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Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack :: Review by Aevloss

Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack Album Title: Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Avex
Catalog No.: AVCD-17741/3 (Copy Protected)
Release Date: August 24, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Mediocre. Ordinary. Average. Those are three words that sum up my feelings towards the Tales series of games in terms of musical quality. Undeniably, the games form a popular RPG franchise that is, in fact, beginning to grow in reputation even on a continental basis. Indisputably, Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura's work functions well when placed in its context; it is, conclusively, the soundtrack releases in which the problem has always lied. Truthfully, the music composed has been uninspiring ever since Tales of Phantasia premiered on the Super Nintendo. This is not to say that the soundtracks released since were bad, but rather quite undernourishing when listened to outside of the game given the composer's obvious talent, demonstrated in his compositions for Tri-Ace and, more recently, Monolith Software. Many consider the music to Tales of Destiny 2 to be another highlight of the series, but frankly, many of the same old-fashioned synth sounds and many Tales standards were left unchallenged and it was only a few tracks, even then, that would inspire a seasoned video game music listener. Maybe it is best that way though — maybe Sakuraba's Tales of the Abyss soundtrack will simply provide the same contented adequacy. Or maybe he will choose to pay the series a bit more attention since Tales of Legendia hit the shelves.

Project MELFES was announced by Namco some time ago, and it eventually evolved into Legendia, another addition to the Tales games for the PlayStation 2. Given that Team Symphonia was hard at work on the secret anniversary release of Tales of Abyss, a new section of the company worked on this title, creating the first of its kind that really began to stray from its roots. By this, I mean that some details were changed from previous instalments, and while the classic battle system stayed firmly in tact, other aspects of gameplay were altered, and given composers Sakuraba and Tamura gave way to let the ambiguous Go Shiina give a crack at the soundtrack. Few people who do not have a vested interest in video game music know who Go Shiina is — he is actually Shiina Masaru, a composer who has worked on relatively humble games such as Klonoa and Mr. Driller. It is surprising, then, that he has sprung up from the blue and created such a fantastic, easily listenable soundtrack. While Sakuraba was adamant in keeping his synths in a dominating position in his scores, newcomer Masaru deftly explores live performances with orchestras and provides some more mainstream vocal ballads, trying to cater, perhaps, for those who have not yet discovered the video game music genre. The former is the more impressive actually, as the composer shows some of the most skilful orchestral arranging skills I have heard in a video game, and utterly puts Shiro Hamaguchi (of Final Fantasy fame) to shame in terms of medium mastery and skilful experimentation. In this review, I hope to elaborate upon the intricacies Masaru's masterwork endows and prove that he has asserted — with this soundtrack alone — that he is capable of creating some of the most expert compositions in the industry.

(Tales of Legendia has recently been released in Japan, and the localization will be brought to American shores in early 2006 - no release details have yet been confirmed for Europe. Also, Go Shiina is the stage name by which composer Shiina Masaru is better known in his native country. When either name is mentioned in this review, it is used to describe the one man.)

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) TAO -game version-

The soundtrack mischievously opens in a traditional Tales manner, in that the first song was composed and performed by a J-Pop band; in this case, the artists are previous collaborators, known as Do As Infinity. Purist fans of the series might very well find this theme a little disappointing, as unlike other series favourites such as "Flying" and "Starry Heavens," the shortness is a considerably limiting factor, totally undermining its own potential. In fact, craftily, the full version of the song was published in a separate CD release by the band, so if you find the taster given here appealing, you might want to try and track down a copy of the original. Much in a way that is common of such tracks, we are introduced through a romantic ballad-style piano section, setting up the main vocals and playing out a good first half of the melody. Since this version is undersized to accommodate the relatively brief animé introduction, the development is very quick and it is but a single verse that precedes the chorus. At this point, the drums properly enter and a guitar takes over as the lead accompaniment, until the sudden anticlimactic end in which the opening instrumentation makes an all too ephemeral return. I found this track rather appealing, despite its conciseness, but wish that the extended edition had been included on the soundtrack instead. Some might also argue that the piece really does not fit in with the rest of the album, though Go Shiina's arrangement of the piece later on in the soundtrack provides a passable link. It is a promising, but somewhat deceiving introduction I feel. (7/10)

2) melfes ~ Shining Blue

My mention of deception is clarified by this next track alone. Putting Do As Infinity's effort aside, Tales of Legendia marks a much-needed change in tone from Motoi Sakuraba's efforts on the series. Go Shiina proves his worth from the outset, delivering a grandiose masterpiece performed by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, which is something that just would not have happened on previous soundtrack instalments. The first few seconds display quite the classical leaning, and it really gives the piece and its composer an air of sophistication. The performance is as lovely as would be expected, and distributes the listener with a healthy dose of emotion — from the delicate, tranquil beginning that signifies peace in a magical land, to the outwardly epic portions featured throughout the second minute, the dancing violins, daring brass and, actually, the complete orchestration never cease to impress. This starts the album on a high, and completely makes up for the slightly lacking introductory piece; another interesting feature is that it breaks the mould by being an extended version of the music used in the game for the title screen. Clearly, it is not at all similar to the usual harp affair from Sakuraba, but effective nonetheless, and a joy to listen to on this CD. (10/10)

3) The Meeting Place is the Mountain Plaza

Although it features neither a band recording nor a full orchestra performance, "The Meeting Place is the Mountain Plaza" is a track that can hold its head up with catchy pride. The transition between the opening three tracks leaves a lot to be desired, but each is respectable on its own — this piece has a distinctly cheerful feel about it that you usually always get during the opening stages of an RPG, and I feel that this works well as the first featured town theme. The synthesizers used in the soundtrack are so strong, that I do not know whether I should be complimenting the masterful job by the manipulator, or perhaps a live violin performer from the Naoto String group, who are also credited on the album. Either way, the use of the stringed instrument is well done on this track, and reminds me a lot of Noriyuki Iwadare's work on similar contextual compositions. Some of the interludes sound playful and nicely light-hearted, helping to produce a finished effect of passiveness and generating positive sentiments. Spirits are high when you listen to this piece, not just because of the sound of the music, but also due to the unexpectedly high quality of the composition; another winner here. (8/10)

4) Forest of No Return

I do not think that the title wording "...of No Return" is quite appropriate here, as the finished track sounds like it has come from the same ilk as the previous piece. Granted, its approach is less about clumsy fun, but we still keep this impression of genuine security. Events might be occurring around protagonist Senel, but nothing sounds as though it has quite infiltrated the calm sphere of everyday life, and the piece seems to reflect a road to another location that is quite familiar; not a particularly threatening place. The case might be different, however; but the music implies as such. As before, the violin performance is convincing and successful, as are the accompanying strings. This composition also seems to bond together the town piece with "melfes ~ Shining Blue" in that its routes appear to be influenced by classical music, but it proceeds at its own leisurely pace. I like the way that although he is a newcomer to the Role-Playing music scene, Go Shiina is already challenging the stereotypes. This is unique and successful stuff — as much so as the tracks before. (8/10)

