Game Music, Reviews

THE ALLIANCE ALIVE Original Soundtrack (Review)

March 27, 2018 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook THE ALLIANCE ALIVE Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Last year, Hamauzu composed another soundtrack to an RPG – this time, called The Alliance Alive. The game contains the same development team as those who were behind The Legend of Legacy, which Hamauzu also composed for.

For the Legend of Legacy, Hamauzu used his distinct impressionist style throughout – which ended up being mostly percussion-heavy and ambient music. Not that it was at a fault though, since it was done rather well, and there were a few killer tracks on there such as “Double Dimension Battle”.

Can the soundtrack to Alliance Alive compare? Let’s find out.

I was waiting in anticipation for a soundtrack release of The Alliance Alive. Initially, I was going to play the game myself because it looked very well made – but I don’t have a 3DS. Instead, I settled with listening to the soundtrack, which I’ve already listened to about 20 times over. Why? Because I am a Hamauzu fanatic. When I heard he would be composing for the game, I watched every trailer intently and when the soundtrack preview released, I couldn’t wait any longer!

I think you already know the answer that this is a good soundtrack. But it’s not based purely on my infatuation with Hamauzu; I admit it does have some faults – but it ended up being addictive to listen to. For the first track, it’s appropriately titled “Main Theme ~ Understanding”. It’s very striking. It’s complete with the style Hamauzu is known for: loud violin, glitchy electronic effects, and rich strings – all nicely packaged up into a near 2 minute track. If you ask me, while most of the tracks on the OST lend well to out of context listening, I believe it’s best listened to with headphones. There’s a lot packed into these songs which you might miss.

For example, the faint plucky guitar in “Rainy World” – the first track of which is used for one of the “realms” in the game, which seem to be these huge expanses that act as the different overworlds. The tracks for the realms always end with “World” (WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY, anyone)? Their long playtime is good for in-game purposes, since these tracks will play during battle (from what I’ve seen in the demo). Good sound decision.

As for the next track after it, “Guild”… I’m still not sure what to think of this one. I like it, but it fails to grasp a direction and melody.
Also another blunder on the soundtrack, “Council of War”, is very boring – however it’s accompanied by a laid-back orchestra. This makes a good time to talk about the performers!

While many tracks on here evoke the feeling of a full orchestra, Hamauzu said that he only used a few performers – then overlaying them to create that rich feeling in his music that he’s known for. Personally, I’m still saddened about the absence of Mina and Benyamin Nuss… However, Hamauzu did a good job in keeping the sound quality consistent with his other releases.

“Sealed Museum” deserves mention for being just so fitting for the location and peaceful. Then we’ve got “Premonition”, which employs some deep pads and clacking – quite different for Hamauzu.

But, most notably of all, “Divided World” is incredibly uneasy, and channels the styles used for WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY‘s “Ex World of Battle” which, if you didn’t know, is downright creepy – “Divided World” is the return of the Hamauzu that is known for his dark, deep and brooding compositions; reprising the main theme into a desperate fashion.
I think it fits the game’s setting, and initial scenario very well! It just makes me want to play the game more.
Also, I’ve noticed that Hamauzu tends to use “World” many times in his track titles…

Cue the next ambient track “Lost Light”, which is quite reflective and sad. Again, this fits the game’s disparity between light and dark rather well. I feel that Hamauzu really cared for the source material in these compositions. Bravo!

Breaking the silence, “Disturbance” is probably the game’s boss theme – and my goodness! This is perhaps the best track on the soundtrack. It also feels quite full, despite only a few performers being present.

Then we’ve got Ayane Hamauzu’s compositions, which is Hamauzu’s daughter. She does a very good job of sounding like her father.

“The Noble and the Butler” is probably the most-developed track on here, and honestly I didn’t expect that she’d do a fantastic job of it.
It’s really quite surprising; I hope she joins with him in later works.

I looked her up on VGMdb, and apparently she performed in FINAL FANTASY XIII’s soundtrack (I had no idea about that one), and the first work she did was contributing to the choir of FINAL FANTASY VII’s ADVENT CHILDREN soundtrack – at the age of 3!

Moving on, let’s talk about the other composition she did in this album, which is “Hot Spring”! Much like “The Noble and the Butler”, this track is laid back and makes great background music for whatever you’re doing.

Back on to Hamauzu, aside from the funky “Clockwork City Gearlock”, “Fiery World” has always failed to make an impression on me throughout my (approximately) 20 times of listening to this album. Some may like it, some may not. It just gets repetitive. A later track on the album, “Blue Oasis”, also suffers from a lack of development and repetitiveness.

“Junkyard” is even worse, aside from hearkening back to the sound of “Snow’s Theme” from FINAL FANTASY XIII, it’s in the background and there’s nothing particularly of note in there.

