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Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange :: Review by Harry

Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange Album Title: Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-00085
Release Date: January 25, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


The controversial Premium Arrange series has had a lot of trouble in the past to impress a large audience. Both Dark Chronicle and Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arranges had an all-star cast of composers and arrangers, but some people weren't satisfied with the quality of the arrangements. Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange, the latest addition, isn't much different to previous installments. It featured very prominent composers and, like the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange, had source material based on Level 5 composer Tomohito Nishiura, with each arranger responsible for one track. Many former and veteran contributors (Yasunori Mitsuda, Kenji Ito, Takayuki Aihara, Nobuyoshi Sano, Shinji Hosoe, Yoko Shimomura, Motoi Sakuraba and Noriyuki Iwadare) returned to help build the album, including two newcomers (Yoshitaka Hirota and Norihiko Hibino) who add a fresh layer to the albums special diversity characteristic. But does it live up to or surpass other albums in the series? Read on�

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) The Theme of Rogue Galaxy

A main theme should exemplify and raise significance to piece of media it stands for. Knowing the style Nishiura goes for when creating a theme of this type, I wasn't drastically impressed with his efforts, even if I liked the track. But Yasunori Mitsuda takes the composer's theme and sets a new standard of creative excellence. Embodied and influenced with his hit Celtic approach, Mitsuda expands on the original's powerful, epic but, by the original composer's thematic standards, predictable melody, adding his own touch of greatness. Leading the arrangement is Mitsuda's acoustic guitar and his synth strings, a more natural and creative manner as opposed to the bold brass and strings of the original, and opens exotically and rhythmic like "The Market in Valinfor", one of the arranger's pieces from his solo project, KiRite. Throughout a large portion of the track, the guitar reiterates the same notes that speed the pace to a moderately hasty level, as seamless strings read, interpret and arrange the main melodic line. Though not all is perfect; at 1:57, an odd synthetic instrument (possibly a bad manipulation of the low whistle) takes stage and ruins the grandiose mood with somewhat hard-to-bear noise. The piano solo following is a perfect example of Mitsuda's innocent music, flowing and elegant, hardly jagged, leading way into the ending sequence when all power returns to find the fitting conclusion it deserves. Mitsuda has outdone himself once more with his second contribution to the series, and though not as creative as his arrangement on the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange, the originality and accessibility remains just as strong, justifiable of a strong victory. (10/10)

2) Planet Zelard

I was a bit surprised to hear Shinji Hosoe's arrangement. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing he hasn't done before in his long, spanning career, but it was a fascinating transformation on the interestingly good theme by Nishiura (titled "Planet Zerard" on the Original Soundtrack). I thought what Nishiura came up was rather special (although nothing especially unique), as it was a nice blend of acoustic atmosphere, subtle instrumentation and electronic effects, but Hosoe completely outdoes the original, and without too much sophistication either. In fact, this is probably his least complex or transformative arrangement in the Premium Arrange series to date, not being as electronic as his two contributions to the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange, or as tasteful and multi-colored as his Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange track. However, the quality of "Planet Zelard" is still as great as the three other tracks, even if not as impacting and distinctive. In this arrangement, Hosoe has kept the supportive baseline nearly the same, making minor changes here and there, and has kept it on a loop. This is played throughout the majority of the track, although the guitar is quickly added in after the introduction. The melody from Nishiura's original isn't hard to pick out because it's constantly playing, although I'm sure the listener would be more focused on the engrossing repetitiousness of the background. If it's something I have noticed from Hosoe over the past few years, his development on themes has greatly improved, and here is no exception. The composer brings the track a long way from fairly interesting beginning all the way to the atmospheric orchestral climax, also demonstrating that this piece alone has tons of diversity and a high accessibility rate. Hosoe has outdone himself once more, and even if "Planet Zelard" isn't the most enjoyable track on the album, the qualities and features show that it's up there with some of the stronger pieces. (9.5/10)

