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Ar tonelico III Original Soundtrack :: Review by Marc

Ar tonelico III ~The Girls' Song Which Triggers the End of the World~ Original Soundtrack Album Title: Ar tonelico III ~The Girls' Song Which Triggers the End of the World~ Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-10044/5
Release Date: January 27, 2010
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


The Ar tonelico III Original Soundtrack marks a break with its predecessors, as, for the concluding chapter of the trilogy, the GUST Sound Team finds itself entirely changed. Daisuke Achiwa is nowhere to be found, Akira Tsuchiya composes only a single track, and only Ken Nakagawa remains as a major contributor. He shares composing duties with Kazuki Yanagawa and HIR, both newcomers to the series. As for the vocals, Haruka Shimotsuki once again takes on a major role, Rekka Katakiri replaces Noriko Mitose, and Akiko Shikata is found sparingly throughout. Do the team's efforts draw a satisfying conclusion to the series started five years prior? Can the new composers effectively convey the well-known Gust sound fused with the futuristic world of Ar Tonelico?<


Ken Nakagawa's contributions are generally quite similar to his previous efforts. "M.S.G.Y.E.C." should be an instantly recognizable track to anyone familiar with the series music. Continuing on the tradition of the now familiar adage, "I shall give you endless courage," and the spelling out of the series' moniker, this track presents the technological side of the game's universe quite successfully, with this variation of the expected track being the most interesting of the three. This piece is immediately followed by Nakagawa's presentation of the main/world map theme for Ar tonelico III, "Azure Lands." This piece is not as instantly likeable as the previous two themes, despite being somewhat more melodically complex. Nevertheless, the track does grow on the listener, with its second melody being especially memorable. This melody is found again in "Memory of Tower," simplified for a single, mallet-based instrumenntt The track, however, is short, and just repeats the melody before fading away. HIR also arranges this melody, in "All Things in Nature," creating a more heavy-handed, epic approach. It does seem to lose a quality found in its gentler, more innocuous counterparts, though thankfully the melody is allowed to shine through.

"Village of the Windmills" is the typical 'first town' track found in so many JRPGs. Its presentation here breaks no new ground, though the use of glockenspiel to carry the melody initially is interesting, as is the percussion which gives off the atmosphere of a bustling, yet ultimately quiet town. "Big Fang Road" sounds very reminiscent of past Ar Tonelico works, though the percussion gives off a slightly more technological feel. Hearing the sidhe is always a nice touch, though it doesn't play a terribly major role. The track doesn't quite seem to reach the lofty heights of similarly styled tracks presented in previous titles, however. Kanagawa also contributed the four, entirely unnecessary "Merk" themes. Each sounds nearly identical to the last, though variations can be noted when they are listened back to back, should the listener be prepared to embark on such a task. They aren't bad, but the overall idea — synth mixed with Shimotsuki's and Katakiri's chanting of random Japanese phrases and spelling out the game's title — does get old.

The "Signpost of Memories" tracks, played for one of the heroine's cosmospheres, are delightful and varied, as is to be expected of these tracks. "Signpost of Memories ~ The First," is pleasant, opening with a charming little movement on the piano. There are slightly darker overtones meshed with Haruka Shimotsuki chanting brief "nya's," the onomatopoeia for the sounds that a cat makes in Japanese. These "nya's" are found interspersed in nearly every song that has a connection to one of the game's heroines, for instance, "Signpost of Memories ~ The Second," the expected heinous, sinister arrangement of the preceding, which is discordant in places and features a fantastic, villainous violin in others. Shimotsuki also contributes the "nya's" (as well as the rest of the chorus) to the main theme of that heroine, "Conceited yet Humble," curiously also a slight arrangement of the game's main theme. Nowhere else can the "nya's" be found so conspicuously as in "Nyamo's Song," one of Akiko Shikata's two contributions, to which she also provided the vocals. This song is quite delightful, though is overly bubbly and would not be to everyone's tastes. Shikata's other piece featured, "Rainbow-colored Crayon," is simultaneously one of the simplest and greatest pieces on the album. Being a music box solo, it's fantastic how much life Shikata brings out with an utterly enchanting melody that builds to a greatly enjoyable finale. It's only real flaw is its length, ending just as it gets good.

HIR is the most underrepresented composer on the album, somewhat fortunately. Most of his tracks are somewhat dull, and more ambient in nature. They work well in the game, but fail to make an impression outside. "LAB" describes an ominous laboratory environment rather well with building electronica, but never quite reaching a satisfying conclusion. The following track, "The Land Resonates," can best be described as 'plodding.' "On a Night Filled with Shooting Stars" is HIR's best original contribution, featuring piano, with soft strings in the background. This track is ambient too, but brings out the composer's strengths in ways his other tracks can't quite seem to. It's peaceful and not overly dramatic, and describes its namesake perfectly. "A Heart Beating Faster" also avoids the slow, plodding downfall that marks so many of HIR's other pieces, being a heart-pumping and active cue. It's not particularly notable, besides breaking the mold that the composer otherwise sets for himself.

