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Vantage Master Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Vantage Master Original Soundtrack Album Title: Vantage Master Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Nihon Falcom
Catalog No.: VM-OST
Release Date: December 12, 1997
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Vantage Master is a simulation RPG produced by Falcom in 1997. Led by Atsushi Shirakawa, the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. created an effective soundtrack for the game featuring beautiful setting themes and intense action tracks. A sequel called Vantage Master V2 was also released a few months later, but its score was essentially unchanged aside the ending theme. The Vantage Master Original Soundtrack was a pre-order bonus with the PC game. It was later also bundled into Vantage Master Portable together with a totally rearranged soundtrack. Let's take a closer look at the original score...


"A Quiet Purity" sets a soothing tone for the album release with a depiction of an icefield. The composer gradually builds the track with use of piano arpeggios, soaring strings, electronic overtones, and a bamboo flute melody. The forces are smoothly mixed to generate particularly atmospheric soundscapes and the composition takes a few subtle twists during its three minute playtime. After a reflective introduction, "Looking Toward the Twinkling Stars" demonstrates the militaristic side of the soundtrack with triumphant horns and brisk snares. Although it could have easily been generic, Falcom's characteristic lyricism shines here once again. Its melody is also used as the basis of the main event theme "Visual". Several other tracks maintain the militaristic focus, such as "The Return of the Champion" with a 'Rainbow Road Meets Brass' melody, "The Ancient City of the Gods" with plenty of exuberant decoration, or "A March Beneath the Earth" with its slow enigmatic lead.

There are some tracks that deviate from the typically orchestral sound of the soundtrack. "Dreaming of the Top" reflects the more light-hearted side of Falcom's musicality and brings in gradually more rock elements to the typical orchestra use. Unfortunately, the core violin figure is very weak and becomes jarring when repeated so many times over a three minute period. In contrast, "The Pure Ones" and "In the Rift Between Dimensions" both feature soothing saxophone the lines, the former in a derivative smooth jazz style and the latter within a moody electronic soundscape. "The Faint Light of Hope" also takes a cheesy approach with its cheap 'new age' style percussion, as does "An Invitation" with its seemingly random assembly of divergent forces. The strength of the soundtrack is clearly in the orchestral tracks.

Although it is quite an uplifting effort overall, there are plenty of dark moments of the soundtrack. Written in the spirit of a Baroque dance, "The Labyrinth of Time" blends wistful woodwind melodies with harpsichord continuo quite effectively. "A Folk Dance of Shadows and Shimmers" also uses downtrodden woodwind melodies, but is incidentally more of a curious twist on the march format. "A Battle with Solitude" darkens the mood to portray a cave setting and is quite reminiscent of Masaharu Iwata's orchestral battle themes. "Premonition of Danger" is another relentless crisis theme that is ideal for a volcanic battlefield. The album is rounded off with the end credits theme "And Down a New Road" present in two different versions. Vantage Master's original version features a uplifting synth-rock theme featuring plenty of Falcom's old-school flair whereas Vantage Master V2 features a more changeable orchestral arrangement. They're both big highlights of the soundtrack.


Overall, Vantage Master offers a fairly good soundtrack. The stage themes offer many highlights since they're written in contrasting styles and extensively develop. Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. especially succeeds when they offer militaristic marches, intense action tracks, or slow-building atmospheric efforts. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is often let down by superficial attempts at smooth jazz, new age, or rock music, but at least is able to offer highlight end credits themes. Although the original release will be difficult to find, this soundtrack has been compiled together with a remade soundtrack for the recently released Vantage Master Portable. Both versions are worthwhile checking out.

Overall Score: 7/10