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Xenosaga Episode II Movie Scene Soundtrack :: Forum Review

Xenosaga Episode II Jenseits von Gut und Böse Movie Scene Soundtrack Album Title: Xenosaga Episode II Movie Scene Soundtrack
Record Label: Victor Entertainment
Catalog No.: VICL-61431/2
Release Date: July 7, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Don

After the outstanding, but poorly implemented, soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda to the previous Xenosaga entry, the game developers took a different approach to scoring the game itself. The cinematic scenes, which were the better implemented tracks in the first game, would be composed by Yuki Kajiura, a very prominent anime composer, while the in-game portion would be composed by Shinji Hosoe of Super Sweep. How does her first foray into composing for video games eventually turn out? Read on for more details.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) in the beginning, there was... (Written by Chris)

The first theme on the soundtrack excellently sets the scene while introducing some of the thematic material of the soundtrack. It exudes an exotic feel throughout thanks to Jerry O'Sullivan's poignant Uilleann pipes use. There is also tension created by a long-held bass note and pipes don't move very far pitch-wise. It is coloured by Kajiura's trademark vocal chants from Debs Lyon that slowly introduce the main theme of Xenosaga II. For the sake of tension, it repeats itself a fair amount and there is basically no harmonic development — the bass note doesn't change and the occasional electronic frills are left in the background. As a result, it's a bit boring, but still an effective introduction. (8/10)

2) first meeting (Written by Don)

In keeping with the haunting sound, "First Meeting" is another very mysterious piece of music. Electronic notes open up this piece and help to set the tone of the entire piece. Shortly thereafter, the addition of a haunting, yet beautiful, piano line can be heard. Of course, the true beauty and chilling appeal of this track is introduced with the violin. The melody will occur again on this album and is the theme of U-DO, a mysterious force within the Xenosaga universe. Small samples of the vocals in the opening track can also be heard dispersed throughout the piece. This is a very nice effort from Kajiura. (9/10)

3) Xenosaga II opening theme (Written by InigMatic)

In this track, we are introduced to the main theme of Xenosaga II. The piece is mostly carried by soft strings with a slow, almost tribal drum beat in the backround. About halfway into the track, a celtic flute harmony is added to the mix. This section is one of the most beautiful things i have ever heard. The whole piece just seems to float on air, with every note blending together as one. While this isnt my favorite track of Kajiura's, the melody will rest in my heart as one of the greatest. This is the true definition of emotion. Have your tissues ready! (10/10)

4) assault (Written by InigMatic)

This piece is actually a loose arrangment of the last track. It begins with some solo percussion, and after a few seconds, the celtic flute rears its head again. The strings come in to carry the melody of the last track, in a somewhat darker tone. The celtic flute continues to play randomly here and there throughout the track. A little more than halfway through, we are treated to Deb Lyon's voice, on top of some electronic notes. Everything else drops off and we are left with the electronic notes carrying us to the close of the piece. This track is much more complex and dark than the last one. Another FINE addition to the Xenosaga II lineup. (10/10)

5) strain ~ Jin (Written by Don)

This piece is essentially two compositions in one. The first part of the track is entitled "Strain" and is very ambient in nature. The rhythmic percussion helps sets the mood of someone in a struggle and really helps move along the cinematic in which it is featured. The second portion of the track, entitled "Jin," introduces the main theme of Jin Uzuki, Shion's brother. It also introduces the theme of "Fatal Fight" heard later in the soundtrack. While the piece itself may sound offset, due to the varying nature of the scenes in-game, the overall product is quite good. (8/10)

6) here he comes (Written by Chris)

For a piece with so little melodic focus, "here he comes" is surprisingly entertaining on a stand-alone level. The concept of an impending arrival is created with the opening bell-like sounds against warped sound effects. The subsequent enrichment of the themes with electronic beats and string samples gives way to a delicious rhythmic groove. Though it grows a tad repetitive, the addition of some distorted melodic fragments from 1:22 adds a bit of a melodic hook too and enhances the already delicious timbre. Very effective and quite enjoyable too. (8/10)

7) fatal fight (Jin and Margulis) (Written by Don)

"fatal fight (Jin and Margulis)" is definitely an interesting composition, however it is not without its weaknesses. To start, the negative aspects of the track include a rather boring electronica bass line. Unlike Kajiura's other pieces, this one sounds more like something you would find in a dance club. On the other hand, the positives far outshine the negatives. The vocals really add a nice depth of contrast to the piece and the incorporation of a strong melody and Celtic instrumentation help to distinguish this piece from her other orchestronica pieces. An enjoyable track nonetheless. (8/10)

8) R&D report(Written by InigMatic)

