Composed and Arranged by Motoi Sakuraba
Synth Designed and Programmed by Hiroya Hatsushiba
This incredible soundtrack by Japanese new age composer Motoi Sakuraba is one of the absolute finest that I've heard. It has an extremely wide variety, plus my very favorite video game theme thus far (as of July 2000): Rena's theme, one of the most lush, beautiful, and heartfelt melodies to ever grace my ears.
Though it's on two discs, the original score itself is actually longer and more complex than most Final Fantasy scores. The real problem with this soundtrack is that the tracks are only played through once. Also, I like the complexity of this soundtrack, but it may just be a bit TOO complex. The tracks generally have little to do with one another, leaving a rather disjointed feeling. Rena's theme is really the only major theme revisited throughout the soundtrack, and I personally feel that there should have been more major recurring themes.
Just remember that this is a videogame soundtrack and this IS synth, but unlike the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack that I rave about, this has monumentally better synth quality. Some of the high quality synth may even fool your ears into believing that it's real, but I would still give anything to hear Rena's theme performed by a real orchestra, which is probably a pipe dream. Although I have posted a review of this on Soundtrack Central, I'm going to review it here as well. I can't describe the soundtrack in it's full glory without giving it a proper track-by-track review. So I present my track-by-track for Motoi Sakuraba's ingenious "Star Ocean: The Second Story" Original Soundtrack:
(BTW, this review contains spoilers about the game).
Mr. Sakuraba opens the opus with a short but sweet main title.
Okay, how about another main title piece? I'll bet that you never expected to hear two in a single soundtrack. Anyway this plays during to opening sequence as opposed to the previous track that plays shortly at the title screen. This particular track introduces a marvelous, though somewhat unoriginal sounding, sci-fi theme. This format continues for a few more tracks.
A wonderful piano solo plays during the selection screens in the beginning of the game.
The music that opens up Claude's scenario continues the sci-fi trend that has been heard thus far. Although I haven't heard the soundtrack for the original, I understand that this employs a theme from it's prequel.
Oh, man, here we go! The mood takes a huge and sudden shift to a much lusher fantasy-like atmosphere as the first arrangement of Rena's heavenly theme is delicately played. I just love this! As hard as it may be to believe while listening to this track, this is actually the weakest arrangement of this theme that we unfortunately won't hear again until disc 2.
I doubt that most movie score fans would appreciate this track very much. It's a repeating techno suspense motif.
The incredible techno-esque battle theme makes it's appearance. This has and odd (but excellent) combination of electric guitar and brass. The track is highly melodic and fortunately doesn't become wearing after several listenings.
The game's victory fanfare. This is similar to the "Final Fantasy" victory fanfare, only this has a more excited quality.
We hear another incredibly lush string-dominated theme. This track plays in Rena's home village of Arlia. This really is an incredible track, but unlike the battle theme, this can become tedious after constant hearings.
A nice melody plays on what appears to be a glockenspiel. This is an unfortunately underutilized track.
The first overworld theme is played. This is a nice and comparatively lengthy piece that plays out of doors on planet Expel. This takes a shift from lush to huge, epic, and grand and it fits it's overworld context like a glove. Even better than many "Final Fantasy" overworld themes.
A rather desolate-sounding town theme. This is played in several towns throughout the game. One thing that this soundtrack has plenty of is town themes, with much greater variety than most RPGs.
We have another techno piece. This is very exciting and a pleasure to listen to. Though some people may not care for this type of track, the soundtrack hasn't had one bad song yet, IMO.
This is my favorite of the lush tracks (other than Rena's theme) from the entire score. It is pure strings with yet another heavenly melody. Even you synth haters out there would love this.
This track plays whenever your party stays at an inn or sleeps. Unlike most other tracks of this persuasion, this does not sound like a lullaby for bedtime. Instead it portrays, in music, the feeling of waking up after a good night's sleep.
Another town theme. This one has a much more majestic quality than a lush quality like the previous town themes.
Remember what I said in the introduction about the synth fooling you into believing that it's real...? Well just listen to the synth choir in this track! It sounds so hauntingly real that it's almost scary. It sounds several time more realistic than even the synth choir that James Horner used in his "Titanic" score. This is to be expected though, because videogame programmers are constantly trying to find new ways to make game synth more realistic, as most video games just can't support real ensembles (due to data storage restraints). The music itself is actually a castle theme and thus it sounds appropriately majestic.
This plays when new characters join your party. Although I think that this track sounds ludicrously overblown, I still think that it's a great listen.
