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Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack :: Review by Pandemonium

Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack - Super Battle Sound Attack Album Title: Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack - Super Battle Sound Attack
Record Label: Media Remoras (1st Edition); Pony Canyon (Reprint)
Catalog No.: MRCA-20099; PCCG-00365
Release Date: September 20, 1996; October 21, 1996
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The soundtrack for the PlayStation fighting game Soul Blade (aka Soul Edge) actually had three different versions: an orchestral Arcade sound version, a diverse PlayStation rearranged version, and, most memorably, a rocking new soundtrack called the Khan Super Session. As the name implies, Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack - Super Battle Sound Attack features the original Arcade compositions from Soul Edge shortly following its 1996 release in Japanese Arcades. Composer Takayuki Aihara succeeded in conveying the 16th century setting and action-packed gameplay with grandiose orchestral music. However, given the various limitations of the Arcade medium, he had a harder time producing music that was worthy of purchasing...


The orchestral overture "The Wind and Cloud" opens the game in suitable manner. Given it was composed for busy amusement arcades, it really needed to attract people to the machines, so it wasn't appropriate to use subtle orchestration like in the console titles. Instead practically everything is loud with brassy leads and thunderous percussion backing, although at least there is the occasional woodwind-led section for contrast. Takayuki Aihara is a good enough orchestrator to pull it off, though the endless timpani rolls or repeating blaring chords seem lazy rather than necessary and can be difficult to listen to in album form. The stage theme "Heavenly Engage" features similar heavy-handed orchestration and shows once again that Aihara is no master of subtlety. That said, a lot of effort clearly went into offering potent melodies and dashing contrasts. "Soul and Swords", on the other hand, goes to some totally unexpected places following its bold introduction with whole sections dedicated to weird tribal vocal work or triumphant accelerandos. While it fails to come together smoothly, it does demonstrate the tos and fros of battle and represent the ambition of the series.

Aihara put a fair amount of effort into representing the mythology of the soundtrack. "Dragon's Call", for instance, reinforces the feeling of a Celtic setting with soft oboe leads and wailing panflutes. It's definitely one of the mellower additions to the soundtrack, but still maintains a marching feel appropriate for entering battle. Others reinforce the traditional feel, such as "Horangi Arirang" with its Scotch snap melodies or "Bravely Folk Song", which is treated like an old-fashioned national anthem. There is also a fair amount of variety among the other stage themes. "Future Dancin'" seems to have been an inspiration for the Asian-inspired stage themes in the Soul Calibur games with its juxtaposition of passionate ethnic woodwind leads and march-like accompaniment. "The Gears of Madness", on the other hand, seems to be inspired by modernist Western composers like Bernstein with its commanding leads and bright orchestration. If Aihara toned down the orchestration a tad, he would have created a composition that would have been very enjoyable on its own too.

A range of orchestral cinematic tracks were also created for the game's cutscenes. Though most don't last a minute, a few add quite a lot to the soundtrack. "Epic Calling!", for instance, is ideal for setting the tone of the game with its heroic trumpets and militaristic snares while the ringing bell tolls gives a retrospective feel for representing the series' mythology. Later in the soundtrack, "Sunrise Promise" sounds very much like a reflective RPG theme and "The Carnage Has Begun" sets a dark tone for the final battle. Many of the cinematic tracks have their problems, though. While "War Age" starts very intricately with brass countermelodies and trilling flutes, it becomes clumsy in its second half with stuttering transitions and overbearing cymbals. Others feel very clichéd in their construction, though, especially the folky elements of "And the Blind Shall See" or even the glittering orchestration of the "Opening Title" themes. Although I'm not sure why he was needed, guest composer Takanori Otsuka also offers five 50 second event themes to the soundtrack. While they're better in context, all the speed changes in "Goddess in Triumph" and "Sparrow's Return" are frankly disorientating.


Overall, Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack - Super Battle Sound Attack is a mixed effort. It works well in context to attract gamers to the Arcade machine and represent the dynamic nature. However, it is less ideal for stand-alone enjoyment since the tracks were deliberately composed to be loud and sometimes verge on deafening. It's clear that Takayuki Aihara is a good orchestrator, but he can be sloppy sometimes and take shortcuts with his stale percussion or repeated chords. There is a pleasant variety of tracks, lots of intricate development, and very many potent melodies, but is just begging for a little more refinement. It actually eventually received arranged treatment for the PlayStation remake Soul Blade, but the results were unfortunately never released on CD. As it stands, this soundtrack probably isn't the one most will remember Soul Edge / Soul Blade for, though it's the most relevant for seeing the musical origins of the series. It's worth listening to for those who like grand orchestral music, but doesn't stand out as much as its successors.

Overall Score: 7/10