This piece has so much potential! The track is basically a solo of a very soft electronic instrument, somewhat akin to a piano. The melody, while underdeveloped, is absolutly amazing. It gives the feeling of a soft, serene setting, where a love connection might be taking place. That in and of itself is enough of a reason to love this piece. Kajiura, you are a genius! (8/10)

9) chase (Written by InigMatic)

This track is basically made up of all electronic instruments. Dont let that steer you away however, as this is one of the most powerful pieces on this album. There are two specific sections of this track that I want to draw your attention to. The first being the wicked drum solo that starts around 1:05. Anyone who is a fan of drums will take a liking to this, I know it. Immediately following that solo, we are treated to a BEAUTIFUL violin solo, over top of the electronic melody from the beginning. At the end, the loud percussion is cut off and we get some atmospheric sounds that carry us to the close. This is one of my favorites on here, and I'm sure with an open mind it will be one of yours too! (10/10)

10) surrounded (Written by Don)

"surrounded" is probably one of my favorite experimental tracks on the album. The combination of rock elements, vocals, and a nice free-flowing woodwind motif really come together to form an interesting amalgamation. While the track doesn't really produce a melody of any kind, it has some interesting rhythms and the blending of the instruments work in a way that doesn't really hamper the overall quality of the piece. Definitely not a strong track, but still a very good experiment. (7/10)

11) lamentation (Written by Don)

This is definitely one of the strongest pieces on this soundtrack. Boasting a powerful melody, great instrumentation, and fantastic development, this piece really shines in a sea of ambient tracks. The combination of woodwinds, piano, and strings really work together in producing a fantastic melody, with each giving ample time for each to shine. The accompanying drums really help add some contrast to this lovely piece and the drum solo before the loop adds a unique touch to the track as a whole. (10/10)

12) Albedo (Written by Chris)

With plenty of beauty exuding through this villainry, "Albedo" offers rich string lines and some haunting choral samples. The random electronic beats that it ends on are a turn-off for an otherwise acoustic-focused theme, but this theme is otherwise an accomplished creations. As to how it compares with Mitsuda's "Albedo", I don't think it's worth comparing them since Xenosaga II's piece is used as the exposition of the villain, Xenosaga I's is used as essentially the culmination of the soundtrack just prior to the final battle. Kajiura's version adds emotional intensity and direction to a still-developing cinematic soundtrack. (8/10)

13) communication breakdown (Written by Don)

This is one of the best pieces on the entire album and ranks up there with "lamentation." Utilizing her trademark "orchestronica," Kajiura is able to create a piece of music that is emotionally gripping, adrenaline-racing, and an overall pleasantry to which to listen. From the initial introductory vocals to the last note of the piece, we are treated with a plethora of styles. Tribal influences can be heard in the initial percussion and vocal accompaniment, classical choral work can be heard in the latter portions of the track, and who can forget the fantastic strings over top the pulsating rhythmic bass line. Even a softer side of the track can be heard with a small section featuring bell-like electronica, which helps ease the tension before the dramatic return of the violin and choral harmonizing melody. Overall, this track is one that shouldn't be missed, and furthermore, is one of the highlights of this album. (10/10)

14) Sakura (theme-piano ver.) (Written by Kyon)

This version of Sakura is another good track from Kajiura. Played entirely on the piano, it is the theme that represents Sakura Mizrahi, who Momo is based on. And within this track, you can feel Sakura's loneliness and emphatise with her, she is one of the few characters I really care for in the entire series. Highly recommended. (10/10)

15) Sakura #2 (theme-simple voc.ver.) (Written by Don)

"Sakura #2" is a vocalized version, using Kajiuran lyrics, of Sakura's theme. While Margaret Dorn doesn't really do the piece the justice it deserves, it is still an evocative piece. The acoustic guitar accompaniment to the vocals strengthens the melody and makes this track an enjoyable one in which to listen. (8/10)

16) strained (Written by Muzza)

Eerie sound effects and faint vocal samples let you know that this is a rather haunting track. This factor becomes more evident when the bells come in to produce a very underwhelming but effective melody. The development in tension does a good job of letting the listener know that "something bad is coming", but having said that, this track works much better in game than as a standalone track. With an unvarying melodic aspect and meandering atmospheric qualities, "Strained" is definitely a track worth skipping. (4/10)

17) Jr. #2 (Written by Bryan)

This is the first piece I ever heard by Kajiura and it still rests in my heart because of that. Kaida's vocals here are just incredibly moving, and really helps to drive the haunting feeling this track has. While I have grown to like some of the other Jr. themes more, this one is still the darkest, and with the inclusion of Kaida's voice, is a surefire winner in my opinion. (8/10)