But “Battle Encounter” is hear to pick up the slack! I’m not sure if this is used on regular encounters, or certain battles (I mean, it is titled like that…), but the way that it is written – you would think it would get annoying quickly due to it’s ostinato, but it doesn’t! There’s a lot of strange sounds here, but that’s why I love it!

This shows that Hamauzu has still got some creativity left in him.

Probably the closest to the sound of FINAL FANTASY XIII-2, “Determination” uses grunge elements accompanied by flutes – before flourishing into strings, then returning again. My description makes it sound very specific, but in reality it’s not an incredibly interesting piece of music. Continuing on the FFXIII-2 trend, “Pandemonium” is something that I can fall asleep to. The track sounds like it would be used for an underwater location.

Another boss theme, “Combined Destiny”, really hits brings forward the game’s tagline: “A Resistance is Born in The Alliance Alive“. It’s incredibly energetic, full of force, and everything kinda goes crazy. Very nice.

“Prison World” is… something. Hamauzu literally uses a distorted police siren in this track, I mean – I like the bass, but my ears begin to hurt after a while. There are bits that are like though.

“Prison Street” and “Catacombs” are both piano-heavy compositions that are not terribly interesting, the latter making me bored – perhaps the feeling he intended to invoke.
While we’re at it, “Tower of Judgement” falls under the generic, mood setting BGM category – with not much going for it. “Tower of Judgement” falls under the same trap of repetition. The same can be said for “Defense Fortress” – which is incredibly sparse.

“Force Gear Battle” is quite reminiscent of “Eidolons” from FINAL FANTASY XIII. Much like “Divided World”, it repeats the main theme in a desperate manner.

Continuing on, “Departure” is my favorite track from the album. It’s very listenable, and contains lot’s of IMERUAT-like effects.
It makes a great precursor to the battle theme of the game – “Ignition”.

If you were like me, following the trailers a lot, Ignition was played many times. It may have been one of the first tracks Hamauzu wrote for the game. The fan reaction to this song was mostly “wow this sounds a lot like FINAL FANTASY XIII!”.

Well, for my opinion, I believe that “Ignition” is right up there with “Blinded by Light” for some of Hamauzu’s best tracks.

Yes, it’s got the violin (performed by Hijiri Kuwano, of course) and the characteristic chord progression. It’s simple, but beautiful!My favorite part is when the bass drops. It’s a crime that is only looped once!

After another victory fanfare, “Penguin” is a catchy track. Led by piano, it’s peppy and adorable.

“Snowy World” continues the trend of realm themes. None of the realm themes compare to “Rainy World”, though!

“Shiramine Castle”, is a great mood-setter for nearing the conclusion of the game. It’s decisive, straight forward – and definitely gives you that feeling of climbing to the top.

“Council Hall” just seems unfitting, but I haven’t played the game – so I don’t know what it’s used for exactly. Despite it being drowned in ambience, I actually like this track. I’m not sure if others can say the same. It’s nice and calm.

“Battle Game” picks up the pace again, with a guitar this time – I like it. It’s less chaotic than I thought it would be, and ends up being quite characteristic. Sometimes it’s hard to describe that styles that Hamauzu employs, so you’ll have to listen to yourself and see.

Additionally, “Banquet” and “Flight”, have an exceptional feel to them. You can tell Hamauzu was spending lots of time making these.
The latter especially sounding like it just came from WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY with it’s violin, and progression.

Speeding things up, “Air Battle” has some great pads. The same can be said for the latter half of “Rainbow Pillar”, and the entirety of “Demon Den”.

“Heart of Forgiveness” and “Battle with the Four Villains” are both alternative versions of “The Rainy City Svarna”, and “Divided World” respectively. Because of this, there’s not much to talk about as not much has changed.

Keeping in the same vein as “Air Battle”, “New Order Declaration”, is almost dance like. It’s got some killer pads, percussion, and really makes you think about how the “Alliance Alive” came together.

For the final boss theme, I am pleased to report that it is on-par with Hamauzu’s latest final boss themes.

When I was watching the documentary of Hamauzu in the making of Alliance Alive, I saw this performed in sections throughout the video. Because of this, it is clear that Hamauzu spent the most time with the track during music production.

It’s no “Nanscent Requiem”, but it will scratch that itch well enough! I must say that Hamauzu did an exceptional job with the performers and sound layering.

Finally, “The Alliance Alive”, is a fantastic guitar arrangement of “Main Theme ~ Understanding” and “Ignition” – arranged and performed by none other than Tori Tabei himself!

Well, I believe it’s time to summarize my mammoth of a review. The soundtrack to Alliance Alive is well worth getting if you’re a Hamauzu fan and know what to expect. If you’re not, then perhaps a few tracks will stand out to you. Masashi Hamauzu has shown once again that he is one of the best video game music composers out there. With listenable melodies, interesting styles, top-notch use of performers and orchestras – and a bit of electronica on the side – he has got what it takes for any project. No doubt his time with IMERUAT has charged his creativity.

You can get the album from MONOMUSIK’s International Shop.

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