5) A Cheerful Bandit

It seems funny that Go Shiina's foray into jazz is more effective than a great deal of Sakuraba's own attempts. One might make a connection between Moses Sandor and Zelos Wilder from Tales of Symphonia in terms of musical themes — This 'cheerful bandit' has reason to smile a little more, however, because while fun, Sakuraba's attempt did not seem quite as professional and polished. What the composer has done here is created a composition that is hard to criticize; the soulful saxophone, customary bass guitar and bright piano performances are all worthy of praise. This mastery of instrumentation results in authentic work indeed, and the composer's skill at writing for a jazz band is apparently only second to his orchestral expertise. It is hard not to like the energetic piece, and its inclusion helps to add praiseworthy variety to the experience, in a most enjoyable way. (8/10)

6) Sunlight Filtering Through the Trees

One feature of Motoi Sakuraba's work on the Tales series that was worth a good listen was the piano based tracks. I sometimes wondered, in actual fact, whether it might benefit from a piano collection arrange album, much in the way of the Final Fantasy series and Masashi Hamauzu's Piano Pieces SF2 ~ Rhapsody on a Theme of SaGa Frontier 2. Such a thing was never made, however, but Masaru manages to avoid negative comparisons with his admirable "Sunlight Filtering Through the Trees." The effect of the music seems indecisive — shortly after the beautiful opening piano section, there is a brief moment that would sound not at all out of place in a film score. The listeners might prepare themselves for the piece going down that route, but instead the piano returns, and delivers an almost ruefully sorrowful, nostalgic part. It is very pleasant, and the pizzicato strings, 'cello and flute help add to a flavourful selection of instruments. Shortly before the two-minute mark, the tone shifts once more, to a firm heroic section. I happen to really enjoy the track, maybe partially due to its unpredictable nature, but also because I like to hear the piano being using in a more complex, inspiring way, more than as just a background accompaniment. There is no doubt that the long-lasting run of good tracks continues in fine form with track six and I feel it is even a step up from the last few pieces. (9/10)

7) March

Odd ethnic percussion and eerie, distorted vocals — it can only be the start of "March," one of the more unique additions to the first CD and, thankfully, one of the best. I didn't know quite what to expect when I first heard this theme, and it is certainly an in-your-face experience, which is made clear after only eight seconds of listening. The experimentation paid off though, and the unusual genre bridges formed throughout help to add credit to Go Shiina's diversity. The powerful choir chants are what makes the track seem extraordinary, as they are ferocious and commanding and make for something that is firmly atypical of a march. The drum kit and electric guitar sound perhaps the most peculiar of the instrument set, mainly due to their conjunction with the culture-based woodwind and accompanying bells. The drums even get a solo before the strings enter once more with their unique quirkiness — the composition ends up seeming like a mixture of lots of different ideas, but somehow remains successful anyway, though there are bound to be people who find it overpowering. I particularly like the link that is made between "March" and the E3 trailer music in the latter chord progressions. The trailer piece — which may ultimately replace "TAO -game version-" as the opening animé cut scene accompaniment in the American and English releases — was unfortunately not included on the album (much in the way that Tales of Symphonia's was not either); it sounded very much like Motoi Sakuraba's style however, which may have had something to do with its exclusion. Either way, the most impressive part of this song for me is the conclusion, which sounds like it could have spawned a different piece entirely, and the operatic vocals, however brief, are really quite stunning — if only the idea had been developed a bit more! Viewed as a whole though, the composition is crammed with interesting features certain to entertain. (9/10)

8) Spinning Thoughts, Bound Hands

Electric Guitars and Electric Pianos are not a common combination I have come across in video game music; it marks another intriguing instrumentation choice on the part of Masaru, but the final effect of "Spinning Thoughts, Bound Hands" assures that he knows exactly what he is doing. The melody that begins the piece is actually not very inspiring and sounds like it could be an introduction to a love ballad of some kind. I would have guessed from the passage that its primary use in the game is in some of the more heartfelt interactions between the characters, but the sudden sounding out of the violin makes the piece sound much more proficient and interesting from an accompaniment perspective — it also gives an impression of lifted spirits, resolved inner-conflicts and marks the start of a new adventure in the game as well as musically. In the end, the track reprieves itself for its initial normality and suitably prepares us for the pieces that wait ahead; its only problem is that the composition sounds undernourished on a development basis and could have been a lot more profound than it was, despite the positive if forgettable effect it already has on the soundtrack. (8/10)

9) The Legendary Sorcerer

"The Legendary Sorcerer" sees an improvement in quality over the previous piece, and is one of the most memorable themes on the soundtrack. Early back when Project Melfes was announced, a teaser trailer was created, with this as the accompanying music, so to some this will be one of the most identifiable tracks on the album. Beginning with some interesting vocal work by the credited group Kanon, the piece travels at an unusual pace, once again professing Masaru's uniqueness at achieving success. Shortly after a more action based brass section, the instruments are all swept away hurriedly to make way for some lovely violin work, to which the vocals continue to accompany. This is probably the best portion of the song, and gives an impression of inhuman magical power; in fact my only gripe with the track is the ending string chord progressions, as they are one of the very few times that the synth is weaker than normal and are noticeable after the disguise the rest of the track made. They end the track on sinister note, however, building suspense and granting us a faintly darker edge on a CD that seems otherwise rather sparse in the area. (9/10)

10) It's Not a Bluff

This track struck me as being a distinctive twist on an idea that might otherwise be deemed clichéd. It is possibly the nearest you will get to Motoi Sakuraba's work on the soundtrack in that the melody and synth piano combination sound quite akin to something he may have produced. Yet at the same time, there's that Masaru trademark eccentricity, demonstrated firstly when a bell sounds out from nowhere and also in the perfect integration of a lovely, entrancing 'cello — the piece actually sounds almost ambient in its minimalist approach, and the trumpet is the only instrument that makes a powerful imprint. It works though, giving us a pause to reflect on the potent last track and the title hints that perhaps the party members are feeling awed in quite the same way; it is almost tragic, and is the first use of such an idea. I feel like saying that it has a dreamlike quality, which once again links back with an idea of not believing exactly what is happening. The fact the track generates such thoughts alone makes it an effective one, and it sounds especially engaging in its depth. (9/10)

