into the game and is suited to the battle it's played in. (9/10)

3) Disappeared (Written by Totz)

As monsieur Chris has said, this track is played in the fight against the Unknown in Hollow Bastion. Unfortunately, since I don't live in Japan, I can only imagine what the fight must be like: I imagine the Unknown starts off very calm, very controlled, but as soon as we annoy him (aka beat the living daylights outta him), he gets all mad and stuff. But him/her/it being slow in the beginning doesn't mean the battle isn't frantic. Heck, look at Sephiroth. He slowly walks toward you, but his huge Masamune can pretty much hit you every single time. And look at the track that's played when you fight him. There are no slow moments. Maybe the beginning, but the fight hasn't started yet. But I digress. A lot. "Disappeared" perfectly represents that battle in my mind. It starts off kinda mysteriously, then it goes all out and gets really agressive. And although the bass line is very repetitive, the track really kicks in at 0:56, and surprise, surprise, there's a piano in there. All I'm saying is that the track is good. Damn good. Shimomura did good. And that means it's great. (9/10)

4) Another Side (Written by Terraguy)

This track played during the secret movie in Deep Dive, like Chris said, and boy, did it rock! The track helps majorly. Starting from a low and soft/sweet piano theme to a few vocals coming in, it gives a strange sense of foreboding. Then it continues in the same sense, becoming a tad repetitive, until 0:53 when a cello starts a deep four-note phrase which sets off drums, strings, and the rock beat. The piano plays small little harmonics in between, and the overall feeling is just, "Wow." Then at 1:25, a swooping melody from strings and a flute create a perfect sense of a interlude while still keeping the main rock theme underneath. Then, reverting straight back to the drums as a bass line, the track is well put together to create action. At the end, all instruments disappear except for vocals and piano, which creates the ultimate feeling of "what's gonna happen next?!" Overall great track. When in the movie, it could have been synchronised a tad better, but as a track, it's a great track for battles and the unknown coming. (9/10)

5) What a Surprise?! (Written by Chris)

For the Nightmare Before Christmas section of Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, Shimomura composed two new themes to accompany the Christmas Town. The area theme, "What a Surprise?!", is a delightful track that manages to reflect the spirit of Christmas while not sounding especially derivative. The melodies are lovely here, Shimomura shining with her execution of crisp uplifting string melodies, while the colourful percussion adds to the gleam. It's wonderful to see what Shimomura can do with some more time on her hands. (9/10)

6) Happy Holidays! (Written by Chris)

The battle theme for Christmas Town sparkles with jubilance and dynamism. The lyrical woodwind phrasing is again superbly executed and the transitions between the whimsically contrasting sections is fluid. To avoid the theme sounding too celebratory, Shimomura employs a slightly darker bassline and a sudden but brief darker progression at 0:53. Overall, this will make you smile while functioning well in battle. (9/10)

7) The 13th Reflection (Written by Don)

I believe that this is a boss battle theme, but I'm not sure. As with most of the Kingdom Hearts II battle themes, this one focuses on a very static percussion, the inclusion of piano somewhere, and some nice brass orchestration in this particular instance. This is one of the stronger battle themes, but I feel that Shimomura has used the piano in the dramatic battle themes a bit much. I still enjoy this piece though. (8/10)

8) Cave of Remembrance (Written by Scherzo)

Shimomura does a good job here of meshing together a vaguely electronic beat with some nice acoustic ambience. The overall effect is that of an ambient track that doesn't really build or go anywhere, but still has a sense of motion. It's a nice combination, and stands out from most of her work. The piano here is also particularly strong — unlike in some of Shimomura's other works, the keyboard really fits the mood. (8/10)

9) Deep Anxiety (Written by Chris)

Introduced to gamers as the website background music for the game, "Deep Anxiety" varies the format of a generic Shimomura battle theme to create an actually very interesting experiment. The piano line is used percussively in combination with all sorts of beats to create an effect reminiscent of many pressing electronica tracks. Above it, the decoration is dark and ethereal, including choirs, piano frills, resolute strings, and the occasional synth beep. When combined with the beats in the background, the track comes across as a strange but effective amalgamation of a trance piece and a dark battle theme. Good job. (9/10)

10) The Other Promise (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is an full arrangement of "Roxas", heard on the first disc. The track starts nearly identical as the original with the same mellow piano line and a lush voice in the background, only with a little faster tempo and better synth. At the 0:15 mark the track starts to develope a little more with the use of an organ and some deeper piano chords. From 0:42 the main melody in form of a flute sets in, identical with the original. At 1:11 the track reaches it climax with an deep and dramatic variation of the melody until the song loops again. This is an perfect example for re-arranging original tracks with not many changes. Definitely an worthy addition to the album, because this track captures the beautiful melody from "Roxas" with its nearly full capacity. (8/10)

11) Rage Awakened (Written by Chris)

