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Xenogears OST
Composed and Arranged by Yasunori Mitsuda
Synth Programming by Hidenori Suzuki
Sound Design by Tomohiro Yajima

After the incredible success of Final Fantasy VII in North America, Squaresoft was hard-pressed to release a new grand and epic RPG masterpiece. The game they released was "Xenogears." Dominated by dark and controversial religious themes, Squaresoft had announced that the game may not be released in the US. Fortuantely for stateside gamers, Square did release the game and many fans of the role-playing genre were greatly pleased. Many even consider the game to be their favorite ever, and to be quite honest, though it's not my favorite game ever, it does have my favorite videogame storyline ever. With religion as a subject heading, the soundtrack dives into a lot of dark choral areas. Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, the score is a masterpiece (my third favorite videogame soundtrack).

Those not familiar with Yasunori's work should know that he composed the soundtrack for the earlier Super Nintendo game, "Crono Trigger," a score that has often been praised by fans in the past, but has never done much to excite me personally. I believed that in Xenogears, the composer had finally branched out into fine musical maturity. The only problem is that though it was composed for in incredibly expansive game, the score is achingly short. Though it spans two whole discs, the entire score is just about 81 minutes long (and I believe that the composer had over a year to write). Though this is a problem in my eyes, I do see that it is also an aspect that gives the player more time to become emotionally attached to each track. If the soundtrack was longer, I probably would not like it so much.

One excellent aspect about the soundtrack on CD, is that the composer took some time to thoughtfully place the tracks in the right order. The first disc contains the generally lighter points of the music whereas the second contains the darker, more mature and reflective areas of the score. Another great thing about the track order is that the pacing never gets bogged down with long streches of dull music, like you may find in a Final Fantasy soundtrack, which is very convinient and makes the listening experience much easier as a whole.

Disc 1:

1. Light of the NetherworldsThe game's prologue sets out ominously as the viewer is introduced to the principal antagonist, even though the player doesn't realize it at the time. This track is comprised mostly of Deus' theme, but becomes lighter near the end with a choir and finally closes out with a lush, soothing melody.
2. Star of TearsThis vocal track, performed by Irish singer Joanne Hogg, is not used in the game itself. It is based on the game's overworld theme, and has a strong celtic feel.
3. Bonds of Sea and FireThis soft and beautiful track gives us our first hearing of the most utilized theme of the soundtrack. Although this is used a lot, I'd hesitate to call it the "main theme" because it seems to be more associated with the character Bart, and even then I don't really consider it to be Bart's theme. This is a very pleasant listen and a great way to begin the game.
4. My Village is Number OneThis type of track is probably Mister Mitsuda's trademark. Very similar to "Millenial Fair" from Chrono Trigger, it's a light festival piece that plays in the village of Lahan. Unfortuanately, the village gets destroyed right at the onset of the game so this track isn't heard very much in that context. A very fun track.
5. The Valley Where Wind is BornUnlike the previous track, this light and happy piece is played at several different points of the game. First at Citan Uzuki's house. This has very nice instrumentation
6. Faraway PromiseA gentle melody played on a music box. It should be noted that this is the melody used for the pop ballad at the end of the game.
7. Steel GiantThis is generally used as a suspense/action track. It is basically fast paced music in minor mode written to give the listener the sense of urgency. This is also used as the battle music for the Gear arena in Kislev later in the game.
8. Forest of the Black MoonAlthough this great track starts off very ominously, it gradually changes into a very easy-going and listenable jazz piece. The high-quality sound system really shines in this track. The distant piano sounds just astounding.
9. Shattering Egg of DreamsThis is Elly's theme. This has one of the most beautiful melodies I've heard. It is used a few times throughout the score.
10. Back To Sleep...did you sleep well? A nice little overnight theme.
11. Dazil: City of Burning SandsThis very ethnic piece plays in one very small insignificant part of the game. This uses more choir, which sounds very odd in this particular track.
12. EmotionsA lush and beautiful overworld theme. Though this is not really the main theme, it is very important, all overworld themes should be. Unfortunately fans of Final Fantasy VIII should find this statement rather ironic, but that's a different review altogether.
13. Grahf, Emperor of DarknessWe are treated to an outright character theme; a villain's theme in fact. Grahf maintains an ominous presence throughout the entire game, and it is reflected in this track. This sounds somewhat similar to the imperial march from Star Wars as Grahf is a similar character to Darth Vader.
14. FuseThis is primary "hurry" music in Xenogears. This track is heard many times throughout the game and I personally believe that it completely blows all "hurry" track from the Final Fantasy series out of the water. You'll understand what I mean if you listen to it.
15. Leftovers of the Dreams of the StrongThis starts out very much the the Guardia castle music in "Chrono Trigger." It begins very majestically and leads into a second section that is used in the Yggdrasil (airship) in the game. The Yggdrasil music is the same theme that was heard all the way back in 'Bonds of Sea and Fire.' In this fashion it can be considered Bart's theme as Bart owns the ship.
16. The Treasure Which Cannot Be StolenMy favorite track and oh, it's so beautiful! This is the incredibly romantic love theme for the game, and it's really a shame that it only shows up this once on both discs. This starts out with a slow harp solo and string backing which gives way to a lovely piano solo which in turn lets the strings and woodwinds have a shot. I really can't use words to describe how much I love this. You have to hear it for yourself.
17. Aveh, The Ancient DanceThis is basically a Scottish version of Bart's theme. It's nice to listen to, but's it's too short.
18. InvasionThis is basically an easy-going suspense motif. It's nice background music, but not nesessarily much of a stand-out track.
19. Stage of DeathThe battle theme of Xenogears brings nothing to the forefront but strings and percussion. This is an interesting choice of instrumentation for a battle track, but it works very nicely. I still don't like it as well as other battle themes, but the game really isn't battle driven.
20. In a Dark SleepThis is the music that plays when your party gets killed. It's short, but conveys the concept of tragedy well.
21. Singing of the Gentle WindWith such a short score for such a loooooong game, you would think that a beautiful, soft-spoken track like this would be played more often. As it is, we only hear this two or three times in the game's 50+ hour running time. This is very similar to 'The Treasure Which Cannot be Stolen,' but not quite as memorable.
22. The Wounded Shall Advance Into the LightA synth choir sings the 'religion' theme of the game. This works wonders with the visuals of the game, but does little by itself.
23. Lost... Broken ShardsA piano version on Elly's theme with a lonely violin to back it up. This gets one run and doesn't loop.
24. Thames, Man of the SeaA light-hearted sea-faring tune plays to represent the captain of the ship thames and his drunken crew. They are... Men... OF THE SEA!!!
25. The Blue TravelerIn the game, this is first heard when Fei and company are rescued by an unlikely hero, and is later played at moments of high optimism. This was also used on the sampler disc that came packaged with the original "Parasite Eve" game. A highly exciting way to end the first disc.