Kazuki Yanagawa contributed the most to the album, both a blessing and a curse. Some tracks, such as "Restraint," are rather painful to listen to, with highly discordant, unpleasing sounding violins and an abrasive, bellowing brass section. Fortunately the song ends quickly, but the reader is urged to imagine it looping in the game itself. Like the previously mentioned, most of Yanagawa's contributions are the varying event music, and not all are so dreadful. "A Gap in the Heart" is one such example, though it ends up quite a bit over-melodramatic for my tastes. "Pan of Age," however, the theme for the game's third heroine, is really quite remarkable. It features a sort of sweeping synth paired with curious and addictive percussion and interspersed, meaningless vocals. The second melody is very enjoyable. "Big Fang Cave," Yanagawa's only dungeon theme, is also enjoyable, but its organic nature feels forced. The percussion seems overly silly with the constant 'boing' noises, and the melody, when it appears, is only faintly interesting.

Yanagawa composed the cosmosphere themes for one of the game's heroines the "Strange Play" tracks, and these too feel like imitative husks compared to earlier, similar themes. "A Strange Play ~ The First," with vocals by Haruka Shimotsuki, is neat, but not particularly endearing. The scattered static noises and music box help give it an air of its own, but it ends up repeating the same quickly tiring and never terribly impressive melody until its departure. "A Strange Play ~ The Second" fares slightly better, due to being slightly more interesting, thanks to its funky percussion and instrumentation. It's still the same melody, and doesn't feel like a proper cosmosphere theme, being somewhat too experimental, but on its own it manages to stand strong. "A Strange Play ~ The Third," breaking from the established tradition somewhat by being a third arrangement of a cosmosphere theme, falls somewhere in between the somewhat more subdued nature of the first and the sinister nature of the second. This one is a bit more upbeat than the other two, while still showing a more heinous side. It also serves as a curious ending for the album.

Yanagawa also composed the three normal 'battle' tracks, "EXEC_HYMN_BATTLESPHERE/.#Saki extracting," "EXEC_HYMN_BATTLESPHERE/.#Finnel extracting," and "EXEC_HYMN_BATTLESPHERE/.#Tilia extracting," the first featuring vocals by Haruka Shimotsuki, the second by Rekka Katakiri, and the third featuring both. I put the word 'battle' in quotations to highlight the fact that these are not strictly the battle themes heard in game, as the user has the choice to mix and match different ten second melodies to their liking through the battle scenes. Whereas in the game, the result is never more than a theme comprised of four sections that change throughout the battle, only ultimately changeable at predestined locations, here the tracks are presented as a 'best of' compilation. There are highly experimental, and really don't sound much like battle tracks at all, constantly changing and never having a defining melody or theme. Despite this, they are worth a listen, and their constantly changing nature makes them hold one's interest for their duration. Unfortunately, the nature of the game makes these the only battle tracks found on this album, with the differing and numerous boss battle themes found only on the Hymmnos albums.

Concluding each disc are collections of short, not terribly necessary melodies that wouldn't fit right anywhere else, all composed by Yanagawa. The first disc features short, 20 second musical cues played at specific moments in battle, somewhat similar to the tracks found in a similar location on the Ar tonelico II Original Soundtrack. The second disc concludes (besides for the aforementioned curiously placed "A Strange Play ~ The Third~" with Yanagawa's NES styled arrangements of several of his own pieces, played in a very specific location in the game. The tracks are interesting, but ultimately what one would expect, being more a nostalgic throwback than something truly magnificent. The absence of these tracks wouldn't be missed, but I suppose it's nice to know that a complete tracklisting is present, regardless. <

Akira Tsuchiya's only contribution, "Singing Hills ~Harmonics TILIA~" is perhaps his best rendition of the main series theme yet, once again featuring vocals by Akiko Shikata. By this point in the series music, the listener can't help but nodding along with familiarity, and there are some fun melodic surprises along the way to keep it interesting. A fantastic arrangement of a song that, along with the series, will be sorely missed.


With the curious disappearance of Daisuke Achiwa and the far lessened contributions of Akira Tsuchiya, the final soundtrack to the Ar Tonelico series certainly suffers. The best tracks are composed by Ken Nakagawa, but even these aren't his best, and they are intermingled with some unimpressive pieces as well. Kazuki Yanagawa contributions are entirely hits or misses here, with some of his tracks being quite fantastic, while others leave much to be desired (including a swift triggering of the 'next' button). HIR's contributions are almost consistently underwhelming, with a few worthwhile tracks. Really, the organic atmosphere that pervaded the previous albums in the series has been diminished here, with most tracks sounding like typical dating sim — overly dramatic fluff, masked in previous outings by more sophisticated melodies and arrangements. The new composers really just try to mimic what worked, with mixed results. Overall, an enjoyable soundtrack, but far from the series' best.

Overall Score: 7/10