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Ar tonelico II Original Soundtrack :: Review by Marc

Ar tonelico II ~The Girls' Metafalica That Echoes to the World~ Original Soundtrack Album Title: Ar tonelico II ~The Girls' Metafalica That Echoes to the World~ Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-10027/8
Release Date: October 10, 2007
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


A year and a half after Ar tonelico's original release, its sequel, Ar tonelico II, made its way to the market in fall 2007. Now the middle child in the musical trilogy, how does its soundtrack fare? Once again, the GUST Sound Team, comprised of Akira Tsuchiya, Ken Nakagawa and Daisuke Achiwa, go for a fusion of organic and inorganic sounds to portray the new world featured in the new game. How do they succeed?


The opening and ending vocals are fantastic, as seems to be the developing custom for the series. "Singing Hills ~Harmonics FRELIA~," the second game's version of the original melody, once again features Akiko Shikata's vocals, and has a longer, more developed opening before entering the meat of the song at about the halfway point. It certainly makes the song seem shorter, but as soon as the familiar melody is heard, the listener can't help but crack a smile of familiarity. The track is excellently developed and multilayered, helping to forward the organic feel felt on the soundtrack. The ending theme, "EXEC_with.METHOD_METAFALICA/.," is just as long as the first game's similarly placed epic, but this time forgoes the vocals of Noriko Mitose, to mesh better with the game's plot. The result is a song that, while the vocals, here provided only by Akiko Shikata and Haruka Shimotsuki, don't feel as brilliantly meshed together, still manages to impress on a multitude of levels thanks to excellent orchestration and melody. It serves as a dramatic and ultimately enjoyable finale to the middle title of the trilogy.

Similar to its predecessor, a large component of the Ar tonelico II Original Soundtrack contains spoken words used as motifs in different places. See "Start Up," which showcases the return of the tagline "I shall give you endless courage," now a staple of the franchise. The title of the game is also spelled out in this track, this time featuring both O's noticeably absent from its former incarnation. Both motifs are revisited in "A Secret Meeting at Midnight," a delightful track, featuring a good mix of vocals besides those already mentioned, including some innocent "la's" and "fu fu's", that really just serve to relax the listener. "Let's Go by My Pace" is a very lighthearted, bouncy track, that is both quite fun and relaxing to listen to, helped by its sparse use of "la's" near its beginning.

There is monotonic recital of seemingly random letters in the alphabet near the end of "Forest of Rebirth". This surprisingly does not clash with the calming Celtic sound developed throughout the entire track. It makes the track sound exotic, and helps what might have been an otherwise ordinary forest theme stand out. "Preparations for Rebirth" utilizes similar voicework, but the track is much more laid back, with a very pleasing melody on a woodwind, backed by simple instrumentation on the harpsichord, soon morphing into a short piano solo. At one point, a robotic voice is heard that transitions into meaningless static. The effect is well done and ambient.

The main theme of the game is heard initially in "Legend of Ar Tonelico II ~The Second Tower~". It is precluded by a recitation of the now familiar monotone tagline, a beautiful calming flute section, and some curious electronic vocals. Before long the track proper begins, and the result is a theme that works better than that heard in the first title. It manages to be epic without going over the top, and excellently demonstrates the game's world in musical form. The choir is discreet enough to not overstay its welcome, and only enhances the rest of the piece. This same melody is heard in the game's two world map themes. "A Small Journey" feels much more organic thanks to its use of pitched percussion and accordion, as well as the soft, calming voice provided by Noriko Mitose. "The Second Tower" meanwhile which sounds nearly identical to the portions of the track from which its theme is culled.

The nomenclature of the different 'Pattern' denoting the pieces that play inside the varying heroine's cosmospheres. Each represent two facets of three different basic songs, the first being more peaceful while the latter sounding more harangued, with each featuring vocals performed by the vocalist responsible for each of the three characters' songs in the game. "Love Pattern ~Spring~," performed by Akiko Shikata, has a bit of an electronic feel brought about by varying beeping noises, layered intelligently over a more organic, melodic bedrock. The vocal work is top notch, and matches the gradually developing, constantly gripping melody, reaching a satisfying culmination. "Love Pattern ~Winter~," by contrast, sounds somewhat restrained. The instrumentation and percussion is much more electronic, and the melody has a greater touch of dramatics. The track never really develops though, at least not as brilliantly as its sister.

