Game Music

Review: Hiroki Kikuta in Concerto… Encore Please?

July 22, 2008 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Review: Hiroki Kikuta in Concerto… Encore Please?on Twitter

Square Enix? MMORPG? Yes, but it’s not out quite yet! The closed beta for Concerto Gate just began in the United States on July 1, 2008. While the game looks amazing, I was most excited to hear Hiroki Kikuta would be writing music for the game. While Kenji Ito and Hiroki Kikuta tag-teamed the soundtrack, Kikuta recently published his portion of the soundtrack on his personal record label, norstrilia. Titled CONCERTO ~The extraordinary world of Concerto Gate~, the album features 13 tracks that Kikuta composed for the game as well as two original pieces.

I’m pleased to report that this is definitely some of Kikuta’s best work. Whether you enjoy his upbeat tracks from his work on Seiken Densetsu or the serious style that manages to capture the imagination, it’s all here, and the sound quality is fantastic. There are even a couple surprises including tracks that bring Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work to mind!

Read the full review after the jump!

The sound quality here is actually on par with Soukaigi, which says a lot given the huge budget for that title that allowed for a lot of live instrumentation. Overall, the album retains Kikuta’s personal style that many, including myself, have come to love.

The opening track is an original track not featured in Concerto Gate. Titled “Ouverture,” it begins with descending harps and bell trees, producing an Asian-influenced sound right from the start. From there, a mellow piano melody that is both beautiful and thoughtful enters. Majestic strings come in later, introducing a melody similar to that of his iconic “Fear of the Heavens” from Seiken Densetsu 2.

The second track, “Vivace” sports a distinctly Kikuta sound with belltones and pizzicatos voicing a playful and upbeat melody. The music seems to always be on the move, with several different melodies going on at once, harmonizing together perfectly. Another similar track is “Leggero,” a sticky-sweet track that really takes me back to some of Kikuta’s older works. “Mormorando” and “Misterioso” on the other hand take a contemplative approach, pairing flutes with belltones, providing a more melancholy atmosphere.

“Soave” features a beautiful interplay between strings and belltones. It’s a bright piece of music that demonstrates Kikuta’s style while taking his sound to the next level in terms of quality. Many of Kikuta’s recent works have featured a dated sound, which, although stylistic decisions, left many wondering if Kikuta had fallen behind the times. It’s great to hear Kikuta keeping up with the technology unlike some other great composers from Japan who seem to be falling behind.

Breaking the mold, “Sonoro” starts with an unsettling harp, belltone, and flute orgy before marching snares come in. A tense string progression ensues, taking on somewhat of a regal tone with brass near the end of the piece. Regarding the Sakimoto influence I mentioned above, “Ostinato” is the track that people are talking about. The marching pace, strong string section, and constant string stabs lend a lot of energy to the piece, creating a basis for the comparison to Sakimoto.

My favorite track on the album is “Selvaggio,” taking a nod from Seiken Densetsu 2’s “One of Them is Hope” with a chaotic piano progression with a desperate string and horn section. Just as “One of Them is Hope” is the prelude to a final battle, I get the same impression from “Selvaggio.” Despite the pain-tinged nature of the piece, it still contains a distinct beauty.

The final track, “Coda,” is another original, opening with ominous bell tolls before deep pianos and a heavy string section hit like a hammer. Some woodblock percussion acts as a nice accent as the piece transitions into a moving string progression that is once again reminiscent of Sakimoto’s epic style.

I can’t help but be impressed with this album. I recommend ordering it from Amazon Japan if you are able, as it truly provides the Kikuta experience we’ve all been waiting for. I can’t wait until this game is released so that I can hear the music in-game.

Is this Kikuta’s triumphant return to Square Enix? While it’s unlikely, it’s great to see his name associated with such a large title. Let’s hope the best for Kikuta and his label, norstrilia, as I’m certain we’re going to see even more great releases from him in the future.

Any fans of Kikuta out there? While Seiken Densetsu 2 is his most popular score, does anyone really dig something more obscure?

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