Monday, 26 November 2012

Lost in the Music: Xenoblade Chronicles OST Review

     The jRPG has had it's up and downs in recent years. Final Fantasy, once the juggernaut of the genre has fallen on hard times, forgoing what made the series popular to begin with. However there is always others out there. In it's place arose other series such as Shin Megami Tensai and Disgaea. As good as these games are, they still feel a bit like Final Fantasy, only with a different coat of paint. Don't get me wrong, these games are phenomenal, but the tried and true method of turn based combat has been slowly become a thing of the past.

     Then the Wii gets Xenoblade Chronicles, which has been lauded as the rebirth of the genre. With wonderful characters, colourful environment, a welcome change to the battle system and huge tracts of land to explore, this is a wonderful world to get lost in. This game is actually one of the reasons I wanted a Wii and when I got it I began playing for hours at a time and like many games, one of the first thing that got me hooked was of course the music.

     This soundtrack was a collaboration between 3 composers; ACE+, Yoko Shimomura and Manami Kiyota, as well as guest vocals from Sarah Lim for the track, Beyond the Sky. Each of them brought their own unique styling to the soundtrack and made it as diverse as the world our heroes were travelling.

     Usually, I would choose one or two songs out of a track as my favourite, but given that there are three artist covering 91 songs, I feel that choosing their top song would be best as I can showcase the teams efforts individually rather then as a group.

Guar Plains/Guar Plains Night: ACE+

     One thing I noticed when I reached the flatland like area that is known as The Guar Plains, it felt as if I had been there. The world felt very familiar as did the music. After wandering around the map for a while, taking in the sites and battling the creatures, it hit me. I was walking through the world of Chrono Trigger. Instead of a birds eye view however, I was on the ground with the characters themselves.

     So out of all of ACE+'s contributions to the OST, why does this song stand out? Although I am a Chrono Trigger fan, it is not because the music reminded me of it, but because this felt like like an anthem to the rebirth of the jRPG genre. It is not a straight adventure song, nor is it a battle song. It is a combination of the two. Like many Map Theme's it makes you want to travel to see what is through the tree's and beyond the mountains and you better be ready to defend yourself.

    Guar Plains Night is a softer version of the song but instead of the action/adventure style of the former, this one wants you to lie back and enjoy the beautiful night sky while feeling proud of your accomplishments It is easily one of the most relaxing songs I have heard in a very long time and is very enjoyable.

Hometown: Yoko Shimomura

     Every hero needs a hometown. It could be a castle where he was adopted by the king, a small suburb in the heart of Eagleland or even among forest spirits. Sometimes the town is doomed. To be razed by a villain or wiped out from a disease, while occasionally, it serves as a place you return to after a thorough beating and in need moral support.

     Hometown is my favourite song from Shimomura's contribution. It has a great feeling of community amongst the populous. Despite the horrors that wait outside the home, the people live together in peace. You are interested in helping the people there. Not just for the rewards, but knowing you helped your fellow townsfolk. The music fills the listener with a feeling a warmth and acceptance. No matter who you are or what species you are, you will be accepted.

Satorl Marsh Night: Minami Kyota

     The night version of Satorl Marsh has similarities to Guar Plains Night. They are both far softer versions of their daytime selves and invoke a feeling of relaxation and contemplation. However that is where they separate. Satorl Marsh Night is a song when you want to be alone in quiet contemplation, thinking far deeper then you normally would.

     Where Guar Plains Night is more happy, Satorl Marsh Night is a feeling of gloom. You want to know the answers to the universe and the after life, but at the same time, afraid of the answer. The more you ask, the more complex each answer gets.

     Xenoblade Chronicles is a fantastic album but at almost 50 bucks new on Play Asia (not including shipping and handling) it is a hardsell for those who are living on a budget. I was lucky in that my friend Eric got me a copy for my birthday last month This also makes me wonder why game companies don't release their music on a site like Bandcamp or Amazon MP3 and make it available to all. If you have the money to spend, I would suggest buying the CD.

     This is Daimo Mac and I am lost in the music.

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