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Unlimited SaGa Original Soundtrack :: Forum Review

Unlimited SaGa Original Soundtrack Album Title: Unlimited SaGa Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube
Catalog No.: SSCX-10078/9
Release Date: January 22, 2003
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


Written by Totz

I'll be blunt. UNLIMTED: SaGa, one of Square Enix's newest instalment of the SaGa series, sucks. And it doesn't suck a little bit, it sucks a lot. There is little to no plot, lame characters, and a stupid movement system. You name an RPG trait, and most likely it sucks on UNLIMTED: SaGa. Well, except for one thing: the music. Masashi Hamauzu, the man responsible for the SaGa Frontier II Original Soundtrack and some (fantastic) Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack tracks was called to compose for this atrocity of a game. And this Original Soundtrack has to be one of the best soundtracks ever composed.

I'm a cheap guy. I'm so cheap I actually bought the game instead of the Original Soundtrack, because it was cheaper. And even if I do curse constantly at, well, everything, the music has never disappointed me, and was the number one reason for me to get the game. One of the best features of the soundtrack is the mixture of styles. On the first disc, you have tracks with "classic" instrumentation, for lack of a better term, and on the second disc, Hamauzu uses mainly electronic sounds and stuff like that, which creates a very interesting contrast.

If you're a huge fan of battles themes (like myself), this Original Soundtrack is perfect for you. Featuring at least 15 battle themes, and all of them great, which really is a tremendous achievement. The seven character themes are also wonderful. What's even better than that is because the characters are so different from one another, it's virtually impossible to mistake one theme for the other, which is a good thing. I feel this Original Soundtrack has no major weak points at all, and I hope you'll agree with me after this review.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Unlimited SaGa Overture (Written by Chris)

An epic orchestral overture opens the soundtrack in extraordinary fashion. Hamaguchi, being the skilled and expensed orchestrator that he is, uses the Hamauzu's catchy main theme in a diverse variety of ways to create a whole host of emotions. The melodies are initially fragmented and pass through various instruments. The gentle meandering of the soft strings, in particular, creates a wistful atmosphere throughout this section. It develops remarkably from the 1:11 mark after the introduction of a brash militaristic fanfare on the brass. This climaxes with a full-blown rendition of the main theme at the 1:20 mark before ending on a triumphant note with an unforgettable coda that begins at the 2:05 mark. While the musical features of this track risk being hackneyed, its pure orchestral goodness and its remarkable melodies transforms it from something that might have been average into something truly spectacular. (10/10)

2) Seven Travelers (Written by Totz)

After such a pompous overture, we get a delightfully calm piece. "Seven Travelers" is played solely on the main menu of the game, which is kind of a shame, because it's so good. The track is a tad on the short side, but remains wonderful nonetheless. This track has four instruments: a piano, a 'cello, a flute, and an oboe, and they work together to create such a magical piece, that you really expect the game to be good, but it's not. At least the soundtrack is. (9/10)

3) March in C (Written by Talaysen)

As a march should, this track starts off strong with a flute glissando up to a trill followed by a grand trumpet fanfare. The whole intro creates a majestic mood which sets up the rest of the track. The main part of the track starts off quieter with a trumpet melody followed by chimes and some woodwinds including flutes. There's even some mallet percussion in there before the trumpets take over again. Eventually, the track becomes majestic again like the beginning, but then becomes even quieter than before, but still retains the trumpet melody. After what sounds like a harp makes a small appearance, the track again grows until eventually it's essentially a repeat of the first main theme. The track then finishes up strong as it begun.

The strongest part of the track is actually the intro. After that, the track isn't as memorable. But man, that intro is really striking. Notice, I said, "as memorable." The rest of the track is nothing to scoff about. Shiro Hamaguchi's orchestration on this track is simply amazing. Every instrument gets their spot in the spotlight, even the chimes, mallet percussion, and harp. Every phrase and transition flows smoothly, even those were the melody crosses from instrument to instrument. All in all, this is easily my favourite piece on the whole soundtrack (and believe me, I love the rest of the soundtrack too). Hamauzu and Hamaguchi really hit the nail on the head this time. (10/10)

4) Feel Uneasy About the Wonders (Written by Nickthoven)

"Feel Uneasy About the Wonders" is a very light, rhythmic, and happy track. Amongst the playful dissonance and the lone glockenspiel, some lovely pizzicato strings feature at 0:12. The accompaniment never seems to change, although they grow more grandiose around the 1:30 mark. Every other part features some amount of variation, but the background is semi-static. On the whole though, this is a lovely and vibrant track from Hamauzu. (7/10)

5) Theme for Judy (Written by Chris)

