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

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

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

  - Vocalists
  - The Black Mages
  - The Star Onions

Home Contact Us Top


Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile Arrange The Best Plus :: Forum Review

Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile Arrange The Best Plus Album Title: Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile Arrange The Best Plus
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-00056
Release Date: December 22, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Harry

The Star Ocean series and Valkyrie Profile have always been a breeding ground for arrangements by the composer and progressive rock maestro, Motoi Sakuraba. Since then he has created the original themes from Star Ocean: The Second Story, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean: Blue Sphere. Indeed, he has been arranging them like there's no tomorrow, with almost every single Soundtrack he created featuring at least one theme from those games. And now, finally, after the various publishing companies and when most of the Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile albums going out of print, we get a compilation album featuring the best of the best. The dominate style here is the composer's favorite, progressive rock, but there are a few arrangements which are of difference, like electronica and orchestral. This album was meant for the casual fan.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Silent the Universe (Written by Chris)

The original "Silent the Universe" has a special place in Star Ocean history in that it was the first major piece of music most fans heard from the series, and, for some, their introduction to Sakuraba. Needless to say, as its arrangement headlines easily Sakuraba's most well-known arranged album, it offers an effect of similar magnitude here. Like the original, it depicts exactly why Sakuraba's cinematic music can be truly marvellous. Like most science-fiction music, it creates profound imagery, features epic motifs, and uses grandiose instrumentation, but is separated from the genre by the way it is also so remarkably subtle, pure, and resonant. Opening with a single ominous bass note, the arrangement builds with the entrance of a slow fanfare-like brass motif that is supported by a quiet yet boundless suspended violin note. As the textures build further, with the introduction of some decorative harp arpeggios, some brass countermelodies, and floating string cues, one feels entirely captivating by the magical music being played, imagining the vastness and majesty of deep space.

Yet all is not pomp in this theme. No less than 0:28 in, Sakuraba begins to demonstrate his emotional range by suddenly quietening the theme and introducing a brief and slightly sinister choral interlude. The theme then reflects the overwhelming silence of the universe through developing the original brass motif further yet underscoring it with very little, creating both wholesomeness and emptiness in one utterly delectable blend. After all this lulling between silence and motion, the theme moves on and continually builds from the 2:00 mark, occasionally featuring the odd interlude and choral passage too. The first of two major peaks in the composition is nothing short of awe-inspiring, yet never feels abrupt or overwhelming, due to how carefully the music is developed and the timbres are handled.

With the first two and a half minutes aptly reflecting the full musical and emotional diversity of the arrangement, the last three all expand further on this. These three minutes are mostly original, though still loosely based on the initial material given. A particularly effective addition is the snare drum rolls, which give the theme some militaristic flair. The climax, though understated, is extraordinary, simply leaving one in a state of utter captivation. Some may described this theme as hackneyed, but all those who appreciate that a piece of music is not solely defined by its genre should at least appreciate some of its depth. Indeed, there couldn't be a stronger introduction to the album, and, it is to Sakuraba's credit that he managed to create a piece that is both powerful and grand, yet also ravishing and subtle. This makes him not just a strong musician, but also an imaginative artist and eloquent writer. (10/10)

2) To the Unhallowed Ground ~ The Neverending Cycle of Reincarnation (Written by Totz)

"To the Unhallowed Ground," which was already a nice track, got even better in this arrangement. You'll hear me saying this a lot during this review, but, the improved sound quality was incredibly beneficial to the tracks, as they now evoke even more emotions than before. The brass melody is breathtaking, just as it was on the original track, giving out a certain sense of sadness. Despite the similarities between the two themes, the transition to "The Neverending Cycle of Reincarnation" is not as good as it could have been, because, unlike "All is Twilight ~ Prosperity's Compensation," where both tracks have similar beginnings, these two pieces do not. Unfortunately, I never did find "The Neverending Cycle of Reincarnation" that good, so the only thing I enjoyed now was the improved sound quality and the reappearance of the theme from "To the Unhallowed Ground." At 4:05, this theme is developed even further, with a choir and a weird wind instrument that is way too loud for its own good and percussion. The arrangement ends with the beginning of "The Neverending..." It's a cycle that never ends. Kind of like how they put "Overture" at the end of the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack. (9/10)

