Game Music, Reviews

Carving Out Its Own Destiny: SOULCALIBUR V (Review)

February 13, 2012 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Carving Out Its Own Destiny: SOULCALIBUR V (Review)on Twitter

When it was announced that an international team of composers would be scoring SOULCALIBUR V I think all of us were a little bit nervous about how it may turn out given the consistent quality of the franchise’s soundtracks over the years. Despite the names involved, I wondered to myself if composers like Hiroki Kikuta and Inon Zur could effectively capture the truly epic orchestral yet memorably melodic essence that has defined the series.

While those who picked up the collector’s edition of the game were treated to a single disc “best of” soundtrack in the US and Europe, Eminence has released the full three-disc soundtrack, including some snazzy packaging (an unboxing video to come later) and a special behind-the-scenes DVD.

But will the music do the trick for SOULCALIBUR fans? Find out in our review after the jump.

There are a lot of people involved with this soundtrack. Hiroki Kikuta, Inon Zur, Cris Velasco, Andrew Aversa, Tomoyo Miyoshi, and Junichi Nakatsuru all contribute compositions, but the Eminence Symphony Orchestra and Choir, vocalist Jillian Aversa, and a slew of other recording artists are also featured. It all adds to the overall quality of the score, which is greatly expanded from what was done with SOULCALIBUR IV.

I also highly recommend checking out our artist profile feature to get a sense of what each composer was able to accomplish and their thoughts on their favorite pieces (which happen to be our favorite pieces for the most part as well).

Let’s start with Namco Bandai’s Junichi Nakatsuru who acts as the glue between all the various composers here as the only member of Project Soul on the sound team. He provides only three tracks, but all of them are fantastic. “Chaos and Cosmos” is a very fitting title for his loose composition that is both dark and brooding, meandering about with the only constant being the rumbling percussion in the background. “The Frontier of History” and “The Field of Honor” on the other hand are both epic and tense, with the former coming as highly melodic and memorable, setting the stage of history for this entirely new story.

From there, Hiroki Kikuta and Inon Zur handle most of the composition with the others contributing only a few pieces here and there.

Hiroki Kikuta is simply stunning on this soundtrack, showing that he can effectively tackle any genre despite people pigeon-holing him for his upbeat gamey sound over the years. The variety he provides is quite impressive, although he does manage most of the Asian-inspired pieces for the game. These include the adventurous “The Invincible Blade” and “Tread Ye the Path of Bravery,” Yoshimitus’s theme, which is one of the best themes for one of the best characters of all time, bringing in tons of traditional Japanese sounds which Kikuta handles perfectly. “Let My Soul Burn” brings sweeping strings and triumphant brass for a traditional orchestral sound while “A High-Spirited Tiger” is epic and hard-hitting.

A couple of my favorites include “Wings of Sorrow” with its rustic harpsichord and contemplative strings as well as the bizarre and tormented “Amid the Pure Insanity” which is a perfect theme for the disturbing Voldo. His biggest surprise, however, is “Regalia,” which is a heavy metal track sounding like it would be right at home in Contra. Chugging and wailing electric guitar and rock percussion join powerful string stabs, and the chorus section is simply divine. Kikuta is less subtle elsewhere, with “Where Springs Not Fail” and “Samsara: The Wheel of Eternity” both sporing his signature bells and woodwinds, but brought to an entirely new level with the aforementioned assistance of live orchestra and session players.

Inon Zur also handles a good chunk of tracks from the swashbuckling opener, “Sword of Resolution,” to the aptly titled “Mischievous Whispers” which, as the name would suggest, is quite playful with its xylophone, bells, and rapid woodwinds. I have to say that Zur knows his way around an orchestra, tackling several orchestral themes with ease, but most of the pieces didn’t stick with me long afterwards. One piece that does, however, is his personal favorite that he wrote (as well as ours), “Without the Blessing of Fate,” an amazing Gothic orchestral piece with rapid string notes, harpsichord, and choir, almost sounding like something fit for a Castlevania title.

Cris Velasco is responsible for only a handful of tracks, but they’re all fantastic. There’s the classy and very knightly “Till Fate Writes My Epitaph” for Siegfried, my personal favorite character from the SOULCALIBUR universe, as well as one of the highlights from the entire score, “Blood Thirst Concerto,” a piano concerto written as Raphael’s theme. This one has a great melody and comes off reminding me of Kim Jungsung’s work on Granado Espada, which is some of the highest praise I can give. Velasco also closes out the score with “The Breeze at Dawn,” a beautiful vocal theme that is mellow and dreamy with vocals by the extremely talented Jillian Aversa in a language that she created specifically for the game.

On the topic of Jillian Aversa, Andrew “zircon” Aversa also provides a huge surprise for the SOULCALIBUR V soundtrack. While only responsible for a few tracks, he’s easily one of the stars on this album, blending high quality sound with a wonderful sense of melody and character appropriateness. His first track, “Sleepless: An Untamed Beast,” is a fast-paced theme that has a big Hollywood orchestral sound, but still retains a fantastic melody that you remember when all’s said and done. His “Faster Than a Howling Wind” for Natsu is even more impressive as he takes on a traditional Japanese sound and completely nails it. His tense chorus section is absolutely killer. “Sacred Dawn” also impresses with its desperate descending melody and expertly incorporated choir.

That leaves us with newcomer Tomoki Miyoshi. In conversations with Hiroaki Yura, I’ve heard Miyoshi referred to as a virtuoso on numerous occasions, so I had high expectations for him. At eighteen years old, this is a huge break, and he was tasked with writing about 23 minutes of music for the game’s cinematics. I can tell you that Miysohi rises to the occasion with numerous highlights including the reflective and moody “Raid of Brute Force” with its amazing brass work, a religious experience titled “Holy Requisition” with soft strings and beautiful choral work, and the creepy “Painful Fate” with foreboding piano notes and dissonant strings, reminding me of King’s Field or Dark Souls.

I could really go on and on talking about the music from this game, but I’ll just leave it at this: this team does not disappoint. I have to admit that I miss a lot of the regular Namco Bandai contributors, but this international team has really stepped up, moving out from their traditional comfort zones to provide a wonderful soundtrack that stands out among the SOULCALIBUR franchise as one of the most varied and memorable.

I’ll delve into the packaging in more detail in a future unboxing video, but suffice it to say that the sturdy cardboard casing is nice to look at, and the included booklet with English alongside Japanese is much appreciated. If you’re a SOULCALIBUR fan, you should probably own this, and if not, you’ll probably like what you hear from at least a few of the composers featured on this album. It’s available for purchase through the Eminence online store.

Please chime in and let us know what you think of this international team’s efforts and how they compare to SOULCALIBUR soundtrack of the past.

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