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Grandia Xtreme Original Soundtracks :: Review by Totz

Grandia Xtreme Original Soundtracks Album Title: Grandia Xtreme Original Soundtracks
Record Label: Two Five Records
Catalog No.: TRCD-10020
Release Date: March 1, 2002
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


Relased in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, Grandia Xtreme is the third game of the Grandia series. The predecessors, Grandia (Saturn / PlayStation) and Grandia II (Dreamcast / PlayStation 2) had great soundtracks, so most anticipated the same here. Unfortunately, many were to be let down by this release. Spanning only one disc and featuring just 21 tracks, it is ridiculously short and doesn't make up for this loss in terms of quality. Based on what I read, the game is more of a dungeon crawler, so plot and characters weren't really that important. And maybe music wasn't as well. This is not the Iwadare we all know and love. Don't believe me? Read on and find out why.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Theme of Xtreme

After a brief, but messy, introduction, the brass plays what seems to be an epic theme, but really isn't. Accompanied by strings, low brass, and percussion, the theme is repeated three more times, which, after a while, gets really annoying, especially if you had to listen several times to find out exactly how many times it is repeated.

OK, so it's a 'no' by 1:18, but the theme finally gets some development. Strings now take the melody, which a bit better than the brass one, while other orchestral instruments form the accompaniment. What's really weird is that sometimes it sounds like the Legend of Zelda theme, e.g. from 1:27 to 1:33. The classier string melody lasts until 1:33, and then the brass tricks us into thinking the melody is going somewhere, and at 1:40, it might seem like you don't have to listen to this track anymore, but no. It picks up from the beginning. However, fortunately, there's some more development at 1:59, with the brass playing a fanfare-ish melody twice.

At 2:38, the last part of the piece begins, and it's actually quite a good ending, with, again, brass leading the way. You know what's the problem with this composition? It's got what it takes to be epic, but the instrumentation is not strong enough. Iwadare should have doubled the brass and have them play ff. That would be cool. (8/10)

2) Rokka

This town theme has the Iwadare flare written all over it. You can easily tell it was written by him. Unfortunately, it's too repetitive for its own good. The trumpet is overused to the point where you can't stand to listen to the same rhythm anymore. But I had to get used to it, because I can't simply write a review about a track I heard once (that's why I have to start picking better albums to review). At 1:13, a cool-sounding woodwind plays a bit of the melody, and that's my favourite part of this piece, because it's so different from the rest of it. Then, of course, the same rhythm, this time with the woodwind, is repeated over and over again, before the re-emergence of the A section again. Make it stop, please. (5/10)

3) Escarle

Opening with a guitar and harmonica, the beginning of this track makes me feel like listening to some Wild Arms soundtracks, which are havens for this kind of piece. The beginning is pretty cool, sounding fairly tense unlike the rest of the track. At 0:35, the piece gets some development, which is exactly the time to skip to the next piece. The guitar now keeps strumming in the background, while some instrument plays the melody, and the harmonica accompaning it. The part that begins 1:08 really reminds me of a Grandia II tune, but I can't quite put my finger on it. At 1:25, the harmonica takes the lead and the guitar is still strumming. Poor guitar. After repeating the first development section one more time, the track is developed a bit more again, with the harmonica playing the melody again with some boring accompaniment. At 2:34, the part that reminds me of Grandia II is repeated and then the first development section is repeated one more time, because it didn't get on my nerves enough the last time. Finnaly, the end; it's not that bad, with some piano notes and, um, strumming guitar. Otherwise, skip it. (6/10)

4) Upper Class

If someone can explain me how an accordion represents the upper class, I'd be very glad. It's got some castanets in the beginning (which are Spanish) and an accordion (French), so it's kinda confusing. I actually like the melody here; the problem I have is with the accompaniment. More specifically, the brass at 0:24, which sounds so sudden after the amicable percussion and strings accompanimnent and, more significantly, is just too loud. At 1:00, the accordion turns into accompaniment, and, crap, I can't even tell what's playing the melody, because its backing is a mess. At 1:22, surprise, it's the beginning again. What I like about the part at 2:13 is that you're tricked into thinking something cool is gonna happen, with the drum roll and the ascending notes. But nope, same old second part of the track. The ending fits in with the rest of the track, which means it's annoying too. A violin plays the melody, with the same messy accompaniment as before, and the piece ends with a staccato chord. Meh. The melody makes it better than the rest. (7/10)

5) Jollylife!