Battle tracks, while fortunately lacking the awkward vocals found in the game's predecessor, are sparser in their presence. They lack somewhat in their presentation, with the truly great battle tracks relegated to the Hymmnos albums. The game's initial main battle theme, "Varna," is perhaps the greatest of the bunch. The percussion is efficient, but the melody seems almost drowned out and paler, the whole track feeling oddly derivative. The boss battle theme, "Vrtra," is far more interesting with its Asiatic tone and pounding percussion, but ultimately fails to develop in a satisfying manner, the percussion becoming unfortunately grating after a period. "Agni" is written in a similar style to "Varna," being slightly more electronic in feel and accompanied by a choir, but once again feeling derivative; nevertheless, the latter half picks up the pace and is rather enjoyable, featuring a pleasant melody and a bit of fun piano work on the side. "Indra," the final normal battle theme of the game, also presents a more Asiatic tone after an interesting beginning, but fails to become interesting until its more respectable second half.

The other songs are sung by Haruka Shimotsuki and Noriko Mitose. "Dream Pattern ~Light~," featuring voicework by Shimotsuki, is more melodic, and somewhat more interesting, though this benefit is offset by its disappointing length. Its ending is lackluster, the latter third being a vacuous sounding, though enjoyable, mostly a capello affair. Its opposing track, "Dream Pattern ~Shadow~," is delightfully heinous, opening with wicked sounding vocals and a menacing sitar. The flute and sitar swap the melody throughout, the vocals consistently almost frightening to hear, with the entire track imbued with an electronic vibe over its original feel. "Flower Pattern ~Illusion~" is extremely sparse on the vocals provided this time by Noriko Mitose. The track sounds extremely typical of a dating sim, matching its location in the game perfectly, but a little offsetting considering the otherwise serious nature of this particular group of tracks. It's pleasant and peaceful, though a bit too much so. "Flower Pattern ~Reality~" is a much more expected, and enjoyable, affair. Noriko Mitose's voice is much more prominent, and lends a very nice villainous feel to a haunting, dramatic track.

There are numerous more emotional additions to the soundtrack too. "Unspoken Feelings" seems like a very typical, albeit enchanting, sad theme. At the halfway point, however, the song literally breaks out into a more dramatic, yet not overdone, section that is absolutely delightful to hear. It's unfortunately quite short, yet utterly spellbinding during its brief stay. "Emotions" has naught but a calming effect on the listener, featuring a soft, subdued choir that really does have the potential to touch one's emotions when the strings and bells gracefully and discreetly enter the mix. "Waltz of the Gears" develops excellently, though it does not seem to head in an interesting direction at first listen. Yet, near its end it really livens up into a greatly enjoyable romp. It's unfortunate that this track ends as quickly as it does, as it has the potential to really be quite spectacular.

There are a few very specific tracks that I would be remiss not to mention. "The Priestess of Fate" is an extremely enjoyable listen with is pleasant, almost classical sounding instrumentation. It develops rather well, and the flute is delightfully peaceful. "Chindon March," one of the overly goofy themes of the game, really works quite well. It certainly has nerve-wracking potential, but once the main melody starts, the listener can't help but feel that he is listening to one of the most profound carnival melodies that he or she has ever heard. "God's Footprints" is the game's beautiful final dungeon theme, opting for a grandiose, overwhelming feel rather than the oft-seen heavy rock type track typically reserved for this type of situation. The track is hopeful, yet not overburdening, and sets an excellent stage for the finale. "Warmth" is an excellent track to use to end the instrumental tracks on the album. It's calming and befits its namesake.

Tacked onto the end of the first disc is a collection of the various song magic heard in the game's battles. While these don't impress terribly much, there is no real detrimental effect due to their presence. I'm glad they're included for completionist purposes, and they are certainly interesting to pore through.


I honestly would like to give this album a perfect score, but, while it is ultimately a better overall effort than its predecessor and the best score I've heard from the GUST Sound Team yet, it still feels somewhat lacking. Perhaps it is the short length of most of the tracks, or that none in particular stand out to a remarkable degree. It is very much a worthwhile purchase, and a necessary one for fans of the Ar Tonelico I Original Soundtrack or the team's other efforts in general, but I hope the reader will forgive me to not call this work an outright masterpiece.

Overall Score: 9/10