3) The Dawn of Wisdom ~ The Incarnation of Devil (Written by Aevloss)

Following on from the two opening tracks, we are indulged with our first experience of the Star Ocean Till the End of Time arranged music and a familiar composer favourite. One thing that is true of all of Sakuraba's arrangements is the high-powered synthesized sounds he uses, and no exception is made here — in fact, the performance of "The Dawn of Wisdom" here seems only to have improved upon the original, which was credited as having been played by an orchestra, though I personally cannot immediately identify any sound differences. The opening theme to Star Ocean Till the End of Time has only been tweaked a little bit, with an extra voice added to the choir, some electric piano notes that were used only at the very start and a forgettable percussion line that enters during the main melody.

It is the inclusion of "The Incarnation of Devil" and a chunk of score from "So Alone, Be Sorrow ~ Piano Ver" that ultimately seal its success however. The laid-back bass guitar and synth lead that enters shortly after the end of "The Dawn of Wisdom" passage do not immediately scream of the classic theme that the title describes; we have to wait, actually, until about 3:45 before one of the most familiar sections graces our ears, but the rock organ section with the accompanying choir voices does, indeed, bring about a very distinct "The Incarnation of the Devil" sound with it. Instead of building upon the source material, it takes a surprising turn, as the percussion disappears to allow a piano solo. As ever, Sakuraba's piano skills are fantastic, and before long we are reminded significantly of fragments of the "So Alone, Be Sorrow" piano composition.

The piece does not keep us for long though, as we are soon linked back to the theme that started the track off and a certain classic organ section brings about a conclusion with a grandiose choir and we are left with a simple electric piano playing out the remaining seconds. This, I felt, was one of the few excellent tracks from the Star Ocean Till the End of Time arrange album, and it's inclusion on Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile Arrange The Best Plus set was certainly a welcome one. (10/10)

4) Mission to the Deep Space (Written by Chris)

Just like "The Incarnation of Devil," "Star Ocean Forever," and perhaps "Confidence in the Domination," "Mission to the Deep Space" has become a classic, having featured in at least eight tri-Ace soundtracks. This version, though perhaps not as strong as the arrangement on the Star Ocean Till the End of Time Arrange Album, succeeds in that it was the first accomplished arrangement of the theme, boosting nearly all the elements of the already superb original by a considerable amount. Some might call it the antithesis of the arrangement of "Stab the Sword of Justice" — relative to the original, its pace has certainly quickened, it has grown more frantic due to the large ensemble used, and it is half way there to screaming 'raw power' — though it certainly shares the common qualities of being well-developed, easily accessible, and highly melodic. After a few notes on the drum kit, it opens just like the original, with an enticing bass line accompanying an ascending synth chord progression. Soon enough, the Sci-Fi feeling is strengthened with the addition of some superb ascending synth portamentos, which give a feeling of elevation right into the unknown.

At the 0:28 mark, the melody finally enters, representing the party's eventual arrival to deep space, and it is appropriately exciting and one of the themes that it is unforgettable when heard, just like "Stab the Sword of Justice" and "Theme of RENA." Yet another interesting interlude occurs between the 1:59 and 2:23 mark with the use of some descending chord progressions that dampen the theme slightly, allowing for another build-up to begin that peaks at the 2:47 with the reiteration of the introductory motif. One of the greatest features of this track is the way this repeat is completely misleading, as it actually leads straight to the main development section rather than a repeat of the main melody. A prominent guitar solo is heard at the 3:00 in time with the third iteration of the ascending synth chord progression. The section that follows is a little more subdued, but has underlying depth and is made even more delightful by the exploration of the portamento figure.

