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Soul Calibur IV Limited Edition Strategy Guide Soundtrack (US) :: Review by Resk

Soul Calibur IV Limited Edition Strategy Guide Soundtrack Album Title: Soul Calibur IV Limited Edition Strategy Guide Soundtrack (US)
Record Label: BradyGames
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: July 22, 2008
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Here we are again in the realm of the soul swords. Soul Calibur IV is upon us, and up on the review docket is the promotional album for the game. This album is populated with a few opening themes, the ending theme, and the seventeen arena battle tracks that appear in the game. In this review, I'll be looking at some of the strongest of these tracks, and I'll also be giving a little bit of insight as to how each track is used in the game. Of note, five tracks on this album were performed by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra. Although not all of these tracks are great, I'll still take a look at them, since they offer an interesting take on the performance value of Soul Calibur quality pieces. For reference, I'll be referring to Soul Calibur as SC in this review. Grab your sword, and let's go!


Up first is "Seize Your Destiny," the first of the Eminence tracks, and this game's opening theme. In the past, I have been particularly fond of the SC opening themes (SCII's "Under the Star of Destiny" and SCIII's "Hour of Destiny"), but I notice something interesting about this one. While the other two have a strong presence outside the game, and not a particularly big impact when paired with the opening cinematic, I find that this one actually becomes more animated when paired with the movement on screen. In many ways, this time the track seems tailored to the opening cinematic itself. When listening on its own, it lacks that edge that is the signature of some of Nakatsuru's strongest tracks. It's still quite an enjoyable track, and it uses the segmented structure of the other openings to keep the energy up. The piece begins on a quiet note, using low strings and brass to create a sense of foreboding. The track builds in volume, bringing in light choir, before falling back to a simple French horn solo. The next section becomes more of a march, featuring hard brass and strings, with more of an emphasis on the percussion work. Things speed up a bit in the next segment, continuously building until the brass comes to the forefront. On first listen, this section sounds a bit messy, mostly because of the sudden speed changes, which is uncharacteristic of Nakatsuru's work. There is, however, a lot of power in this section that matches the cinematic quite well. From here, we move into the signature note rise pattern of the series, however this time around the ending isn't as spectacular. The instrumentation steadily crescendos to a French horn final note, but it doesn't have the power or the finality that one might expect. Still, overall I'd have to say this opening track is the most complete in the series.

Touching on it briefly, "Distant Thunder" is the second Eminence track, and it accompanies the opening title menu. It's a short piece, consisting of atmospheric blowing (almost a smoky noise) and a solo trumpet. Considering the track is only eleven notes long, why, you might ask, am I mentioning it? Well, this is a nice example of how much emphasis Nakatsuru has on instrumental solos. Many of his pieces feature a solo in one form or another, and seeing one on its own like this is a rare occurrence that is usually left for the opening and ending themes. "Revelation" is this game's main menu music, and I rather like this one. Comprised of light drums, low strings, brass swells, and some low choir, it's a very dark track that has a certain anticipation to it. I have to mention the onscreen graphics as well, as this music totally suits the soul swords gradually moving around the screen within their crystal confines. Very cool, if I do say so myself. "Uncovered History" plays on the character selection screen, and it offers a first look at what many of this game's tracks will sound like. A quick march, this track has fanfares galore from the brass, quick melodic segments from the strings and woodwinds, and some intricate percussion work on the snare drum. Again, this is another supporting piece, so the musical emphasis isn't as important, but the track fits its use quite well in the context of the game.

Moving onward, we're going to get into the nitty gritty of what this album has to offer, mainly the various arena battle themes. First up is "Immaculate Pledge," the arena theme for the Thesmophoros Imperial Garden. This is an upbeat track that has a focus on quick string work and sweeping brass swells. Beginning with a wonderful and bright opening, the melody is given to the French horn, while quick string chords accent the beat in the percussion, which features a wide array of various bongos, snare drums, and cymbals. The volume of the various parts during this piece is interesting, because the melody is actually quieter than the accompanying instrumentation. With the French horn though, this works quite well because the melody seemingly grows out of the chord work in the brass and strings. In the second part of this track, things slow down a bit, and the flute takes over the melody while the strings back off to simple swells. From here, the track picks up again, and keeps the energy going throughout the rest of the track, with inserts from the trumpets and flutes. "Tempered Soul," the arena theme for the Hall of the Warrior God, has a distinct Asian sound to it, focusing on a Chinese violin providing the melody, and Chinese drums providing the driving and intricate percussive bass line. For the majority of this piece, the main melody is accompanied by well balanced strings, with a heavy high cello presence. Later in the track, a flute is introduced to add a bit of ornamentation to the main melodic sequence. Throughout the track, the percussive drums really keep the piece moving, with an ever changing rhythmic line.

Next is "Innocent Vision," the arena theme for the Jyurakudo Villa. First off, no, you're not listening to an episode of Heroes. The opening sounds a bit similar, but trust me, this isn't TV. This track is a little slower, and focuses more on long drawn out notes to create the melody. Light brass provides the accompaniment, while simple percussive work keeps the pace. Plucked strings can also be found helping to keep the rhythm but most of the instrumentation of this track is centered on providing an intricate and quick balance to the melody's melancholy feel. I would also like to point out that this track is performed by Akinori Inabi. Staying with the slower feel, let's look at "Phantasmagora," the arena theme for the Phantom Pavilion, and the third Eminence track. This track feels a bit less like a battle theme, because it is heavily centered on the plodding rhythmic line. It's a bit slow, clunky, and quite heavy on repetitive chords, with only a very basic melodic line to balance it out. This is probably one of the few battle tracks that actually gets lost during the game, because the movement on screen is too fast paced to stay balanced with the music.

