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Xenosaga Episode III Original Sound Best Tracks :: Review by Don

Xenosaga Episode III Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks Album Title: Xenosaga Episode III Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks
Record Label: Victor Entertainment
Catalog No.: VICL-61975/6
Release Date: July 12, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


After Yuki Kajiura's successful Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse Movie Scene Soundtrack, she was asked to compose the entire score for Xenosaga III: Also Sprach Zarathustra. As with the former album, we are treated with only a taste of the entire soundtrack, and while titled, Xenosaga III: Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks, the experience the listener gets is not "Best," but rather, "Decent."


In this soundtrack, Kajiura had an extremely difficult task. She had to create in-game pieces as well as cutscene pieces. Since Kajiura's strength lies in creating cinematic pieces, she should have focused more of her efforts on the non-movie tracks in order to compensate for her obvious weakness in that department. What the listener is left with is essentially a soundtrack that can be divided into three categories: Stellar, Mediocre, and Abysmal, and thus I'll split this review into three sections.

There are quite a few stellar tracks. Some noticeable ones would include the cutscene tracks as well as a few in-game pieces. In her stellar tracks, Kajiura employs her famous "orchestronica" quite a bit. Clear examples of this would include "We've Got to Believe in Something," "Battle for Your Soul," "Promised Pain," and "Godsibb." Each of these tracks, sans "Battle for Your Soul," also includes her famous Kajiuran lyrics. The strength of these tracks is derived from the precise complementation between the electronic beat and the classic orchestration which accompanies it. These tracks are also fairly reminiscent of her stronger compositions in her first Xenosaga effort, such as "Communication Breakdown." Tracks like "T-ELOS," "Febronia," "Hepatica (KOS-MOS)" and "Hepatica #2," and "Testament" also shine in their own unique ways. "T-ELOS," for example, while having no solid melody, has catchy beat to it that is strengthened by the use of electric guitar and some unorthodox violin playing. "Hepatica" and its various incarnations create a nice melody and theme for KOS-MOS, and in my opinion, stronger than the "KOS-MOS" theme created by Yasunori Mitsuda in Episode I. "Febronia" is also a nice evolution from Xenosaga II. It takes the tranquil portions of "UDO-Febronia" from Kajiura's previous effort and refines it to a new level of sophistication. To finish off the stellar tracks, we have "Testament." This track is a testament (forgive my pun) to what a truly evil track should sound like. Its use of vocals creates a funereal ambience while the use of orchestration in the latter half of the track serves to reinforce the overall purpose of the piece.

Of course, we all wish that the entire soundtrack could be like this, but such is life, and we are left with a bunch of mediocre tracks. This is where the majority of the tracks fall into place. This portion of the soundtrack is inundated by slow violin pieces and a fewer fast paced pieces. Many of the soundtrack's "filler" pieces also fall into this category. Tracks such as "T-ELOS #2," "Febronia #2," "When the Grief Lets You Go #1 & #2," and "Hepatica #3~I Believe in You." While most of these tracks are melodically pleasant, the overuse of the pieces brings down the overall quality of the entire album. Surely there were other pieces on the finished game that could have been a better replacement. The "... of a Tragedy" tracks are also pretty decent. They set the tone for the story and are effective at emulating that tragic experience. The faster paced tracks, while in less copious amounts, vary in their mediocrity. Some use clichéd leitmotifs, some emulate something out of an epic fantasy score by John Williams, but in the end, they leave the listener wanting a more developed piece of music.

As for the abysmal tracks, luckily there aren't too many so I'll list them. The ones to avoid like the plague are "Fallout," "A Dark Omen," "Creeping Into," "Rolling Down the U.M.N," Inferno, Fate, and Zarathustra. Each of these tracks tries to add something to the mix. For example, Fallout, Creeping Into, and Zarathustra are prime targets for what I liked to call failed ambience. The lack of development in these tracks is apparent and really brings down the mediocre quality of the rest of the album. Other pieces, such as "Fate" and "Inferno" try too hard to be successful. "Fate" is a rehash of Xenosaga II's "Fatal Fight" and "In the Beginning, There Was..." and really creates a track that does an injustice to said game. "Inferno" on the other hand, tries to emulate Star Wars and in doing so becomes extremely ineffective. The opening of that track alone is enough to want to press the skip button. "Dark Omen" tries to create a foreboding experience to the listener but, in the end, its lack of development and its repetition really shows that this track should have been kept off this album, which brings us to the final track on the list "Rolling Down the U.M.N.." I have to give this track credit for its variation and bringing something completely different to the album, but it sounds like a rejected track from Moonlit Shadow. It doesn't create the atmosphere in which it is used, a virtual system similar to the internet. In fact, I wouldn't use the internet if this piece played every time!


When the producers of Xenosaga III decided to hire only a single person to compose the entire soundtrack, as opposed to their previous efforts, they should have taken into considerations the strengths and weaknesses of the composers they were seeking. Sure, Yuki Kajiura was quite successful in her previous Xenosaga album, but considering she writes music mainly for anime and movie sequences, her strength lay within that scope. That being said, some of her in-game soundtrack was quite fantastic, but a lot of it was mediocre. I also feel that Hosoe wouldn't have been a good choice either. Most of his in-game material was mediocre as well in Xenosaga II. Ultimately, this soundtrack is a decent listen, with its majority of mediocre tracks that have a few standouts, both good and bad. To make the album even stronger, perhaps the producers should have had two composers, someone with fantastic in-game writing abilities, and someone, in this case, Kajiura, with outstanding movie sequence writing abilities.

Overall Score: 7/10