Game Music, Reviews

Hiroto Saitoh’s RPG Soundtrack For a Non-RPG: Cross Hermit Soundtrack (Review)

June 10, 2009 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Hiroto Saitoh’s RPG Soundtrack For a Non-RPG: Cross Hermit Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

We’ve been writing a lot about Hiroto Saitoh’s jazz and bossa nova roots in our reviews of the POWER DoLLS 1 Soundtrack Resonance and Melodia albums, but now it’s time to take a look at how he tackles traditional RPG music. But this isn’t an RPG! Patrick has informed me that it’s actually a simulation life (SLG) title with real-time battles. One might think of it as a cousin to an RPG, but the gameplay doesn’t quite fit the definition. The game’s tagline is “Pure Fantasy Realtime Strategy,” so, I guess the developers wanted to make up their own genre…? Regardless of the title’s genre though, you’ll mostly be surprised to learn that it’s not all that jazzy, and it’s rarely relaxing.

You’ll find your standard town, battle, and dungeon themes here, but each with their own ethnic flair courtesy of Saitoh. For oldschool fans, you’ll also probably dig the fact that this sounds a lot like 16-bit era music. For those who aren’t into that so much, the second disc includes arrangements of some of the game’s most memorable themes. While I don’t know anything about the story (no Wikipedia entry, argh!), the game was released in the early 2000s and apparently features lots of chicks. I guess Saitoh has a thing for games featuring predominantly ladies. Sounds like a cool guy to me!

Hit the jump for our review of Saitoh’s Cross Hermit soundtrack.

The opening theme, “Cross Hermit,” starts with a foreboding harp melody and female voices that call out like sirens into the night. It quickly transforms into an upbeat and energetic track featuring a violin, brass stabs, and an acoustic guitar with a western twang that had be thinking Wild ARMs. This is definitely a good thing in my book, but the country western influence ends with this track.

“Set Off Positively” sounds like just that: an upbeat beginning to an epic journey. Saitoh appears to be very good at capturing specific moods with his music, and this track is a perfect example. “Walking in Town” is even more positive with its use of toy percussion, insanely catchy flute melodies, and jolly, pirate-like swagger. This one will have you remembering the good ol’ 16-bit days when you didn’t have a care in the world. “Laughter in the Early Afternoon” goes even more to the extreme, bleeding so much happiness that it’d make a perfect accompaniment to the Disneyland electronic light parade.

“A Bell Tower Late at Night” features a hint of technology with whirs and electronic percussion that sound like machinery steaming and churning alongside a mischievous belltone melody. The use of the didgeridoo and ethnic chants in “Fearful Investigation of the Shrine Grounds” as well as the fat bass synths in “Severe Earthquake” are quite ominous and pretty killer. “Time for Battle” has an amazingly epic opening that sounds like something Koichi Sugiyama would write, but quickly brings in a repetitive bassline and percussion for a more traditional RPG battle approach.

“Dawn” sounds like an Italian opera with its use of a choir and contemplative harp arpeggios. It’s beautiful to say the least. The final track, “Even If We’re Far Apart” is a touching orchestral piece that moves through a number of emotions from contemplative to ecstatic, ending on an upbeat note that you’d expect from any RPG.

The arranged version is contained on disc 2, featuring 8 tracks from the original soundtrack. Oddly, the track titles on this disc don’t correspond to the original soundtrack, so it may be difficult to figure out if your favorite track made the cut or not. As far as the arrangements are concerned, they stay pretty true to the originals with only a slight upgrade in quality in terms of synths and vocal elements. I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed, as I was hoping to hear some of Saitoh’s jazz/bossa nova goodness, but given that the upgrades are still pretty unconvincing, I’d rather stick with the original version for nostalgic purposes. It’s still a nice bonus for those who want to hear a few of their favorite tracks again.

The packaging for this album is even more bizarre. The two discs come housed in a single jewel case, but there is no booklet inside. Instead, there’s a massive tome of a booklet that is wrapped together in front of the jewel case. It contains a couple pages of credits, but is mostly dedicated to a short story by Takahiro Okuda titled “Cross Hermit, extraordinary.” This is definitely a neat bonus for those we can read Japanese, but due to the fact that it doesn’t fit in the jewel case, I know this one isn’t going to play well with the other albums on our CD shelf.

Overall, I enjoyed learning more about Hiroto Saitoh’s music. He’s not a one-style kind of guy, and I was happy to see that he could add his own unique touch with what sounds like the the standard RPG formula. As far as the sound quality is concerned, this sounds like an SNES-era game, so don’t expect amazing production values (even with the arranged version), but for those of you like me who have an affinity for this sound, this shouldn’t be a problem. While there’s nothing groundbreaking here, I think fans of this style will find something to like, so feel free to check it out.

Are you at all familiar with Cross Hermit? Do you find yourself more attracted to games that feature female characters more often than not?

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