As ever with Hamauzu, the fundamental qualities of this piece lie in the unique ensemble used. A quartet of a violin, 'cello, piano, and accordion are used, and, despite sounding distinctly odd in theory, it works marvellously in practice to produce the melancholy feel inherent to the track. The subtle and warm integration of the Unlimited SaGa main theme gives a greater focus here amidst the fragmented melodies and varied textures that otherwise represent it. The series of chromatic chord progressions used on the piano and 'cello at the 1:12 mark give the theme an additional sense of mystery and makes it even more atmospheric. Although the theme sometimes seemed to lack a sense of direction and could have been more developed, for the most part, its profound atmosphere contributes a lot to the soundtrack and its various musical features in the theme were presented in an effective way. (8/10)

6) Battle Theme I (Written by Nickthoven)

As jazzy chords open this captivating track and a wonderful violin melody then comes in, it becomes evident that this is going to be a classic battle theme. Then the solos come in. With a piano and violin duet comes an almost watery sound to the music. There is some sort of theremin in the higher register, almost floating above the rest of the music, creating an atmosphere that is very seldom used in battle themes. The two solos add to each other greatly. Soon afterwards, a crazy piano part creates a great-sounding accompaniment for a new violin solo, which really makes this a fun battle. It says 'fun battle' all over it. With the funky rhythms, sonorous violin, and bouncing bass, it is the best battle theme I've ever heard, and I think it's going to stay that way for a while. (10/10)

7) Success (Written by Chris)

Hamauzu's alternative to the famous Final Fantasy "Victory Fanfare" is this cute little track. It features some great brass and string use, and integrates the Unlimited SaGa main melody (just like the last four tracks) well. Altogether more developed and more triumphant than the Final Fantasy fanfare, this track served its purpose well, even if it isn't quite so memorable in terms of nostalgia. (7/10)

8) Theme for Vent (Written by Conqueso)

Vent is characterized by a pensive guitar solo. It's a beautiful and melancholy little track, with an elegant, wandering chord progression. Unfortunately, its melody is virtually nonexistent, which makes it one of the weakest character themes. Nonetheless, it makes for a lovely little break from the more intense music that precedes and follows it. (7/10)

9) Battle Theme II (Written by Talaysen)

For some reason, this track starts off similar to battle themes in Final Fantasy XI, which seems a bit odd, since those were done by Mizuta. Anyway, this track is definitely built to create an ominous mood. Having never played the game, I'd guess it's a theme for a boss battle. If not, then it SHOULD be, because it would fit so well. As for melody, there really isn't any. The track strives on harmony or just instruments coming into the foreground to play a little part. For example, trumpets often come in with a crescendo on a single note but don't play for a while after that. About a minute through, it starts getting a bit more interesting, when a slow melodic line comes in for a bit, then stops, and reappears around 1:40. After that, violins come in and actually play a melody. Despite being slim on melody, this track is actually great to listen to. The instrumentation is very well done, and the track sets up a mood so well. (10/10)

10) Theme for Cash (Written by Conqueso)

Ah, what a beautiful track this is! This gorgeous theme uses piano in a more exposed way than in the previous tracks, forming the basis of the accompaniment in arpeggios as strings, oboe, and piano take turns with the melody. The melody itself is flowing and expressive, and refreshingly straightforward for Hamauzu. Having never played the game, it seems odd that such a tender theme would be used for Cash, since his character design and what little back story I know about him implies anything but warmth, but it's a gorgeous track nonetheless, and one of the best character themes. (9/10)

11) Perpetual Movements (Written by Conqueso)

Following up on the sweet simplicity of "Cash's Theme," we're given a complex, mechanical track — literally! Throughout the track, you can hear rhythmic machinery and anvils in the background. The track begins softly, the relatively simple quarter-note woodwind melody underpinned by chugging, offbeat chords in the accompaniment, giving the track an unsettled pace fitting of its title. Then, at 0:44, this gives way to a bright trumpet fanfare as the percussion steps up a notch, adding another layer to the already complex rhythm. Finally, it settles down into a calmer version of the opening melody before repeating. This is a very nifty track. (8/10)

12) Battle Theme III (Written by Chris)

This track is a prime example of Masashi Hamauzu's ability to create excellent electro-acoustic music. A prominent synth bass line is heard at the start of the track and creates a foreboding feeling immediately. After this, the synth main melody comes in at the 0:20 mark and passes onto the trumpet at the 0:35 giving it a more pronounced proclamation. It's a dark and memorable melody that is well supported by the synth bass line and some subtle piano use (Hamauzu's trademark).