11) To Deliver the Feelings

The orchestra is back! And it provides a strong entry once again, but perhaps only resonates with "melfes ~ Shining Blue" on a familiarity basis. This time its strongest factor is its dynamics, though the sound quality is understandably sharp and real also. The piece leaps around a lot, managing to be harsh yet pleasant, forceful yet delicate, powerful and yet brooding, all at the same time; it would not be unfair to compare the piece to some older classical film music, and could probably fit into something like Disney's Fantasia with little difficulty. Understandably, this kind of track is not for everyone, as it is, perhaps, some of the purest, undiluted classical music featured in a video game to date and thus might be overwhelming for those of us who listen for the alternative tracks, unique to games. It marks a progression I feel, though; only ten years ago, one would have never expected to hear something as musically profound as "To Deliver the Feelings" coming from their consoles — it was all about catchy melodies and making the best of what was available then — only now do we have the music to Tales of Legendia and other games such as Drag-On Dragoon 2, which support soundtracks you could almost call easy listening, in that they define themselves even further in their use of musical styles. The only problem with this advancement is that people expect more; when delving into such realms as orchestral music, it will critiqued in a class all of its own and in greater depth. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing, I think it is important that we do not lose sight of what these compositions are intended for, and this is a perfect example of brilliantly encapsulating a variety of emotions for a certain scene. Much in the way as "melfes ~ Shining Blue," Masaru deserves full credits here once more. (10/10)

12) Ancient Ship

"Ancient Ship" is beautiful. Not in the way you might immediately think; you might argue, in fact, that it is too dominating and borders on gratuitous in its swift melodramatic build-up — but alas, beauty is the best way I can sum up the rich textured sound we are treated to by Go Shiina's creation. After a misleading bass guitar and percussion get us wondering what exactly is coming next, the strings and choir enter, with the latter giving an almost divine or sacred impression. This is the theme tune of the legacy, a huge ship that Senel and Shirley stumble upon at sea — it is the key to the adventure itself. Legacy is a perfect word to pair with this track, as it is something I believe my mind might have reached anyway just from listening to the overloaded sound. Images throw themselves out, as the idea of rediscovering a forgotten treasure and life in times past collide in a titanic blast that is this song and, presumably, the cut scene that it accompanies in the game is an important one indeed. It is rarely that so many prosperous feelings are conveyed all at once in a game composition, and it forms a lovely result that is nothing but impressive. Unfortunately, I feel it could have gone even further than it did, and had it done so it would have been truly perfect. (10/10)

13) Tomorrow Will Surely Be Sunny

By this point, apparently, Go Shiina was on a roll. "Tomorrow Will Surely Be Sunny" is an exquisite area theme that is truly memorable — right from the eye-raising introduction, the piece held my attention with its appetizing violin work, and Masaru meticulously builds up the layers, resulting in a perfect, adventurous track, which also reacquaints us with the cheerfulness from some of the opening compositions. A moment I particularly enjoyed was when the piece appeared to loop, actually leaving only a breezy acoustic guitar to happily strum to the violin and flute's offerings. Unlike the last few tracks it seems headstrong and perfectly sure of itself, implying that the heroes of the story are content and ready to confront their problems head-on — also, a very nice transition is set up to the next track, which carries over some of the attractive qualities presented here. (9/10)

14) Enemy Attack

Quite the unlikely song title here — many people asked as to whether this is the battle theme. The answer, actually, is no, it is not, but it hardly matters considering the piece is quite possibly the best non-orchestral addition to the soundtrack. This is not said lightly — Masaru has kicked up a masterpiece of a cut scene track here, and its watery texture and silky smoothness is a gorgeous phenomenon to listen to. Who else would have known that the piano could be influential and compelling in such a way? — Truthfully, Noriyuki Iwadare did, as he showed in "GREAT ASSIZE," the final battle track on the Grandia III Original Soundtrack, but even that struggles to achieve the effortless success of "Enemy Attack." It is difficult to describe the effect of the piano work in words, save for that it is incredibly fluid and seems to know exactly where it is headed from the beginning to the end. The rapid development is so good that is seemed as though it would be impossible to go full circle, but it was done in a swift, expert movement and further convinced me of Masaru's seemingly boundless talent with all instruments. I wonder if he actually has the capacity to make mistakes — it certainly would not seem so at this point. This track was a treat that I had looked forward to ever since hearing the sample on Namco's Tales of Legendia website; and oh, how delightful it was in the end. (10/10)

15) Beyond the Hill

"Beyond the Hill" introduces us to what some might perceive as the main theme. It features properly only twice during the soundtrack, once being here and the other in the love ballad at the end of the CD. When the trumpets and strings enter, a grand adventurous scale is created, as if the heroes suddenly realise the enormity of their quest; I can only assume that it is the overworld music, and if I am correct in my assumption, it is an effective one at that, flawlessly forming the backdrop for a world-encompassing journey. Its main downfall on the soundtrack is supplied through its shortness, as the composition does not really develop to a great extent, though the interlude that follows the main motif is pleasant. It is good that Masaru created the connection with "my tales," otherwise the ballad would have seemed a little incompatible, but I still feel that this track would have been considerably strengthened on its own had it been fleshed out more. Maybe it is a piece that is more memorable after playing the game, since presumably you end up listening to it a fair deal. Either way, after the amount of potential it shows at the beginning, it is a little anticlimactic on the CD itself. (7/10)

16) Battle Artist

It is perhaps rather ordinary to assume that the battle theme is coming next, since it is a device often used on RPG soundtracks. What is most surprising is its sound in the first place. "Enemy Attack" would have made an odd normal battle track, but in many ways "Battle Artist" sounds no less peculiar. This time, Go Shiina decided to employ a semi-orchestral style while mixing in a techno beat and some strange ethnic instrument lines. I find it a little difficult imagining how exactly this would work in the game, especially given the almost side scrolling beat 'em up style battle system; it will certainly be a change for Tales fans from Sakuraba's usual progressive rock offerings, but not necessarily a welcome one. When perceiving it as a piece of music on the soundtrack though, its efficiency increases quite a lot, and I find that it becomes enjoyable due to its unconventional behavioural patterns — I sense that the track is probably a love it or hate it ordeal, but the more I listen to it, the more I enjoy the idiosyncrasy; I must compliment the composer once more for challenging what is considered a given, as it is the sign of a truly talented artist. (8/10)

