Dirge of Cerberus FFVII Multiplayer Mode Sound Collections :: Review by Totz
If you have good taste, you likely enjoyed what Hamauzu, Yamazaki and, to a lesser extent, Gackt, had to offer on the Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack: a mixture of orchestral, rock, and electronic music, ranging from ambient creations to straight out J-Rock.
However, not all tracks were officially released, for some reason. Instead, we had to wait until the end of August for iTunes (Japan) to release downloads of them for Japanese customers. The Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII Multiplayer Mode Original Sound Collections compiles these themes, including a mixture of unused single player gameplay tracks and the various themes used in multiplayer mode. Though they cannot be purchased by those outside Japan, Square Enix Music Online's forums share them if you wish to hear these themes. It's good that we can get to hear them somehow!
It's either ironic or a very smart move (commercially speaking) that some of the best pieces of music from the game are in this "second" release. There are more fusions, more interesting rhythms, some compositions by synth operator Ryo Yamazaki, and no theme songs, which some would consider a great asset.
It sure is atmospheric...
Right off the bat, there's an electronica track reminiscent of Musashiden II Blademaster's "White Whale of the Sky" called "Turks 101." I'd say they're similar in the way that both seem to be more laidback tracks, with some ethereal synth over percussion. But the latter is much more interesting to not only hear, but analyze as well. While "White Whale of the Sky" relied on its otherwordly sound, "Turks 101" relies on the radio sound effects, percussion, electric guitar at the beginning, and piano towards the middle. Featuring several interesting interpretations of familiar themes, including Lucrecia's, as well, it's an atmospheric track featuring both the familiar and less familiar.
And if there's something this album has, it's certainly atmosphere. While still going for the ambient kind of music, Hamauzu doesn't disappoint. The second track, "Song of the Gathered" was written in the same vein as "Turks 101:" dreamy synth with military percussion, or, as I like to call it "White Whale on War". The similarity to Samurai compositions is huge, yet Miyamoto's music doesn't have that militaristic edge Vincent has. "Underground Complex" is yet another electronica composition; a bit slower-paced than "Turks 101," but with a bigger emphasis on repeating synth patterns and chords and percussion. When a slew of freaky sounds enter the fray about halfway through, sounding like a train's chimney, you can't help but feel uneasy. Is it the wind? Are those voices? The world may never know.
Sometimes atmosphere is everything a track's got. "Pure Stream," for example, is a simple synth chord progression, with Lucrecia's motif being played by a woodwind, accompanied by a harp. It's short, and with very few instruments, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Still on Vincent's love, "Lucrecia's Research" sees a piano over some synth chords. There's barely anything there, and it's short. But, hey, at least we can say "Yeah, but it's atmospheric."
Enough 'atmosphere this' and 'atmosphere that!'; I promised some rhythms...
...And here they are! "Flying High" is the first composition that comes to mind. No more electronica, there are strings, percussion, and winds. Overall, there's nothing special about it; some nice constructed passages with interesting use of instruments. However, there are short snippets that really grab your attention when you hear it, because they are neither in the background nor foreground. They serve as brief strings and percussion interludes between melodic wind passages. And the whole thing works so well, despite having only two of those snippets that I can't help but mention them.
You want more rhythm, don't you? Come on, give "Pegasus Riders" a listen. Not only does it have an awesome name, but also some great percussion and nice orchestral passages, including a tense tremolo strings part that leads into synth lines; it's all masterfully interwoven.
Yeah, but you want some more, don't you? I know you do. Thankfully, there's "Wild Pack." In one piece, Hamauzu creates some fantastic rhythms, integrates orchestral instruments with an electric guitar and a drum set, AND still manages to throw the "Fliker" theme in there as well. Think "Azul the Cerulean," but with a difference: instead of beginning with the orchestral instruments and then moving towards modern ones, it's from orchestral to modern, and back to orchestral, even if the latter is just there to mix things up; and instead of having a feeling of tension, "Wild Pack" is definitely more action-oriented, with the electric guitar and drum set ostinato throughout the "modern" parts.
"Central Complex" also deserves mention for building, like "Flying High," its rhythmic pattern on the string section and using percussion for backup. The brass instruments, with a slight support from a piano, play a theme that sounds like a variation of the main "Fliker" theme from the game's soundtrack. Everything's allright until the track develops further: it turns into this peppy, almost "Girl Names Shelke" meets "Armic's Theme" kind of thing, with the pianoforte and the strings taking the lead. At first I thought it was a weird way to continue a piece of music, but it quickly grew on me; the harmony sounds so interesting and the manner in which it gets bigger and bigger, and then suddenly small again, only to loop. Wow!
"Heavy Armored Soldier" can be defined simply by rhythm; its focus is far from melodic, as most of its development revolves around different percussive lines, unresolved tension, and sustained chords. It's wild, it's raw. The same applies to "Uncontrollable Darkness." It has some great synth beats, a wonderful development, and most of all, it's rhythm-driven. That is what binds the whole thing, and keeps it together. Strings and brass play some semblant of a melody, while a synthetic drum set, a sound that could be a modulated voice, the same shooting noise from the regular soundtrack, and a slew of other modern electronic stuff make up the rest of the track.