Yet another town theme. This one sounds similar to Shower of Blossoms. It begins with a trumpet solo that leads to strings.
This is the first forgettable track. It's just an acoustic guitar playing a repeating three-note pattern.
Another lush town theme similar to Pure a Stream. This one is better suited for long listens though, and doesn't become nearly as irritating nearly a quickly. This is first heard in Celine's home village of Mars.
The great tracks just keep on coming. This awesome suspense/dungeon track first accompanies you on your way into the woods beyond Mars village. This is another track that demonstrates the soundtrack's superior synth quality.
Boss fight music. This is one of the most unique tracks. It's odd because it's not orchestral and it's not techno or pop; it's heavy metal. Many soundtrack fans may not like instrumental heavy metal, but this awesome and gripping track might just change their minds about it (some may even call it a guilty pleasure).
After the vicious mauling of the preceding track, we're treated to another relaxing town theme in the vein of Shower of Blossoms and Walk Over, this also has an excellent seaside sound as it accompanies a port town.
The sailing music. We're back into broad and epic territory, which is pulled off quite nicely. It's just a shame that you can't control the ship in the game and don't get to listen to this entire wonderful track.
This is a "dungeon music" track consisting of extremely weird atonal techno ramblings. This may turn off some, but I like it.
An excellent "gladiator" track. I like the wonderful medieval sound this track has.
Another wonderful dungeon theme that plays when you visit the Hoffman ruins. Unfortunately this is only heard in one part of the game.
A quick little ditty that plays when you find an important item. The flute sounds real nice.
This sounds a little too much like the Coliseum to be of much interest but it's still not a bad track.
This is in the same style as the previous track only it's a little more exciting and fun to listen to.
This is in the same vein as Misty Rain only much more interesting. It features a synth choir like Sacred Song only this is much darker and mournful. Also, I like the loud outbursts by the brass. It sounds pretty cool.
A nice orchestral piece that symbolizes impending doom. The composition in this track is handled very maturely and fits it's purpose in a rather militaristic fashion.
Now this is a wonderfully exciting techno piece that plays in the last dungeon on the first game disc. The title of this track is quite ingenious. The title itself is broken up into sections (a reference to the game) and the word kamikaze represents the fact that the entire planet Expel is on a collision course with a huge energy mass in space!
The track title may be a bit misleading because this is not an actual battle theme. Rather, it represents your first confrontation with the Ten Wise Men (the villains). The music is very dark and ominous, but a militaristic quality makes an appearance.
Now this IS a battle theme. It plays as you fight Berl, one of the Ten Wise Men (who also happens to be the last enemy on the first disc). This is another exciting techno theme a la Stab the Sword of Justice. This is one of my favorite tracks on the first disc.
Claude or Rena have dreams throughout different section of the game. As you may have guessed, this music accompanies them in their dreams or recollections.
There are 16 more tracks at the end of the first disc, but they are just solo instrument samples that play when you learn the skill of composition within the context of the game. It should be noted that the synth doesn't sound as real when solo samples are played.
Disc 1 TOTAL TIME: (63:22)
So far the soundtrack's been nothing short of incredible. It's not the greatest music ever, but it sure gets the job done right. Fortunately, the second disc is even better!
Another arrangement of Rena's theme, and as far as I'm concerned, one of the best videogame tracks ever conceived. This track just happens to be the introduction into Rena's scenario in the game and is one of most lush and impressive pieces ever. It just sucks that it's so short.
Another beautiful track. This acoustic guitar solo is one of the best I've heard, and I really don't care too much for the instrument.
This is actually a very irritating track. It's a loud techno-esque piece that plays when your party is in danger. Luckily, it's pretty short.
Rena's theme makes another appearance. This time the theme sounds much more broad and sweeping. This is also where the soundtrack makes it's biggest transition from fantasy to sci-fi.
This is a nice little piece. The weird thing is that I've never heard this in the game. Good track though.
The second overworld theme plays in the same style as the first (Field of Expel), only this one is a bit less memorable, though I probably feel this way because I heard the first overworld theme so much that I kept expecting to hear it on the second world map.
A rock suspense tune. It fits it's purpose well but probably won't grab your attention much.
The first arrangement of the Synard theme. Synards are creatures used for flying on in the second half of the game. This is another lush track.
The "flight" theme from Star Ocean 2. This is comparable to the airship themes in the Final Fantasy series, but it has a generally less excited feel and sounds a bit more lazy and subdued as if you were resting on a *gasp* breezy afternoon. I like this better than most Final Fantasy flight themes because of the track's sheer beauty.
