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Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst Episode IV Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst Episode IV Soundtrack Album Title: Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst Episode IV Soundtrack
Record Label: Sega
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: February 3, 2005
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Phantasy Star Online Episode IV was an expansion of Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst intended to restore the series back to its previous glory. Naturally Hideaki Kobayashi, Fumie Kumatani, and Kenichi Tokoi returned to offer more alien soundscapes to the series. Contrary to Episode III, it mainly reverts back to the famous orchestral-electronic hybrids of the original game in the series. Yet the compositions this time are so much more elaborate and refined than before. The Limited Edition version of Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst gave listeners a chance to previous for themselves. Despite the expansion offering just ten new pieces, they individually and collectively satisfy...


While brief, the opening theme "Meteor Strike!" is a great way to reintroduce listeners to the characteristic style of the series. As ever, it features a futuristic and atmospheric blend of orchestral and electronic sounds, but in an even more impacting way than usual. Whether the foreboding piano notes in the introduction, the brutally dissonant action section, or the operatic reprise of the main theme at the conclusion, it's clear that PSO is back to form. It deviates from other Phantasy Star Online openings since the vocals are a supporting rather than central element, but at least the main theme receives several references. The only true vocal theme on the album is the ending remix of "World With Me" and it's not particularly good. Some of the r'n'b twinges and jazzy elaborations are enjoyable, but overall the remix comes across as very tacky. In series' tradition, the vocalist doesn't really fit with the accompaniment, but the accompaniment is this time even worse and little more than generic grooves.

The meat of the soundtrack comes from the pairs of stage themes for the episode. "Nostalgia in Solitude Part I" is almost relaxing with its blend of piano wanderings, ethereal electronica, and cantabile strings, and seems almost in line with new age convention. Yet the development is full of rich build-ups and sinister twists that really capture the sense of being stranded in an alien world. Deep down, it's still full of humanity and the violin-led section from 2:20 will especially surprise listeners with its sheer beauty. Part II retains a similar instrumentation to portray a much more intense and chaotic sinister. While very dissonant, there are enough memorable motifs and rhythmically to still keep listeners enthralled. What really surprises about the composition is how it never really relents, with Hideaki Kobayashi throwing in new elements into each section, culminating in an especially triumphant section around the 2:25 mark. These are extremely expansive compositions and put even those in the original Phantasy Star Online games to shame.

The other pairs of setting themes retain the same format — the first soft, the other intense — but are otherwise distinct. Fumie Kumatani's "Entry into the Crater" themes are entirely electronic and provide some interesting soundscapes for a journey into the unknown. The first variation resembles some of the better electronic chillout music out there while the second brings some grit to it with a feast of breakbeat. Meanwhile Hideaki Kobayashi's "Underworld" themes give a sense of metamorphosing into a new dimension. The equilibrium theme features another seamless blend of acoustic and synthetic elements while the chaos theme portrays frenzied action with wild improvisations and accelerating beats. However, probably the finest addition to the whole soundtrack is "'IDOLA' The Fanatic Viper", an upbeat yet dramatic battle theme featuring the series' characteristic blend of soaring strings and thunderous beats. What really separates this from its predecessors is the sheer sense of energy and dynamism, ensuring plenty of twists and turns, as well as climactic sections such as at 1:36 and 2:56.


The soundtrack to Phantasy Star Online Episode IV is short yet sweet. It didn't introduce much new the series unlike previous instalments, but this was appropriate given it was intended to be ground-breaking, but rather restorative. Nevertheless, what it does offer is excellent. The ambient pieces and action themes here are some of the very best of the Phantasy Star series. The only minor let downs are the short opener and terrible vocal remix. All in all, this album is well worth seeking out if you enjoyed earlier soundtracks in the series.

Overall Score: 8/10