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Xenosaga Episode III Original Sound Best Tracks :: Forum Review

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


Written by Chris

Yuki Kajiura returned to the Xenosaga series after scoring the Xenosaga II Jenseits von Gut und Böse Movie Scene Soundtrack to create the entire socre to Xenosaga III Also Sprach Zarathustra. As a result, the famous anime composer not only produced cinematic tracks but, for the first time, background music. The Xenosaga series has always suffered for its in-game music — Yasunori Mitsuda focused more on cinematic tracks for the first instalment and Shinji Hosoe's effort for the in-game music in the second game was widely criticised. Can an anime composer improve a bad record? We're only given a taste of the full soundtrack here, which is already disappointing for completists. Is this 'best of' really that great?

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) A Prelude to a Tragedy (Written by Don)

This track boasts a very ominous beginning. The violins and the drums in the beginning create a very tragic background. Once the piano kicks in, the violin and piano combination create a very sad, yet moving, melody. For the opening of a soundtrack (and game, coincidentally) it really creates a very devastating atmosphere which draws the listener in. (8/10)

2) Fallout (Written by Chris)

The main battle theme for the game is a poor ambient effort. It's built from a thin and repetitive drum line that has a slight exotic edge. The rest of the track features some hackneyed string crisis motifs, subdued wails from a female voice, and a brief piano interlude. The idea is interesting, but the implementation is sloppy, given harmonies are nonexistent, the motifs evoke nothing, and all forces are used in a clichéd way. It's a very superficial effort that evokes nothing about the battle and certainly bores. (3/10)

3) We've Got to Believe in Something (Written by Don)

Here we have standard Kajiura fare, which is a mix between orchestration and electronica with some choir vocals. The piece opens up with a fairly strong string melody reminiscent of "Communication Breakdown." Once the vocals kick in, a feeling of fighting for what someone believes in descends upon the listener. The flute which carries the main melody of the vocals in the middle is a nice touch as well. The fusion of orchestra, electronica, and choral vocals works quite well in this piece. (10/10)

4) Dark Omen (Written by Don)

This piece is fairly ominous. The opening string section with the percussion sounds like it is bringing an impending doom. Overall, this is a fairly slow piece with a bunch of repetition. This piece started out strong but quickly grew tiring. Not one of her best. (4/10)

5) Forgotten Sanctuary (Written by Don)

Another sad violin theme. This one isn't quite as effective in delivering its message as, say "Sakura #4," but it has a nice melody with what sounds like a harp. It definitely brings up a feeling of finding something lost for centuries. Kajiura fails to draw out a lot of emotion she normally can with the violin. (5/10)

6) Creeping Into (Written by Dave)

This is Kajuira's first gameplay piece on the album and, in comparison to the themes already discussed, it's one of the better tracks. Its resident ambient nature perhaps isn't as well-formed as it might have been if it were to have been created through different means. The tribal drum beats at the start of the track tend to bore after a while, rather than help to create the image of a jungle or cave setting. For me, the first section runs on for far too long, although it does seem to add gross highlight to the next section when it does arrive. A tinkling piano melody arrives and creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere with its constant reverberation and high-pitched goodness. All in all, this track works fairly well, and is well on par with what has already been heard. (6/10)

7) The Battle of Your Soul (Written by Dave)

It's times like these where you realise that you really must have a kickass soul. I mean, if this is its theme music, it must be truly awesome... let's hope that its not a glorified runt. This piece starts off powerfully and with a sense of militaristic desire. Sweeping violins and brass interjections create an image of not just a fight for survival, but a fight for everything that you've ever believed in. The 1:10 mark sees some development form in the brass section, and this then leads into the main melody once more. This boss battle theme is worthy of a high rating from me, and it ranks along some of the best themes on the album. (9/10)

8) Rolling Down the U.M.N. (Written by Chris)

The soundtrack takes an unexpected stylistic departure with the jazzy "Rolling Down the U.M.N." Dominated by piano, bass, and drums, it's basically a jagged jam session with a few solos. The piano line is uninspired and leaves much to be desired compared to the keyboard mastery of Motoi Sakuraba. The complex polyrhythms of the bass and drums make the theme more stylistically accomplished. Though it lacks coherency, its creativity is impressive and it seems fitting for Xenosaga's version of the Internet. (7/10)

9) In a Limestone Cave (Written by Chris)

One of the most serene additions to the soundtrack, "In a Limestone Cave" is dominated by the interplay of a rich 'cello line and some percussive synth lines. A keyboard also enters during the development section to enhance things. The sole problem with the theme is the simple arpeggiated harp accompaniment; while it initially provides an atmospheric introduction to the theme, it repeats far too many times without variation, becoming very bland and thin. Nevertheless, Kajiura beautifully blends acoustic and electronic timbres here to represent an ethereal setting. (8/10)

