- Western Games
  - Square Enix
  - Nintendo
  - Konami
  - Falcom
  - Nippon Ichi
  - Grasshopper
  - Mistwalker
  - Cave
  - Basiscape

  - Castlevania
  - Chrono
  - Dragon Quest
  - Final Fantasy
  - Kingdom Hearts
  - Mana
  - Mario
  - Megami Tensei
  - Mega Man
  - Metal Gear
  - Resident Evil
  - SaGa
  - Silent Hill
  - Sonic
  - Star Ocean
  - Street Fighter
  - Suikoden
  - Tales
  - Ys
  - Zelda

  - Masashi Hamauzu
  - Norihiko Hibino
  - Kenji Ito
  - Noriyuki Iwadare
  - Koji Kondo
  - Yuzo Koshiro
  - Shoji Meguro
  - Yasunori Mitsuda
  - Manabu Namiki
  - Hitoshi Sakimoto
  - Motoi Sakuraba
  - Tenpei Sato
  - Yoko Shimomura
  - Koichi Sugiyama
  - Masafumi Takada
  - Nobuo Uematsu
  - Michiru Yamane
  - Akira Yamaoka

Home Contact Us Top


Star Ocean Blue Sphere Arrange & Sound Trax :: Review by Dave

Star Ocean Blue Sphere Arrange & Sound Trax Album Title: Star Ocean Blue Sphere Arrange & Sound Trax
Record Label: Scitron Digital Contents
Catalog No.: SCDC-00123/4
Release Date: August 22, 2001
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


The last great role-playing game that Enix released for the SNES was the tactfully designed and graphically profound Star Ocean, and although this game never left its home country, the PlayStation sequel, namely Star Ocean: The Second Story was greeted as a revolutionary RPG in foreign lands. With this great history behind the series, tri-Ace soon designed Star Ocean: Blue Sphere in 2001 for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. But, with some bad planning along the line, or alternatively a total disregard of the sales boom in the USA, they once again made it a Japan only release. So, due to this, I sincerely doubt that many of you will have experienced the score either. Sakuraba, who composed the music for the two prior games in the series, is also the creator of the score for this game. So, with his style already an established asset to the series, this album features much of the same type of music from him, with some arrangements of the original themes from the game and the original themes themselves being featured.

Many game music fans or fans of the Star Ocean series will have a poor reaction to the soundtrack section of this album, as, although the music itself has potential, the Game Boy sound quality is off-putting and it severely limits the development of the tracks, too. Even so, this is a feature of the album that can be easily conquered by some open-mindedness and respect for Sakuraba, who pushes the system to its limits throughout. Nonetheless, the album publisher Scitron Digital Contents ensures that the arranged tracks are recognized as the main content of the album by placing them on the first disc. I intend to write about this part of the album after an analysis of the original soundtrack section, as although it is slightly unorthodox, it is important that the original themes are established first for a precise comparison of the two discs.

Original Score

The second disc is introduced with "Star Ocean Forever" and "Myth of Fate," which are two grand tracks that share the same melody. The idea of having a drum line playing against some high-pitched synth, which is typical of the rest of the album, is introduced in these tracks. The melody is appealing in "Star Ocean Forever," but in "Myth of Fate," it is beyond this, as the upbeat development that the track holds is definitely a positive enhancement. The next track that we hear is "Pacifism," and this, combined with "The Surface of the Blue Sphere," acts as the main introduction to the gameplay. "Pacifism" sounds extremely pure whereas "The Surface of the Blue Sphere" sounds decisively grand and glorious. So, although the two contrast in nature, they come together perfectly to create a flawless start to the RPG. Overall, ignoring the Game Boy synth, Sakuraba gives the game the best start that it could have hoped for. Unfortunately, the rest of the disc is a mixed bag, but as per usual, he entertains the listener with a captivating mixture of different emotions.