"Rage Awakened" was definitely needed to round the soundtrack off and give a sense of climax. Similar to other Kingdom earts battle themes on a superficial level, it is superior to most because of its amazing development, brisk pacing, and techno beats. The result is dark, euphoric, and beautiful, carrying similar elements to "Deep Anxiety" but with increased fluidity and variation. (9/10)

12) Fate of the Unknown (Written by Don)

"Fate of the Unknown" is the only orchestrated track in the Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix album. What fascinates me about this piece of music is its outstanding development. Opening with very haunting choral work, Wada is able to create a feeling of despair and mystery before adding to the depth of the track. The string melody, with brass accents, over rhythmic percussion is an amazing way to create a stirring and emotional piece of music. Included within is Shimomura's signature piano style and it helps to complement the piece rather nicely. The playful woodwind melody that is introduced later in the track adds a bit of playfulness to the piece again before it reverts back towards the haunting choral melody. The piece's finale starts rather serenely, but shifts to an intense ending. It works well and I believe this is the best track on the Final Mix album. (10/10)


Written by Chris

Nine CDs of almost all music released on behalf of the Kingdom Hearts series so far amounts to an epic collector's item. It has a hefty 140 dollar price tag to match it. Is it worth a purchase? On the one hand, it is the most complete collection of Kingdom Hearts music legitimately available. There's everything aside from the unfortunate disclusion of Utada Hikaru's "Simple and Clean" and "Sanctuary", the English versions of "Hikari" and "Passion", and the not so necessary Game Boy Advance music from Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. On the other hand, the majority of the music featured here is available on the Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack and, in inferior form, the Kingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack. When most hardcore Kingdom Hearts and Shimomura fans would have bought these already, the availability of this box set is bittersweet to its main target audience.

Overall, Shimomura does a great job of capturing the light, dark, and spiritual elements of Kingdom Hearts' world. The Kingdom Hearts soundtrack was a delightful mix of area themes, battle themes, Disney arrangements, and setpieces like "March Caprice..." and "Hikari". The Kingdom Hearts II soundtrack was less inspiring, dominated by filler tracks, rehashes, and horrible synth from Takeharu Ishimoto, but nevertheless fitted the game wonderfully and had masterpieces like "Passion", "Fantasia alla marcia...", and much of the mini-musical sequence. This box set fleshes out its release to four discs from two, allowing tracks to loop at last and allowing the inclusion of a handful of unremarkable unreleased tracks that are desirable for completion's sake. The Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories soundtrack solves the frustrating synth problem of both Kingdom Hearts II and its Game Boy Advance original version. However, most tracks are rehashes and the result is a little mind-numbing after seven other discs of Shimomura reusing themes and formats. However, with the excellent additional tracks to Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, it was clear that Shimomura still had it and could create exceptionally emotional and developed tracks even when varying existing formats.

This box set is recommended for the biggest fans of Kingdom Hearts series, particularly if you haven't bought the other soundtracks in the series first. However, beware of its redundancy and repetitiveness in the Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories sections. All in all, an excellent collector's item for a musically and otherwise accomplished popular series. (7/10)

Written by Don

Kingdom Hearts brought about an interesting concept. The mixing of Disney worlds with character appearances by Final Fantasy members. While your party only included Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy, these members brought with them hints of nostalgia. Likewise could be said about the soundtrack. Mixing together Shimomura originals and arranged Disney themes, the overall feel of the album is very mixed. For example, the Disney themes, for the most part, are a fitting addition to the game, but on the other hand, the battle themes for various areas sound very similar to one another. I commend Yoko Shimomura for creating battle themes that match the area in which the party is exploring, but at the same time, I didn't like the fact that they relied on similar motifs throughout. Overall, Kingdom Hearts has some good themes and some bad themes, but on the whole, it's rather enjoyable.

Kingdom Hearts II, unlike the first game, was a very different type of soundtrack. Given that a lot of the tracks were reprises, only resynthed, the album came off as being rather stale. When there were new tracks, for the most part, they suffered from intolerable synth, mainly in the brass, violin and choral samples. The battle themes still suffered from "same syndrome" and were for the most part rather uninspired. The gummi ship stage themes were also quite uninspired and felt rushed or tacked on. The Disney themes were definitely the highlight of this soundtrack, and despite being mainly rehashes, the sound quality seemed very similar to its predecessor.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was another interesting concept, and linked the stories between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Unfortunately, most of the soundtrack were resynthesized versions of the first game's themes. When a new track did emerge, it wasn't really a spectacular track. The new battle themes suffered from the same problem as its predecessors and the lack of many new themes really dragged this album down.

Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix included unreleased tracks on the original two soundtracks. Unfortunately, these tracks aren't extremely spectacular, save for a few, but they do give a sense of completeness.

So, in the end, it's up to the listener. I recommend this soundtrack if you enjoy the Kingdom Hearts music, but if you already have Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack and Kingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack, I recommend not getting this box set, unless of course, you are a completist. Either way you look at it, someone's going to be satisfied. (7/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 7/10