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Game Music

Third Time's A Charm: Sekaiju no MeiQ III (Etrian Odyssey III) Soundtrack (Review)

Third Time’s A Charm: Sekaiju no MeiQ III (Etrian Odyssey III) Soundtrack (Review)

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Well, here we are for another round with Yuzo Koshiro and the retro-inspired Etrian Odyssey RPG series. Unfortunately OSV launched shortly after the release of the second game in the series, so while we don’t have reviews of the first two games, we do have a number of reviews of the arrangement albums that have been put out for the series.  Trust me, they’re all excellent a deserve your attention.

Well, on with the star of the evening: Sekaiju no MeiQ III. Yes, it’s as good as the previous two scores, but don’t think you’ll be getting more of the same! The game apparently has a lot to do with water as far as I can tell from the track titles, and the soundscape is certainly more reflective (hah!) and less bouncy than previous outings. You’re still going to find that distinct RPG flavor that you love and have come to expect, and as usual, Koshiro has provided both the Nintendo DS and PC-88 FM versions for maximum retromazingness.

Find out what tricks Koshiro has up his sleeves for round 3 in our review after the jump!

Before I get started, I wanted to give Dag at VGMdb major thanks for translating the track titles.

Let’s start with the opening track.  “That’s the Adventure’s Opening” isn’t at all as adventurous or as uplifting as previous Etrian Odyssey openings. No, this time, you’ll start with a subdued, almost otherworldly melody that plods along cautiously. It’s definitely a different approach, but I love the gloomy atmosphere the track generates. Things get a little more adventurous with “Townscape – Engrave Thy Name,” which features march-like percussion and brassy synths in typical RPG fashion. I really enjoy the bassy chorus section, which is incredibly catchy. Next up, you’ll get your one and only taste of vintage Etrian Odyssey music in “Compensation,” which references “Battle – The the Treasure” from the original Etrian Odyssey, but it’s quite short, providing only a small taste of the Etrian Odysseys of old.

Let’s talk about the labyrinth themes, which tend to be some of the best tracks in the series. “Labyrinth I – Waterfall Woodlands” follows in the footsteps of the opening track, taking a rather subdued approach. It’s mysterious with its choir pads although there’s a hint of playfulness as the melody rhythmically skips along. “Labyring II – Water Woods of the Submarine Ridge” sounds like a dank sea cave with lots of reverb on the mesmerizing belltone progression, and bursts of sound that sneak up from time to time to give you a scare. “Labyrinth III – Brilliant Cavern” sounds like an absolutely terrible place to be, with pounding percussion, siren-like synthesizers, and a twisting progression of notes that sounds disorienting. It’s definitely a powerful piece. “Labyring V – Chalky Woods” is one of my favorite tracks on the album with its strong Asian influence. It pushes forward with its steady drum beat and bassline, working in a distinctly Asian-inspired melody that sounds like it was taken from a ninja game on the NES.

The battlefield themes tend to be another highlight in the series, and this is true for Etrian Odyssey III as well.  “Battlefield – The First Campaign” sports a particularly retro sound with constantly moving bass and a wailing synth melody.  The chorus is amazing, and the synth rock bridge section that breaks down into a crazy improvised synth line blew my socks off. “Battlefield – That Fresh Blood is Thine or the Enemy’s” goes crazy with percussion, bass, and synths, sporting an explosive, almost River City Ransom-esque sound. Oh, and a 7+ minute track, “Disturbances – The End of the Raging Waves,” is not only an intense power rock track, but is also 7:37 long, making it all the more impressive.

Both “Townscape – Between These Azure Skies and Seas” and “Townscape – Sunlit Water Surface” are jazzy town themes with a swing and lovely melodies. The former sports a belltone progression, while the latter would be right at home in a Super Mario Bros. level.  “Townscape – The City of the Deep Blue Sea” goes into new territory, exploring deep rnb with a groovy bassline, seductive synth lead, rich belltone chords, and even some snappy percussive elements. It contrasts nicely with the other town themes in that it’s rather serious, avoiding the jubilant melodies of the other town themes. “Townscape – Thousand Years” and “Townscape – The King That Lost Time” are both also quite different, sounding like lullabies with their gentle belltone melodies. The former works in these memorable bell tolls that strike like a great grandfather clock, ticking away into eternity.

There are a lot of great miscellaneous tracks that don’t fall into the above categories as well. The deliciously oldschool “Seascape – Great Voyage” features layers of catchy melody, while the appropriately titled “Scene – Cold Justice” sports a determined and resilient progression. It’s quite sophisticated with bits of melody that sound like a classical piece.

Getting towards the end, Koshiro saves the best for last with “Labyrinth VI - The Evil God in the Dark Ocean Depths.” It’s epic, it’s powerful, and it’s even a bit beautiful with its opening synth lines before harsh, bassy sounds dominant, hinting at the final battle ahead. That battle comes in the form of “Disturbances – Calling That Detestable Name” with its explosive percussion and wild synth lines that are reminiscent of Sakuraba’s improvised progressive rock tracks. The final reward is “Your Adventure Has Ended,” a soothing pop-oriented track that is a nice listen, but isn’t overly catchy or memorable.

In summary, all I can say is that this is an excellent addition to the series, taking the familiar Koshiro RPG sound and matching it to a new, darker atmosphere that I thoroughly enjoyed. Regarding the packaging, the booklet is pretty sparse, with some liner notes and track comments in Japanese, but I love the album cover and the vibrant artwork that adorns on the discs and the disc trays. There’s a whole lot of blue! The soundtrack was just released this week in Japan by 5pb. Records, and chances are Atlus will bring the game itself to the US in the near future. Now we just have to wait for the Super Arrange Version album!

Are you looking forward to Etrian Odyssey III? What do you think of the water theme and Koshiro’s stylistic departure from past installments?

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