The emergence of a strong trumpet solo against the synth bass at the 1:08 mark is by far the best feature of the track, however. Masahiro Makihara does a great job here in giving it the aggressive edge it requires and shows his versatility through using a number of advanced jazz techniques and playing the trills and acciaccaturas accurately. The occurrence of such a solo is surprising in a battle theme, but it works perfectly, thanks to Hamauzu's inspirational ideas, and bulks the theme up nicely until it loops. Highly recommended! (9/10)

13) Theme for Armic (Written by Talaysen)

When you ask lively and beautiful harmony to take turns, this is the kind of music you'll get. There are also several parts where they mesh together, creating a great feeling. The lively parts of the track rely mostly on clarinet (and later trumpet) as the main melody, with plucked strings and a percussion instrument in the background. Sometimes xylophone gets a turn in the spotlight as well. The more laid back parts rely mostly on flute for melody and violins for harmony. The parts when these two styles mesh, bells take the place of flutes (as they are a bit lighter). The way the track changes from laid back to lively to laid back again really makes it more interesting than it would sound otherwise.

Perhaps the most noticeable part of the track is the intro, which uses many other instruments that don't appear in the rest of the track (although I wish they did). Among these are a harp and wind chimes. It's really a quite lovely intro. Too bad those instruments weren't used throughout the rest of the track. Nonetheless, this track is really great as is. (9/10)

14) Enigmatic Scheme (Written by Dave)

The track opens with an exuberant piano melody which is then played over by a solo violin melody. Even more instruments are added into the background of the track, and this really gives it a sonorous effect. The violin melody is in a minor key, yet it seems slightly playful due to its jumpy rhythm. The first section repeats itself once more, passing to a short section of galore, to move into a section at 2:40, where a piano plays a new melody, only for the track to repeat. This is one of my favourite themes, being catchy and fun, and I am amazed by its simplicity too. (10/10)

15) A Certain Story on Hilltop (Written by Chris)

Most tracks under 40 seconds in length tend to be filler tracks that have an important role in cinematic sequences during the game, but are utterly forgettable when added to an Original Soundtrack. "A Certain Story on Hilltop" is different. The piece has experimental harmonies, which have Neo-Classical influences, and employs the use of a piano, clarinet, bass clarinet, and oboe quartet. Hamauzu's use of certain quirky stylistic features relating to this contributes to the establishment of a distinctly playful and dainty character to the piece. This makes the piece unforgettable and means that you'll always be left with a chirpy smile on your face after listening to it. Once more, Hamauzu demonstrates his stylistic diversity in the most unlikely track possible! (9/10)

16) Invasion (Written by Nickthoven)

"Invasion" has no harmonic structure whatsoever. It is incredibly short and very repetitive. The track is very forceful with its use of percussion and piano. The short brass chords add to its mysterious nature. How were these chords added? Who knows? Most of it seems random, especially some of the piano runs, but it all works together rather nicely. I like the use of percussion, and, strangely, this is what makes the track better than some. (6/10)

17) Theme for Laura (Written by Totz)

This is easily my favourite character theme from this Original Soundtrack. The piano and the flute work together so nicely to create a rather calm, yet sad, atmosphere, and then, at around 0:54, begins my favourite part of the track. A violin and some percussion join the piano and flute duet, and then comes what I call the "grand" part of the track emerges, which is just awesome. At around 1:41, everything but the piano stops playing, and after some arpeggios, the piece is over. I don't know, but the ending feels kind of unfinished. I was waiting for more after that last arpeggio, but whatever. It's still awesome. (10/10)

18) Battle Theme IV (Written by Dave)

This track is very vibrant, flavourful, and intriguing. A violin melody makes the track leap out at you, and the percussion accompaniment is a lot more random than the erratic melody, which really takes some doing. The track is upbeat, with its fast pace giving the track most of its colour, and it is also Spanish-influenced, featuring castanets and stamping in the background, making it an unusual. The violin melody is beautiful, but the wonderful 'cello melody, which comes in at 0:25, is even more inspiring. There are some wild accordion runs here and there that help to add to the tracks continuity, making the track even more musically inspiring. Hamauzu certainly impresses us here. (10/10)

19) Theme for Ruby (Written by Chris)

"Ruby's Theme," just like "BT 'Ultimate'" and "Enigmatic Scheme," was one of the earliest pieces Hamauzu ever composed. It was not composed with the intention of being part of this album, but since it was not present on any of his other albums, Hamauzu and Yamazaki felt it would be a good idea to integrate it into the score for Unlimited SaGa. As a character theme, it isn't at all bad — it's lively, well developed, and features a whole multitude of different instruments. Indeed, the more you listen to it, the more intricate features suddenly leap at you. Unfortunately, however, something is definitely missing. The prominent use of a main melody is lacking and this means that the piece definitely lacks focus and a sense of coherency in places. It's not at all bad, but could have been one of the best tracks on the album if a little more attention were given to it. (7/10)