3) The Castle in the Air

Kenji Ito has been the least impressive arranger, by far, on the Premium Arrange series. His hit or miss contributions to the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange were somewhat a mere flicker compared to the bright and radiant transformations of the other contributors, and his "World Within Me" arrangement of a nice vocal theme was an embarrassing disaster. This time, Ito works with yet another soft and dreamy Nishiura original, very akin to his Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange work. Like his arrangements found on the Dark Chronicle album, his work on "The Castle in the Air" isn't creative or extremely transformative by any means, and it's really only different by the fact that it's more acoustic and 'smoother' with the addition of a crisper sounding synth orchestra. The melody is quite beautiful and, admittedly, the new set of standard Ito instruments help highlight it, however the emotional effect is largely the same, although Ito's take is a little better. But with all the good things going for it, unfortunately, this arrangement is still a far cry to the other arrangements, something we have learnt to accept from Ito's work over the past years, which is truly a pity because the original material had a lot of potential and a possible better outcome. While no disaster, I was hoping to have something a little bit more refined than "The Castle in the Air", and from one of the composer's latest efforts on Romancing Saga Minstrel Song, we know that Ito is capable of delivering a lot more within his trademark style. A good track, but one of the weaker numbers on this incredibly diverse album. (8/10)

4) The Labyrinth

If there was one real masterpiece to choose from on this particular album, Takayuki Aihara's "The Labyrinth" is most surely one of the tracks to pick. Aihara himself has been very orchestral as of the past few years, his expert and distinguished work (with Nobuyoshi Sano) on Drag-on Dragoon absolutely blew everyone away, mixing electronica elements with dark and tasteful orchestrations, and his complex and elegant arrangement of "Silent palace" on the Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange was yet another successful effort. "The Labyrinth" explores a completely different side of Aihara's symphonic talents, as opposed to former works. It has a touch of the bold and powerful style that we have grown to love from him, but the general direction of the piece is aimed more towards being mysterious and impacting. My thoughts on Nishiura's original were pretty much that it was a good composition but it lacked polishing, but Aihara's version, accompanied by a synth orchestra opposed to the small tranquil ensemble in the original, upgrades and exceeds by a long shot. Some of the more inventive things found are the distorted flute which adds a maddening effect to the piece, and the transition between calm and mystifying to action-packed and exciting is almost flawless. Aihara really knows how to control the piece as the energy is always up to peak whether it's in the calm stage or the action phase, but I can unquestionably feel the passion from the composer. Perhaps the only gripe I can complain about is the anti-climatic ending. I was hoping for a proper finish rather than a fade out, especially after such a strong body and a gripping beginning, but this is hardly something to feel threatened by because, overall, this arrangement is impeccable. Once more, Aihara's contribution is a golden one, presenting something which scores top marks in all areas. It's just a shame that not all arrangements on this album are as first class as this. (10/10)

5) The Crisis

Another excellent and dependable composer is Yoko Shimomura, who is no newbie to the Premium Arrange series, contributing three successful arrangements so far. Historically, in the series, her arrangements have all been dependant on simply improving the sound quality and adding short periods of new composition, but "The Crisis" breaks the tradition slightly as she aims for something a little different. Her style doesn't differ from her other contributions; soothing instrumentals and an often stimulating beat, but the only difference here is the composition from Nishiura is insipid. Consequently, it leaves Shimomura with two things: a bad motif, but room for enhancement. First thing we directly notice on the improvement side is the standard synthesizer upgrade, which is always good to have anyway, but it really does make a noticeable difference compared to the original. Shimomura replaces some of the strings with the solo violin, though can't say I'm a fan of it (strangely resembling the samples used in Kingdom Hearts II), but no problems otherwise on that end of instrumental production. Taking in the upgrade, the arrangement sounds like it is actually a crisis scene, opposed to the relatively mild effect Nishiura was drawn to. On a down note, Shimomura only adds an additional opening and ending, which both rely on mainly chimes and bells to get the job done, and doesn't change the original's structure too much. I felt this arrangement could've been somewhat better, but it really is a shame that the effort of making the original version a decent track was simply left out. Shimomura suffers because of this, but at least her vengeance was created by deservingly overwhelming Nishiura's lackluster. (8.5/10)

