Let’s try a little experiment, shall we? I’m going to start with a YouTube video of a piece of music I really like. Given that I’ve just come off a session of Ys Origin, let’s make it a piece from Ys Origin. After that I’m going to see where the Related Videos take us, and we’ll go on a little journey. I’ll try and give a bit of useless trivia for each track.
To give things a bit of variety (though I’m not promising quite how much!) I’ll pick the first Related video that isn’t 1) a Recommendation for me based on past viewing and 2) from the same game, movie, whatever as the previous one.
Ready? Here we go.
This is the theme that plays in the final area of Ys Origin, and I particularly like it because it uses one of my favourite soundtrack techniques: making use of the main theme in a different way to how it sounded originally. When used in a finale sequence, as it is here, it gives the whole thing a nice feeling of “closure” — or at least of approaching the end, anyway.
To put it more simply, effective use of this technique can get you seriously pumped for the final battle. And Ys Origin certainly does it well.
I haven’t played Ys: The Oath in Felghana yet, but it’s probably next up after I finish with Ys Origin. As such, this is the first time I’ve heard this piece, and I’m pleased to hear that it has Falcom’s distinctive prog rock-inspired sound about it. While I don’t really know a lot about prog rock itself, I do like the sound of music inspired by it, and it seems there are a number of Japanese groups that do it very well — Falcom’s sound team being one. (Nobuo Uematsu’s bands The Black Mages and The Earthbound Papas are some others, though they do arrangements of game music rather than directly soundtracking games for the most part.)
Unsurprisingly, YouTube is taking us on a distinctly Ys-ian journey. Again, I haven’t played this game, so it’s my first time hearing this track, and initial impressions are good. Again, it has the melodic rock sound to it, but it also makes use of some violin melodies, which I often find sound really nice in the context of instruments you might not typically associate violin with. Other examples of this being done well include its combination with electronic instruments in Final Fantasy XIII’s main battle theme, and as part of a distinctly modern-sounding pop ensemble in Omega Quintet’s two battle themes.
Yet another Ys I’m yet to get to, and I know I have at least a couple of friends who count this soundtrack among their favourites. The timbre of this one’s soundtrack is a little “cleaner” and perhaps more artificial-sounding; there’s certainly some synthesised brass going on, but the guitars and solo violins sound fairly convincing.
The slightly more artificial sound of the music is presumably down to Ys VI being an earlier release than Oath in Felghana and Origin, and Falcom’s sound team still refining and developing their sound with new tech and capabilities.
We’ve escaped the Ys series! And we find ourselves involved with another Japanese video game company’s internal sound team that is world-renowned as being Rather Good. In this case, we’re with Gust, developers of the Atelier and Ar Tonelico series, both of which have simply lovely soundtracks.
This particular piece is from one of their slightly lesser known games, Mana Khemia, which is often regarded as part of the Atelier series due to its thematic and mechanical similarities.
And speaking of Atelier, here’s a track from one of the more recent ones. It very much sounds like the distinctive sound Gust has put together for the Atelier series over the last few installments, featuring prominent use of traditional “folk-style” instruments such as harmonica and penny whistle.
I’m also a big fan of this track’s title.
Staying with Atelier and moving forwards in time, this is from Escha and Logy, a game I don’t know a lot about but know is reasonably well regarded in the Atelier canon. There’s a pretty cool guitar solo in the middle of this track, too.
And we’re up to the most recent Atelier game, Atelier Sophie, and a track with a pretty magnificent rhythm guitar part. There’s also a hint of Nights of Azure in there with the prominent use of harpsichord/clavichord. In fact, this whole track wouldn’t be out of place in Nights of Azure.
YouTube agrees. Nights of Azure was a really great game that I enjoyed a lot, and a big part of that was due to its wonderful soundtrack, also the product of Gust’s sound team, but clearly heavily inspired by Michiru Yamane’s work on the older Castlevania games. This sort of Gothic rock is perfectly fitting with the game’s fast action and overall tone, and contrasts nicely with the more gentle music used in its story sequences.
Let’s do two more, or we’ll be here all night. This one’s from Megadimension Neptunia V-II, a game which I’m sure you already know I liked a whole lot. This particular track was one of my favourites due to its heavy use of some distinctly retro-sounding synthesisers, which brought to mind a few things: the synthesised music of Sega Mega Drive/Genesis games, and the once-fashionable .MOD format of digital music, which effectively used short, digitised samples as “notes” on a virtual synthesiser-sequencer and allowed those who knew what they were doing to put together multi-track compositions.
Eternal Sonata was an extremely peculiar concept for a game in that it’s an RPG based around the noted Romantic composer Frederic Chopin. In keeping with that, the soundtrack has a distinctly Romantic feel to it, with authentic orchestral instruments used to give the music a very different feel to more obviously “gamey” pieces. The game also used some of Chopin’s work directly in its soundtrack.