Iwadare uses the main theme, this time played by a woodwind, accompanied by some brass and percussion, to convey some sort of 'happy' feeling. Yeah, I'm not happy. Even though the brass and percussion sound 'parade-ish' and the woodwind used was a good idea, the accompaniment gets boring quickly, because there's no a lot of variation and the melody gets no instrumental variation like in the main theme. It's just one particular instrument all the way through. If you liked the main theme, you might like this one. Try listening to this, and then listen to "Theme of Xtreme". Suddenly it sounds much better. (6/10)

6) Good Meal!!

Iwadare pulled a George Lucas and managed to ruin what couldn't possibly be ruined: the dinner track. If you don't know what's the dinner track, here's what it is: In every Grandia game to date, on occasions the characters eat stuff, and that's usually a funny moment, where you also get to learn more about the plot and stuff; it's like edutainment, but good. Compared to the Grandia II version, "Eating Dinner", this is like the slower, dumber brother people usually don't like, but still talk to because he's there and no one else has anything better to do. A woodwind plays the famous melody, accompanied by some percussion, strings here and there, and a lack of fun. Just to give you an idea, I'm eating lunch right now, and it's supposed to be good, but "Good Meal!!" ruined it. GOODBYE, MACARONI AND CHEESE. For a better review of the dinner track, turn to the Grandia II review, because I'll go insane if I have to listen to this one more time. (5/10)

7) Spirit Reckless Driving

You might not get the name of this track until after the weird and chaotic intro is finished at 0:25. The brass takes the lead in the body of the track, while strings merely play chromatic runs or something to that effect, with the timpani thumping at every beat. At 0:52, the strings say buh-bye, with the brass still leading and the timpani still thumping. Some light tapping on cymbals and what sounds like a xylophone complement this development section before it loops. The ending is a bit weird as well, like it didn't have to be there. I'd say this is a pretty good mood-setter, because it sounds like a hurry theme. You'll surely want to hurry somewhere else while this is playing. (7/10)

8) Mole's Nest

Apparently, moles are great drummers, because percussion features in 90% of this track. In fact, all we hear is percussion for the first 16 seconds, because then there's a sudden transition to a chord progression on synth. A bass then comes along and plays a very stylish ostinato. At 0:35 the synth comes back, but soon after, the cool bass comes back and brings some more percussive sounds with it. At 1:14, evil sounding male choir make their way into the background, with the bass and percussion playing the exact same thing. When the track reaches 1:30, another synthy instrument comes in and plays a cool rhythm. At 1:50, you'll think it's over, but no. Bass, percussion, and synth come back, the first two still playing the same thing they were before, but the synth instrument actually plays something different, sounding like it's improvising; wow, it's actually pretty cool. The only part that doesn't get repeated subsequently is the last part with the synth melody. Then the track ends, as suddenly as it begun, and you remember there is a God. (6/10)

9) Flame Cloud's Eye

Some parts of this track reminds me of Chrono Cross, for some reason. And that is sometimes bad. It's the use of the violin, actually, along with some tuplets. Percussion and a repeating string motif serve as accompaniment to the melodic lines of a violin and a flute. At the 0:50 mark, you may notice that it sounds like the beginning of the Dragon Quest VIII battle theme (Sugiyama is such a thief!). At 0:57, the melody gets some variety, but not the accompaniment, which is bad, because it's about to go to the first section, which features — yup, you guessed it — the same repeating strings. Thankfully, Iwadare varies a bit in the percussion department at 1:26, to keep things going. Then the same thing is repeated over and over again, until finally the end comes. It's very percussion-oriented and it's pretty cool. Can't say the same for those two or three melodic lines Iwadare got going on in the track. (6/10)