20) The Sacred Starry Skies (Written by Totz)

A soft, mysterious ambient track, made up of the typical components: whispered tremolo strings, twinkling piano chords, and the occasional snatch of melody on a cello or accordion. It's very listenable, but lacks variation and melodic interest. (6/10)

21) Shocking Space (Written by Chris)

"Shocking Space": another battle theme and another example of Hamauzu's ingenious and original methods of composing. Opening with a foreboding timpani roll and a multitude of eerie sound effects, the piece soon transitions into its main melody, this is played through various instruments. The main melody is extremely catchy and is filled with Hamauzian spirit. The harmonies that surround these melodies are quite complex and really build up the intensity of the track; the piano support particularly stands out. However, the theme's most memorable motif is surprisingly bouncy and light-hearted, leaving what is mostly a dark and threatening theme in a somewhat paradoxical state! That is not to say that the theme doesn't work and is unmusical, but is simply a reflection on how abstract its styles are. Adjectives can't fully describe this one, so it's best just listening to it and you'll see what I mean. (9/10)

22) A Relieving Instant (Written by Nickthoven)

This is a typically 'nice' track, especially with its pure sounding instrumentation, namely the piano, strings, oboe, and flute. This is a lovely addition to the album, and it hints towards some kind of romance going on in the game. "A Relieving Instant" is light and lustful, and at the 0:29 mark, there is a beautiful piano solo which makes it sound even purer. It's so simple, yet so captivating. It's just the right length for this type of song; there's only so much mushiness a person can take in one day! (9/10)

23) Solitude (Written by Totz)

A beautiful acoustic guitar solo brings out sadness in this track. If memory serves me correctly, this piece is played in this cave-like place where I had to collect crabs or something crazy like that. I don't remember, as I probably died or turned the game off, but anyway the track got stuck in my head, and, unfortunately, I don't remember it being played anywhere else. Not only is the composition melodically pleasing, but Toru Tabei does a wonderful job playing the guitar. This is a fantastic addition! (9/10)

24) Theme for Myth (Written by Totz)

God, I hate Myth. I chose him to be the lead character of the party, but he's so incredibly lame I regret having played it for over 16 hours. He's supposed to be like a ladies' man, but I've yet to see him getting any action. Plus, he's got two ponytails. What's up with that? What, one wasn't enough? Only one ponytail wasn't getting him enough booty? Ahem. Anyway, I don't think "Theme of Myth" is anything special. That is, until the 54 second mark. What I don't like about the track is the use of the main theme on it. Why is Myth so special that he deserves the main theme and not the other characters? Or maybe I'm just missing something. Either way, this is not a piece I'd normally skip when listening to the Original Soundtrack. The accordion (or whatever it is) is great, and so are all the instrument use in the background (there's a harp, I think, some percussion, and some strings). If you don't hate stupid guys with two ponytails, then this was made for you. (8/10)

25) To the Great Aim (Written by Nickthoven)

This may very well be the start of the four most forgettable pieces on the whole soundtrack. It consists of tremolo strings, an indecisive snare drum, syncopated brass, low strings, and timpani outbursts. That's all. There isn't a lot to say about a track like this, or for the next ones for that matter. (4/10)

26) Pathetic (Written by Chris)

When game composers intend to write a piece of music for a live ensemble, they usually use the performers' capabilities to the maximum in order to make the piece of music really special. Except the lovely violin solo that begins at the 0:55 mark, not a single other instrument is used in a way that is noteworthy. In fact, some have so little to do that you have to listen to the track three times over before hearing them (and that's me — a person with relatively good ears). I hate to think what the performers must have thought when they were handed the score for this piece of music. While the piece clearly portrays a miserable atmosphere, the most depressing thing about it is Hamauzu's utter disregard for what can be achieved with a live (and moderately large) ensemble. What's more, this comes from the man who is typically the epitome of creativity. (5/10)

27) Smashed Wishes (Written by Chris)

This piece opens with a two bar piano and percussion ostinato that repeats four times (over 30 seconds in total). Regardless of whether or not the ostinato evokes calmness, it is utterly uncreative and should not have been repeated so many times. If you haven't skipped the track after all those repetitions then you'll be suddenly greeted by a proud and majestic orchestral passage that shows Hamauzu's true creativity (which is greatly lacking in this run of tracks). Unfortunately, while marvellous, it quickly ends and we return back to yet more repetitions of that horrific ostinato. Sorry, but 15 seconds of orchestral bliss doesn't make up for the monotonous droning of the rest of this track. Can we have the old Hamauzu back please? (4/10)

28) Iscandar (Written by Chris)