10) Inferno (Written by Don)

This track opens up with a horrendous string synth. Once that ends, we get a track very reminiscent of a John Williams score for Star Wars. The melody in and of itself is decent, but the fact that it seems like a blatent rip-off really hurts the track. The brass helps the melody, but soon enough, we're back with the horrible string synth to end the track. This is definitely not one of Kajiura's best efforts. (5/10)

11) On Our Ways (Written by Chris)

"On Our Ways" is another composition that tries to attain a rich sound despite its minimalistic approach. This one just consists of a desolate oboe melody, some futuristic electronic overtones, and a variety of percussion instruments. While the melody is quite charming, the composition feels bare and completely lacks a dramatic arch. "Fallout" with a melody... (6/10)

12) A New World (Written by Weabblewill)

You'll get the serene feeling from listening to this elegant track, as if there's a sign of hope for the future. The string section smoothly supports the piano, and isn't as demanding as "Forgotten Sanctuary" or "A New World 2". It's played in a lighter fashion and designed to calm the listener after going through so many action tracks. Because of that, it is quite refreshing and touching at the same time. I can't help but mention that this piece reminds me of the emotional power of "I am Free" from Xenosaga II. (8/10)

13) T-ELOS

(Written by Don) - This is quite an interesting track. While it invokes no coherent melody whatsoever, it does create a blend of clashing instrumentation that works extremely well together. While the guitar does create a melody in the latter portion of the track, it doesn't stick throughout the whole piece. The percussion used creates a fantastic bass line while the guitar riffs had some shocking contrast. The star of this piece, however, is the violin. With some of the craziest violin sections I have ever heard, it creates an extremely chaotic tone to the entire piece. This is quite a fitting character theme. (8/10)

(Written by Kyon) - Is this an event track or a character theme? As far as I know, this theme is played where T-elos is showing off her stuff in a experiment session. But is this a good track? Seriously, I never find Kajiura's rock interesting, because I find her rock artificial, mechanical, and filler. This is also how I view "T-ELOS". It starts off rather interesting, but is going downhill after a few seconds, as it features nothing more than several bass guitar riffs and some looped drums that is nothing interesting. Worse, the female chanting sample is featured, and Kajiura is trying to toy with atonality by giving the violin play some notes that grates on my nerves rather than gasping in awe. It goes on and on, until the guitar is featured. But it does not give the track any direction. Simply put, I do not like this track. Sure it works in game like every programmatic piece should. But in game, the scene captivated me more than the music. This is a lame excuse for a character theme. (4/10)

14) The Miltia Incidents (Written by Dave)

Let's put this straight: "The Miltia Incidents" isn't a track name that will erupt from your mind upon recalling the best tracks on the album. Although the slow moving nature that this piece adopts actually incurs quite a thrilling atmosphere, this track doesn't really succeed in fulfilling what the title suggests — there is no immediate action as one would expect in an 'incident'. This is the type of track that you would expect to hear right before a battle; touching upon sorrow and misery through the descending melody, war, and destruction through the militaristic drum, and perhaps vaguely touching upon a twisted sense of hope through a high-pitched vocal part, this piece conjures up a really surreal sense of place. There's nothing overly impressive here though. (6/10)

15) Febronia (Written by Don)

This track creates such a lovely melody. Its woodwind use creates a beautiful, yet sad, character theme. Considering all that she's been through, it definitely fits well. The piano accompaniment is also a nice touch to the piece and reinforces the simplistic approach to this composition. While not excellent, it definitely is better than mediocre. (8/10)

16) Promised Plan (Written by Dave)

"Promised Plan" is a track that you're either going to love or hate, depending on how you stand musically. I've heard arguments against the track which insist that it's too typical and unoriginal, and that certain parts (namely the drums) aren't audible. Yet, for those who actually appreciate beautiful orchestral music, these actually become good points. Who wants to hear an orchestral piece that does nothing for the actual melody!