17) Seeking Victory

"Seeking Victory" is actually a boss track, which would seem completely feasible since the off key sound is very similar to the previous number. I believe that it is difficult to fully appreciate these tracks for what they are without playing the game first, since the sound has actually been altered on the CD a little to cater for an easy-listening experience, so I would rather just say that it is successful by itself for exactly the same reasons that "Battle Artist" was. I like the way that it manages to be threatening in an unassuming, indirect way — although the beginning seems to be heading towards some kind of climax, the odd drumbeat and a brass instrument quickly wipe away that feeling when they take the centre stage. The strings re-enter frequently from this point onward, but never enough to make the track seem overly dark or heavy. If I want to be picky, it varies a little less than "Battle Artist," consequently marking it as the weaker of the two pieces in my eyes, but it is certainly not one that is difficult to enjoy, and is only a little disappointing given its purpose. (8/10)

18) Sea of Rage

"Sea of Rage" seems to only build on the ideas of the previous tracks. After the humble introduction, the violin rings out the familiar legacy melody, before allowing some nice thumping drums to bring us into the next section of the track. That continuation, too, is a fleeting, but pleasant one, blending ethnic percussion with a strong sawtooth wave. Even more surprising is the revised synth form of "Enemy Attack" that follows — for quite a long time, this revival seems ambient, before some of the main piano work is played by a strange electric organ and hurried strings. By these three movements, this track is given an abnormality that surpasses even the two previous battle themes, as it seems to dart rapidly around and give out conflicting feelings. This composition is what I would call, more so than other pieces so far on the soundtrack, an acquired taste, but quite a nourishing one for someone looking for something completely off-the-wall and different. There is no denying, whether you like it or not, however, that it is well put together; Masaru continues to impress with the consistent good development of ideas in all his work. It is a shame that it does not lead on as smoothly to the next track as might have been hoped. (8/10)

19) Between Memories and Hope

After the three alternative-come-electronica styled tracks, it takes a few seconds to adjust to the orchestra sound again if you are listening to the soundtrack in chronological order. "Between Memories and Hope" is sufficiently pleasant, but lacks the experimental flavour of the pieces it follows and the fully realised grandeur of fellow live performances "melfes ~ Shining Blue" and "To Deliver the Feelings." As such, at just over one minute long, it comes across as a forgettable bridge to the final addition on the CD, and holds the title of the composer's least original sound to date — the suspended opening strings followed by the calm violin strokes give an image of surviving a difficult struggle, and the sound gradually builds to its most triumphant fanfare phase, in which the trumpets blast out victory. Masaru seemed to opt for a safe option here, but really did not achieve anything that would leave a lasting effect on the listener. "Between Memories and Hope" is passable work, but one of the few more mediocre moments of the experience, unfortunately. (6/10)

20) my tales

I have heard people complain that this love ballad is too cheesy and that it does not fit into the soundtrack very well. To be honest, I cannot disagree enough. Not only does "my tales" stand out to me as one of the best vocal themes ever featured in a video game, but also exceptionally blends a contemporary sound with the orchestra that has featured before in the soundtrack, resulting in something that sounds like it might have come from a musical, but fitting in perfectly well. If anything, "TAO -game version-" should be criticized, not this masterpiece! To describe the song in its glorious entirety would be fairly difficult, because the masterful orchestration successfully conveys an assortment of emotions while retaining Masaru's trademark quirkiness, all of which end the disc on an uplifting, positive note. I have no serious complaints about Donna Burke or Gab Desmond's vocals — each seem able to sing powerfully and with passion enough to make the track work as intended. The accompanying background singers help contribute to the musical idea, in that you can imagine them in the background while we focus on the main two figures at the front of the stage; they undoubtedly enrich the final effect, managing to make the piece even more epic than it would have been otherwise. The orchestration that accompanies this vocal work is flawless, and makes for a fantastic end to the CD — I particularly like the interlude that follows the second verse and chorus, as it builds up impressively well and has a suitably grand finish about it. To me, it is the song that most vividly sprinkles the anime cut scene graphics throughout my head, and is effective in instilling good memories of the soundtrack when listened to apart from the rest — I can only imagine this nostalgia is heightened if you have played the game. Masaru has truly proved himself with "my tales," and the song will live on as a fine delicacy amongst its kin. (10/10)

Disc Two

1) A Firefly's Light

In accordance with the first disc, the opening track of the second is another vocal theme — this time, the song is performed by the Japanese singer Mayumi Sudou, and Masaru seems to have combined the grandiose temperament of "my tales" with the pop-based "TAO -game version-" by Do As Infinity. As a result, "A Firefly's Light" comes off sounding good, but not quite as superior as the last track of the first CD. It has a very nice melody, and something about the overall effect reminds me of Final Fantasy X-2's "1000 Words," but unfortunately it lets itself down on the emotional side. The beginning piano passages show great promise, but unfortunately, about forty seconds in, the piece decides not to develop on the orchestral side, but more into a pop-style track. This is not necessarily a bad approach if the soundtrack was supposed to be aimed at the more casual listeners, but it results in a fairly traditional ballad for anyone familiar with the video game music scene — although Sudou has a good voice, I feel that the effort she put in could not make up for the vacuum created in the sparing use of the orchestra. I may be looking on it quite harshly, but that is only because Masaru himself set the standard with the amazing 'my tales', making this sort of anticlimactic. However, certain parts were strong, such as the previously mentioned opening and the lovely violin entrance at 1:48, the epic drum crash in the repeated drum crash at 3:38 and the charming conclusion; as far as usual standards go in fact, it is a good song, and it is more enjoyable to listen to the second time around when you have eliminated the expectations you might have formed before. The compositional development puts it above "TAO -game version-," at least. (9/10)

2) Whisper of the Crystal

Having enjoyed the slightly sorrowful piano work at the beginning of "A Firefly's Light" I came to enjoy the follow-up, "Whisper of the Crystal" a great deal. Not only does the piece elaborate upon that idea, it also develops particularly well, creating one of the more moving tracks on the second CD. The beginning has a feeling about it that might be described as nostalgic or determined. The melody is, after all, the same one used in "Spinning Thoughts, Bound Hands," that I described in a similar way — it sounds as though the characters in the game are confronting their sorrows and their problems and are coming out stronger because of it; this is especially true of the grand section that follows the opening piano work. But the thing that made this track out to me was the extra bit of development on the end, with the nice rising and falling of keystrokes, in a way reminiscent almost of Nobuo Uematsu's "Crystal Theme" — this short treat is unlike anything Masaru has previously offered on the album, even in "Sunlight Filtering Through the Trees" which could be put in the same category as the song, and is, thus, all the more welcome. I also like the shift in dynamics then, back to the beginning, and the return of an odd synth sound which also featured in the opening sections — the piccolo that accompanies that section in its repeated form is also pleasant and its unpredictable appearance helps keep an air of surprise about the piece. (9/10)