"Iscandar" is probably the most unmemorable track on this album. It features an instantly forgettable violin melody and is accompanied by some static string backing. Yamazaki attempted to evoke some sense of heroism and magnificence in this theme, but, despite his best efforts, its fruitless nature is still apparent. If there were some textural contrasts and the addition of some more instruments, this track may have been good, but, as it stands, it is about as inspiring as a damp squib. To sum up: Another short track, another uncreative track, and another example of lost potential. (4/10)

29) J & A (Written by Conqueso)

I bet you thought the music was going to get better, didn't you? Well, it does improve, but the rest of Disc One is pretty low-quality. "J & A" at least has the distinction of being upbeat, alternating between bouncy synth accompaniment and sweeping string/piano combinations, with lots of dynamic variation, which gives it a bit more interest. But for all its bravado, it's only blowing hot air; not only is it as tuneless as the previous tracks, it lacks structure, making it not very satisfying to listen to, especially surrounded by so many other short, uninspired tracks. (6/10)

30) A & J (Written by Conqueso)

A calmer, more timid waltz version of the previous track. Despite being formed from the same building blocks, this track comes together in a more melodic, cleaner fashion than the previous one, which balances out the less energetic mood. (5/10)

31) Mystic Flame (Written by Dave)

This is an ambient track, which suddenly becomes tense and atmospheric, but through the wrong devices. The echoing piano at the start of the track has a nice effect, yet when a mass of strings joins, the effect is ruined. A suspended bass note creates a dissonant effect which gives the track a bit of personality, yet once again, this loses effect as the new section comes in, just as the ambient effect did. The track is effective, but it just doesn't go anywhere. (5/10)

32) Some End of Legend (Written by Conqueso)

So this is when you die, eh? No main theme? No theme, period? No sad synth? Just piano and strings!? Are you insane? This is short and forgettable. The worst dying music I've ever heard. (4/10)

Disc Two

1) Time-Space Travels (Written by Nickthoven)

I love the piano in this track; it's a nice acoustic change from all the other instruments in this. This track has a lot of nice sounds in it. It really does sound like you're travelling through time and space, as the piano, the wispy synths, and the constant electronic drums create a futuristic effect. It starts getting very boring and repetitive, however, around the 2 minute mark. Although it develops, it then transitions into the original section, and keeps repeating that. At 2:37 there's a sudden change — the drums are cut out, and we have some nice synth chords for some change, then it goes right back. Overall, this is a nice way to start a disc that's almost all techno. It shows some good sides of the electronica mix we have on this soundtrack. (8/10)

2) DG "sine" (Written by Chris)

As you will learn from a read of the liner notes, "DG 'sine'" was made using Ryo Yamazaki's and Masashi Hamauzu's ideas to make a piece using sine waves (trigonometry, anyone?). The melodies and harmonies are apparently sine waves, but are given expression through the addition of vibrato and other musical features. The overall result sounds very natural and is quite fun to listen to, particularly when the Unlimited SaGa main theme is integrated. Above all, this piece gives an explicit indication of what Ryo Yamazaki can do — turning something as abstract as sine waves into something that sounds musically enjoyable is no mean feat. Yamazaki does this brilliantly. (8/10)

3) Battle Theme EX (Written by Totz)

When you've got tracks like this, "Battle Theme I," and the Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack's "Decisive Battle," there's no way you can't say Hamauzu is the king of kickass battle themes. Ittetsu Gen (violin) and Hirohumi Mizuno (bandneon) did a fantastic job as players, and the transition between the bandneon and the violin around 0:27 is just awesome. Once again, we are treated to another appearance of the Unlimited SaGa Original Soundtrack main theme, which just makes it better, because I love that theme. If only the game were better (or if it didn't suck as much), then maybe we could enjoy the battles where this piece is played. At least we can enjoy them aurally. (9/10)

4) DG "listless" (Written by Nickthoven)

I actually like this one, as I find its sombre tone to be remarkably appealing. It uses pretty dissonances and harmonies that Hamauzu has become famous for, and a lot of interesting synth instruments I've never heard before, too. At the start, there is an odd organ-like electric piano, and a string-y synth instrument with dissonant, mellow chords, pulsating in the background. A wonderful mood is created by the odd percussion, and further still, at the 0:48 mark, a wonderful pad adds some beautiful dissonance. The track flows nicely, and it is a great one too. (9/10)

5) BT Ver.1 (Written by Conqueso)

The "BT..." tracks introduce themselves to the soundtrack in style with this funky, light-hearted battle theme. Beginning with a whole mess of pounding Hamauzu chords, the track settles into an easy pop groove which is a pleasure to listen to. It has a very stylish, modern-sounding chord progression, and though its smooth synth melody is pretty forgettable, it's clearly not intended to be the focal point of the track, but rather to complement the harmonic and rhythmic elements (which it does wonderfully). Although later "BT..." tracks will prove to be far more innovative, this is still a great track overall. (8/10)