6) The Ghost Ship

If I were to choose one composer who completely caught me off guard in this album, it would be no other than Norihiko Hibino, the underrated and frequently unrecognized co-composer for the Metal Gear Solid games. He, along with album contributor Yoshitaka Hirota, is one of the fresh newcomers to the series, yet they have provided some of the most inspired ideas to date. I was surprised at the original; it was actually a decent track with solid and ample development, one of the few Nishiura themes which were inspiring. That said, not only does Hibino deliver a wonderful arrangement, but he expresses his personal style using very little basis of the original's ambient but present melody. The track starts off with thunderous percussion and a light brass ensemble to help promote the ghastliness of Nishiura's original, toped by the classic motive of the mysterious piano that is played with caution. Only after a short period, a trumpet enters, causing a disturbance to the eeriness, and also gate ways for the main course of the theme after a short solo. At 1:31, the composer takes the challenge to harness the power of a talented vocalist, who is called harario, the voice responsible for some tracks in Hibino's solo work, Akashi. Her pronunciation and wording of the English language is all-well and amicable but a bit on the weak end, though she adapts well to the instrumentals and Jazzy tone. She leaves at 4:08, only again confronted by the crashing percussion and the daring trumpet who lead until the fadeout ending. Explained and exampled quite thoroughly, "The Ghost Ship" proves Hibino wasn't prepared to let a simple though interesting piece get the better of his creativity, as he establishes to the world his own worth as a composer and a contributor. (9.5/10)

7) Varkogu's Theme

Progressive rock and orchestral composer Motoi Sakuraba returns to contribute his third arrangement to the series, and once again, like with the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange, he works with absolutely ordinary source material. There are a lot of similarities between "The Dark Battle" and "Varkogu's Theme" aside from the obvious that they are both arranged in progressive rock. For instance, both have recurring organ and synth notes as well as the same idea of repeating the main melody a substantial amount of time but not without modifications and additions. The problem with Nishiura's efforts creating the original "Varkogu's Theme" is that it's not really thematic at all. You can definitely feel something is missing throughout the amount of brass instruments, making it sound completely empty of feeling. Fortunately, Sakuraba picked up where Nishiura left off and transformed it into a masterpiece of an arrangement, demonstrating that the composer can still generate quality rockin' themes under great amounts of pressure from other works. Sakuraba cleverly harnesses all sections of the original, and where the brass and strings felt a little awkward with the melody, it perfectly transposes into organ and synth without trouble. Naturally, this makes appreciating the original theme easier, although once you hear this progressive rock version, chances are you'll never want to listen to the original again. The aggression level is truly at its peak, but there are moments of chaos and madness where all hell is let loose, including nifty cacophonic parts towards the end. After his superb Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange arrangement of "The whole new world -Phantasy Star Online Episode 1&2 Opening Theme-", it was nice to see Sakuraba back in top form, because "Varkogu's Theme" is a prime example of what he can do with a lot of inspiration. (10/10)

8) Brave Heart

When it comes to 100% experimentation and creativity, Nobuyoshi Sano is the man for the job. Throughout his work for the series, his arrangements have been the most transformative and original, resembling little of the original works, best shown in "Jungle" from the Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange. His work here is much in the same light, but a little less zany and weird. Nishiura crafted a simplistic epic, worthy of praise, even if not the most invigorating of its kind, and taking in Sano's disadvantage of not being able to play the synthesizer mixed with the likable electronica style people have known to love, a hard task was ahead of him. His result is something that only his fans or electronica enthusiasts would find appealing in the greatest. Basically, the real deal is that to most people this contribution will feel undeservingly monotonous and incomparable to the less-than-incredible original, but the real beauty behind it is the consistency of the development and minimalism. Setup as only around 3 electronic 'instruments', the steady beat, the background noise and the synthesizer, he creates his famous recurring and looping technique without ever getting over-repetitious by constantly altering the sound. Nishiura's melody enters at the beginning of the track, though after that, it appears only in short interludes spread out neatly and nicely and often going unnoticed being disregarded because of the dreamy effect. So how does "Brave Heart", an arrangement of little happenings, contrast on an album with a ton of complexity? It gives it more diversity and inventiveness, and even if probably overlooked, one cannot deny Sano's efforts as impressive and fresh. (8.5/10)