Personally, I love this track. I think that it's a great and clever creation, which remains true to the rest of the soundtrack. At the 0:40 mark, we hear a similar leitmotif used in "Communication Breakdown" played on guitars; accompanied by some mesmerising strings and soon joined by a powerful choir, this section acts as an important bridge section that really helps to set the piece alight. As an actual battle track, you'll find this just as exhilarating as any other orchestral battle counterpart, and for that reason, I rate it quite high. (10/10)

17) Mother, I Miss You (Written by Dave)

This is a really touching piece; slow-moving but carefree in nature, the track really seems to explore the feelings that a child and mother share. A sorrowed oboe leads this ode, and with the accompaniment being so daintly played, the message really gets through: this is a pure piece, and hence, the feelings of loss and lonesomeness are given an extra sense of genuinity. I really love this effort, since it shows that Kajuira is careful with instrumental selection. (8/10)

18) Fate (Written by Chris)

"Fate" is an interesting change as it features several pieces from Xenosaga II, used to accompany a cinematic scene summarising the events from that game. It opens brashly with the "Fatal Fight" motif presented on some bombastic strings accompanied by inappropriate timpani. It soon recedes into ambient wailing of the Uilleann pipes based on the "In the beginning, there was..." theme. The rest of the track is just these pipes playing a melody without any sense of direction accompanied by boring electronica and sound effects that have no relation to the melody. The old motifs are the only novelty here; otherwise, it is mediocre at best with absolutely nothing original going for it. (4/10)

19) Zarathustra Dungeon (Written by Chris)

Despite a sexy track name and a promising tribal percussion introduction, this track does not live up to expectations. It's dominated by electronic sounds that try to sound sophisticated and deep but come across superficial and senselessly placed. The percussion accompaniment is strong but still hackneyed and repetitive. The development section comprises the introduction of some string notes that add an eerie layer to the track but, again, are devoid of depth. Formulaic ambience of the worst kind... (3/10)

20) Shifting Territories (Written by Kyon)

Excuse me, but do you need a minute and a half to get a track on? 30 seconds is enough to make me lose patience. What is worse is when the track is using some "new-age" effects to emphasize unnecessary ambience. However, the track picks up quite good. Starting with tribal drums and some electronic sounds behind, followed up by a bass guitar riffs, and finally introduce a melody, if you can call that one. I do have something to say about it though, is that I don't understand the fetish Kajiura had with tribal drums and timpanis. I personally feel that this track could be better, if not for the tediously lengthy intro. (6/10)

21) Hepatica #2 (Written by Kyon)

Like the track name points out, it is an arrangement of the Hepatica theme. The main melody is played by the piano, with the strings serve as an accompaniment. I personally appreciate it if Kajiura uses solo piano, but nonetheless, she does the theme justice by playing it with subtle emotion. (7/10)

22) The Harsh Truth (Written by Kyon)

This track is introduced (again) by the strings, playing a motif that I could not recognise. After a minute has passed, the piano makes its presence felt by playing the same motif. However, this kind of track is all too typical within this soundtrack, all melancholic and nothing more. There is nothing interesting listening to a track that plays the same motif twice with an overused method. (5/10)

23) The Last Place (Written by Kyon)

Again, this track is performed by strings. Not that I am tired of it, but it was used rather typically. This time, it plays a motif of "Maybe Tomorrow". Other than the strings perform the theme twice, nothing happened. What a way to conclude a CD. (3/10)

Disc Two

1) HEPATICA(KOS-MOS) (Written by Kyon)

First of all, I never believe Yuki Kajiura is a great composer. But every composer has something that could leave them a good name. "HEPATICA(KOS-MOS)" is by far, the most moving and emotional track Kajiura ever written. Eri Ito is the performer of the track here, with the piano as the accompaniment.

Ito builds up the melody with her vocals, with the piano plays chords that I can really relate to. I don't know what is Itoh singing, but nonetheless I can assume it's in Latin. The melody seems to portray Mary Magdalene, who is within KOS-MOS heart. And by listening to the melody, I can feel Mary's innocence, her anguish, her devotion to her lord(at least that's what I felt). It is also Kajura's take on KOS-MOS theme. But I don't really know is this really a true picture of KOS-MOS, as the Xenosaga series took a sudden turn with Takahashi out of the director's seat.

Nonetheless, this track begins the second disc in a superb way. And personally, it's my favorite track along with the Febronia themes. (10/10)

2) Battleland (Written by Kyon)

As I was still having some nostalgic moments, I was interrupted by this chaotic track. It starts off very well, but when the main melody was playing, it only worsens the already chaotic atmosphere. This is basically an "crisis" track that also serves as a secondary battle theme. It may work well in the game, but I would rather not revisit the "Battleland" again. (5/10)

3) A Memory of a Tragedy (Written by Kyon)

The lack of variation of this theme is certainly getting on my nerves. This is exactly the same as the first track on the first disc, and I would prefer "A Prelude to Tragedy" a hundred times over this track. Skip at all cost. (3/10)

4) Testament (Written by Don)