The most prominent themes at the start of the original soundtrack section are light-hearted and jolly, so it probably won't surprise you that the next theme is the hearty and joyous "Peace of Mind." Admittedly, this track is horribly restricted by the Game Boy's synth, but, it also holds a strong melody, despite a lack of harmony. The next instance of a light-hearted track is "Greed City." This track is completely melodic, and it features a great developed section in which three melodies come together to turn it into a heartfelt theme. Although this track is far from being epic, Sakuraba ensures that the contrasts in rhythm and melodic variety work well together. "Greed City" is definitely the most complex light-hearted track; yet, with tracks like the simplistic "Victory Pose!!" preceding it, this isn't much of an accomplishment! All in all, each of these tracks has potential, but Sakuraba fails to fulfil this in most cases with a considerable lack of crescendos, diminuendos, or intriguing harmonies.

As ever, the rest of the disc is littered with dark and ghastly themes that aim to build up tension as the final destination gets closer and closer. So, with a cocktail of mysterious and eerie vibes, "Treasure Hunter" is the first of these. This is one of the better themes from the original score, as with a moving harmony, a great melody, and an effective developed section, it truly rings out amongst a majority of the other tracks. "A Heavy Heart" is another great theme, and in comparison to "Treasure Hunter," it is much more atmospheric. The start of the track is eerie and mysterious and Sakuraba even adds echo effects to the melodic line to enhance the atmosphere, and then, he even moves the track into a section that holds a single melody and a simplistic harmony. Although the two sections are very different in nature, they work together superbly; one can almost envision a mournful person who has lost something close to them. The next track, "Forsaken Wastes" is an example of a theme that never really reached its full potential. This track features an impressive melodic run that explores the full range of the instrument, but, due to a lack of dynamic contrasts, it never fulfils its intended effect. Overall, his atmospheric tracks are a mixed bag, but the impressive themes that he does offer here are amongst the best from the original score.

As well as this, there are a number of battle tracks in this section of the album, but in all honesty, they could never reach their full power with the limitations posed by the system. The first of such battle themes, "Like the River Styx" is a turmoil filled battle theme that features a pulsating rhythm and an eerie melodic line, and the next, "No Mercy" is similar in style, but this time Sakuraba focuses mainly on an erratic harmony rather than a crazy melody. Each of these themes is effective in its own right, but he misses one key element each time, and this is development. He finally hits the spot with "Death is the Great Leveler," a track that starts off with a suspense filled bass line that makes way for a captivating melodic line. The asset of this track that makes it superior to "Like the River Styx" is its tension enhancing harmony that constantly falls to give an image of death and fear. The pace of this track also adds to its battle-like atmosphere; yet, Sakuraba also shows us how effective the track can be when it is slow paced, too. "Created, Destroyed, and Regenerated" features the same melody, yet it is just as eerie and suspense filled as "Death is the Great Leveler." The lack of power is sadly evident in all of these themes.

The ending themes for the original score are average and nothing too original. "There is Nothing Permanent Except Change" is the first of these, and despite its contradictive title, it proves to be an exception in that it creates an impressive atmosphere. This is one of the few tracks that hold back from piercing your ear drums with the Game Boy synth that they hold, and due to this, it is relaxing, if not pleasant. "Serene Heart" is the next theme, and, although the track title may suggest something peaceful and ambient, the sharp Game Boy synth completely obliterates anything soft and gentle. The bass line in this track moves up and down the scale whereas the melody repeats the same pattern of rises and falls over and again, so, it is pretty unoriginal in this area. "Challenger From the Other Side" is another track that features towards the end of the album, but in all honesty, it isn't threatening or climactic at all. The last theme on the album is "Penance," and although it holds an intriguing melody, it hardly excels above the other tracks on the album. This is truly a poor climax to the original score, and this is down to the poor sound capacity of the system.

Sakuraba is hardly at fault here, as although his themes are frequently underdeveloped and harmonically bare, he tries his best to push the Game Boy's sound capacity to its limits. The majority of this section of the album is built up from tracks that could never reach their full potential, but, with Sakuraba's sound manipulation skills coming into play, there are a few good themes, too. "Star Ocean Forever," "A Heavy Heart," and "There is Nothing Permanent Except Change," are all great tracks, and the best thing is that they all feature different emotions, too. Sakuraba shows us here that there is always a way around a problem, which, in this case, was a major one to solve. It's a pity that he couldn't wave his magic on the rest of the tracks on the album, but at least his compositions satisfy the gameplay, if not the listener. Nonetheless, this part of the album is merely a bonus CD, and it is the arranged CD that should be focussed on the most. So, if you have been disappointed so far, don't turn your head, as there is a lot more to come.