10) Combat 1

And just as you were about to lose hope that we would get something decent in this album, "Combat 1" comes along and slaps you around. Seriously, Iwadare should release an arranged album of his Grandia and Lunar battle themes. That would rock, 'cause it would be another excuse to listen to all those awesome themes again. OK, back to this track. But instead of using the electric guitar, like in the asskicking "Fight!! ver.1" from Grandia II, Iwadare uses, get this, A GUITAR. A regular guitar. But an electric guitar can still be heard in some parts, of course. The beginning's got some killer synth, and a very small participation by the electric guitar, just to get you started. For all you reviewers out there: you know when you're trying to review a track, and you constantly have to rewind it, so you can know exactly the moment tracks are developed and stuff? Well, I couldn't do it on "Combat 1". Everytime it begun, I would listen to it until the very end. And to write so much crap about it can only mean I had to listen to it a million times. Oh well.

Moving on, a guitar, accompanied by piano and castanets, plays the melody. You put some brass here and there, and some electric guitar way in the background and there's NO way it won't rock, because it's Iwadare. OK, so now, because of the ascending violin scale, you know something's going to happen. It's like Noriyuki's saying "To those about to rock, I salute you", then blows our minds. You CANNOT listen to this part without headphones on. You just can't. The guitar is still leading the way, but the electric guitar is now more active as accompaniment and the use of brass is perfect. After that part, there's a cool section with lots and lots of electric guitar goodness, some weird synth, and then it loops, which is great. We get to listen to the development section again! I can't say anything bad about this track. Actually, I won't say anything else, all this typing is getting in the way on the piece. All you need to know is that it amazing. Oh, and that development section at 0:51 is so awesome it'll make you all teary-eyed and stuff. Not me, though. Yeah. Oh, and Iwadare, if you read this, the arranged album would be awesome. It could be called IWADAROCKIN'. Have your people talk to my people, we'll figure something out. (10/10)

11) Source of Wave Front

This track is awesome if you want to fall asleep, because a good chunk of it it is NOTHING. Of course, that was hyperbole. It's not NOTHING, but it's very little. It's almost as if it's... ambient ambience. It's even less than ambient music, if that's possible. From the beginning until the 1:55 mark, "Source of Wave Front" is very, very quiet and synth is used to create a mystical effect. For what it's worth, I think Iwadare succeeded in that aspect. The only problem is that, well, it's absolutely dull. In my opinion, it's the worst kind of ambience: the rhythmless one. Anyway, at the aforementioned moment (1:55, for all of you with ADD), a string instruments are used, because clichéd ambience is not worthy without strings. There's a nifty chord progression at 2:28 and an increase in activity from the strings, but it's not enough to save this track. The damage has already been done. (5/10)

12) Top of Head Wind

The track begins with percussion, but then, out of nowhere, come some awful, awful echoing synth with accompanying voices and a bass. I can't even begin to think where this could be possibly be played during the game. After one minute, the crappy synth and voice stop appearing, almost giving you hope, but soon after they return. Pity, the bass is pretty cool. At 1:47, the percussion gets some air time, like it's trying to kick synth and voice, the boring neighbours, out of its house. Everything is repeated, then you start respecting Iwadare again, because the piece ends. (5/10)

13) Combat 3

First of all, where's "Combat 2"? Bleh. Whatever. Second, the problem with this battle theme is that sometimes it has no idea where it's going, and the result of that is some really weird stuff in the track. Ok, think of "Combat 3" like kids in a museum without a museum-person-guide-thingy: they don't know what the hell they're doing there or where they're supposed to go. Sometimes they get it right, other times they get it so wrong someone has to remind them they're in a museum, not at home, so they just can't run around bumping into stuff randomly. Don't get me wrong, I really like the parts with the electric guitar. It's as good as it gets. I really can't stand the synth section that begins at 1:26. It would feel completely different, had it not been the same drum line as before. The melody in this part adds nothing to the piece; it's just annoying, and awfully repetitive. Then the track loops, and there are some orchestra hits there for no reason. I was like "What the hell?" There should have been more awesome electric guitar parts, but without the crappy synth in the background, like in the last section of the track. There is one really cool thing about this piece though. You know those "DUM DUM" beats that appear in the beginning? Well, when they're repeated later on the track, they were written in a way that they alternate which speaker they're coming out of, before coming out of both at the same time. That was pretty cool. (7/10)