After an absolutely marvellous rock organ solo and a brief drum break, the track finally moves back towards the main melody, first reinstated at the 4:27. The comprehensive nature of the development before makes it all the more breathtaking and the way the melodic voice is doubled from the 5:30 mark allows the conclusion to be even better. The final few bars feature another drum break and a rock organ fanfare; it's unusual and unexpected, but does the job well, exploring the jazz feeling a little further that underlies the track yet never really defines it. All in all, this is an extremely nourishing theme that makes the most out of the original's melody while expanding upon it in a sometimes devilish way during the thorough development passages. (9/10)

5) Requiem to a Predicament ~ Doorway to Heaven (Written by Totz)

"Requiem to a Predicament" is one of those rare arrangements where nothing goes wrong. To be honest, the original "Requiem to a Predicament" has nothing that makes it stand out at all, so it makes sense to add another track, now, doesn't it? At 1:05, after the title track is played, Sakuraba arranges the wonderful "Sky Gate." This rendition blows the original version away in every way possible. This is probably one of the most intricate arrangements of the album, and one that manages to surpass the Original Soundtrack rendition. Every transition back and forth (from "Requiem..." to "Sky Gate" and vice-versa) is fantastic, and not even the weird electric guitar that appears at 3:22 ruins the track. This arrangement is simply astonishing. (10/10)

6) Theme of RENA (Written by Chris)

Many people buy Star Ocean The Second Story Arrange Album for this arrangement alone, widely considered to be the most emotive creation Sakuraba has produced, so its inclusion on this album shouldn't be taken for granted. The original character theme employed use of surprisingly real female operatic vocals to hauntingly beautiful effect, radiated nicely by its unforgettable melody and pure harmonies. This version, however, is widely considered to be the theme's best rendition, except for the Motoi Sakuraba Live Concert Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile perhaps, featuring superb orchestration and inspiring vocal use, employing subtle progressions that ensure the piece remains a consistently emotional experience, and always emphasising the original's melodic wondrousness and harmonic sweetness over the 7 minutes it plays. It opens with just a series of simple solo piano motifs, given an airy tinge by the reverb employed. Here, Sakuraba succeeds in introducing the main harmonic material while also adding a significant amount of atmosphere.

At the 0:21 mark, the famous operatic synth vocal melody from the original enters, now being more pure and refined than ever, leaving one breathless and in awe of its indescribable beauty. Its accompaniment is light and functional, consisting of a string descant and the piano line, thickened in an effective way by the entrance of a single 'cello at the 0:48 mark. Sakuraba employs use of impressive interludes throughout this album and the one at the 1:06 mark is especially strong, consisting of a single harp, suspended strings, and, most interestingly, a three-note wind motif that forms cross-rhythms with the other instruments. It adds just the break that is needed from the use of the main melody, which is reintroduced with a drum roll to spectacular effect 20 seconds later. The melody reaches it peak with the introduction of a breathtaking new phrase at the 1:50 on brass, accompanied by light and jazzy piano that works amazingly well in reality by adding underlying colour.

Another surprise interlude occurs at the 2:33 mark after a misleading crescendo to a fortepiano. Accompanied by a repeating harp ostinato, this passage serves to develop the 'cello line further, which didn't receive the benefit of full exploration earlier, and also features a fine violin solo that is easy to initially depreciate. This interlude continues after a second false build up at the 3:17 mark where a modified version of the main melody is introduced at low volumes, while the earlier interlude's cross-rhythmic motif returns and the harp provides some pleasant decoration. The eventual reuse of the melody in its grandest represents the beginning of the end for the piece, as Sakuraba chooses to gradual calm the piece rather than explode with a grand finale. After more harmonic material from the earlier interlude is explored and a flute solo is introduced, the last minute of the theme features just a solo music box. It's innocence and simplicity reflects the major underlying aspect of this theme in a superb way and this almost tear jerking conclusion acts as a perfect kudos to "Theme of RENA (Music Box)" from the Original Soundtrack. (10/10)

7) Hand to Hand (Written by Dave)

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) Stab the Sword of Justice (Written by Chris)