3) Advancing Towards 12 O'Clock

Now this is a pleasure — a distressing area theme, and quite a climactic one too, from what the tone indicates. From the outset, we have some crashing percussion and an ominous undertone created by some low strings; a more definite drumbeat settles in shortly after the beginning, eventually dying away for a synth choir to sing of the danger. The following re-entrance is grand, and the impressive brass gives an image of fighting to the end, despite the perils that lie ahead. I would predict that "Advancing Towards 12 O'Clock" is used to great effect within the game, forcing the player too to feel a sense of urgency and maybe even frustration in a truly interactive manner. I feel, actually, that one of the weaker areas of the Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack can be found in its overall lacking of an atmosphere; this is to say, while the music is all very good, an exact tone is rarely created nor tension built up, but for in select tracks (most of which are cut scene composition) — this piece shows that Go Shiina can do hazardous, and I only wish he had done it more throughout the album, because the effect is not only intimidating but thoroughly enjoyable. If I could improve anything, it would be the development, as I feel that it loops too quickly to proclaim itself as one of the best on the album — it certainly does lie near the top of the pile however and was a great achievement in itself, even if wrongly placed before the next track. (9/10)

4) Chasing Shirley

The blend of the piano and bass guitar here create a sound that seems quite contemporary-western in its influence, and the violin adds a relishing flavour that makes it really stand out as a nice, funky piece. Anyone who liked Masashi Hamauzu's "Battle Theme I" on the Unlimited SaGa Original Soundtrack will no doubt be familiar with exactly how well unconventional employment of the stringed instrument can be, and this is another great example of just that. To be honest, I just love how this composition has been put together, and find it quite difficult to fault — a high point is the impressive phase-outs of the instruments, where everything dies out instantly giving the impression that the song has come to an abrupt end, before springing back into action again. To me, this is fun, inspiring work and emanates a degree of successful experimentation that is admirable. Not only that, but I have yet to find any faults in the composition whatsoever! Go, Go Shiina! (10/10)

5) Short Circuit

"Short Circuit" is probably about as experimental as this album gets and will certainly not be everyone's cup of tea, but no doubt features some fine sequencing and synth direction. After all, it seems to show off, more than anything, a variety of different editing techniques, from adding helium warp effects, to the vocals, to winding down the overall sound in a manner that sounds like switching off an engine, before starting it up once again. Also, examples can be found of changing filters in a way that gives the track an old, crackly-radio feel, as well as frequent voice modulation. The female vocals, in particular, seem to have been adjusted to sound almost siren-like in the way that they flick from one speaker to the other; meanwhile, the male, who seems to be singing in an operatic fashion, is the victim of Shiina's pitch antics. What seems most intriguing, is that at the same time as all of this, there is a steady techno motif ringing out over some rapid string passages that sound like they have been ripped from "The Legendary Sorcerer." To be honest, it really is hard to describe the piece in words — it might sound chaotic; and that it is, but in a more controlled manner than you might initially imagine. How can all these traits I have mentioned be made to work at once? Shiina Masaru makes it clear that he knows.

It makes me wonder, after considering "Short Circuit," "To Deliver the Feelings," "Enemy Attack," and "my tales," back-to-back, whether there is anything that the talented composer could not do. He seems to explore opposite spectrums of the video game music genre without ever making a mistake, simply adding to his repertoire — and all this in just the Tales of Legendia Soundtrack! I could not find a reason not to give this gem-of-a-track a full mark once again, because it seems faultless in its entirety. The development is great, the sound is inspiring, and the track ends, with the violins, on an equally unpredictable note as that on which it begun — fantastic!(10/10)

6) Stella

"Stella," from the outset, makes me imagine a very civilised banquet, and has a distinctly royal air about it. Such calmness after "Short Circuit" seems a little nervous in itself, because you cannot really be sure that it isn't going to explode in your face again. But even with its shortness, the sound seems to linger and put you at a temporary ease. I would hesitate to say that the environment sounds pleasant and welcoming, but would instead be prone to the assumption of a beautiful place with snooty residents. Although the orchestra did not play it this time, Go Shiina has created another classical themed piece, and I daresay it harkens back to medieval contexts and grand castles, even with its sparing instrument use. The violins are beautiful, and the melody is a pleasant one, but I unfortunately find myself wanting to complain about the development. To achieve its true majestic potential, I feel that Masaru should have added another short section of development at the 54-second mark, where it prematurely loops. That this is not the case stops the composition from transcending its status as 'good', and defines one of the main differences between the success of its predecessors and itself. I would not like to be too harsh however, because it is a great, relaxing song and deserves some respect in its lead up to the next track. (7/10)

7) Let's Go!

There is always one of these on an RPG soundtrack — an uplifting piece that gets the player pumped and ready to challenge the dangers that wait; it has become almost a stereotype in its own right. Well, "Let's Go!" is Masaru's try at this concept, and as I have said before, I would have, by this point, been surprised if he did not pull off something special. And predictably, it does succeed, forming another great addition to the album, finally convincing us that the synth-charged madness of "Short Circuit" is over. This is very much generic RPG stuff, and is nothing particularly groundbreaking, but is a welcome composition nonetheless. The trumpet is used compellingly alongside a flute and the standard violins, and helps to produce the enjoyable, adventurous sound that facilitates the final achievement; this being, of course, something quite addictive, which easily gets stuck in your head. To me, it seems that it is Noriyuki Iwadare who most often triumphs in this area of expertise, and I think "Let's Go!" even lives up to those lofty standards, sounding slightly akin to his work due to other instrumentation choices throughout the song. With a memorable melody and Go Shiina's effective harmonic touch, little could go wrong, and "Let's Go!" shows how to play safe with style, but still come out with an excellent sounding track. Once again, this kind of material is close to refined perfection and is a fine addition to the second CD. (9/10)

8) Big Sister Honwaka

"Big Sister Honwaka" is probably closest to a return of the technique used in "A Cheerful Bandit" and "Chasing Shirley" in that it exploits pleasant-sounding jazz and violin work — the bass guitar and percussion lead off the piece, setting up the other instruments; at one point, we can hear a much faster drum-line fading in from the background in a way similar to some parts of "Short Circuit." Other than this though, these two instruments stay relatively calm in an attempt to depict a laid-back sense, and to draw the listener's attention to the main melodies, particularly highlighting the soulful saxophone sections. The piece is not something that you would immediately imagine in an RPG soundtrack, and most certainly not in a Tales title; it is, at times, reminiscent of the kind of catchy music that might be played in a casino, though in the game, its purpose as an area theme is quite different. The progression the composition work is perfectly acceptable, avoiding the fate of "Stella," and tempting the listener to rank it up amongst some of the best of the CD thus far. In my opinion, it is agreeably a strong contribution, but one that does not quite reach the elevation that it hankers for. Masaru has done it again, and created a thoroughly enjoyable piece that probably works fantastically well in Tales of Legendia itself, but following all the other area themes, for myself, I felt a desire to hear something a tad more emotional — the orchestra had been strangely absent at the beginning of the disc, and I think it was asking to be brought back. Regrettably, 'Big Sister Honwaka' had to bear the brunt of that wish, thus coming off slightly less favourable that it might have done otherwise. It is still a pleasurable listening experience, however. (9/10)