Arranged CD

1) Myth of Fate

"Myth of Fate" starts off the arranged section perfectly. The melody in this track is repeated later on in "Star Ocean Forever," which just happens to end the album. This rendition of the melody is just as effective, as with some atmospheric instrumentation being present, it rings out beautifully. At first, the track takes a calm and buoyant stance, and it is through a piano melody and some airy instrumentation that the melody is first presented. Sakuraba builds this section up well, and through a solid build up and the addition of some brass instruments, the initial atmosphere becomes more triumphant and pride filled. This section continues until the one minute mark where a new, but short, mystical section is added. This mystical section soon results with a recapulation of the grandiose part of the track, but this time, a piano plays the main melody and everything is played in a subtler fashion. Sakuraba makes sure that the pride of the triumphant section returns, however; increasing the volume of the track and reintroducing the brass section, Sakuraba makes this section sound even statelier than before. In a nutshell, this track is an epic opener to the disc, and it ends as quaintly as it starts. (10/10)

2) Peace of Mind

Sakuraba puts his rock organ to use in this arranged version of "Peace of Mind," a track that could never reach its full potential due to the Game Boy's sound limitations. Following a passionate piano chord, flute, and guitar introduction, the organ comes in to play the first development of the original theme, but unfortunately, this gets clouded by a synth violin line. Later on, at the 2:30 mark, the piano part starts to improvise upon the melody, but this hardly reaches its full potential either as Sakuraba doesn't put enough passion into it at all. The synthesiser is the next instrument to take up the melody, and its violin-like timbre lets it ring out extremely well. Apart from the original melody being passed around a variety of different instruments, not a lot happens elsewhere. In his liner notes, Sakuraba suggests that this is one of his least favourite arrangements on the album alongside "Every Extremity is a Vise," and it is most likely the lack of action that is the basis of this. Even still, the dynamic contrasts in the track are profound, and so, he makes a lot out of very little. (8/10)

3) Like the River Styx

"Like the River Styx" is the first battle theme on the arranged CD, and although it isn't as developed as one may have hoped, it is far better than the original version. With a distorted electric guitar pumping some powerful chords against a quickly rising melody, this track starts off with a distinctive rock style. The instrumentation that Sakuraba uses here is typical of his battle themes on other albums, and it is fantastic to see his musical talent being used to stop the original track from suffering a fiery doom. The organ is one of the most prominently used instruments in this track; at the 1:50 mark there is an impressive rock organ solo in which the initial melody is stretched to its limits. Although this melody isn't performed by Sakuraba himself, and is actually the product of his great synth programming skills, one can easily imagine a band member thumping out the same chords in the exact, crazy fashion presented here. "Like the River Styx" is an impressive arrangement, but, although it is pumped with feelings of anger, pain, and passion, it amazingly lacks power in its later stages. Sakuraba tames this track like a lion, but with nothing intimidating the melodies or taunting the bass line later on, tame is what we get. (8/10)

4) A Heavy Heart

"A Heavy Heart" was one of my favourite tracks from the original score, so I was pleased to see that it was granted with an arranged version in which its melody could shine out more than ever. This track is the longest, the best developed, and consequently the finest ambient arrangement on the album; yet, after one listens to the original track, it is hard to see what a majority of the development is based upon. The first features of the track that caught my attention were its fantastic orchestration and Sakuraba's perfect placement of articulation. The first part of the track is based around the wonderful moving harmony that the original track featured, but this time it is far more enhanced through its string and chime timbre. As in the original, Sakuraba blends this eerie, mysterious opening with a section of bliss and hope, and this is a great distinguishing asset for the track to have. The development of the hope filled section is great, as with a number of different instruments taking and improvising upon the melodic line, it becomes an awe-inspiring experience as well as a heart filled one. I found it hard to tear myself away from this heart-warming track — it is an extremely well developed and ingeniously structured arrangement that features some new ideas from Sakuraba as well. (10/10)

