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Review: Tales 10th Anniversary Soundtrack Volume 1 Celebrates Birthday in Style

September 8, 2008 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Review: Tales 10th Anniversary Soundtrack Volume 1 Celebrates Birthday in Styleon Twitter

Tales of Vesperia was just released on the Xbox 360, and those who picked up the “Special Edition” got their hands on quite a snazzy package including a sleek metal casing, an art section in the instruction manual, and a commemorative audio disc that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Tales series. Titled Tales 10th Anniversary Soundtrack Volume 1, if features selections from across the Tales series, including Tales of Vesperia, Phantasia, Destiny, Symphonia and Abyss.

Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura are responsible for the music here, and if you recall, I wasn’t overly thrilled with Sakuraba’s work on Valkyrie Profile. I think some of the music here suffers from the same problem with a lack of new ideas, but there are a handful of fresh tracks, and even some that I must have missed from their respective 2 to 4-disc original soundtracks. In any event, it’s cool to see Namco Bandai Games taking notice of the music in the series.

Hit the jump to find out if this CD is worth the extra ten dollars you’ll be dishing out for the Special Edition.

The first twelve tracks are from Tales of Vesperia, and while this may sound like a lot, the original soundtrack is actually 4-discs long. Surprisingly a lot of the music here is more mellow than one would expect from Sakuraba, although I’ll admit that many of his recent scores have taken this more dynamic approach.  Perhaps he’s settling down as he gets older?

The opener, “Youthful Days,” is only a minute long, and is uncharacteristically Sakuraba with a mellow harp and flute melody that is quite beautiful. The next track, “Mach of the Brave Vesperia,” is one of those tracks that you swear you’ve heard before, as it sounds like bits and pieces of Sakuaba’s other works. It’s not bad, it’s just a little too familiar. My favorite track on the album comes next, titled “1000 Years of Slumber of the Blastia.” It features a new age feel with choir pads, belltones, and harpsichord (the best instrument ever), and is soothing and melancholy at the same time. It actually reminds me of something that I’d write, which is perhaps why I have such an affinity to it.

“Furnace of War” finally takes us into the Sakuraba that all of us know, and many of us love. Flanged electric guitars, pads, and a realistic drum set provide a convincing progressive rock experience. “Burning Fighting Spirit” follows with wailing synthesizers and organs, reminding me of Valkyrie Profile. Another track, “Fury Sparks,” is something new, featuring the “boom, tss” percussion that one typically associates with techno music alongside electric guitars and a catchy melody, sounding almost like an anime theme song or something. I really enjoyed the variety introduced by this piece. Lastly, “The Final Showdown” gets things moving with double-pedal bass drum and rapid guitar shredding, and even features these heavy string hits that sound like something right out of his work on Shining the Holy Ark.

Two tracks from Tales of Phantasia are featured, one of which is “Final Act,” which is an awesome track with laser-like synths and of course, fast percussion and guitars. There’s a part where the synths cut through the mix with an amazingly powerful melody that is highly memorable. This was a great pick. Tales of Destiny follows with two tracks as well, one of which is the standard battle theme “Bare its Fangs,” whose slow-paced progression I’ve always been a fan of, and “Silent Night + Endless Dream” which is a sweet closing to the game.

Tales of Symphonia gets four tracks, starting with the lullaby-esque “Old Familiar Scent of Iselia” with its pizzicato strings and soothing flute melodies. “Last Battle ~Decision~” is interesting due to its slow tempo. The harp sweeps and contemplative flute melody create a unique take on Sakuraba’s typically fast-paced battle themes. The final two tracks are from Tales of the Abyss, with the upbeat orchestral theme, “Wings of Hope,” and the battle track “Never Surrender,” which makes extensive use of piano.

So, overall, I’m left wondering who picked the tracks to be featured on this album. A lot of it is great, but I know there are better tracks lurking throughout the 16 CDs that the music in these games span across. However, it’s great to see Namco Bandai Games on board to support the music in the Tales series, and the fact that this is called Volume 1 suggests that perhaps there are more discs like this planned in the future. I’d recommend picking up the Tales of Vesperia Special Edition if you can find it, as the bonuses are definitely worth the extra $10.

Are you a fan of Sakurba’s work on the Tales series?  Are you surprised to find out that these five games have 16 CDs worth of music in them?

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