As mentioned in the intro, the second disc is comprised of the much darker, brooding music of the soundtrack. Don't let this frighten you off, because certain brighter tracks are inserted between different tracks to keep things interesting. Overall, the second disc seems superior to the first.
Disc 2:

1. Ship of Regret and SleepUnlike some other tracks, this one is played nearly to death. Although I feel that it is grossly overused in the game, it is still one of my favorites. This harsichord piece with choir backing is very enchanting and sounds deeply religious. Definitely one of the better tracks.
2. The Jaws of IceOne of the very atmopheric tracks. This is actually rather weak when placed up against the rest of the soundtrack. Best when heard in the context of the game.
3. Knight of FireThe boss battle music of Xenogears. This has a very ferocious beat and lots of strings. During one small section of the track, there is a recorded voice that almost sounds as if it's saying "total censored normal gascan," but is really saying "total sentient mode is capable." You can guess as to what that means, but I like the way that it's used.
4. June MermaidA morose, reflective and highly melodic piece of music used as the leitmotif for Fei's daughter, Emeralda. This is one of the top five tracks on both discs.
5. Shevat: The Wind Is CallingMany have mentioned how much this sounds like "Corridors of Time" from Mitsuda's own Chrono Trigger soundtrack. It is very similar, but vastly superior IMO.
6. The Sky, the Clouds, and YouAs I've already said, there are lighthearted tracks on the second disc to keep the pacing interesting. This is a very playful piece that is generally associated with the Chu-chus (*very* irritating characters).
7. Gathering Stars in the Night SkyThis is another light-hearted track. This is used as a theme for Maria Balthasar, but is arranged in track 9 as the main heroic theme of the whole game.
8. Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the PeopleThis is probably the saddest sounding of every track. This is used a lot in the game and just lisenting to it will probably depress you. Fortunately the next track will rectify that problem.
9. FlightMy second favorite track. This is one of the most exciting themes that I've ever heard and it will most definitely get stuck in your head after listening to it. It really gets your blood pumping, and may be a bit repetitive, but it's so good that you'll wish that it never stopped. I hope that someday I will hear this being played by a real live orchestra.
10. WingsThis is the airship theme. While not nearly as valiant as the preceding track, it is in the same vein and is quite excellent.
11. Solaris: Eden of HeavenThis is the silliest track that Yasunori Mitsuda has ever composed. The game's synth is so good that it makes me wonder what ever happened to Final Fantasy VII. This track is so comical that it just brings a smile to my face.
12. Back to SleepAnother sleep theme. This is similar to the other sleep track, but with stronger instrumentation.
13. The One who is Torn ApartId's theme. Id is Fei's evil alternate-personality, which makes this the darkest and most "evil" sounding track on either disc. It's interesting that Fei's other personality is called Id because the Id is Sigmuend Freud's designation for the wanting and dark side of all people's minds.
14. Pray for the People's JoyThis is an organ solo of the 'religion' theme heard all the way back on disc 1, track 22.
15. OmenThis quiet and distant version of Deus' theme begins the same way Id's theme did with a crescendoing bass note. This is another dark and oppressive track.
16. AwakeningThe cataclysmic battle music is a grand and sweeping statement of Deus' theme in minor mode. The complete antagonist's melody is finally heard in full force. This is rather impressive, but not as much as many other final battle themes. There's an odd synth vocal solo in the background.
17. One Who Bares Fangs at GodNow this is just *weird!* It introduces a synth vocal very similar the previous track, only this time it's much more prominent. This is one of those creative tracks that you have to hear to understand.
18. The Beginning and the EndThe first of two conclusive tracks utilizes a genuine Bulgarian chorus. This has an interesting melody and is arranged well, but the second half has a screeching female vocal solo over the rest that completely spoils it.
19. Small of Two Pieces - Restored ShardsMitsuda finishes the soundtrack with a pop ballad for the closing credits. Joanne Hogg makes a reapearrance as the vocalist. Her voice is very similar to that of Celine Dion, only much less harsh and therefore easier to listen to. This is a very lovely song that I believe was inspired by James Horner's "My Heart Will Go On." There is some cool instrumentation including a live electric guitar. A great way to end the score and game.

As I have said, this is one of my very favorite videogame soundtracks and I recommend it to all.

Xenogears is copyright 1998 Digicube. This review is written by and is the property of Isaac Engelhorn and does not reflect the opinions of Tripod.