14) Grassy Plain of Ilusion

Incredibly simple and mighty good. This guitar/violin duo is easily one of the highlights of this album. With the guitar playing a Gymnopédie-esque accompaniment, the violin plays a slow, melancholic melody. Said accompaniment works wonders, because it feels all dreamy and reminds me of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind theme by Jon Brion (that movie's awesome, by the way). If you read any of my other reviews (yeah, right), you'll know I'm a huge fan of the violin, so I'm glad this track is not a disappointment. If it were, I'd listen to "Combat 4." (8/10)

15) Dark Ruins

Ooh, this is a hard one to appreciate. On the one hand, I can certainly enjoy its rather ambient nature, but on the other, the constant thumping and the weird noises are a huge turn off. Iwadare mainly uses ominous sounding strings and something else (could be a piano) sporadically. It's mostly suspended strings, which is pretty much what you need to do to write ambient stuff. This 7 I'm giving it is a grade from someone who likes ambience, so keep that in mind. Normal people would give it a 5 or something. (7/10)

16) Croitz

This one really grew on me. Iwadare uses, once again, percussion, strings, and brass, but the finished product has a more oppressive feeling to it this time around due to the way repetitions are handled. It begins with a repeating brass motif and then strings take the melody, with some woodwinds trilling in the background. It sounds very oppressive until 1:31, when a military tone is suddenly introduced, with snare drums and the downplay of brass. After a reiteration of the string melody with variation, the track gets ready to loop at 2:20, but it doesn't repeat the second part unfortunately. The ending is pretty good, although a bit too percussion-heavy for me... not to mention that it took me a while to appreciate a short chromatic run featured. (9/10)

17) Combat 4

Every once in a while comes a battle theme so fantastic, but so fantastic that it makes you forget about everything else. "Combat 4" is that battle theme. It is a track so good that you know it's awesome right from the start. Not even the almighty "Combat 1" did that for me, though it quickly grew on me. Heck, not even Final Fantasy X's "Decisive Battle" did that for me and that is now my favourite battle theme, followed closely by this one. "Combat 4" is one of those pieces that make you buy a crappy game because you need to know where it is played or there shall be no rest otherwise. "Combat 4" makes you rethink the way you've been living your life up to the day you listen to it. I mean, just listen to it. It's perfect.

Iwadare uses brass, electric guitars, drums, timpani, strings, piano, and woodwinds, all with great ease. Every section of the track flows amazingly well into the next, so you'll never feel lost when listening to it. Strings play the first part of the piece, accompanied by drums, a piano, and sprinkles of brass here and there. Then, at 1:06, an electric guitar takes the center stage, before passing the baton on to the piano and the flute. Even though this part is a bit calmer than the rest, smooth transitions make it easier to appreciate it. After a wee bit o' rockin', the track repeats the intro, but it's ok, because it's awesome. With some staccato brass and string chords followed by a short timpani roll and some strings, it's accompanied by drums, an electric guitar, and a trilling flute.

The track doesn't loop; it just repeats the intro. It is too awesome to be looped so soon, so it continues on, with some quick brass bursts and an electric guitar to rock even more. It wasn't even physically possible to rock even more than this, but Iwadare did it. At 2:58, the piano and flute part comes back, which is there just to give you a breather. You don't want to overdo the ROCKIN' now, do ya? It's a shame that the track ends a little bit after this, repeating the same section right before the second appearance of the intro at 1:56. Nevertheless, this is the best track of the album hands down. Not to mention one of Iwadare's best pieces ever. (10/10)

18) Split in the Ground

What the... I don't get this track. Its development is too complex to be grasped by such a simple mind as mine. It starts off with suspended strings and another instrument playing a some high-pitched notes. Then, at 0:21, a choir comes in, for some reason. A harp then joins the ensemble at 0:50 and helps yet another really bad transition to another part or the piece. A woodwind takes the choir's place and play a rather enchanting melody. At 1:30, it's back to the original motif, but there's a timpani roll, you know, to keep us from falling asleep. At 2:03, yet another godawful transition into another part, with the flute playing the melody again, accompanied by only the harp. At 2:39, strings come to replace the woodwind, but that feisty flute won't go away without a fight, so it comes back at 2:57. I'm about to kill someone, because the beginning has just begun again. Yep, there's the first awful transition. And if you thought about the possibility that the ending sucked, you were right. It's suspended strings and flute. No fading out, no diminuendo, no nothing. (3/10)

