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Valkyria Chronicles 2 Exclusive Liner Notes From Hitoshi Sakimoto

September 9, 2010 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook Valkyria Chronicles 2 Exclusive Liner Notes From Hitoshi Sakimotoon Twitter

Well, as I always say, “Better late than never.” We know that while Valkyria Chronicles 2 was just released at the end of August in the United States, the game’s soundtrack (from Basiscape Records) was released all the way back in January of this year. Our review and exclusive liner notes article from the first Valkyria Chronicles was a big hit, so we thought it would be fun to follow it up with Hitoshi Sakimoto’s thoughts on the sequel.

Yes, I realize that we already published this review, but Sakimoto’s comments make a lot more sense in the context of my review, so if you’re simply interested in his comments, just jump to the boxed portions of the article after the jump!

About that main theme. It’s the opening track, and it’s an amazing one. The melody is so simple, yet so sophisticated, and most importantly, catchy! I’ve been whistling it for days. Even more, it’s recorded live with the Czech Film Orchestra, so the quality is definitely there. Brass harmonies, the patter of snare drums, and whimsical string sections fit snuggly between the epic verses. I was literally blown away, and you will be too! Fortunately this memorable melody is worked into a number of other tracks as well, which is great because I can’t get enough of it.

Sakimoto on “Valkyria Chronicles 2 Main Theme”

I don’t really remember how long it took to write the main theme, but I think it went quite smoothly. Since I was already used to this military school theme from the previous game, the basic image came up in my head at the first meeting. Whether it’s a strong melody or not should be decided by the listener, but I think it’s a good contrast with the theme of this series.

With the instantly memorable “Valkyria Chronicles 2 Main Theme,” I had completely forgotten the original Valkyria Chronicles main theme. Fortunately Sakimoto reminds us at the start of disc 2 with “Valkyria Chronicles Series Main Theme,” a powerful orchestral piece that I’m glad to see live on.

Sakimoto on “Valkyria Chronicles Series Main Theme”

Actually, we had decided to use this as the theme for the series while we were still making the first game. We weren’t sure at the time if a sequel was going to be developed or not, so I am really happy to be able to make this sequel.

It’s kind of a weird feeling listening to my old music, but when I listen to this piece, the face of Mr. Nonaka and Mr. Terada who were the producers at the time flash across my mind. It’s so nostalgic. [Laughs] I feel it grew up into a melody that expresses a view of the world of Valkyria.

This is followed up by another of my favorites, “Exciting Battle.” This gets to that signature Sakimoto sound that I promised was here. It’s fast paced, featuring steady brass notes and rolling snare to keep the tempo. There’s a crazy xylophone in the background, and super upbeat string and brass sections voice a version of the main theme that feels like it’s going to explode with energy. I guess the title is pretty fitting. Later, “Championship” features this same level of enthusiasm, and also heavily references the main theme, making it instantly likable. “Practice Battle,” on the other hand, is equally uplifting, but is much more subdued, proceeding at a walking pace and effectively easing players into battle.

Sakimoto on “Exciting Battle”

Since the main theme is used repeatedly, it needed to be recognizable even when other elements in the song were changed, which is a very important element of a theme. I think the theme of VC2 satisfies these things. Whether the theme was successfully used should be judged by the listeners, though. “Exciting Battle” is a battle piece of the game’s early stages, so it’s a cheerful and fun piece. My favorite variation of the main theme is “Spring in Lanseal.”

As time passes and seasons change in the land of Lanseal, Sakimoto provides a number of different musical interpretations of the Lanseal landscape. “Winter in Lanseal” is first, featuring triangle and jingle bells along with warm piano and strings to offer up some warmth, while “Spring in Lanseal” is appropriately refreshing with pizzicato strings, triangle, and lots of reverb to provide an open soundscape. “Summer in Lanseal” is probably the most enthusiastic of the bunch with clapping percussion and a playful woodwind melody, and “Autumn in Lanseal” is rather subdued, coming as a lullaby of sorts. “Everyday Life of the Class” is another upbeat track with a poppy bass line, rock percussion, and a meandering woodwind melody. It almost feels like there should be vocals and become an all out pop track, but some of the more serious string sections keep the piece grounded.

Sakimoto on the seasons of Lanseal

Actually, it’s a lot of fun to write music about four seasons. Basically, I thought about Japan’s four seasons and and interlaced them with the main theme and the school theme. It’s my way of saying, “It would have been fun if my school life sounded like that!” [Laughs]

There are intense battle tracks here as well. Both “The Rebel’s Assault” and “Return Battle” sport ominous string stabs, lots of crash cymbals, and bassy brass calling out from the deep. “Liberation Battle,” on the other hand, moves back and forth between hopefulness and desperation with perfect transitions. Next, “War Preparedness” doesn’t bother with the hopeful side, suggesting right out that war is a horrible thing with hard hitting tuba and rapid violin strokes that build tension.

Sakimoto on “The Rebel’s Assault” and “Liberation Battle”

Listening to them again now, the difference in style is quite clear. I’d say it’s more difficult to write pieces in the style of “Liberation Battle” because it needed to express a slightly dangerous situation for the students which required a rather delicate balance.

“Theme of the Rebels” certainly presents some internal conflict. It borders on regal with its subdued brass melody, but the repetitive snare rolls sound like they’re meant for a death procession. “Street Battle” should sound somewhat familiar, as it was one of my favorite tracks from the original Valkyria Chronicles with its explosive percussion and brass. “Close Battle” is equally powerful and moving, although I wish it were longer than just 1:44.