9) Enormous Threat

The second new face in the Premium Arrange series is Shadow Hearts series main composer, Yoshitaka Hirota. For all who know his style, he's the man to call for when you either want a smart atmospheric composition or an addictive grungy industrial rock track. Here, he goes for latter, all nicely wrapped with his usual Shadow Hearts panache, even including the main chanter from series, KYoko Kishikawa. I can't say the original Nishiura theme was ever as thrilling as the title suggests, and believe me, the composition itself is nothing short of plain dreariness, but it had an interesting albeit repetitive idea, and it was this little idea that made Hirota's piece, in my eyes, incredibly successful. Just like the 'cello and the oboe portrayed the melody in Nishiura's version, the powerful and expressive voice of Kishikawa replaces both, and creates a performance which elevates above most of her choral work in previous projects when working with Hirota. The vocalist does get her chance to shine a little with a small but effective lyrical passage (presented in section 1:03 to 1:30) where she dives into an Arabic styled phase, chanting a non-existent language alongside little musical support (much like how Eri Kawai works with Yasunori Mitsuda) and the overall result is very beautiful and appealing. As for the music itself, the composer has his two primary instruments playing potent riffs with his electric guitar, and underlying bass guitar to make the piece sound darker and more 'threatening'. There are some orchestral moments at the heights of the arrangement, which sound particularly convincing with the persuasiveness of Kishikawa's voice and the dominance of the perfect instrumentation. Proven worthy of his talent, Hirota's arrangement of "Enormous Threat" is almost flawless, and possibly one of the greatest tracks on the album. Hopefully, this great piece of musical excitement will show the industry that this composer is worth more of their time. (10/10)

10) Dreaming My Way Home ~ Ending Theme

Some vocals just don't transit well into purely instrumental, Kenji Ito's "World with me -Phantasy Star Online Episode 2 Ending Theme-" from the Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange best describing this, but the arranger responsible "Dreaming My Way Home ~ Ending Theme" couldn't possibly fail. Or could he? Noriyuki Iwadare has always been a fine and solid contributor to the series, already improving over Nishiura's compositions a great deal on the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange, but this may be the first time he hasn't created something completely marvelous. Barbara Kessler sang for Nishiura's original ending vocal theme, delivering a soothing and 'complete' performance, a fitting song to be left off with, and Iwadare follows the melodic structure closely. Main differences are that strings and orchestration are the key components rather the acoustic style of the original, but even so, the choice somehow falls below the vocalist. Taking control of the melody are a flute and the oboe, both suiting the role, but the emotional power is stricken, left in Kessler's voice, making Iwadare's version a tad desiccated. The style itself doesn't differ from the other tracks done by the composer, his trademark appears more clearly within the second half, but I'm glad that he was chosen to arrange the theme, as his airy approach would've been best suited to it than other causal composers. Easily, on reflecting his style, the greatest part is in the middle of the finale when the electric guitar blows everything else over as a final cry for sensation, totally disregarding every other instrument and succeeds to make a point. But on the whole, this arrangement is on level with the vocal, surpassing and falling short of it in more than enough ways. Not the best conclusion, but it will have to do. (8/10)


I really didn't expect this album to be bad (with all the talent, how could it be?), but I really didn't expect that it would be this great! Again, like all other chapters, the Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange provides and hosts a wide variety of styles, from the dramatic orchestrations of "The Labyrinth" and "The Crisis" to the synth rock insanity of "Varkogu's Theme", thankfully all who try and demonstrate their best in the field. There were no mediocre arrangements this time round, although Ito and Iwadare's tracks weren't up to the set standards by the other composers, as explained in the individual track reviews above, but rest assured that all contributions improve over Nishiura's original compositions. The question remains whether you will enjoy this album, and the solid answer is yes, especially those who enjoyed the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange (reason being that both have similar and comparable styles). I suggest picking this album up if you are looking towards listening to some top arrangements although I see no reasonable explanation why anyone should avoid it. This review speaks for itself. Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange is an early winner of 2006.

Overall Score: 9/10