5) No Mercy

When I saw that "No Mercy" was going to be one of the arranged tracks for this album, I wasn't intrigued, in fact I was horrified. How could a fifty second track be arranged to the high standards set by the likes of "A Heavy Heart," and "Myth of Fate"? Well, ask Sakuraba. Amazingly, this track is as interesting as any of the other themes on the album, what is more, it ranks as one of the best arrangements on the album, too. This arrangement starts with an experimental piano part that swells and sways in preparation for the heavy bass that soon follows. Throughout the track, one can hear the same piano part swaying up and down the scale, introducing melodic enhancements as it carries on. The most notable feature of the track, however, is its power, which is something that both the previous arrangements and the original score lacked. The original melody seems to get lost in this wave of drum smashing and guitar pumping, but one thing that doesn't get lost is Sakuraba's sense of direction. The original track was deathly and melodic at the same time, so with the introduction of a rock organ and an instantaneous follow on with the piano part, Sakuraba creates a mesmerising solo section that revamps the original flavour. He does well here by turning a poor Game Boy theme into an impressive gem. (10/10)

6) Pacifism

The original version of "Pacifism" was a pure, cute, and hope-filled track that was a pleasure to listen to, so the use of a church organ and a slow metre in this track to create a predominantly mystical atmosphere was certainly an unexpected addition. The organ is the first instrument to be heard, and with the addition of a harpsichord in the background, the track takes a gothic style straight away. At the 0:50 mark, Sakuraba introduces his trademark rock organ, and although it isn't a dominant instrument throughout the rest of the track, it acts as an effective section linker here. The rock organ fades away as we enter an emotional church organ section that also features the use of a choir, a typical feature of the gothic genre. The most attractive feature of this track is its timbre, as with the rock organ and the church organ playing together, Sakuraba produces a unique sound that isn't rivalled by any other track on the album. A majority of the fans will say that this track needs some more melodic development, but in all honesty, I think that this would wreck the overall atmosphere. Sakuraba's arranging skills are profound here; turning the original upbeat theme into a pride filled and powerful track, this is an invigorating experience that is sure to please everybody. (9/10)

7) Hand to Hand

The rock organ is the main feature of the first part of this progressive rock track; with it providing the only significant melody in these early stages, Sakuraba lets it shine. This tumbling organ part sounds almost improvised in that it is a random grouping of the original notes, and this just adds something special in the early stages of the piece. Soon enough, an electric guitar takes the melodic line, and as ever, Sakuraba lets it run into different dimensions; tickling the ear drums of any person on the other side of your headphones, it is sure to impress. Although this track features these two significant solo parts, the rest of the track is somewhat bare in comparison; the bass line is constantly repeated and the main melody is played time and again. The only instrument that keeps the bass line of the track moving is the drum kit which is horribly exposed in places by a lack of accompaniment or movement elsewhere. Sakuraba concentrates for far too long on the melodic side of this track, and this is a pity seeing as though it has so much undiscovered potential elsewhere. Nonetheless, this certainly doesn't effect the atmosphere, which is as battle-like as ever. (8/10)

8) Sacred Ground

"Sacred Ground" is introduced by an ambient synth female voice that orientates around the same note throughout. Soon enough, this simplistic melody gets thrown to the back as a mass of instruments build up on top of it. The initial mystical stance of the track is a recapulation of the emotions given by the original version, and, as well as this, the dark orchestration that is introduced later is significant of the journey through which the original track takes us. "Sacred Ground" features a great amount of dynamic variation and the addition of a number of warm melodies throughout is enhanced further by this. The way that the track develops and thickens in such a dominant way is truly sensational, and although the track is largely built up on repeated motifs, this is not a problem and merely serves to add to its unusual effect. The atmospheric instrumentation is perfect for this track; an eerie blend of synth instruments and a dominant string section produce a feeling of mysticalness and power. All in all, with the instrumentation being expertly chosen and the ever changing volume of the track adding a certain degree of excellence, this track is a prime arrangement. (10/10)