18) strained #2 ~ Albedo #2 (Written by Chris)

From its minimal percussion and warped synth exposition, one might suspect this piece is just another directionless "strained" theme. At 0:34, something amazing happens when a warm electric piano line is added and, due to some timbral masterwork, sounds very effective despite the other elements continuing. Fragments of the vocal part of "Albedo" are soon overdubbed on top to add a sense of a shadowy presence, but the piece largely proceeds as a sentimental work. At 1:47, the piece takes a new direction with the addition of a dynamic groove though, with the eventual addition of a colourful treble synth line and a dark 'cello rendition of the "Albedo", feels as enigmatically two-tiered as before. Despite its theoretical randomness and employment of clich�s, this track is a very inspired, accessible, and poignant thematic and stylistic fusion. (9/10)

19) in the beginning, there was... #2 (Written by Don)

This track is essentially a reprise of the first track on the album. As such, it's very similar to the first version. The only difference is that the Celtic instrumentation heard towards the end of the piece is replaced by a solemn and mysterious piano line playing the melody of the piece. I quite like it. (8/10)

20) battle of Elsa (Written by Chaos777)

One thing I believe sincerely is Yuki Kajiura's ability to write truly compelling cut-scene music. This is something she excels at, and this track is no different. The music begins with a alternating techno-beat that continues with abstract percussion to fill in the rest of the gaps. It definitely fills the listener with adrenaline and excitement, while the melody continues without becoming overcomplicated. However, besides the electric guitars, what is most compelling about the piece is its journey to a temporary moment of surrealism at 2:08. It repeats the original melody, repeating in itself to arrive at a lingering cadence as the percussion reintroduces with a rising female voice to create a sense of final rising. While the voice does not dominate the piece, its presence is highly appreciated because it gives soul to what can easily be interpreted as an overly metallic piece. (9/10)

21) here she comes (KOS-MOS) (Written by Chaos777)

Don't you just love KOS-MOS? Yeah, I know how you feel. I love her too. Actually, I was nervous about this piece at first because it started so abruptly, but once the rising romantic strings came in, I saw the light. The techno beat is a lovely accompaniment that balances the piece, as the strings begin to depart along their seperate melodies. Once the woodwind comes in, you become wrapped in a blanket of clear clouds, facing towards the light of the sun. The piece is amazingly uplifting, giving us hope. The woodwind becomes even more important because it hits high notes, like a dove soaring through the air. The fact that this piece is in a major key makes it all the more enjoyable; being able to have the strings and flute greet you as you soar with them. This crystal clear melody continues until the end when you hear the cadential conclusion of a gong, and the strings returning to the home key. Truly, absolutely, undeniably... a work of art. (10/10)

22) battle of Elsa #2 (Written by Don)

In contrast to the first appearance of this theme, "battle of Elsa #2" starts off with more of a focus on electric guitar, and then wanes into the techno/rock fusion with the guitar becoming the center of the melody. Strikingly different about this version is the mid-section that incorporates the piano melody of "here she comes..." It's a nice fitting way to honor KOS-MOS, considering that this cutscene involves her saving the day. I think it gives it that listenability that some of the other reprises don't always get, or at least get correctly. (9/10)

23) gate out (Written by Bryan)

This is a pretty cool piece. Synth sound effects bring us into a techno beat followed by the piano melody's debut. I'm not sure of the purpose of this track, but the emotion felt seems as though something ominous is happening. At the halfway mark, some weird synth effects start taking over. The electric guitar also shows up for a brief time. Once the piano melody comes back in, the odd synth goes away, and we are pretty much taken to the end the same way the piece started. A really cool concept. I just believe it is too long for the content. (6/10)

Disc Two

1) here he comes #2 (Written by Don)

This piece is a reprise of the first "here he comes," but the approach is much different than the first one. While the beginning relies on the distorted sounds and vocals that made the first one so intriguing, this one also adds a nice rhythmic bell melody underneath it all. As the track progresses, the track grows even more rhythmic and the introduction of a piano and industrial sounds can be heard, with the distorted vocals over top. In essence, this track is more captivating than its predecessor, mainly due to a more melodic focus, but at the same time, it keeps motifs found in the first version and adds to them to create a well developed piece of music. (9/10)

2) creeping fear (Written by Don)

"creeping fear" is an extremely ambient piece of music. There really isn't too much to say about this piece. The track itself focuses on a suspenseful approach with industrial sound effects and eerie synth. It works well in game, but out of context, the track isn't as appealing to the listener. (5/10)

3) U-DO ~ Febronia (Written by Mac_Tear)