6) BT Ver.2 (Written by Chris)

With eight tracks prefixed "BT Ver." featured on Disc Two of the soundtrack, one might expect them all to be very similar in style to each other. In fact, "BT Ver. 2" is almost the direct opposite of "BT Ver. 1." Although both use synthesised sound, "BT Ver. 2" is much more foreboding in nature and relies much more heavily on 'beats' rather than melodies. A dark bass line is prominent throughout the track and lots of random sound effects are heard above it. Although it is pretty simple compared to later tracks and a little repetitive, it succeeds by being both original and extremely atmospheric. Good job, Yamazaki! (And good job Hamauzu, too, even if you didn't do much in this track.) (8/10)

7) BT Ver.3 (Written by Nickthoven)

This track starts with a nice bass line, drums, and some crazy, sporadic synth, 'vox'-like instrument. Add a string background and a nice flute melody, and suddenly the track starts to sound weird. It actually sounds like two pieces, with the same tempo and meter, thrown on top of each other. But it creates this disjointed feeling that actually works as a battle. Come back for "BT Ver. 5" and "BT Ver. 7" for some more drum heaven. (7/10)

8) DG "mixture" (Written by Conqueso)

Of all the tracks in the soundtrack, I'd say this is one of the top five or so which really stand out, although I'm sure many people would disagree. You see, the track begins with about a minute or so of eerie synth warbling, with some sporadic sound effects layered over it, and a soft beat. After about a minute of this, the beat fades out, and the warbling turns into background noise as some epic-sounding string chords soar over it. After the synth-string pattern repeats, the electronic elements cut out entirely, and the strings take over and become more melodic for a short while before returning to the synth. It always amazes me how Hamauzu took these two completely disparate musical styles and succeeded in fusing them together effectively into a single track, with a consistent melancholy which is only sculpted, not altered, by the shifts between the two styles. (8/10)

9) BT Ver.4 (Written by Totz)

This has to be one of the weakest battle themes from this Original Soundtrack. It's basically some synth percussion, weird noses, and some suspended "something" in the background. Then the main theme kicks in, for God knows what reason. Seriously, that's all I could notice. Unless there's something else I'm missing, this piece is very bland, and devoid of any of the Hamauzu-ness we've come to enjoy over the course of this album. This makes me angry, and you wouldn't want to see me when I'm angry. Oh yeah, bet I scared everyone. The next battle theme is so much better that my simple, undeveloped brain fails to comprehend where did this animosity come from. (5/10)

10) BT Ver.5 (Written by Dave)

The track begins with a rampant trumpet and drum line, which is then accompanied by an organ part, too. A guitar is then added to all of this, so in the end we have a really vibrant and active track. It is impressive how a synth track like this one really fits with the feel of the rest of the album. This disc is obviously full of electronica, but I was more referring to the hypnotic melodies, appealing harmonies, and creative instrumentation, which is even featured on the first disc. This is an impressive track, and although it doesn't really seem to go that far, it still has an impressive aura about it. (9/10)

11) BT Ver.6 (Written by Dave)

This is yet another one of those crazy battle themes on the album. The track begins with drum and synth bass. It has a fast-paced bass and an almost hypnotic synth melody plays from the 0:20 mark. Descending runs are played by this synth instrument later on in the track, which effectively adds to the atmosphere. Though it doesn't sound like the stereotypical battle track, like most of the "BT..." themes, this track is extremely experimental nonetheless. Masashi Hamauzu has flaunted his creative side in this track, and, for this alone, I highly recommend it. (9/10)

12) BT Ver.AG (Written by Totz)

It seems that them "BT..." tracks aren't really battle themes, just some really crazy awesome experimental tracks. After a rather quiet beginning, with just some percussion and some background chords, an electric guitar comes to play the melody, while some sound effects can be heard here and there (which sound like another electric guitar), with another electric guitar in the background. Then, at 0:38, the electric guitar melody is replaced with what sounds like some synth instrument, with some chords in the background. Like the first section, it's pretty straightforward, and nothing too complex. Then, the electric guitar melody comes back, but with some new additions to make it better, like a pulsating chord background synth (not really pulsating, but whatever). At 1:58, we reach the zaniest part of the track. The percussion takes over, with a very faint synth background. This crazy electric guitar section begin at 2:03, and ends at 2:14, when the composition returns to the old electric guitar melody. It's a pretty nifty theme, with some awesome electric guitar work, especially after the melody returns. (9/10)

13) DG "comfort" (Written by Talaysen)

