Game Music, Reviews

Sakimoto’s Grand Absence: Grand Knights History (Review)

November 30, 2011 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Sakimoto’s Grand Absence: Grand Knights History (Review)on Twitter

Another Vanillaware game, another Basiscape soundtrack. This time, however, Hitoshi Sakimoto is out of the picture, leaving composition duties to the rest of his capable team at Basiscape, and I think everyone will be surprised by just how much the team has been able to emulate Sakimoto’s signature style.

While the game and soundtrack were released in September 2011 in Japan, regions abroad are still anticipating the game’s release, so what better time to delve into the soundtrack to see if worth your attention?

Hit the jump for more.

I’ve already noted that this soundtrack sounds a whole lot like the work of Hitoshi Sakimoto despite the fact that he didn’t write any music for the game. In terms of output, Mitsuhiro Kaneda probably has the most tracks, although Yoshimi Kudo and Noriyuki Kamikura also provide sizable chunks, with Masaharu Iwata offering only six. The music is grand in scale, treading over mostly orchestral territory in its exploration of your typical RPG settings that include various towns and battlescapes. The latter gets some more rock-oriented material, which I think fans will appreciate.

But let’s start from the top. While “Opening Theme” might not catch your attention, the “Theme of the Grand Knights” certainly will with its decisive string stabs and hefty brass. The melody is fantastic and memorable, and this is a great track to set the stage for the entire score that follows. The theme is reworked into the moving “Elegy of the Kingdom” and the reflective “Ending Theme –Ristia-“ tracks as well, bringing a lot of continuity.

Tracks involving the grand knights generally kick a whole lot of ass, including “March of the Grand Knights” which is a fun arm-swaggering march with a bit of playful air about it, while “Grand Knights of the Tempest,” as the name would suggest, is quite tumultuous and provides one of the most powerful moments on the album.

In the game, you’re able to align yourself with one of three nations, each with their own specialty in terms of magic or swordplay, and they each get the appropriate musical accompaniment. “Theme of Union” encompasses the kingdom of knights and is somewhat regal while “Theme of Avalon” covers the kingdom of magic and is more airy and angelic.

To give you more of that characteristic RPG music, “Townscape” is an instantly lovable folksy town theme that you’d have to be a bad person to dislike (really, it’s one of the best tracks on the album) along with the more defiant “Suburbs in Union.” “Exploration of Savage Land” is a powerful overworld theme with tribal percussion that contrasts with the gentle woodwind melody, reminding me a bit of The Veldt from Final Fantasy VI. “Requiem of the Kingdom” is a beautiful (although incredibly melancholy) choral piece, while “Abyss” is the obligatory epic final dungeon theme, adding distorted percussion and synth work to the brass and choir-heavy theme.

And then there are those rock-oriented battle themes I mentioned before. “Fighting Back” will come as a surprise as everything before it is more orchestral and tame in nature, but this one holds nothing back, exploding with electric guitar, intense string stabs, and rapid rock percussion. It’s honestly a lot of fun and I bet it really gets the blood pumping in-game. “Fighting Blade” gets funky with a lot of slap bass and some awesome belltone arpeggios, sounding like it would work perfectly for a Mega Man X stage theme. The octave jumping bass and moving string interlude in “Charge!!” also really hit the spot, as do the guitar solos in “Nose Bleed March!!.” The final battle theme, “Decisive Battle for the Kingdom” doesn’t take itself too seriously, starting on an epic note but working in playful interludes here and there.

I have to admit that, not having played the game, I wasn’t immediately won over by this soundtrack, but it certainly has grown on me, and I’m looking forward to hearing how some of these pieces work in the context of the game, especially when it comes to the energetic battle themes and the bubbly town theme. There’s a lot to like here, and it’s great to see Basiscape tackling projects as a team even without their fearless leader at the helm.

There is of course tons of great artwork included with the physical release in Japan along with track-by-track credits and some commentary. It can be imported via CD Japan, or alternatively, you can grab it on the international iTunes store for $19.99.

Let us know what you think about Grand Knights History and the fact that Sakimoto is letting the team fly solo this time around.

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