This is quite a funereal piece. It invokes an image of desolation with the use of haunting chorals accompanied by the violin. The melody it creates is quite somber but also effective. Once the track picks up, it gets a bit more menacing while continuing the vocals. The addition of the harpsichord in there adds a little flair to the violin solo. Overall, a strong track. (9/10)

5) Survive (Written by Chris)

The second battle theme for the game is used to represent one's party in mechs. It attains a more epic feel than "fallout" through its employment of full orchestra and a prominent bass line. However, the composition fails to maintain interest due to its top-heavy focus and complete lack of harmonic development. Despite the effectiveness of the bass line's articulation, it soon becomes rhythmically stale; pretty bad considering it's the same note over and over again. However, the string and brass use is among the best of the soundtrack here so some sort of appropriate feel is attained before one sees its transparency. Subpar, once more. (6/10)

6) T-ELOS #2 (Written by Don)

While a rehash of a previous theme, this time around it doesn't evoke the same feeling for me. Its bass line is too repetitive, and while the guitar melody featured in the first version plays more of a main role, the lack of clashing instrumentation, which seemingly work well, are missing. This causes the entire track to lose the original feel of T-ELOS the first time they hear it. (6/10)

7) She's Coming Back (Written by Don)

Essentially a rehash of Xenosaga II's "Here She Comes." It starts out with a more long-winded introduction, and a rather weak one at that, but the piano use helps to make it slightly tolerable; however, once the rehashed melody comes it, the track improves. While it is technically reused music, it invokes a feeling of nostalgia in the listener. The strings help to carry the melody. The only thing I wish about this track was to keep the flute section found in the first one since it added so much more to the piece. (7/10)

8) When the Grief Lets You Go (Written by Don)

This is quite an emotional piece. The introductory piano helps create the somber mood while the violin, added a bit later, helps to invoke feelings of sadness in the listener. The melody is soothing and inspiring as well. Personally this is my favorite of the Xenosaga III multiple versions tracks because it brings back memories of my mother and reminds me of all the happy times we had together. (8/10)

9) Godsibb (Written by Don)

One of the strongest tracks on the entire album. The electronica/piano infused bass line is quite entrancing, the melody strengthened by the guitar accompaniment, and the violin and vocals switching main melodic drives throughout the entire track keep the listener from becoming bored easily. While not everyone's cup of tea, it's definitely worth a listen. (10/10)

10) Febronia #2 (Written by Kyon)

I like the Febronia themes, including this lazily titled variation of the previous track. Also, it was used in my favorite scene in the game.

The piece begins with the violin playing the Febronia theme with the strings serve as chordal accompaniment. And then the violin intensifies while continuing playing the theme, so does the string accompaniment. After that, the piano enters in 1:05 minute for a short while, and then the full strings performs a climax and ends it with a gentle touch, with Febronia able to rest in peace.

I believe Kajiura did everything right with this piece. The strings, the solo violin, were utilized perfectly and brings the character Febronia perfectly to life. I consider it the best in comparison to the otherwise generic and standard Kajiura fare along with the first Febronia's theme, "Goddsibb", and "HEPATICA(KOS-MOS)". It's definitely the best piece among the "best" tracks. (10/10)

11) Crisis Coming (Written by Kyon)

Just as I was having some nostalgia feeling, this track comes and crush everything. Sure, the piece begins and ends rather nicely, but other than that I could care less what happens in between. All I could say is a stereotypical "crisis" track that often features in RPGs. I certainly don't find any crisis coming though. (6/10)

12) A New World #2 (Written by Kyon)

Huh, not again? Do I really have to hear this "play the same melody twice with the same old strings and then end it" again and again? Give me something more interesting, please. (3/10)

13) Outrageous (Written by Kyon)

I assume this is a dungeon track. I don't know, as I haven't played the game for a while now. Kajiura indeed fuses rock and the strings pretty well here to create a threatening atmosphere for the said dungeon. All I can say it's pretty good. (7/10)

14) When the Grief Lets You Go #2 (Written by Kyon)

This is basically the same track as the previous one, with a different, or should I say, predictable, instrumentation. The piano stays in this track but the solo violin is exchanged to a full string section. And that's all about it. Skip this and listen to the previous one. (3/10)

15) I Love You Sincerely (Written by Kyon)

I was trembled with fear that I was going to hear another "The Harsh Truth", "The Last Place". My fears are not only confirmed, but it adds the quantity of repetitions that I could call this piece "repetitive" than melancholic, other than the first time it plays the longer version of the "Maybe Tomorrow" melody. Even the added electronic percussions could not save this track from the sea of mediocrity. Dissapointing. (4/10)

16) Hepatica #3 ~ I Believe in You (Written by Kyon)

This is the track that is used to accompany the epilogue scene of the game. Within this track, I confirms to me that Kajiura really fits the two brutally overused criticisms that is always directed against her, that is "predictable" and "repetitive".