The track starts out with just a funk beat and a bass, sounding almost like it's going to be just an ambient theme. But then instruments start layering on, such as piano, tambourine, bells, and some other instruments. Their parts are semi-cyclical, in that they play almost the same thing over and over again, but change it almost every time. This layering and slight changes to their original parts overall make an amazing piece of music which is very interesting to listen to. (10/10)

14) DG "sadness" (Written by Totz)

After a synth-y beginning, the piano takes over the track. From 0:24 until it loops, the piano is the main instrument. Hamauzu relies on a simple accompaniment to get the job done, but it can get kind of annoying after repeated listens. At 1:13, another instrument makes a brief appearance, before the main piano section is repeated, but with that instrument as background. After that, we get the same synth-y beginning, but the piano part is a bit different: it stops with that silly accompaniment in favour of a sadder repetition of the theme. But then it goes back to the other accompaniment, which I do not like. (8/10)

15) BT Ver.7 (Written by Totz)

This track's got a sort of a funky beat, and while the melody doesn't stand out, the awesome piano section at 0:52 does. That's the kind of thing that saves rather forgettable tracks from mediocrity. The problem is that after the piano, nothing else is interesting, so this composition's got nothing else cool to offer us. (7/10)

16) BT Ver.8 (Written by Conqueso)

Hmm, some very weird stuff here. This track consists mostly of drums and some hyper synth chords in the background with weird voice samples like "my extremities pulsing with a tingling sensation" in the foreground. There are some nice synth loops overlaid on top of that in the second half of the track, but this is a track clearly not meant to be listened to at any time outside of playing the game, unless you're a huge electronica fan. (5/10)

17) Challenge to the Seven Wonders (Written by Totz)

This is a pretty awesome track. After all, if you've managed to listen to that in the game, you deserve a fantastic piece. You've got to get SOME reward in that game. Up to 1:46, most of the track consists of piano and strings doubling the melody, with some percussion here and there. But, from 1:46 up to 2:33, it gets really, really good. It really sounds like all you went through to get there is worth it, and it gives you a real sense of accomplishment. I could load up my saved game and see if it's played at the place I am with Myth, but I'm afraid that, if I turn it on, it'll crush my spirit and break what's left of my dignity again. But this is still one hell of a piece. (9/10)

18) BT "ultimate" (Written by Z-Freak)

So this is it: the final battle to end all battles. What better way to build up tension than to use ominous strings and eerie atmospheric sounds? When the pitch suddenly goes up, you know it heading in the right direction towards an impressive theme. At 0:25 in the piece, we get a similar beat/rhythm pattern that sounds like Volt Krueger's battle theme from The Bouncer Original Soundtrack until 0:35, then a trumpet joins in along with electronic phrases that could fit in a shmup. Fake choirs start to show up at 2:00, then a calmer piano phrase, which the choir is the main backup 'instrument', until the electronic phrase continues its way and finally quiets down. Now that's what I call "fine experimentation". It was nice to see Hamauzu re-embrace his electronica side which he had been using 10 years ago, which was 3 years prior to him joining Square for Gun Hazard. (10/10)

19) Liberation (Written by Conqueso)

After such an intense final battle theme, this track could not be more refreshing. The first half of the track has quite a majestic melody, but it's not epic or even celebratory; it's quiet and contemplative, with lots of rich, warm harmonies, the musical representation of a sigh of relief. Only in the second half of the track does it begin to open up and allow the emotion to flow freely.

The soothing effect of the track is increased by its position in the soundtrack: not only does it come directly after one of the most violent tracks on the Original Soundtrack, but it's the first track in a major key on the second disc (and only the second pure orchestral track on the disc, the first being "Challenge to the Seven Great Wonders." It's not one of the best tracks, or even the most memorable, but it's one of the most effective, even removed from any ingame context. (8/10)

20) FINALE (Written by Dave)

This is a rather uplifting and elegant orchestral track that fits perfectly with the rest of the album. The track is loosely based around themes used elsewhere in the album, with the "Unlimited SaGa Overture" and "March in C" being the tracks most prominently featured. Hamauzu really shows us his ability in this track through a wide range of techniques that are meant to impress. His transitions to different sections are remarkable, and once again his timbre use stands out more than ever. Indeed, the thing that impressed me the most about this track was its orchestration from Shiro Hamaguchi. We range from violins to chimes, from harps to trumpets, as the piece develops. You can't help but feel a sense of glory in this track coming from the singing violins and the way the track keeps moving as more and more instruments are added gives it an increasingly grandiose feel as it develops. There is a section around the 1:25 region that I think is just marvellous; a percussive bass emphasises each note as the track comes to a finish. The coda is very effective as it does not trail off like any normal track would do, and four chords end it in a stately and rather fitting manner. This track is definitely one of the better ones on an already superb album, providing a memorable finale that does Hamauzu and Hamaguchi proud. (10/10)

