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Valkyria Chronicles 2 Soundtrack: Sakimoto Goes West (Reviews)

February 17, 2010 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Valkyria Chronicles 2 Soundtrack: Sakimoto Goes West (Reviews)on Twitter

We’ve known for awhile that Hitoshi Sakimoto has been actively seeking out projects in the West. A couple years ago he joined Bob Rice’s artist representation firm, FBI, although we’ve yet to see him score a Western game. But wait ‘till you hear what he’s done with Valkyria Chronicles 2… you’ll think you’re hearing music for one of those World War II games, but that’s not to say it’s unoriginal.

I suppose you could say it’s similar in style to his original Valkyria Chronicles soundtrack, which we loved immensely, so much so that we asked Sakimoto to provide us with exclusive liner notes. This time it’s more military goodness, but with a much larger and refined sound. It’s still classic Sakimoto, but taken to an all new level.

Check out our review of the Senjou no Valkyria 2 Gallian Royal Military Academy​ Original Soundtrack 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

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.

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.

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 from Basiscape Records.

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

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