9) Land of Peace

On an emotional basis, "Land of Peace" triumphs over its predecessors. We are introduced, through the distinctive cultural instrument choices, to the most outwardly ethnic piece on the album — this would imply that there is a location in the game steeped in an old Asian-inspired history, and that the earthy shamisen that flutters against the main melody is to help communicate some of the aesthetic principles in that regard. Nature seems to be a theme that is communicated through the instruments strongly, and their selection helps to make the sound more organic, poetic and believable. It is definitely the sound that you associate with the Far East, and thus forms some glowing imagery of a town which is quite ancient but harbours a force to be reckoned with — this links in with mythology, wise elder chiefs and other such pictures which also seem to stem from the sound.

One feature that makes this strikingly different from Tales of Symphonia's "Village of Mizuho" is that there are some male choir samples added, which is quite uncommon for a track of its kind. I found these vocals to be really quite effective, and they helped to accentuate the ideas that I have already discussed, and helps to add a layer of opulence to that which was already so richly ground. It makes me think of spring through winter, and the appreciation of the inhabitants for being blessed with their daily lives. It incorporates an everyday routine impression as well as a way-of-the-warrior concept, which blend to form a dual-layered treasure that is triumphant for its subtleties. My favourite part is the conclusion that begins at 2:04, when much of the background harmony falls away to leave an untreated beauty of a part, preserving feelings of fragility and rebirth. I would like to liken it, perhaps, to the Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack's "Wutai," in the way that it seems to be defining an identity more than making an epic statement, as might be thought of the work on the Shenmue Orchestra Version, or some of Joe Hisashi's anime scores. It might seem simple at first, but give it a while, and "Land of Peace" will stand out more and you will grow to appreciate it a great deal — I certainly did! (9/10)

10) Run in the Middle of the Storm

Following in the more emotional footsteps of the track it follows, "Run in the Middle of the Storm" sounds situational — this is because it is the 'hurry' theme and is used in some of the more dangerous running sections in the game. Sound-wise, you could probably draw similarities between this and the earlier "Advancing Towards 12 O'Clock," because they both have a frantic feel about them, as though you are leading up to some kind of climax. I do not consider this theme, out of the two, to be as good, but it still creates an appropriately anxious mood and brings back some of the themes featured previously in the soundtrack. As before, the effect is created through use of orchestral techniques in conjunction with some more contemporary sounding drum samples. I think it is a track that acts more like a dramatic device on the album, to bring about an underlying sense of power, and replaces the hole that there is in regard to 'evil' themes; it is not the type of composition that is easy to talk about, but suffice to say, it does its job ably. (7/10)

11) TAO -melfes version-

The orchestra returns at last, to grant us an unusual track indeed. Shiina Masaru, apparently, thought that the TAO theme by Do As Infinity was one that needed an arrangement. The transition from J-Pop to orchestra is not, perhaps, the smoothest but it ends up sounding fairly good. I would be tempted to lump it in next to "Between Memories and Hope" because it is probably the second weakest use of the New Tokyo Philharmonic, not seeming to show off the composer's arranging skills as well as might have been hoped. Complaints aside, the melody remains a nice one, and there is some great percussion work to appreciate, as the piece gradually builds up layers of hand-based percussion with tambourines, timpani hits and some more contemporary drums. It is the strings that struck me as the weaker sounding instruments in this arrangement, which is often the area where the composer has excelled before, tarnishing it to an extent — I think that actually the brass comes across better, particularly the nice horn passage that begins at 1:05, and leads into one of the better parts of the song, before returning to mediocrity in the rendition of the chorus. I think that the chorus was done quite badly to be honest, as while it introduced the song quite well, the aforementioned section sounded very much like it was building up to something bigger than simply a repeated phrase from the beginning — maybe Masaru was not wanting to change Do As Infinity's work much, but I think he would have been wiser taking the source material in more interesting directions than he did. (8/10)

12) The Bird Chirps, I Sing

Do you remember "Tomorrow Will Surely Be Sunny" from Disc One? Well, "The Bird Chirps, I Sing" is likely to appeal to the people who enjoyed that last song. This is mainly due to the fact that it is basically a transposed version of the original, with the addition of vocals from Kanon, who previously worked on "The Legendary Sorcerer." Indeed, the same, almost threatening violins introduce the track, this time in conjunction with an African-influenced male vocal — the main melody is primarily performed by a female voice and an accompanying choir in the background replaces the original acoustic guitar. Excepting these few differences, the track is really not that different from its previous incarnation, and which one you prefer is probably very objective; personally, I actually favour the original as I really liked the guitar sound and technically it develops slightly better, but I certainly can appreciate the vocals in the new rendition. My favourite part is the note that the track ends on, as we get to hear some nice warped voice work bring it to a close in an innovative way. I suppose the theme makes a welcome return, but I cannot help but feel that the potential to elaborate upon the original was wasted. (8/10)

13) Delkes Black Wings

After two arrangements that were good but lacked creativity, it is nice of Masaru to treat us to "Delkes Black Wings>" This masterpiece happens to be a newly rendered, aggressive version of "Enemy Attack," which was one of the most proficient, non-orchestral tracks on Disc One, setting quite a high standard. It is nice to know that it was treated with care and that expectations would be met. From the powerful introduction alone, it is obvious that this piece is not too similar to the original in its tone and mood, as while that track took pride in being elegant and fluid, this version is almost harsh and scolding in its effect. It would be fair to compare "Delkes Black Wings" to "To Deliver the Feelings" if anything, I think, as both of these are more action based than the other orchestral themes. This one, though, has an even greater emphasis placed on power — the swiftness of the strings is menacing and they carry a feeling of incredible strength with them — it is as though the biggest threat of all has been thrown up against Senel and the party, and they battle on desperately against wailing horns and booming percussion that threaten to overwhelm.