21) Soaring Wings (Written by Chris)

"Soaring Wings," the vocal theme for the score, was a little bittersweet for me. Though it has many pleasing characteristics, the piece doesn't seem to assimilate very well and its origins seem to lie somewhere between being a subdued classically-oriented work and being a more upbeat J-Pop ballad. Classically-trained diva Mio Kashiwabara sings the theme in Japanese and succeeds in doing Hamauzu's mellow, airy, and wholly expressive melodies justice. Her voice is an unusual and takes quite a lot of getting used to if you are used to listening to J-Pop singers such as Utada Hikaru. Instrumentation generally takes a backseat for the theme, with the instrumental highlight being the magnificent violin and trumpet solo that appears in the middle of the score. Though perfectly functional accompaniment, the instrumentals tend to grow old quite quickly and probably could have been handled in a more original way. My major criticism with the theme, however, is its drum kit part. It remains far too prominent throughout, eclipsing many of the instruments, and doesn't seem to fit at all well with what is otherwise a classical piece. If the drum kit were removed in favour of something much more subtle, the theme would have been significantly more successful and original. Though an adequate effort, I would have expected more from Hamauzu here, especially since it was his first ever published vocal theme. Since he is a classically-trained vocalist himself, maybe he'll even decide to sing himself in one of his scores one day! (7/10)

22) Now Let's Return to the Main Subject (Written by Chris)

After the full-orchestral goodness of "FINALE" and "Soaring Winds," the final original track on the album is a very effective coda that restores the sense of light-heartedness associated with the start of the album. Arranged in the style of waltz, the theme's simple buoyant melodies and strange yet wonderful instrument combinations make it a fine overall presentation of Hamauzu's style. Though this theme isn't the very end of the album, since there are four bonus tracks of the game's full-orchestral themes with improved sound quality to top it off, it is the end of the game and a very effective one at that. (9/10)


Written by Conqueso

Hamauzu has shown time and time again to be an amazingly inventive composer, from the warmth and emotion of his work on the Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack to his almost self-indulgent eccentricity in the SaGa Frontier II Original Soundtrack. The Unlimited SaGa Original Soundtrackgives us the best of both worlds; emotional acoustic/orchestral music in the vein of traditional RPG music on the first disc, and experimental, inventive electronica on the second. The combination may seem odd at first, but I find that when put together they create a strange sort of cohesiveness that each disc alone would not be able to achieve. Throw in some excellent live orchestral tracks and you've got a soundtrack that's not to be missed. (9/10)

Written by Dave

This is Hamauzu's second album for this series, and surprisingly it is totally different to his SaGa Frontier II solo score. This album explores new areas, and after listening to the tracks you can see what wonders this mans mind can work. The first disc consists mainly of orchestral tracks, and the second disc is mainly electronic. Hence, we are given two different genres to listen to, and this is especially good for the fans that are fed up with one of the genres. The transition from disc to disc is somewhat surprising, and first impressions would have obviously come from the first disc. You don't really expect the change, but a true Hamauzu fan can see that this album is amongst his best. This is his attempt to show both sides of his musical character, and he certainly shows us how he can create epic tracks in both areas. The first disc gave us the superb themes "March in C" and "Unlimited SaGa Overture." Both of these tracks are spectacular, and the real life orchestration of them works superbly. The second and final disc bring the creation of "FINALE" and "B.T. 'ultimate'," both of which are supreme and contrasting works. All in all, the contrasts brought by both discs reflects Hamauzu's supreme compositional skills, and this album (despite a few filler tracks) is unmissable. (9/10)

Written by Totz

This is not one of my favourite Square Enix Original Soundtrack's for nothing. It successfully combines both classical and modern elements in one neat package. Masashi Hamauzu, as inspired as ever, amazes listeners with tracks like "Battle Theme I," forever etched into my mind as one of the best battle themes ever written, "Enigmatic Scheme," a quirky tune that's as catchy as possible, and "BT 'ultimate'," a wonderful techno battle theme. We can't forget Ryo Yamazaki is also responsible for the quality of this soundtrack. Together, he and Hamauzu are unstoppable. With such pieces as "DG 'sine'" and "DG 'comfort'," these two know what they're doing.

And last but not least, Shiro Hamaguchi, the man responsible for the orchestral arrangements of "Unlimited SaGa Overture," "March in C," and "FINALE." It's no wonder he and Hamauzu are buddies since college, as they work great together. This is, so far, the best solo Hamauzu album ever released. If you don't have it yet, you're missing on a lot. (9/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 9/10