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Ace Combat Zero Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dark Cloud and Chris

Ace Combat Zero The Belkan War Original Soundtrack Album Title: Ace Combat Zero The Belkan War Original Soundtrack
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1398/9
Release Date: May 31, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


The music of Ace Combat has been a definitive source for variety in video game music for some time now. Keiki Kobayashi and co. never surprise me when I listen to a new score and the soundtrack to the prequel Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is no different. Straying away from their largely orchestral work on Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, he offers more vibrant fusions with rock, electronic, and even Spanish influences on Ace Combat Zero. However, the epic tones and aerial momentum of the series' music is still present. Let's take a closer look...


We hear traces of what is to come in Keiki Kobayashi's "Prologue". The beautiful cinematic introduction reflects the hybridised style for the game with its soaring strings, gritty percussion, electronic overtones, and rustic guitar work. There is an epic tone throughout and so much tension within, yet the soundscapes are surprisingly calm and gorgeous too. Perhaps its most appealing moment is from the 1:26 mark with the entrance of a warm string melody, which forms the foundations of the Zero main theme. It sets up the next two tracks well, the mission briefing theme "Briefing I" and the plane select theme "Sortie I", which feature a gritty combination of orchestral, electronic, and rock elements. The first stage theme "Glacial Skies" lives up to the Ace Combat name and works beautifully in the game. The first 50 seconds are quite ambient to accompany flying towards the battle scene, but listeners are soon dazzled with rich orchestral flourishes and explosive guitar work as the player arrives at the heart of the action. Much of the rest of the piece is treated as a war march with motivating string lines taking the lead. The lead is very catchy and punchy while the trumpet countermelodies and bubbling synth keep things multifaceted.

Delving deeper into the soundtrack, there are diverse highlights among the stage themes. "Annex" brings grungy guitars to the forefront to create an aggressive texture while emanating strings and windy sound effects maintain a sense of aerial motion. "B7R" features quite a distinct musicality given it is from Hiroshi Okubo rather than Keiki Kobayashi, but keeps up the intensity with accented brass and percussion backing up the melody. Tetsukazu Nakanishi's "Contact" also sounds very different with its extreme percussive emphasis and occasional flamenco infusions while Junichi Nakatsuru's "Juggernaut" is reminiscent of Ace Combat 04 tracks with its flashy extended electric guitar solo. Others focus more on creating different moods with the established palettes, whether the heroic "Daipason", suspenseful "Gelb", or confrontational "Mayhem". While all the compositions are elaborate and effective, the first disc can be a little bland and repetitive due to the way they are grouped together. Perhaps the real standout of the first disc is Nakatsuru's "The Round Table". Beginning in a flamenco style with Spanish guitars and castanets, it soon adds a funky bass guitar line and some passionate strings. The whole piece is a fantastic and varied blend of flamenco, orchestral, and rock elements.

While the first disc compiles most of the stage themes, the second disc features most of the rest. There are several other briefing and sortie themes, most of them blends of electronic and rock elements reminiscent of the Ace Combat 3 soundtrack. An interesting feature is how these themes are gradually more intense depending on which missions they are used before in the game. Although pretty good, these themes aren't particularly intended for stand-alone listening and can be repetitive when grouped together. There are also a few fully-fledged contributions to the album. "Lying in Deceit" is six minutes long, but it's not as epic as one might expect. Tetsukazu Nakanishi places far too much emphasis on the underlying string basso ostinato throughout while the brass and woodwind work only occasionally shines through. It works for enduring missions in context, but it's easy to skip most of this track out of context because it all sounds the same. Further down, "HRESVELGR" reminds one of the percussion features often played in a marching band. It's written in a similar way to Hiroshi Okubo's previous tension-building enemy attack themes, such as Ace Combat 04's "Breaking Arrows", but it's considerably better done. After that, not much really stands out in most of the second disc.

However, the climax of the soundtrack is really something. "Avalon" is a memorable penultimate stage theme since it blends a powerful reprise of the Zero main theme with the abstract percussive emphasis of earlier tracks in the soundtrack. The percussion work actually becomes quite repetitive, but the melody maintains one's interest since it transitions from a soft string interpretation into a rasping brass version about half way through. Once again, Kobayashi saves the best till last with the final mission theme "Zero". He offers a curious twist on his standard orchestra and chorus approach by also incorporating extravagant Spanish guitar work. Much of the theme is a momentous reprise of the Zero main theme, but there are plenty of contrasting sections to keep emotions high. In particular, the choral section beginning at 2:58 is simply one of the finest moments in video game music industry. Following the sorrowful "Galm 2", Nakatsuru closes the disc with "Epilogue -Near the Border-". Following a free flamenco jam, there is a most beautiful rendition of the "Zero" theme by a soprano solo. The coda features a reflective reprise of the main theme on soft strings and Spanish guitar.


The soundtrack works well in the game to represent the aerial combat, tense missions, and, with the flamenco infusions, Spanish-influenced settings. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is presented to emphasise the repetitiveness between the mission themes and menu themes. There is still enough variety within to maintain interest, although it's not always ideal for uninterrupted listening. Still, standouts such as "Zero," "Epilogue," and "The Round Table" all make even a superficial listen worth it. However, those wanting a deeper listen should find plenty of powerful melodies and potent fusions within. Kobayashi and co. did a good job keeping the Ace Combat series fresh with this soundtrack.

Overall Score: 8/10