Sakimoto on “Theme of the Rebels”

Actually, rebels are not villains. They just have a strong one-track minds, and despite their many supporters, they lose them as they focus more intently on their agenda. It’s a situation like that. It was a complicated order for the musical piece, but I felt like it went smoother than I expected.

Sakimoto on “Close Battle”

I wrote this piece when I was producing the original Valkyria Chronicles, but it wasn’t used. As for the original intent of the piece, it was supposed to represent a tiny hope of victory after a long series of difficult battles. I think this piece fits well in those terms. Because this version was used with the animation, the music has an outro instead of a loop.

“Desert Battle” is one of my favorite battle themes with its majestic opening featuring lovely harp scales, gentle woodwinds, and bells that sound like a magical oasis, but it isn’t long before heavy percussion and powerful brass reveal the fierce battle ahead. Much later, “Mine Battle” sounds as though it has matured some, sounding somewhat mechanical as it trudges along at a steady pace. I particularly enjoy the bassy piano notes and hi-hats that lend the piece a gritty atmosphere.

Sakimoto on “Desert Battle” and “Mine Battle”

In fact, I wrote “Mine Battle” for another scene. However, only the first half of the piece worked for this particular scene, so we kept the first half and had to come up with an alternate second half.

I wrote “Desert Battle” with the image of fighting in a dust storm and catching a glimpse of the desolate Earth and sand. I think the atmosphere is perfect. I personally like it when the music lets you experience the drama of such a fight.

“Theme of Valkyria” is one of the most intense pieces on the album, featuring choir and a bombardment of brass and string stabs. One of the last battle themes, whose name I won’t reveal to avoid possible gameplay spoilers, is also quite bombastic, moving back and forth between tense sections and hopeful portions that reference the series main theme, which again is a nice touch. “Final Battle” borders on creepy with bits of synthesized choir that sounds stylistically unnatural. There is, of course, lots of hard hitting percussion and brass, and the “Valkyria Chronicles 2 Main Theme” is worked into the mix, although oppressed by heavy brass. The track nails the epic nature of this final battle, even if it’s not all that memorable.

Sakimoto on “Theme of Valkyria” and “Final Battle”

The “Theme of Valkyria” is basically the same as from the first game. I use choir quite often, and think it has a good sound by synergy with the chord interval in this piece. In fact, if I include the anime version, I have written a serious amount of music using the theme and motif of the Valkyria. “Final Battle” is the latest piece to use this motif. Because I purposely destroyed the melody concerning artificial Valkyria in this music, it is probably difficult to imagine the original melody.

To tell you the truth, I used to play percussion, so I really like building the sound of things that you hit to make sounds. It is important to know the pedigree of the musical instrument, but it isn’t necessary to consider the style when we make new music, is it?

The two closing pieces aren’t as celebratory as you’d expect. Both “Graduation” and “Farewell, My Academy” are rather contemplative piano pieces that don’t reach the positive atmosphere generated by some of the earlier tracks. The latter of the two does feature a nice piano arrangement of the Valkyria Chronicles 2 main theme, although I must admit that the piano recording on these tracks does sound a little muddy.

Sakimoto on “Graduation” and “Farewell, My Academy”

I tried to express a more heartrending or longing kind of feel rather than just plain sadness. With the joy and sense of accomplishment of a graduation ceremony, I recalled my own graduation (although it was more than 20 years ago), and wrote this piece while thinking of it. Regrading vocals, they’re not used here because the plan was to reserve vocals for the opening and ending.

Tucked away at the end of the second disc are four arrange versions of some of the most memorable pieces from the game. “Valkyria Chronicles 2 ~Arrange Version~” provides a new take on the main theme, sounding less militaristic and more pop-like. It’s much slower, featuring a gentle swing that really works well for the track. “Exciting Battle” also gets an arranged version, this time in swingin’ jazz style. It sounds completely different, but is still very enjoyable. “Practice Battle” and “Theme of Class G” are also featured, with the former taking on a “Wild West” sound, and the latter taking the Celtic route with bagpipes and a playful bass line, sounding similar to some of Yasunori Mitsuda’s work. I was quite surprised by this last one, and enjoyed it a lot.

Sakimoto on “Arrange Version” tracks

Regarding the arrangements, the orders that I gave to the Basiscape staff were to “make something that only you can make for Valkyria fans.” The direction and interpretation of the arrangements were determined by each arranger.

Valkyria Chronicles 2 is some of Sakimoto’s best work to date. There’s no denying that. He’s gone above and beyond what he was able to accomplish with the original Valkyria Chronicles, bringing back some of the most memorable themes from that game and adding new, even more memorable pieces to the mix. I really hope this leads to some projects for Sakimoto and Basiscape in the West. Just as with the first Valkyria Chronicles soundtrack, the booklet features a lot of artwork from the game. I particularly got a kick out of the cartoon versions of the staff that are provided, with Sakimoto’s cartoon version appearing as well. I highly recommend picking this one up.

Sakimoto on Valkyria Chronicle 2 and Basiscape Records

This Valkyria Chronicles 2 soundtrack is different from the original, especially in the early stages of the game where I wrote pieces to express the expectation of new challenges rather than focusing on the serious situations at hand. Because most pieces are cheerful and easily accessible, the original Valkyria Chronicles, the music from the movie, and the music from the animation all coexist rather well. I will be happy if you listen to them as well.

Regarding Basiscape Record, I’m really happy to be able to have the rights to sell soundtracks. I feel particularly happy that we’re was able to have a direct point of contact with the listeners. We will keep trying our best to produce music that everyone can enjoy, so please keep supporting us!

Were you a fan of Sakimoto’s score for the original Valkyria Chronicles? Are you looking forward to playing Valkyria Chronicles 2?

[Special thanks to Basiscape and Shota Nakama for providing translation]

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