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Wizardry Gaiden ~Prisoners of the Battles & Five Ordeals~ :: Review by Ovelia

Wizardry Gaiden ~Prisoners of the Battles & Five Ordeals~ Audio Collections Album Title: Wizardry Gaiden ~Prisoners of the Battles & Five Ordeals~ Audio Collections
Record Label: Five Records
Catalog No.: FPBD-0005
Release Date: April 24, 2007
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


The Wizardry series is, without doubt, a massive franchise, with eight main games and endless spin-offs from various game studios. I have only played the eighth installment, which is a better-than-decent western RPG with good graphics, music, and a plot combining spaceships with cold arms and magic. From today's point of view, Wizardry 8 marked the end of the series. Although the brand is still being used by other game studios, but games they produced seems to be mostly inferior compared to the main games.

The two gaiden games whose music featured in this CD are no exception either. I've briefly played both games and they are horrifyingly primitive. They played just like the old-school RPGs in the 80s without flashy graphics like those in Etrian Odyssey. To be honest, I can come up with no reason why anybody would release games like this to torture players and gamemakers. Thus, the background music became the sole strength of these games.

The first 20 themes are from Prisoners of the Battles, and the last five are from Five Ordeals. The former pieces are orchestral, distinct from the latter which are mostly rock and jazz/fusion pieces. Unfortunately, all of these themes are devoid of a decent name with a decent character, but names like "Town" or "Shop" cannot conceal the fact that they are better than decent. This album is the product of multiple composers, so I am going to analyse it according to different composers. Now let us start from Masaharu Iwata.

Masaharu Iwata's Contributions

Iwata wrote ten pieces in this album, which is the most from the four composers. They almost all exhibit similar styles from Iwata's past works, so do not expect any new grounds in this album.

One aspect that Iwata specializes in is the majestic quality of music. The main theme "Prisoners of the Battles" is a fine example of this. It featured epic and not-so-lyrical themes with a rigid structure that reminds me of classical music. "Fortress" utilized harpsichord which is a favorite of Iwata when expressing majesty. The masculinity is quite evident in here, yet its sound seems lacking in substance, and the short length of the piece prevented it from better development.

Iwata is also famous for his representation of the dark side. "The Pervert" in Final Fantasy Tactics showcased that perfectly. Yet in this game, Iwata's contributions in the dark side just lack variety. When Iwata used eerie passages in his piece, it would be all over without any contrast. As a result, the music becomes monotonous and boring. Labyrinth 1 and 2 are based on this methodology of writing dark music, so the result is exactly what I expected. Between them, "Labyrinth 2" is slightly better. It seems that Iwata knew his approach, so he just abandoned all melody and utilized weird percussions and tremolo strings to create tension. This approach is effective, yet the end product is not satisfying enough for most average listeners. "Battle 2" is a quite similar piece to Iwata's battle themes in Tactics and Stella Deus. "Annilation" has a good opening, but soon become a tedium afterwards.

The real highlight of Iwata's music is in the more soothing ones. The opening "Inn" seems like yet another warm "potion" music, but it has its moments when a whimsical passage appears in the middle of all this warmth. "Shop" also looks like a standard Iwata shop music, but it soon transformes into a brilliantly composed mazurka-like folk dance. In summary, Iwata's contributions are not bad, but aside from one or two pieces, they are average at most.

Mitsuhiro Kaneda's Contributions

Kaneda's name is relatively unknown compared to the first three members (Sakimoto, Iwata, Namiki) in Basiscape, and the project experience he had is much less than those big names. However, to many people's surprise, his pieces in the recent Basiscape collaboration projects such as Odin Sphere and Grim Grimoire are the best among all collaborators. In my opinion, he has the potential to become the next Sakimoto if opportunity is given to him.

Kaneda has written nine pieces in this album. "Bar" and "Temple" showcased the individual instruments very well, and we can see that Kaneda has good understanding on the usage of various instruments. But the first piece reeked with Kaneda-ism is "Museum", which has good development, playful melody and the most important of all, brilliant orchestrations. The technique reminds me of Sakimoto, but here Kaneda used a much lighter instrumentation with only pizzicato strings and woodwinds, but what it created is something playful and history-laden at the same time. "Chest from After the Battle" is in the same realm, but it also has some suspense in the music.

The rest of the Kaneda pieces are mostly dark-oriented. However, the Kaneda dark is much different from the Iwata dark, in the sense that Kaneda would never feature monotonous, grayish darkness in his pieces. They are dark and colorful at the same time. "Labyrinth 3" is a fine example of this, with the brilliant use of sax, ethical percussion, and harmony. This is also my favorite piece in the whole album. The two battle pieces (1 and 3) not only have great power, but also meticulous design like the ferocious cello passage in the latter part of "Battle 1". All in all, Kaneda did a better job overall than Iwata, which comes from colorful orchestrations and better development of pieces.

Hitoshi Sakimoto's Contributions

Sakimoto only has two pieces in this album. The first piece, "Ending", if not for the majestic reiteration of the main theme in the opening, is just a standard, if not a little boring, Sakimoto string piece. The strings wander without direction. The other piece, "Town", is far more interesting, though. It has a good amount of influence from Jazz/Fusion genre. The melody from bass is very improvised, and the accompaniment of strange percussions and ambient sound effects makes the song stand out from the composer's usual styles, although the trademark harmony in all of Sakimoto's music is still evident here.

Although Sakimoto showed his diversity in games like Gradius V and Breath of Fire V, I have been worried that he was typecast into a strict orchestral composer after Final Fantasy XII. Now it seems that my worries are not necessary at all. Given an appopriate project, his ability to divertise will still be shown.

Kenichi Koyano's Contributions

Koyano is the only non-Basiscape composer that worked on this album. I am not familiar with Koyano's music at all, but judging from the 4 pieces he had composed in this album, he's at the very least a decent composer. Although these four pieces are rock songs which I don't usually enjoy, they are still very delicate melodically and harmonically, especially the two battle songs which makes me very excited. Also the arrangement of Iwata's main them is quite good.

Another point of attention is that, these four pieces are not played by live instruments, aside from the eletric guitar, and are mixed at Sakimoto's studios. What great technology they have (laugh).


A musical friend of mine once told me that Basiscape composers are distinctive in the sense that each of them has distinct styles. Although they all wear the mask of orchestral music, the meat behind the mask are totally different. What this CD has showed us is mainly the distinctive styles from two Basiscape composers, Masaharu Iwata and Mitsuhiro Kaneda, as well as a small window of style change from Hitoshi Sakimoto. Although the game in which the music has featured is extremely low-budgeted, the music itself is of high production value, which makes me very satisfied.

Basiscape has a great (and busy at the same time) year of 2007 with over ten projects, but judging from the two collaboration projects that is already released (Odin Sphere, Grim Grimoire) they are still doing a great job. Let us hope they continue to make fantastic music in the upcoming Deltora Quest: The Seven Jewels, Opoona, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, and Archaic Sealed Heat.

Overall Score: 8/10