This is one of the few arrangements on the album that is often considered inferior to the original, Motoi Sakuraba ultimately sacrificed some of the raw power of the original in "Stab the Sword of Justice" in favour of musicality and accessibility. In terms of power, it is certainly the opening that is weakest, having a slower pace, featuring a slightly less vivacious main melody, and suffering considerably due to its less frenetic drum beats. It's debatable as to whether this is even a problem, however, and this is for quite a few reasons. First, this is only evident when one compares the arrangement directly alongside the original, meaning that it wholly satisfies in terms of power when the arrangement is considered in its own right. Second, this makes the arrangement much more globally appreciable; while the original was well-loved, some found its jarring nature to be unbearable, particularly those who dislike techno or rock music, and some also found its frenzied nature to be unmusical.

In addition, like several other pieces on the album, Sakuraba actually adopts a modified musical arch form to develop the arrangement, meaning it only actually achieves its full capacity during the latter stages, with much of the first half building towards the climax; this is a stark contrast to the original, where the first section was probably the most dramatic, and ultimately ensures that the arrangement continually captivates during its extended development sections. Most importantly of all, however, the arrangement benefits from profound original sections, which ensure it not only quadruples the original in length, but also has much more depth. The epic section that begins at the 1:45 is simply musical bliss, featuring an intense combination of slick yet dominant electric guitar improvisation, atmospheric chanting, and some very effective driving drum beats.

The modification of the main melody in the latter half of the piece is also expertly done, adding a certain depth and cohesiveness to the arrangement as a whole, and is well-supported by a few light-hearted sections away from the core of the action. Following the much more powerful recapitulation of the main melody from the 3:55 mark, which leads directly to the climax of the piece, a coda is featured from the 5:20 mark, which shows a gradual and artistic lightening of textures, delicately supported by a guitar solo; this ensures the arch structure comes round full-circle, as the arrangement is finally left in a state of calm with the sound of the ringing of a bell being the last noise heard. Ultimately, this arrangement did exactly what was needed, and, though some may prefer the original's rendition of the main melody, this boasts so much depth, development, and subtlety nonetheless, making it wonderful for practically any game fan on a stand-alone basis. (9/10)

9) Fighting the Shadowy Gods (Written by Totz)

I refuse to call this track "Fighting the Shadowy Gods." I simply do. When I first learned its name, it was called "Unfinished Battle With God Syndrome," and let's face it, it sounds a whole lot better than "Fighting..." I really like the original track, and I think it happens to be one of Sakuraba's best battle themes. There's no way a great melody and a nice development can go wrong. While the Original Soundtrack version had a trumpet playing the melody, this rendition is much more diverse. After the beginning, which is similar to the original's, a flute, accompanied by nothing more than some electronic noises, plays the first part of the melody, before passing it on to synth. The development and everything feels like the original, except for the part where the strings were used. Now it's a quiet little choir way in the background. At 1:45, however, comes a whole new original part, with an awesome bass ostinato and a short melody that leads us back to the flute melody of the beginning of the arrangement. But instead of playing the thing and disappearing, it now plays the theme twice, the second time, with a great beat to accompany it. The track is developed like the usual for last time, and it ends in a rather sudden manner. Although the ending is the track's actual ending, the fact is that the original composition is meant to loop. (9/10)

10) Fly Away in the Violet Sky (Written by Aevloss)

To be honest, while good, "Fly Away in the Violet Sky" did not stand out to me as one of the best area themes in its original form on Star Ocean Till the End of Time Original Soundtrack Vol. 2. I find that amongst some of Sakuraba's best, it suffers from a similar mediocrity here. That is not say that it is without its merits however, as it is clearly a nice example of the composer's lively tendencies, and some of the instrument changes were beneficial. The inclusion of new frenzied keyboard sections are bound to satisfy fans of the original and make it more interesting to listen to and they undoubtedly help to make it surpass its first rendition — the piano also helps to make the original composition go that extra mile; I feel however that in the end it just does not quite deserve to be represented next to many of the other superior pieces on the album. It might have just been a difficult track choice to make, as some consider the Arrange album for Star Ocean Till the End of Time to have featured a drop in quality compared to others released for his tri-ace creations — personally, I feel that "The Dawn of Wisdom ~ The Incarnation of Devil" was the only truly great piece from that CD, but would still contest that maybe something more along the lines of "Brass Wings" should have been included instead. This is still a solid addition, but not really what I would consider one of Sakuraba's better pieces in the first place. (8/10)

