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Xenogears Light :: Review by Tim

Xenogears Light Album Title: Xenogears Light
Record Label: OneUp Studios
Catalog No.: OUS-003
Release Date: February 8, 2005
Purchase: Buy at OneUp Studios


For some reason, I've always had a difficult time getting excited about soundtracks from games that I never completed. When it comes to Xenogears, I found myself stuck at a certain point in the game, and after trying over and over to beat a particularly difficult boss fairly early on in the game, I gave it up and haven't tried again since. Since I didn't get very far in the game, I'd only heard a fraction of the soundtrack, but one track I'd heard in particular, "My Village is Number One," was good enough to convince me to purchase the soundtrack. For a long time, I enjoyed what few tracks I had heard in the game, and then one day, I decided to just listen to the whole soundtrack. What I found was one of the top three video game albums I've ever heard. Even though I hadn't completed the game and had no context to the melodies I was hearing, I was captivated by the album's beauty and tranquility. This being said, I was delighted to find out about the release of "Xenogears Light" by OneUp Studios.

"Xenogears Light" contains 20 fan-arranged pieces of music that encompass some of the most memorable tracks from the Xenogears Original Soundtrack. The majority of the pieces are piano arrangements — so many, in fact, that OneUp Studios proclaims it to be "as close to a Xenogears Piano Collections as we're going to get." For those of you that prefer a little more variety in your music, there's some very nice violin, flute, guitar, and even saxophone work in the album as well. The album on the whole is very relaxing, and many will likely enjoy listening before going to bed at night. This, I believe, is the best setting for listening to this album — eyes closed, lights off, and nothing on your mind but what you're hearing.

Before I begin my track-by-track reviews, I feel it's important for readers to know that I'm really not all that qualified to review music. I have no real background in music (aside from 3+ years of piano lessons), so I'm not going to be able to analyze the album like others who do have musical background. As such, I won't delve into the technical merits of a piece. Suffice it to say that all the arrangements on the CD are far better than anything I could ever dream of doing, so I can only offer my subjective opinions about what I'm hearing. That said, here we go...

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Premonition

A brilliant beginning to the album, "Premonition" is a powerful, yet somewhat sad melody that has ties to the Original Soundtrack's brilliant "Light from the Netherworld." Low, ominous piano chords set the mood, while beautiful string sections round out the main melody. (9/10)

2) Grahf, Conqueror of Darkness

This piece has quite a mysterious air to it. It opens with a haunting combination of strings and piano, with the flute joining the fray later on. The tremendous violin work here really gives this piece a dramatic, suspenseful tone. This is definitely one of the can't-miss pieces on the CD. (10/10)

3) Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the People

The first true piano solo on the album is also one of the best. The beginning section sets the tone very nicely for the rest of the piece, while the use of varying dynamics throughout really brough emotion. (9/10)

4) Far Away Promise

This melancholy piece is closely based on the Original Soundtrack's title track, "Broken Mirror." This particular arrangement begins in a music box style, before branching off into solo piano, flute with piano background, then back to music box. While it's definitely not a hugely different arrangement than its Original Soundtrack counterpart, it's still a beautiful melody. (9/10)

5) My Village is Number One

This was perhaps my favorite piece on the Original Soundtrack, so I was very excited to see it in piano solo form on this album. Unfortunately, the piece was severely "jazzified" and I'm not a big fan of jazz. The main melody rings through for the most part, and there's some clever stacatto work mixed in, but this arrangement removed the playfulness and carefree nature of the Original Soundtrack version in my opinion. I also found the last 30 seconds or so overly loud and glaring. Jazz fans will undoubtedly love this arrangement, but it just didn't really do it for me. (6/10)

6) Shevat, the Wind is Calling

The flute and piano work together once again for this piece. Overall, this was a very listenable piece, but I felt like the left hand accompaniment seemed slightly out of place in some sections. The flute makes up the main melody in most of the piece, but I felt like there was a little too much going on with the piano accompaniment during the flute sections. (7/10)

7) Singing of the Gentle Wind

"Singing of the Gentle Wind" was one of the most beautiful and touching melodies from the Original Soundtrack. I figured that as long as the main melody was kept basically intact in this arrangement, that the piece would be excellent. Sure enough, this arrangement doesn't try to fix what isn't broken. It's a fairly simple piano arrangement that doesn't deviate much from the Original Soundtrack. The emotion just pours out of this one. A truly can't-miss piece, and likely my favorite on the album. (10/10)

8) Shattering the Egg of Dreams

Ah, another of my favorites from the Original Soundtrack isn't hampered by over-arrangement. This time around, the violin joins the piano, but doesn't take over the melody early on. Instead, the violin harmonizes for the piano, which remains the focal point for the majority of the piece. Later, the roles flip-flop and the violin takes over the melody while the piano harmonizes. Either way, the two instruments truly work wonders together. Another glorious achievement. (10/10)