The track starts off with some symphonic and dramatic strings which sounds great. At 0:50 the track gets quieter with some harp motif accompanied by an solo violin and later the full string ensemble. But wait! What's that...? Up to the 2 minute mark, some electronic effects sound and an electric guitar plays within the strings, accompanied by an mix of electronic beat and orchestral percussion. The track would get an 10/10 from me, if the electric guitars were not used, because they ruin the complete track (in my opinion). In tracks from Final Fantasy VII Advent Children something like this may work, but on this track not so much. A shame... (9/10)

4) final crisis (Written by Mac_Tear)

This track is more faster than the previous one, but uses a similar string motif. The overall atmosphere is more epic and impact and helps to reach the grand finale of the game and the soundtrack as well in an very effective way. More of this please! (9/10)

5) presentiment ~ Jr. #3(Written by Don)

This piece is essentially two compositions combined into one track. It opens up with a very soothing piano melody, sounding like it could have come from a Castlevania game. Chorals are added at times to give a sense of depth and contrast. As the track develops, percussion and a second piano line are added, making it sound richer. The second composition in this piece is a rendition of the Jr. theme, played mainly on violin, with acoustic guitar accompaniment. The violin makes the track sharper and goes well with the acoustic guitar in the background. While not my favorite Jr. rendition, it's still quite fun. (9/10)

6) a field of battle ~ bitter #2 (Written by Don)

Now this is one of my favorite tracks on the album, enough so that I use it as my ringtone. The first section of this track is very electronica focused, with a flute playing the main melody. Surprising, it goes quite well and the electronica differs enough to keep from sounding stale. As the track progresses, the flute is replaced with strings and helps to add a bit of contrast, sounding serious, as opposed to the playfulness of the flute. The second portion of this track, "bitter #2," keeps the same bass line and flute heard in "a field of battle," but at the same time, adds chorals and strings really bringing this track to life. Definitely a highlight of the second disc and a piece to enjoy at any time. (10/10)

7) inside ~ Sakura #3 (Written by Bryan)

OK, this is an interesting piece. It begins with ambient synth instruments playing over top distorted vocals from the Jr. themes. This continues for a bit, then suddenly it all drops out and we get an interesting bell-like synth playing the Sakura theme solo. I suspect this worked well in the scene, but it doesn't stand well on it's own. (6/10)

8) I am free (Written by Bryan)

Kajiura has a place in my heart for her flowing orchestral pieces. This is one of those. While short, it really gives off the sense of freedom. The church bells and piano at the end really add that Kajiuran staple to this piece. I like it, enough said. (8/10)

9) Sakura #4 (Theme-gentle Strings Ver.) (Written by Don)

The fourth rendition of "Sakura" is perhaps the most touching of the instrumental pieces. Piano and violin come together remarkably well in this piece, accentuating the sadness inherent with Sakura's history. The piano never intrudes into the melody, but offers only beautiful accompaniments and counter melodies. The violin itself is perhaps the more memorable of the two instruments, adding a nice sharpness to the entire piece, and really setting off the emotional trigger. (10/10)

10) Sweet Song (Xenosaga Episode II ending theme) (Written by Don)

This vocal performance and composition is the epitome of the Xeno universe. In my opinion, it sums up the theme of the game perfectly. Essentially a reminiscing love song, "Sweet Song" chronicles the events between Jr. and Sakura. As these two had an important relationship, their themes are heard various times throughout the soundtrack, while this piece serves as the vocalized version of "Sakura." The lyrics are among the most poignant in any game soundtrack, and truly tell a story of love lost and how "life can never be perfect without you," however, "I'm still on my way to the future, for I remember your sweet song in my mind" tells how hope isn't lost and eventually true love will be found again, even if it's with someone else. However, at the same time, the reminiscing of their shared time together throughout the various seasons brings a glimmer of happiness to the listener's eyes, even if it is bittersweet. Truly some of the saddest, yet hopeful, lyrics for a game soundtrack, Kajiura's lyrics strike the listener emotional, and that's even before you get to hear the wondrous accompaniment to which the song is sung.