A slow and suspenseful track that plays in certain caves in the second half of the game. This track is very dark and foreboding.
This is another irritating track (see track 3).
This is Rena's theme played on... a music box! It sounds nice, but it pales in comparison to the next track.
We finally get to hear Rena's actual theme. This utilizes a synth female alto solo that sounds hauntingly real. I like this track but it's still not as good as track 1 of this disc.
This magnificent track place in Noel's hometown (forgot the name). It accompanies a snowy atmosphere and fits extremely well. This is another standout track.
The first of four tracks that play during your visits to "Fun City" in the game. This sounds very energetic and playful, like carnival music.
Another fun track that plays during the bunny races in the game. Similar to the previoustrack.
A simplistic harpsichord solo. This is another Fun City track, but it's pretty boring.
Another Fun City track that sounds much like the first two, only it's much less melodic. It's still a fun track.
Now Mr. Sakuraba goes all-out sci-fi with this dungeon track. This is a fast and exciting techno piece. I think that this was one of the composer's favorites because it is longer than most of the tracks and an arrangement showed up on the game's "arrange album."
A shocking action piece that usually plays when the ten wise men show up to harm or attack people.
The first of several battle themes for the ten wise men near the end of the game. These tracks are exciting and are all excellent listens.
Like Invasion on the first disc, this militaristic piece plays when your party is in determination to attack the baddies.
An oppressive track a la A Feeling of Oppression that plays at a particularly sad point in the game for Claude, the main character apart from Rena.
This is my favorite battle track on the entire soundtrack. It's a theme for the second conclusive battle with the ten wise men. This has an incredible combination of fast-paced harpsichord arpeggios with an awesome techno background. This track is certainly not to be missed, it's one of the best around.
Another conclusive battle track. Though not as enjoyable as it's brothers, it's still fast and fun to listen to.
See the track 25. This one's a little more melodic.
The final dungeon music. This is an unfortunately dull track that sadly misses the magic of other tracks of it's kind. I wish that Mr. Sakuraba had spent a little more time on this one. That's not to say it's terrible though, it's just not quite up to par with the rest of the soundtrack.
When the final dungeon's been overcome, you finally come face to face with Indalecio, the last of the ten wise men. He reveals that the destruction of his brothers has multiplied his own power exponentially and that he is ready to annihilate the entire universe. This is another oppressive track that I actually find to be quite good.
We finally come to the final boss music. This track has some impressive minor chords played on organ and harpsichord, but it pales in comparison to it's arrange album counterpart. This is still an excellent battle theme that's worthy of anyone's listening. The track is also quite long compared to most of the others, which I find quite agreeable. Stand tall and don't let Indalecio get the best of you!
The main conclusive piece for the entire soundtrack. It begins with minor chord progression that eventually drops off only to be replaced with awe-inspiring major chords played on pipe organ. Energy Nede explodes and your characters make their way back to planet Expel safe and sound. If you're a true fan of music, then I would suggest that you not miss this wonderfully conclusive track.
A beautiful piano solo that plays as your characters reminisce about their adventures together.
The end credit music. Rather than play an exciting medley of themes from the game, the composer decides to take a different route and play an entirely new avant-guard orchestral piece (it would have been nice if it was truly orchestral. Oh, well). The music is absolutely beautiful, it's utilizes an enchanting synth choir on top of strings and light percussion and a great violin solo eventually replaces the choir. The Dim Light of Dusk plays after this in the game, ending on a very peaceful note.
I haven't heard this in the game, but it's a nice track. It's very similar to the overworld themes.
The soundtrack is ended with parody of old sci-fi themes. This is actually the same theme heard all the way back in A Feeling of Oppression on disc one. Once again, I haven't heard this track in the context of the game.
DISC 2 TOTAL TIME: (63:42)
In the end, you really can't go wrong purchasing this. If you're a fan of videogame soundtracks then this is a must-have. If you're a fan of film music, I would definitely recommend this with the warning that it contains a lot of techno, which you may or may not find objectionable. This is a superb soundtrack though, and I'd say it's certainly one of the best videogame soundtracks around. It's not as good as Final Fantasy VI, but certainly better than any other Final Fantasy (though Final Fantasy IX's soundtrack is scheduled to be released in late August). In any case, this receives my highest recommendation: 10 out of 10. You can buy it at AnimeNation.com or other online anime stores.
Star Ocean: The Second Story Original Soundtrack is copyright 1998 First Smile Ltd. JAPAN. This review is written by and is the property of Isaac Engelhorn and does not reflect the opionions of Tripod.