19) Quan Li

Now, I don't know who or what is Quan Li, but I bet I would be freaked it by him/her/it. The almost 30-second long intro sounds a bit random, with some strings, harp, and even distorted guitar. It gets really cool at 0:29, with a great chord progression in the strings and woodwinds. Unfortunately, the stupid brass keeps ruining it, with that friggin' rhythmic passage. Finally the brass gets what it wanted at 0:57, a small passage where it's leading everything. Damn brass. A tense moment at 1:15 leads us right back into the 0:29 part, which, again, is not fantastic because of the same reason as before. Get ready for some distortion guitar at 2:06. Too bad it doesn't fit this track at all. Actually, just forget the whole part that follows it. When it reaches 2:05, skip it. It's less of a burden for you this way. But, alas, I will explain why. The percussion keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. And so does the brass, even way in the background. Not even the not-so-bad string part saves it from being awful. Plus, I don't even get that ending. So much tension in the strings, to end with a simple gong? No, just no. (6/10)

20) Combat 5 - Last Battle -

You'd think Iwadare would spare all his efforts to create an awesome last battle theme, but I guess he did that already with "Combat 4"... Iwadare takes the 'less is more' approach with "Combat 5 - Last Battle -", but it still has its merits. For one, it's got some really tense moments. Heck, the beginning is already tense, with that crescendo drum roll and the somewhat slow strings. An ascending note passage played by a violin takes us to the next part of the piece, with features some very strong percussive lines and some electric guitars as well as strings.

At 0:48 is when the track really begins. Iwadare mainly relies mostly on strings, backed by percussion and some cymbal crashes to add power. It isn't until 1:40 that the winds joins, along with some snare drums, and, at 2:07, the much-wanted electric guitar appears and it's a moderately good addition, though barely gets air time. The track develops into this weird-then-cool part; Each stringed instrument plays a short ascending note run one after the other, then brass and woodwinds join, but they are interrupted, and there's a piano there for some reason playing the same ascending passage; brass and strings finally realize this section is sucking and start becoming more awesome, playing short ascending passages backed up by the lower-pitched instruments. It's pretty cool, and they way it leads back to the main melody is great. I thought the ending was a bit too sudden, though, becase the (yet another) ascending run fell out of place. Other than that, it's OK. (8/10)

21) Rein-car-nation

This is the usual 'song that plays in the end credits of the game'. There isn't really a lot to say about this track. The singer does a fairly good job (the high-pitched notes she had to sing were not that good, though), while the piano accompaniment is, well, effective. A bass guitar and a violin join in as well, but they don't make a whole lot of difference to the finished product. I don't even know what the song is about anyway. I could only understand 'hikari', which means 'light'. I like light, so yeah, OK. To be honest, I'm now listening to "Combat 4", because after listening to "Rein-car-nation" once, I feel like I've had enough of it. BLEH. (6/10)


I had heard several times that the Grandia Xtreme Original Soundtracks (what's with the plural?) were not Iwadare's best work. But, come on, it's Iwadare, so I thought that his not-so-good stuff would still be good, if that made sense. So I ventured into the unknown and listened to it. What I found were lots of tracks that were too long for their own good and sporting the same Intro-ABAC format. I know Iwadare likes to write proper endings for his tracks, but I'd much rather have pieces that loop endlessly instead of having to rely on that format to feel complete. Not only that, but Iwadare makes some really newbie mistakes, like bad transitions between sections or awkward development that makes you feel lost, for example.

So... Should you buy this album or not? I wouldn't recommend it to the casual VGM buyer, because the bad tracks far outweigh the good ones. But for the hardcore Iwadare fans, this is a must-buy, because it features some of his best battle themes, alongside some great pseudo-orchestral tracks (meaning that it's almost a full orchestra, but few instruments are missing... and I don't know what to call it). So, yes... a big disappointment, but not without highlights.

Overall Score: 5/10