Why is that so? Because this piece not only plays the Hepatica theme for the large amount of six times, it's also executed in a predictable way, featuring none other than strings, cello, and a piano. The only surprise is the she uses a harp (an instrument Kajiura rarely uses). Worst of all, instead of opting for a pianistic ending that plays a minute of variation of the said theme, Kajiura gave me the repeated performance of the first two repetitions of the theme, and then ended it with a harp. Including the last two, it totals the amount of six times.

This piece works rather well in-game, as I was too busy watching the cut scene than paying any attention. But on a stand alone basis, it's disappointing. But the nightmare hasn't just ended yet... (5/10)

17) Maybe Tomorrow ~ Ending Medley (Written by Kyon)

If one does not want his/her nightmare to end here, I advise you to stop you CD player now. Unless you want to hear bland vocals and some "ear candy", go ahead and listen.

This is a bad, bad way to end an album. With this track, I finally believe that anyone could be a singer. Or else, why would we have this "Idol" stuff around the world. This track suffers from terrible vocals from Emily Curtis, the irrelevant lyrics by none other than Kajiura herself, and the uninteresting piano accompaniment. In my opinion, it is even worse than the likes of "Pain", "Kokoro", and even "Small Two of Pieces" from Mitsuda's Xeno series ballads.

The "Ending Medley" section is also rather unecessary, especially for a staff roll music. Staff Roll music was supposed to give a summary of an adventure. But Kajiura, being her usual self, give something that I find inappropriate for a staff rolls. By integrating "Battle of Your Soul", a track that I cannot remember, and the "She's Coming back" theme, it does absolutely nothing to summarize the game. I would appreciate a non-vocal staff roll than this.

In short, this is the worst vocal theme in the series. (3/10)


Written by Chris

The Xenosaga Episode III Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks is one of the most stylistically underwhelming soundtracks I've heard. I tired of Kajiura's static and bromidic electro-acousticism throughout this work. Unfortunately, the equally derivative orchestral, jazz, oriental, ambient, and vocal works did not saviour it. 'Best' is a very relative word in this instance and, while there are a few good tracks, I would not recommend this to anyone looking for an artistic or consistent experience. I should also add that, as a completist, I would have utterly objected to Namco releasing a mere 'best of' were I a fan of this soundtrack. Given any more hours of listening would have been unbearable, I'm satisfied with the breadth of this release, but its incomplete nature is one less reason to recommend it to actual fans of Kajiura or Xenosaga III's music. (4/10)

Written by Kyon

The Xenosaga Episode III Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks is, in my opinion, one of the biggest dissapointment among all RPG soundtracks released and is Yuki Kajiura's worst ever works so far in her career. However, there would be many people, especially the Kajiura fans, would strongly disagree with me. To them, everything done by Kajiura are masterpieces and those who disagree are committing a blasphemy or something like that. With the track-by-track reviews I made, it would be no surprise that some people would send me hate mails.

But I stand by on my decision. This album proves that Kajiura is once again not passionate about her work. Outside of her Bee-Train works, she often puts her music above the project, which is shown in this soundtrack. Also, the quality of the soundtrack is severely uneven. Why is that when you have great tracks like the "Febronia" themes, "Hepatica(KOS-MOS)", "In a Limestone Cave", and "Godsibb", would have terrible counterparts like "Fallout", "Zarathustra Dangeon", "Promised Pain", "The Last Place", "Maybe Tomorrow ~ Ending Medley", and some more? Couldn't she just put a little more effort in her works of "applied music", rather than trying to be a star? Really, I can't appreciate musicians that are half-hearted in their jobs.

To give you the benefit of the doubt, I consider this a sub-par soundtrack with a few great tracks. And that's all about it. (6/10)

Written by Don

The Xenosaga Episode III Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks suffers from a few things. First off, it suffers from a composer who is used to doing sequence tracks. While those tracks are her strongest on the soundtrack, she doesn't quite live up to expectations brought forth through her Xenosaga II works. Most of her in-game tracks are mediocre at best and a lack of experience is clearly seen in those works. While there are a few exceptions in every category, overall this soundtrack doesn't overly impressive. In fact, it barely impresses me. There are only a handful of tracks that I listen to anymore and I can only do that every so often. Perhaps she's learned from this recent experience and any future video game she works on will see an increase in in-game track development and a return of a strong emotional core in her action tracks. (7/10)

Average of Summary Scores: (6/10)