11) Star Ocean Forever (Written by Dave)

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. (10/10)

12) KA.MI.KA.ZE (Written by Zeugma)

Our first arranged bonus track is no less than one of the boss music from Star Ocean The Second Story: "KA.MI.KA.ZE." It starts with an impressive sci-fi synthetic introduction (probably a reference to the Star Ocean universe), using swelling sounds to announce the coming of the main body of the track. It comes in a rush, played with a style totally different to what the intro had announced; bass, drums, wild organs... we're once again into a progressive rock arrangement, the ones that prevail in Sakuraba's work. At this point, we get a nice improvisation around the main battle theme that takes enough freedom to be really entertaining, in the tradition of his best arrangements that have been made in older albums such as Shining the Holy Ark. The return of the futuristic synths from the introduction in a small bridge, near the end of the track, adds majesty to the mood while preventing it from becoming boring just at the right moment. I really can't say anything bad about this track, apart from the bass sample that sounds slightly too low to me... But that's nit-picking. (10/10)

13) Confidence in the Domination (Written by Zeugma)

The second bonus track is a boss theme as well, one of the most famous from Valkyrie Profile. For this one, Sakuraba takes another approach; we are provided with a denser, darker arrangement combining orchestral and rock elements. The beginning may sound quite confusing when you have the original track in mind — the main instruments quickly overwhelm the low pulse that can be initially heard, and the main melody is introduced by strings and brass. All could sound normal if these instruments weren't surrounded by drums and bass. Sakuraba probably wanted to keep the upbeat feel of the original while adding harmony and power to the whole. That's why these rock instruments are still in charge of the main melody and the beat while the orchestra handles the spectacular added material that gives this arrangement its epic aspect.

The bridge starting from the 2:24 mark is a good example of what this combination is best for. Low brass, timpani, and high strings first set up an ominous and pulsating atmosphere that takes more and more intensity as drums and regular brass give it shape. A short electronic guitar solo marks the peak of the track, and everything falls down with the epic support of the orchestra. The main theme comes back, smartly performed by saturated organ and synth pads, and the fight goes on again with increased power. Too bad the ending is so abrupt. "Confidence in the Domination" constitutes a decent finale for this album. After a few listens, I've come to love this track for its drama and its energy. (9/10)


Written by Chris

The only reason you should buy this album is if you're a casual Sakuraba fan or want to be introduced to him as an arranger with some of his best work. The track listings are solid, a pleasant variety of his styles are represented, and there aren't too many really glaring absences (though Star Ocean Till the End of Time's "Mission to the Deep Space" would have been a more musically appealing addition). While the two bonus tracks are recommended, they are not really sufficient to be worthy of a purchase from somebody who has bought all the other Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile arranged albums. Indeed, it doesn't have the originality factor or overall balance to be little more than a decent yet somewhat fruitless 'Best of' album, intended for the average listener through-and-through. (7/10)

Written by Dave

Indeed, this album may be for the casual listener, but that doesn't stop it from having some great arrangements. The fact that it is a mere compilation of themes with no new content is a bit of a let down, however, and it is one of the few deterrents that would have stopped me from purchasing it. A number of themes stand out on this album, and perhaps "Star Ocean Forever" from Star Ocean: Blue Sphere is amongst the ones that stand out the most due to the history behind the theme. Nonetheless, nobody could fault "Theme of RENA" or the fabulous "Requiem to a Predicament ~ Doorway to Heaven" which are both superb arrangements in their own right. Overall, if you would like to witness a select few of Motoi Sakuraba's arranged themes and miss out on the experiences that each separate soundtrack offers, then this is for you. But, be warned, consistency isn't this album's forte. (7/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 7/10