9) Death is a Great Leveler

Some say that "Death is a Great Leveler" is the worst track on the arranged album, since it hardly strays from its original melody. I would love to say that they are wrong, but Sakuraba never lets this track free, so, remaining on a tight leash, the only motifs offered to us are that of the original theme and a short introductory passage. This lack of charisma puts it on par with the original track in terms of development, which is quite a disappointment seeing as though so much potential is thrown away as a result of this. Other than the development of the track, it excels elsewhere. The rock-styled instrumentation does the melody a great deal of justice and the reinforcing drum line is even more enhanced than before. The track still impresses with its frantic melodies, and one can't miss the utter power of the bass lines. The electric guitar parts pump the listener up with adrenaline, thanks to their dominant, overdriven, and aggressive sound, so all in all the track has its good parts. Sakuraba's failure to develop this theme is dissapointing, especially as though he already showed that he can make something out of nothing with "No Mercy," but it is a good listen, nonetheless. (7/10)

10) Legacy from the Past

The original version of this track was simple yet effective, as with a sweet repeated melody playing throughout the whole track, there was no development as such. This track is completely different in that each part takes an equally important role and that there is a copious amount of development. The first thing that I noticed about this track was its mystical nature towards the early stages; at the start of the track a stringed instrument plays a dark undertone against a repeated glockenspiel chord, thus enhancing this atmosphere. The introduction is impressive as it builds up superbly into a section of uppermost power and emotions. This part comes straight after a cymbal crash, and it is the oboe melody that reveals the largest amount of passion. This melodic line continues, but then, a series of orchestral hits unveil themselves; these stabbing chords are inspirational, and really add a touch of excellence to the track. Sakuraba's orchestration in this track is perfect for the scene, so the overall effect is one of power, pride, and hope. (10/10)

11) Every Extremity is a Vise

This is the darkest track on the arranged CD, and as a consequence of this, it is the most powerful theme, too. The first part of the track is considerably eerie, and with an organ being introduced at the 0:10 mark, the ominous side of the piece becomes even more prominent. During the time that the organ pounds out a series of chords, the track reveals a hypnotic melodic line that seems to interweave with the parts in the dungeons of the lower octaves. Following this, Sakuraba integrates a drum line and some synth lines into the track, and although this may seem unorthodox, the final effect is mesmerising; the synth line adds a glorious undertone and the drum kit acts as a reinforcement to the pace. The track increases in volume as we enter a section filled with tribal chanting that is then blasted over by a loud brass instrument. Sakuraba introduces the rock organ during this, and everything from here onwards builds up into a climaxing section at 3:33. The developed sections of this track are good, but, like "Like the River Styx," one could have hoped for more. All in all, this track is much better than the original version, but it isn't as good as some arrangements on the CD. (8/10)

12) Star Ocean Forever

This is the last track on the arranged CD, and what a track it is. A softly played trumpet and a sweet flute melody are amongst the first things to be heard, but then, seemingly out of nowhere, comes a section full of power, grandiose vibes, and astounding orchestration. From here onwards, Sakuraba really goes to town and introduces a number of key melodies that add to the power of the original theme. The main theme for this track originates from the Star Ocean The Second Story Original Soundtrack, and it has featured on most Star Ocean albums since then. Although the majority of the track is orchestrated, synth instruments do make an appearance, too. The section around the 1:54 mark is the best example of this, as it is here that some swift and effective electronic instruments come in. Diversity isn't just shown in the instrumentation of the track, as there are also quite a few developed sections in which the melody takes a subtler stance than before. Compared to the other arrangements on this disc, this is one of the best, and it is a true asset to the album. (10/10)


The arranged section of this album is a pleasure to listen to, and with a majority of the tracks expanding wonderfully upon their original themes, Sakuraba proves to be an inspiration. Sakuraba's history with arranged albums is one with a lot to tell, and with Star Ocean: The Second Story Arrange Album, Star Ocean Perfect Sound Collection, and the Beyond the Beyond Original Game Soundtrack being amongst his pre-Star Ocean Blue Sphere Arrange & Sound Trax works, he was certainly an experienced arranger before this album. This album is riddled with talent from Sakuraba, who even turns a 0:49 original track into a musically profound arrangement. The greatest thing about this album is that it also provides a bit of fun in otherwise sophisticated areas. The original score is the main contributor to this factor, and although the Game Boy synth is poor, the themes are certainly interesting to listen to. I would recommend this album to anybody, whether they are a Sakuraba fan or not.

Overall Score: 10/10