It takes a fair while before the composition becomes melodic, much in the way that "Enemy Attack" did, but you can start to draw parallels between the piano keys and the strings quite quickly — we proceed to the chorus at an alarming rate then, and Masaru pulls it off well, managing to convey that same urgency as before, but with an even greater emphasis put on emotion thanks to the more traditional instrumentation. A quiet phase follows, where we are left to ponder the unpredictable force the enemy is, before the sound returns in a sudden burst of sound. Then another interesting section at 2:15, that sounds like it has been ripped from a film score, leading back round finally to the chorus once more. As the piece comes to a close, we feel completely satisfied with the arrangement, and it ends on a deliciously dark orchestra hit — many people would probably argue that it is not as pioneering as "Enemy Attack," but I think that the composer has done his original piece justice and produced an equally impressive piece in its own right. It is, undoubtedly, one of the finest moments of the second disc. (10/10)

14) Thank You

After the menacing orchestral outing, the following track, "Thank You" seems plaintive and compositionally basic. It is basically a piano arrangement of the main theme that is not at all fulfilling due to its simplicity. I would not say that it is a bad track when listening to it by itself with a clear mind, but it simply suffers for following such a great piece of work on the soundtrack, and the composition seems comparatively weak. The tone it exudes might be described as nostalgic, and it seems to rightfully embody a final victory, bringing about a sense of relief and conclusion — the other main problem actually lies in the song's shortness; it lasts for under a minute before it loops, and Masaru does not appear to want to take it anywhere. I might have been able to forgive an uninspiring introduction if it was well developed and grew into something better, but "Thank You" seems contented by mere pleasantness, and strives to be nothing memorable. Even more infuriating was that by 57 seconds, the composer seemed to have set himself up for a more emotional section, yet this moment simply falls apart when it returns to the beginning, offering no more development at all. To be honest, it cannot compete with the tracks it follows or even the other piano pieces before, branding it as a sadly forgettable addition. Each inclusion of the piano in the score had its separate merits before, but this piece has nothing of the sort, and could probably be positioned in any RPG without sounding out of place. A 'disappointment', is how I would sum it up. (6/10)

15) Looming Crisis

Contrary to "Thank You," "Looming Crisis" has something to offer, even in its briefness, in that it is one of the most aggressive pieces featured on Disc Two. The opening ten seconds are all it takes to revive the feelings of dread, and bring back a sense of deadly strength — the sound itself harkens back to "The Legendary Sorcerer" and "Ancient Ship," due to the incorporation of chanting vocals; it comes off well though, for such a short cut scene piece, the violins at the end are particularly nice, giving another glimpse of sacredness when paired with the female vocal. A horn blasts out at the end, as if to deny what has happened, perfectly setting up the next track. If I could change anything about "Looming Crisis," it definitely would be the length, because while I can appreciate that it probably fulfils its duty admirably, when you listen to the soundtrack, it seems very brief and brings back that idea of bridging the last track to the next. The synthesizer work here, as ever, is fantastic, and we do not feel that there has been a dramatic lowering in quality at all; I would go so far as to say that it even holds up well against the orchestra, though the difference is understandably still noticeable. (7/10)

16) Guiding Star

Talking of "The Legendary Sorcerer," the theme is back once again, in an arranged form, under the new name of "Guiding Star." The sole opening vocal hints at an influence from "Song of Prayer" from Final Fantasy X, though it could just be a coincidence. As in the case of the former, it does not waste too much time getting going, and the listeners will quickly find themselves heading towards that lovely patch of violin work. Once more, that lovely part manages to impress, and sounds even more sacred now due to the strengthened layers of voices. It is a composition that is bound to be popular with people who enjoy moody choir pieces and an epic sound in general — after all, it is a reprisal of one of the more memorable pieces on the album, and targets that same kind of awing effect as before. Although shorter, I find that for the most part, "Guiding Star" tops its predecessor. Another interesting thing is the conclusion, which cuts the experience off instantly, forwarding us to the next track with no pause in-between. This suggests something about the nature of its use in the game — Go Shiina obviously wanted to separate "Guiding Star" and "A Flower's Name" on the album, marking them as pieces of their own, but also to assure listeners that it is part of the same scene, presumably in the game, where the atmosphere must change suddenly. (9/10)

17) A Flower's Name

"A Flower's Name" is, however, more situational than the track it follows, simply due to its shortness and relatively story-like progression, It would seem that it was composed specifically top accompany a certain moment, which starts off as one of magic and wonder. Once again, this might appeal more to fans of the normal Tales music, as the strange watery instruments at the beginning would have fitted well into to one of those scores. This sense does not last for long though, as after the ten-second mark, Masaru decides to reprise one of the game's themes, marking it as distinctly Tales of Legendia. It is effective, yes, but for the casual listener it remains an unfortunate filler-track, unable to stand on its own as "Guiding Star" could. It has long since been debated whether these short circumstantial pieces should be included on video game soundtracks, as they, more than other pieces, would alienate those who tend to favour a mainstream, or easily listening sound. Of course, fans of the game might value its inclusion due to, perhaps, the memories associated with it in its context, nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that it attempts to hamper an otherwise worthy conclusion. (6/10)

18) Funeral March

At this point, you might wonder exactly how the album is going to conclude, as in "Thank You," "Looming Crisis," and "A Flower's Name," Masaru seemed to slip up and create some inconsistencies in his otherwise near-perfect masterpiece. However, "Funeral March" should hopefully satisfy expectations, with its outwardly tragic and moving melody. Unarguably, the orchestra performance adds splendour to the mixture, helping to form the final majestic sound we are presented with. It is also the first of its stylistic kind on the album, thus making it come across as quite a treasure. This time Masaru opts to stick with strings pretty much exclusively, but the sweeping performance makes everything work, and the emotion is palpable. It might not be a "To Deliver the Feelings" or "Delkes Black Wings" — the composition and arrangement might not be as refined and monolithic, but the track certainly comes off looking effortlessly successful. I imagine that the piece is used especially well in the game, the final chord finally putting to rest the anxiety that the recent tracks have built up, albeit in a way that seems to revel in the sadness of the destruction that has been inflicted. It is the end and beginning both, however, as it also neatly lines up the listener for the next two tracks, forming a nice little movement that is bound to be regarded as one of the most effective on the set. (10/10)