Next, I'm going to look at the six battle themes that the player will hear the most when playing through a character's story. The story mode in the game has several arenas that move the story along. Among these arenas, six of them appear the most often (most of the other arena themes occur during the story's first round, while these ones populate the last four). First to be encountered is "Twilight Dwellers," the arena theme for Ostrheinsburg Castle. This is a brass heavy track that relies on percussion to keep the pace. Sharp chords can be found in the strings and lower brass, while trombones and trumpets provide a simple, yet powerful melody. Overall, this piece sounds very militaristic, and is an excellent match for the castle, in particular the raft on which you're fighting. Next in the story is "Reign of Doom," the arena theme for the Ostrheinsburg Castle Throne Room. This track keeps the spirit of the previous, continuing the militaristic feel. All of the instrumentation remains the same as well. However, this track also features an intricate organ section, with the organ also coming in later in the track. This inclusion does a wonderful job of keeping the regal feel of the castle, but also adding that extra bit of grandeur for fighting within the rich center space of the castle. From here, the player travels to the Tower of Remembrance, where they will be for the remainder of the story. This location actually has four separate arenas, each with their own visual and musical style. The Ancient Gate arena features "Gigantesque," an upbeat and quick track full of fanfares, bright brass, and very quick strings. This track also features several solos, seen at first in the French horn and flute, and later in the oboe and trumpet. I'm skipping over some of the details here, only because many of these battle tracks contain the same elements, mainly fast intricate string work, complex rhythmic patterns, and brass swells, and this track contains all three.

Entering the tower, we get "Breakthrough" in the Spiral of Time arena. This is the fourth of the Eminence tracks. This piece actually closely resembles "Uncovered History" in the way it is composed, and features many similar elements in the various portions of the track. Overall it is a very regal and powerful sounding track that keeps the energy alive without going incredibly fast or utilizing intricate and fast orchestral work. High on top of the tower, if the player is facing Nightmare or Seigfried, they will hear "Destiny Will Tell" on the Encounter arena. This is perhaps one of my favorite arena themes, in that the rhythms are very well put together, and the instrumental sections weave together seamlessly. As one of the final battles of the story mode, it has a real sense of finality to the track, featuring that heavy French horn in the melody, and using choir as well to add another level to the track. In many ways as well, particularly with the melody, this track reminds me a bit of a Zelda piece, but takes it that one step further to become something incredibly fun to listen to, as well as fight to. On the flip side, if you ascend the tower and face off against Algol in the Degradation arena, you will hear "The Supreme Sword." This track, as is common with many of the SC final boss themes, has a sense of madness to it, and a real darkness in the way it's composed. There is a lot of dissonance in this piece, and the intricate fast high strings add just the right amount of edge to keep the player tense. The fast, driving percussive work and the heavy, almost out of tune brass further keeps the macabre feel of the track, adding a sense of desperation to the fight. Altogether, this is a track that really makes use of its in game material to get the most out of the fight.

With that, we come to the final piece of the album, the fifth track performed by Eminence. This is an arrangement of "Path of Destiny". While similar to the impressive SCIII version, it has been slightly reorchestrated to be more adaptable for orchestra rather than synth orchestra and voice. The track opens with a powerful brass fanfare, which leads into a short segment of the track's main theme. From there, we head into the first of a few solos during the piece. Constrained to simple brass, the trumpet gives off a peaceful lament, supported by French horns and trombones. A snare drum roll and a cymbal crash later, we're presented the core melody of the piece through the strings. The next segment leads with an oboe, supported by strings, before expanding and being taken over by the trumpet. Here, the full orchestra comes back into it, punctuating the main theme while passing between strings and brass. A French horn also provides the counter melody. The trumpet becomes the focus, giving the main melody while staying crisp and clear in the upper register. Some light choral work can also be heard during this section, which further adds to the majesty of the piece. The next section switches gears and focuses on the woodwinds, featuring an oboe on lead supported by flutes. The choir also comes back in during this part, balancing the rest of the orchestral nicely. The next section brings the volume up and the entire orchestra back into it, continuing forward with brass leading the way. Heading into the end of the track, a brass fanfare keeps the energy up while quick string work amplifies the melody. The ending is probably my favorite part, as a few simple notes get passed from various forces all gaining steadily in volume up to a fantastic final note. Personally, I'd expect nothing less from a six and a half minute piece.


At the end of it all, the promo album for Soul Calibur IV is probably the strongest in the series to date. All of the arena tracks have been revamped, and now provide much more variation in both speed and instrumentation style. Finally, each track becomes an individual piece that doesn't get confused with something else. Within the game itself, all of these tracks do a wonderful job at matching their location and/or use in the game. The instrumental quality, always an expected asset of a Soul Calibur score, is definitely back again, and in many ways has been enhanced for this new title. Also, considering what hasn't been included on this album in relation to the music within the game itself, this is a very strong prologue to what we can expect from the full album due out later this year.

Overall Score: 9/10