Game Music, Reviews

The Boys Are Back In Town: Revisiting the Tactics Ogre Soundtrack (Review)

November 8, 2010 | | 11 Comments Share thison Facebook The Boys Are Back In Town: Revisiting the Tactics Ogre Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

As you probably know, we’re huge fans of Hitoshi Sakimoto. His long career in the videogame industry has resulted in many excellent soundtracks, and while his recent efforts have focused on more Western-style compositions and collaborations with the Basiscape team, his work at Squaresoft where he was often paired with Masaharu Iwata have long been fan favorites.

That brings us to Tactics Ogre. I remember when this game was released in North America. As the game was released around the same time as Final Fantasy Tactics on the original PlayStation, I found Tactics Ogre to be a bit dated, and didn’t dig in too deep, but from the brief time I played it, I did enjoy the music. This time, Sakimoto, Iwata, and the entire Basiscape team join up to breathe new life into this classic soundtrack with the PSP remake of Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together, and if you caught our unpacking video last week, you already know it contains some surprises.

Hit the jump for our review of the Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together Original Soundtrack!

The first question that many of us had regarding this “remake” soundtrack was just how arranged would the original music be? As it turns out, the original Tactics Ogre score has been placed in good hands, as Sakimoto, Iwata, and the rest of the Basiscape team chip in to arrange the game’s entire soundtrack. What you get is something on the level of Sakimoto’s work on the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack, as I was reminded of that particular score upon hearing much of what’s here. Fans should be pleased with the quality of the arrangements, as each not only improves upon the sound quality, but also adds substantial length to many of the greatest pieces from the original Super Famicom soundtrack.

It begins with Sakimoto’s epic “Overture” before delving into a personal favorite of mine, “Fortune Teller 2.” This one is peaceful and subdued, and provides one of those “This sounds like Final Fantasy XII” moments that I mentioned above. While you will be treated to a number of heavy battle themes as this is a strategy game, mellow tracks like “Fortune Teller 2” and “Awakening” that appears later really stand out.

Other pieces that make an impression are “Prayer,” which is actually somewhat disheartening while being amazingly well composed (I’d love to hear this one live in concert), and “Notice of Death.” The latter has a fitting title for such an ominous piece of music that features a harp as one of its main instruments. It’s obvious that Sakimoto and Iwata saw these two as important pieces as well, as both are reprised later, each offering completely different messages with their unique arrangements.

It’s then to battle. Tracks like “Catastrophe” and “Air Land” immediately bring the tense battle themes that I loved from Final Fantasy Tactics to mind, while “Fight it Out!,” my favorite of the bunch, introduces a sense of urgency with an increased tempo, crash cymbals aplenty, and a steady marching snare. “Limitation” is another powerful piece, and one of the longest on the album at over 6 minutes in length. Swirling strings, ascending brass, and the quiet rumble of percussion in the background make for an intense listening experience. “Theme of Black Knight” is another key piece, bringing in Sakimoto’s full orchestral magic with hammering brass, string stabs, and somewhat majestic interludes that separate the piece’s various sections, hinting at an internal conflict. Towards the end, “Unsealed” provides a terrifying backdrop to one of the final battles in the game.

We also get a little bit of experimentation with this soundtrack. “Avilla Hanya” is one of the most interesting pieces on the album, taking on a more “futuristic” sound by adding an 80s sounding drum set with lots of reverb to the rest of the orchestral mix. “Footsteps from Darkness,” on the other hand, is comprised almost entirely of percussion, with intermittent string embellishments, creating an unsettling atmosphere, while “Blasphemous Experiment” brings a more exotic sound to the table with ethnic woodwinds, tribal percussion, and a choir. “Song of tundra” is a fantastic piece that works in bells and a strange choir pad to create an image of an icy and barren landscape.

On the lighter side of things, “Looking Back” is a sweet music box tune which later evolves into a full orchestral piece in “Deeds Writ in Stone,” while “Box of Sentiment” possesses an unsettling melody for a music box tune that is reprised in “Emotion and Absence of Mind” where it transforms with the use of orchestral instrumentation. A personal favorite of mine is “Blessed Memory” which features sweeping strings and a contemplative harpsichord line in the background, adding a rustic element to an emotionally-charged piece. Towards the end, “Coronation” acts as a welcome reward after all the ups and downs of the soundtrack, while “True Knight” acts as a closing lullaby and “Passing Moment” ends the album on the same epic note that it began.

The fourth disc is a bonus mini-disc, as you saw in our unboxing video. It contains approximately 17 minutes of music from the Super Famicom version of Tactics Ogre, and they’ve done a great job selecting some of the most important pieces from the game, including “Overture,” “Fortune Teller 2,” “Avilla Hanya,” “Limitation,” and “Theme of Black Knight,” although I missed “Notice of Death.” It’s great hearing the source material for the arrangements heard earlier on this album, and I have to admit that the mini-disc idea is definitely cool.

Having not been entirely familiar with the Tactics Ogre soundtrack, I’m glad Square Enix has released this to bring new fans around. I’m certainly more interested in the PSP remake now than I was before listening to this soundtrack, and the fact that Square Enix has put such a lovely package together and allowed Basiscape to take the soundtrack to new heights is a good indication that they’re taking this remake seriously. I recommend checking this out if you’re a fan of Tactics Ogre, if you like what you hear when playing through the remake, or if you’re simply a fan of Sakimoto, Iwata, and the Basiscape team. They’ve all done a wonderful job.

What do you think of the entire Basiscape team tackling this classic Sakimoto/Iwata soundtrack? Do you think Square Enix has done fans right with its attention to quality regarding the packaging and the arrangements?

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