19) Let's Talk

In a graceful transition, "Let's Talk" presents the Suzukake Children's choir, in all their naïve candlelit glory alongside an accompanying piano. I think this piece is likely to remain in the memory of the listener, as it is truly moving in its portrayal of purity and innocence — the melody is lovely and evocative, with the piano accompaniment sounding suitably reflective and blending in perfectly. There are three main sections, the first of which sees the choir singing the full melody out soulfully, the second a 'doo' sound that sounds nice and unworried. The third and final part is a repeated form of the opening melody, but another section of the choir sings along another accompaniment, adding to the already attractive sound. If I was to compare it to a piece, I suppose it could only really be "Eternal Emotion" from Kenji Ito's Romancing Saga -Minstrel Song- Original Soundtrack, which carries about it a similar essence — Masaru's creation, while not quite as dramatic, remains a rawer version that is equally successful in its own meaningful right; it is nice that the composer can appreciate how effective simplicity can sometimes be, and it pays off here. What is even more amazing is that it links in exceptionally with both the last piece and the next, as well as standing well on its own accord. (9/10)

20) The Prayers Become Power

If "Funeral March" represented death and tragedy and if "Let's Talk" stood for memories of life and sanctity, then "The Prayers Become Power" must embody rebirth and cleansing. Indeed, this orchestral piece is structured well enough to compete with the best and beautifully creates a variety of different emotions as well as bringing the game and its main story to its close. Best of all though, it continues on this wonderful idea that begun after "Delkes Black Wings," starting off in a way that makes you wonder is anything actually going to happen? Then finally the answer comes, and the strings start their rapid, rising and falling progressions, creating images of a final purge of darkness and sadness. You might equate it with the "World Crisis" track from Final Fantasy VII, but Shiina Masaru goes above and beyond that piece in his expertise — it took him little over three minutes to do what Nobuo Uematsu did in double the time. It is great how the composer ultimately resolves the tale of the legacy, in forming strong links with the original "Ancient Ship." Its development is also far more consistent, retaining a firm determination throughout its entirety. It is as though in a flash of light, as quickly as it came — as promptly as the world blasted forth — it was gone again, back into its bottle, making for a charming sense of realization and completion that is almost artistic. If you have enjoyed the rest of what the New Tokyo Philharmonic have had to offer, you will love this — it is without a doubt one of the most rewarding tracks on the album. (10/10)

21) hotarubi

"hotarubi" is the second to last track on the album, and takes up the role as a vocal theme, just as "TAO -game version-," "my tales," and "A Firefly's Light" did before it. The last of those mentioned is basically where this piece spawned. This song is a more contemporary pop arrangement of "A Firefly's Light" featuring Donna Burke, the English vocalist from "my tales." After a soundtrack full of so many good compositions, "hotarubi" comes as a bit of a disappointment, and its new arrangement almost completely strips the original theme of the highlight that was the orchestra. The nice violin solo does kick in after the chorus, which is good, but with the exception of that, we have to put up with uneventful employment of electric pianos and other such synth instruments. It seems lifeless when compared with the textured wonders that it follows and really does not follow the themes of the disc. The vocal work by Donna Burke and Mayumi Sudou is not too different quality-wise really, and both fulfil their parts rather well — I just happen to find the style of the original "A Firefly's Light" to be much more appealing as it at least had some substance through its instrumentation and sense of actual progression. The chances are, some people will enjoy "hotarubi," however; particularly those who are into Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda's vocal themes. But to me, it is inferior to not only "my tales," but the original version of the track as well. (7/10)


The music on the album draws to a close with "TALES," the piece to which both the orchestra and Go Shiina bow out. Is it good? Yes, in a word — It focuses more on highlighting the melody than ever before, sounding like something that might have been ripped from one of John Williams' film scores. This is a compliment indeed for the talented newcomer, and is quite a feat to achieve on your first album. The piece is peculiarly labelled up as though Masaru wants you to consider it the 'main theme' of the franchise, and it makes me wonder whether if he comes back to compose for another game in the Tales series he would bring it back into those other scores. Actually, for me, "TALES" is a very memorable composition already because hearing a sample of it was what motivated me into pursuing a copy of the full soundtrack — what a great thanks I owe it! There is not much I can say about the orchestration other than that it is here as proficient and extensive as it ever was, with the added wonder of the fluttering woodwinds, helping the track to sound wholesome and complete — the final note, and the crescendo that it incurs are a fantastic way to end the album. (10/10)


The Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack marks the end of the long period of average Tales soundtracks and sets hefty standards for Motoi Sakuraba to follow in the future. It also compliments the Drag-on Dragoon 2 Original Soundtrack, the Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack, and the Romancing Saga -Minstrel Song- Original Soundtracks as one of the finest video game scores out this year, which seems to have been a particularly busy one in terms of the successful releases. This album, in particular, might be worth even more of a mention due to it being Shiina Masaru's debut album in the mainstream market and his first true exposure — rarely have I encountered such a professional, polished piece of work from somebody who I had not previously heard of. From the orchestral magnificence of "melfes -Shining Blue-" and "The Prayers Become Power," to the downright eccentricity of the experimental "Chasing Shirley" and "Short Circuit," and all the tracks in-between, we are offered a casket of unique brilliance that is worthy of admiration by even the genre maestros.

I cannot comment on how effective the music might be in game, and cannot be sure that everyone will appreciate its sound, but I would like to point out one of the disadvantages, as well as stressing my fondness towards the album. The one thing that the Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack lacks much of is atmosphere. Often, the deciding factor of whether or not I enjoy a game soundtrack is down to the mood it sets, the chronology it supports (and the story it tells therein), and any tension it might build and release. For example, in your run of-the-mill RPG, the music is likely to begin happy and carefree, and gradually throughout the course of the soundtrack get darker, anxiety heightening, and discharging at the final battle, after which we slowly return to where we begun through the ending theme. In this soundtrack, there is no specific mood, and the emotions conveyed tend to leap around throughout the track list. Luckily, the individual tracks are so good that this problem does not often matter too much, but I found myself wanting to be able to see the story a bit better in my head, and would have enjoyed the odd evil theme here and there. Bar this one issue and a few select tracks, Masaru can proudly say that he has created one of the best modern RPG soundtracks, and his use of the orchestra in the original score indicates that game directors have caught onto just how big a part the music plays in the modern cinematic-style experience, and publishers that some of the work churned out is simply good enough to warrant release and attention equal to that of a regular film soundtrack.

Is the Tales of Legendia Original Soundtrack worth buying? Well, if you are a fan of the Tales series and are open to something a bit different from the usual, you should consider the album an essential purchase. If you are a video game music fan who likes to listen to good quality compositions without needing the name Uematsu tagged to the end, I would ask you to consider this a worthy purchase too. In fact, if you like music in general, and can appreciate a range of different genres, why not give it a try? This would be a perfect place to start. From beginning to end, excluding a few forgettable trip-ups, Shiina Masaru delivers a fantastic example of a good soundtrack, challenging conventions and steering the genre in bold new directions — a job very well done, to the point that it touches upon the borders of perfection.

Overall Score: 10/10