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Makai Senki Disgaea 2 Original Soundtrack (Japan) :: Review by Chris

Makai Senki Disgaea 2 Original Soundtrack (Japan) Album Title: Makai Senki Disgaea 2 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Nippon Ichi Software
Catalog No.: SLPS-25607
Release Date: February 23, 2006
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories was released nearly three years after Disgaea: Curse of Darkness. By refining rather than transforming the elements of the original when making the sequel, Nippon Ichi Software created one of the greatest tactical RPGs ever released. Its score took a similar approach. Tenpei Sato revisited the styles and melodies that made the Makai Senki Disgaea Original Soundtrack such a success and reused them again here. The score doesn't always feel as innovative as its predecessor as a result, but it still shimmers with freshness. As ever, the Makai Senki Disgaea 2 Original Soundtrack was packaged with the Japanese game, though a commercially available arranged album was also released. Let's take a closer look...


Beginning with the vocal themes, "Sinful Rose" provides a memorable introduction to the game with an uplifting pop singer and extravagant violin work. Unfortunately, this version has a playtime of just 1:39, meaning it feels over just after it has begun; the full length version is exclusive to the Arrange Soundtrack and the cut here seems like a ploy to get people to buy that. My favourite of the bunch is "White Tiger", an 80s-influenced rock piece featuring heroic beats and a passionate performance from Tenpei Sato himself. This song also receives a cut but it's less significant as it feels established enough at least until the sudden anticlimactic fade-out. "There's Something I Want to Tell You" is a gentle theme featuring a beautiful contemplative performance from vocalist Miki; it's a mature rounded composition, though the sparing use of pop drum beats gives a cheesy edge at times. Finally, "Sparkle, To Become A Star" featuring Akiko Kawakami is the most conventional theme of the bunch, reminding me of J-Pop themes from the Wild Arms series. It's definitely one of the better video game vocal themes out there and would have had potential as a stand-alone single.

One of the highlights of this soundtrack is a bunch of arrangements from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. The first instrumental track "Magnificent Dark Family '05" is an arrangement of the dark march "The Great Dark Race"; Sato takes plenty of a liberties here to create a vibrant new perspective on the theme, introducing quirky beats and ethnic-inspired instruments. "AKUMA Drops HG" is given a similar twist, resulting in a very different theme to the easygoing original. There are also two arrangements of vocal tracks. "Etna Rock" is a transforms the big band jazz original into a fast-paced rock version. The vocal performances retains the seductive power of the original, but the instrumentals are very different giving some cheesy charm. Maybe even more surprisingly, the classic "Lord Laharl's Hymn" only receives one incarnation here... and it's a cute three voice chiptune remix! This piece demonstrates that, while Sato can produce some of the most technologically advanced sounds for the PlayStation 2, melody and atmosphere are at the heart of his music. Although there aren't any other true arrangements, a lot of the rest of the soundtrack seems directly inspired by themes from the predecessor.

Melodically, the soundtrack is about as strong as Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. "Rosalind" portrays the obnoxious aristocratic daughter by combining carefree violin melodies with goofy warped synth accompaniment. The melody is reused in the minimalistic flute-focused "Lonely Rosely" and rehashed completely in "Rosalind's Palace" at the end of the soundtrack. Also melodically connected are "Dawn Whisper", "A Flock of Lambs", and "Daybreak Crying". The original a tragic choir-focused piece, it undergoes an unusual evolution in "Daybreak Crying" with faster tempos and dense drums to portray a critical battle in the game. Topping off the recurring melodic material is "A Sinful Rose's Fragrance", a fairly convincing if low-key folk instrumental arrangement of the opening theme. Aside from these themes, some of the best melodies are found in the lighter themes. These often exhibit a jazz feel, such as "Wonder Castle", "Makai Band", and "Makai Station", which is a welcome change from its sometimes bombastic predecessor. However, there are exceptions such as "Brother & Sister" and "Prinny My Love", both comforting frivolous pieces.

Like its predecessor, there isn't a shortage of emotional themes. Following a brilliant flamenco introduction, "So Long..." develops into a slow violin and guitar work with several sublime moments. "Elegy of the Tundra" is another unbelievably beautiful work focusing on pan flutes and other Chinese instruments to paint a complex scene. Further highlights include the piano and strings piece "The Warmth of this Heart", the guitar-focused folk piece "Heroic Blues", the dramatic march "Heavy Rotation", and the shimmering and triumphant orchestration "R.P.G." There are fewer especially dark or haunting pieces here meaning the soundtrack lacks the Halloweenish feel that so wonderfully characterised the predecessor. However, there are some exceptions. Filling the hole of "Demon Descent", "Night Head" is an eerie and unpredictable work that puts weird synth and solo violin to good use. Used towards the end of the game, "Holy Mansion" features layered synth vocals and synth bass lines to achieve a very scary effect and "Dark Zone" is an ambient piece featuring sporadic bursts of all sorts of instrumental phrases and sound effects.

The faster paced themes are as diverse as the predecessor. "Cyber Dance" and "Shinobi Dance" are two of the most rhythmically and melodically compelling tracks on the score; the former is a fascinating fusion of ghostly and electronic sounds while the latter punctuates ethnic flutes to create an unusual sound. "Over Driver" and "Visual Sensation" feature mostly bright violin work, but surprise listeners by offering darker undertones. Others include the the feel good jazz fusion piece "Spread Your Wings" and "Demon's Trill", a climactic rock piece nostalgic of Sato's older works. "Song of the Gods" brings plenty of expectation with an organ and choir opening, although the body itself is a little more vanilla, while "1st Samurai" has fun fusing traditional Japanese instruments with dabs of the usual Sato rock and orchestration. At the end of the soundtrack, "Trance No. 4" announces the climax with an otherworldly electronica piece in the spirit of "Planet X". The final battle theme "Disgaea Rhapsody" is an improvement on its predecessor and Sato gives it all he's got with heavy orchestration, supporting chorus, ethnic instruments, violin passages, and evocative female wailing.


Overall, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories was composed as meticulously as Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. There is plenty of variety, emotion, and great melodies here as well as some highlight arrangements and vocal tracks. I don't rate it quite as highly as its predecessor due to the shortened vocal tracks and a certain lack of individuality; all in all, it is a little more serious, ethnic-inspired, and jazz than its original, but the humorous Halloweenish feel is gone and not replaced with something sufficiently quirky. Still, start to finish, this soundtrack features great pieces and works fantastically in the game. A wonderful number two in the series.

Overall Score: 8/10