The instrumentation for this piece is rather unique. Taking a cue from Yasunori Mitsuda, Kajiura structures her track in a similar fashion in terms of style. Mainly a Celtic style, the music that accompaniments the lyrics offer both rhythmic delights as well as those of the melodic nature. The percussion in this piece is both subtle and offers a fantastic rhythm to which to pace the track. In addition, the use of string and woodwind melodies, especially in the instrumental section, really helps to bring this track to life. Perhaps the most contrasting portion of the piece is the inclusion of choral chanting. It really helps add some depth to the melody and only accentuates the lyrics that they support. In the end, the instrumentation may touch you as much as the lyrics do, however, the composition is well thought out and everything Kajiura adds into the music heightens the remaining sections of the piece. In the end, I can proudly say, that this is definitely the best song in the Xeno universe, slightly surpassing even Mitsuda's "Small Two of Pieces." (10/10)

11) Jr. (Written by Bryan)

First things first, Margaret Dorn is a good singer. I really enjoyed her work in "Sweet Song". This, though, was just bad. The Jr. theme is one of the best themes in this game, and Kaida did a LOT better in getting the feeling across. I won't decimate this piece though. The vocals are effective. The violin solo is AMAZING. The song gets old after a while, but it's not bad in the end. (8/10)

12) Jr. #4 (Written by Bryan)

Another stab at the Jr. theme. This one is without vocals. The piece has somethinng of a techno beat, with the Jr. melody played much faster than the rest of the installments of this theme. About halfway through, the beat drops out and we get some weird synth effects playing alongside an erratic acoustic guitar. This eventually drops out, and we are taken to the close with the ambiance we heard in the middle. Not a bad attempt, but I still prefer the other variations of this theme. (7/10)

13) fatal fight #2 (Written by Don)

This rendition of "fatal fight" differs greatly from its predecessor. Focusing on a much more percussion driven composition, it is able to capture the idea of battle a bit better than the former version, but at the same time, it suffers a bit in its execution. The percussion is perhaps the strongest part, aside from Lyons' vocal performance towards the end. Unfortunately, the melody before that is rather grating, considering it seems to be a pulsating techno sound. As usual, the chorals add a great deal to the piece. (8/10)

14) bitter (Written by Don)

"bitter" is an excellent example of Kajiuran chanting and orchestronica ideas. The chorals match perfectly with the rhythm of the techno bass line, and offer a nice melody to boot. However, the real star of the track is Kajiura's skill with the flute. The section in which it is the focus and the section where it offers a beautiful counter melody really stand out and create a serene sound, while at the same time, soothes the listener. (9/10)

15) Nephilim (Written by Don)

This piece borrows heavily from Mitsuda's original composition, "Song of Nephilim." Unfortunately, it doesn't do it justice at all. Rather than focusing on melody like Mitsuda, she focuses purely on the raw power of the vocals themselves. Sadly, this doesn't really do anything other than make it sound sporadic. There are some nice additions of vocals, but they suffer from the same idea. Truly a disappointing track in a sea of stellar performances. (2/10)

16) the image theme of Xenosaga Episode II #piano ver. (Written by Bryan)

Man, I love this track. While it pays very little homage to the next track, I still believe it's a worthy listen. The melody is carried by the piano obviously, with the vocals from the first track on this album making brief muffled appearances. I can't really delve much deeper into this. It is a beautiful piano piece that reflects the bittersweet ending this game has. Still, five stars in my opinion! (9/10)

17) the image theme of Xenosaga Episode II (Written by Bryan)

As if this track was connected to the last track, we get the remaining vocals from "in the beginning, there was..." and then the "fatal fight" theme comes in to take up the meat of the piece. While it isn't a whole lot different than either of the aforementioned tracks, the Asian harmony in the intro mixes very well into the fatal fight theme. One of the most interesting parts about this piece is the ending flowing out exactly the way "in the beginning" does. It makes such a perfect connection to the beginning of the game, making this one of the best closure pieces I've ever heard. (10/10)


Written by Bryan

There are so many mixed reviews about this album. While it may have its stinkers, I still believe that this is not the album to pass on. You just can't miss masterpieces like "Sakura" (all of it's variations, including "Sweet Song", the BEST variation), "fatal fight," "chase," "communication breakdown," and so many others. Some just may be bitter that Kajiura stepped in on Mitsuda, but I feel she did an outstanding job keeping the feel of the Xenosaga universe that Mitsuda built. I can't say that everyone will like this, but anyone who has an open mind and enjoyed Mitsuda's take on this universe will enjoy this album to an extent. Besides, any album with Deb Lyons on vocals is a SUREFIRE win in my eyes! (8/10)

Written by Don

The Xenosaga Episode II Jenseits von Gut und B�se Movie Scene Soundtrack is definitely an interesting soundtrack. Comprised solely of the music that accompanies the cinematics in the game, it provides an epic, yet emotional, score. Ranging in terms of style, from traditional instrumentation, to exotic fusions of electronica and orchestration, Kajiura, known for her anime works, creates an entertaining thrill ride. There is almost certainly a track for everyone and while some of the more ambient, or tense, tracks lose some of their effectiveness out of context, the entire album is quite enjoyable. (9/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 8/10