Can rhythm really sell albums? No. But quality orchestral tracks do.
Unfortunately for all Nakano fans, rhythm alone doesn't sell albums. If it did, our man Junya would be the Midas of sales. But you know what does make people pay for music? Quality. And that's something you can find in large amounts in the Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII Multiplayer Mode Original Sound Collections. This is especially the case in Hamauzu's orchestral tracks.
If you have ever played Final Fantasy VII, then you certainly remember the train graveyard area. You, as Cloud, with Aeris and Tifa by your side, had to maneuver some trains as to create a pathway. Now, I haven't played Dirge of Cerberus yet, but just by listening to "Train Graveyard," I can tell you it sounds a lot more fun than its previous appearance. There's no beating around the bush: it's incredible. Hamauzu writes a simple percussive rhythm, keeps repeating it throughout the entirety of the track, and creates an orchestral masterpiece over it. One of my favourite aspects of it is the subtleties you take for granted. For instance, low strings helping out with the rhythm, or a tremolo descending passage on higher strings. They are all integrated so perfectly to the leading brass instruments that one complements the other, especially in the section that starts around the 0:36, the climax of the composition. One of Masashi's finest pieces to date? You better believe it.
Even a victory fanfare gets an orchestral treatment here. "Combat Results," although not as awe-inspiring as the bombastic celebration as Unlimited SaGa's "Success," it is still pretty well-developed. And since this is Vincent's game, what better way to feel victorious than to listen to Lucrecia's theme in yet another appearance? She appears yet again, but slightly modified (after one of Hojo's genetic experiments), in the warm-sounding and hopeful "Meeting in the Rain." There's no cheese with Hamauzu when he's writing this sort of "romantic" music.
"Immaculate Frenzy," on the other hand, isn't all that fun. It's got choir, brass and strings and percussion, but they sound all muddled up together, one on top of each other, instead of with each other. "Bad Feeling" has absolutely nothing special about it. It's exactly the kind of ambient music I don't like: suspended strings and chord progressions. The only thing that makes it obvious that it's from this album, and from Hamauzu, is the reoccurrence of the "Fliker" theme, because, unlike Fox Mulder, I don't want to believe.
The same "Fliker" motif also makes some other appearances. On "Redeem the World", it is played majestically, but before you can start high-fiving people because of your victory, the composition takes a turn for the tense with a lot of tremolo on the strings and anxiousness from brass. "True Beast" made me a lot more nervous, to be honest. With its suspended strings and development of brass, I thought it was just another "Bad Feeling," but the percussive line (timpani and echoing synth beat) makes it a lot more interesting. The ominous "Dark Feelings" sounds like the work of Akira Yamaoka: moans and screams, muffled metallic sounds, and very few musical passages. Uneasiness is the name of the game.
ZOMG! Yamazaki at last composes... (And a little about fusions too)
I've mentioned quite a few tracks, but I've yet to talk about two that really surprised me: "Time Limit" and "Fierce Battle," both of Ryo Yamazaki's contributions. "Fierce Battle" is quite a noble battle tune, which, because of the synth operator's affiliation with the Front Mission series, would not feel out of place in a Wanzer war. He manages to blend orchestral sections, led by the percussion, brass and strings, with small synth beat bridges, to keep the piece moving and flowing well at all times. "Time Limit" is a bit similar to Kawamori's "The Chase of Highway" from the Advent Children Original Soundtrack, but toned down. There is still some classical + modern mixing in here, and although I wouldn't call it unusual, because it's just repeating/tremolo strings and a couple of brass chords over a repeating pattern of percussion, guitar, and bass, it still needs more work to stand out like "Fierce Battle" did, at least to me.
Anyway, Masashi calls. It's his time. Again. Moving along the instrument spectrum, we have fusions. For instance, take "Attack on Midgar". It features a surprisingly slow paced electronic percussion ostinati with low suspended strings and hints of brass. More notable is "Outskirts of Fight"; again featuring an electronic ostinato and some string chord sequences, but with an overall focus on the synth part, the second half, with the guitars on the background, remind me of Nakano's fire-related music from Musashiden II.
"Restrictor" is also worthy of praise for being a quality fusion composition. You've got the strings and the brass working alongside all the synth and electronic sounds to create a fantastic hurrying track. One of the most important parts of it, the synth percussion, works wonders, and never feels obtrusive. You can hear every instrument perfectly and the transitions are flawless. If there's a positive thing to be said about "Restrictor," you can go ahead and say it, because it will be true.
If you were able to enjoy the game soundtrack, there's no reason to not give these tracks a chance. There are still some ambient compositions, but few of them are boring; the rest have something that distinguishes them from the regular dullness of the sound of ambience.
This album works in conjunction with the Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack to create one of the strongest scores PlayStation 2 owners could ever hear. Hamauzu and Yamazaki have delivered strongly and, with a decent mix of electronica, orchestral music, and rock, the entirety of the Dirge of Cerberus musical experience cannot be missed. Get it as soon as possible by visiting our forum's Trading Estate today.
Overall Score: 9/10