9) One Who Bares Fangs At God

This piece takes a "kitchen sink" approach by incorporating many different instruments into one piece. The piano is again prominent, but violin, flute, and guitar make an appearance as well. The piece takes on a techno-style as a result. It's catchy, no doubt, but wouldn't be considered a favorite of mine. (7/10)

10) Bonds of Sea and Fire

"Bonds of Sea and Fire" was another of my favorites from the Original Soundtrack, so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed again. Firstly, the piece completely forgoes the intriguing beginning section found in the Original Soundtrack version. It then turns a very beautiful melody into a fairly irritating "note fest." This piece would be a great way of showing off your piano playing prowess to your friends, but it's far too dramatic and notey considering the simple melody about which it's based. The only saving grace is a very short section early on that slows things down and brings out the beauty of the piece as it was intended. (4/10)

11) Ship of Sleep and Remorse

The guitar and piano team up for this peppy tune, and the two compliment each other very nicely. Like many pieces on this album, the two take turns harmonizing for each other throughout. The result is a very memorable tune that really does the excellent Original Soundtrack version justice. (9/10)

12) Broken Mirror

Aside from "Star of Tears," "Broken Mirror" is the only vocal song on the Xenogears Original Soundtrack. It goes without saying that an arrangement of this piece would need to be on this album, and sure enough, it is. It comes in the form of a solo piano piece, and the sheet music is included in the package when you buy the album. All in all, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed by this arrangement. The Original Soundtrack version exuded power and emotion, yet this arrangement just didn't. There weren't many dynamic changes, and instead of a dramatic ending, it seemed to end in the same rather drab way that it started. Still, the melody doesn't stray much from the original, so the piece wasn't a total loss. The arrangement just didn't quite do the original justice. (7/10)

13) Dreams of the Strong

The piano/flute combination dominates this piece, and the skill of the performers is highly evident throughout. The arrangement is also very well-done, though I was again fairly unimpressed with the slow, jazzy ending. (7/10)

14) The Blue Traveler

Another jazz-dominated piece, "The Blue Traveler" just never endeared itself to me. The dissonant chords just didn't do it for me, though there were a couple of really nice bass cleft sections. I didn't really care for the Original Soundtrack version of this piece all that much either. (6/10)

15) June Mermaid

I could've sworn this was called "June Mermaid," but I suppose a few months don't make much difference. Anyway, the Original Soundtrack version of this piece was very nice, and this arrangement, though still fairly jazzy, was more to my liking than some of the other jazz pieces on the album. The high sections and emphasized left-hand chords really fit the melody nicely. I could've done without the repetitive crescendos near the end, but that's just me. (7/10)

16) The Treasure Which Cannot Be Stolen

I honestly can't remember exactly, but I believe this melody was the basis for the overworld theme in "Xenogears." What a lovely piano solo we have here! I'd have loved to get the sheet music for this piece in addition to/instead of "Broken Mirror." The arranger did a wonderful job of mixing in dynamics and rubato sections to liven the piece up. Excellent arrangement and an even better performance! (10/10)

17) Valley Where the Wind is Born

This piece has a real "Kenny G" feeling to it thanks to the addition of the saxophone. In fact, had this piece been played for me without me knowing where it was from, I probably would've guessed it was a Kenny G piece. This was another really jazzy piece that wouldn't win a lot of awards with me, but will undoubtedly endear itself to fans of jazz. (6/10)

18) Gathering Stars in the Night Sky

Despite the slightly jazzy nature, I found that I really enjoyed this piece. The piece makes extensive use of rolled chords, but I never felt like any of them were out of place. The piece is also obviously very highly arranged, but the recognizable section is still very discernable. If I were choosing pieces from this album to include on an official Xenogears Piano Collection album, I'd likely pick this one first. (9/10)

19) The Alpha and Omega

Hmm...I can't really think of much to say about this piece. This wasn't one of the better Original Soundtrack pieces in my opinion, and this arrangement didn't do a whole lot to make itself "stand out." (6/10)

20) Into Eternal Sleep

This is a fitting piece to choose as and ending of the album. The Original Soundtrack version is a very simple piece, and this is a very simple, somewhat repetitive arrangement. Still, it effectively brought some closure to a very nice album. (7/10)


All-in-all, I was very pleased with the Xenogears Light album. The pieces I rated highly I truly loved, while my main criticisms were mainly due to my dislike for jazz music. It's very likely that some of the lower ratings would be very high for fans who appreciate that style. Regardless of my personal tastes, I can say with certainty that all of the arrangers on this album are immensely talented, and my like or dislike for a certain type of music cannot change this fact. The technical people over at OneUp Studios should also be commended for the attention to detail shown in the presentation and packaging of the CD. It comes in a very nice DVD case, contains liner notes about the arrangers and performers that you'd actually want to read, the quality of the recordings is superb, and the included sheet music for "Broken Mirror" is icing on an already tasty cake. Any fan of Xenogears and/or Yasunori Mitsuda would be foolish to pass on this very unique album. It will remain a treasure in my collection for years to come.

Overall Score: 9/10