Another series, another box set. The background for Project Soul - The Primary Sound Box isn't quite as grandiose as most box sets, however. For various reasons, ranging from limited edition runs to DigiCube's bankruptcy, the Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack, Soul Calibur Original Soundtrack, and Soul Calibur II Original Soundtrack. However, the Soul series has continued to grow in popularity since and its music has become legendary. Rather than meet demands to reprint all three soundtracks, Namco decided it'd be fitting to compiling them in their complete remastered forms into a five disc box set instead. Are all the additions jewels?
The Soul Edge Arcade Edition Original Soundtrack represents the first disc of the box set. This features the music from the Arcade soundtrack while the PlayStation rearranged version or the Khan Super Session soundtrack are sadly not included in the box set. Nevertheless, this soundtrack represents the origins of the series' orchestral style with its focus on potent brassy melodies and marching accompaniment. Tracks such as "The Wind and Cloud", "Heavenly Engage", and "The Gears of Madness" all capture attention in the game, though Takayuki Aihara's heavy-handed orchestration and sloppy transitions can be alienating for separate listening. While most tracks maintain the action feel, they nevertheless tend to have something interesting to them, whether the commanding melody of "Recollect Continent" the intricate development of "Soul and Swords", or the Celtic influences of "Dragon's Call". There are also quite a few event themes from Takayuki Aihara and Takanori Otsuka, though many are too short to be worthwhile. While a decent start to the box set, it's not as refined as later editions to the series.
The Soul Calibur Original Soundtrack is featured in the second disc of the box set. It maintains the orchestral approach of Soul Edge's Arcade edition, but takes things one step further with improved synthesizer technology and more subtle orchestration. Junichi Nakatsuru led the ensemble cast for the effort with his heroic opener "Light and Darkness", the recurring soft piece "Going to Where the Wind Blows", and melodically potent stage theme such as "The Duelists". Yoshihito Yano enhances the musicality of the soundtrack with tracks featuring more dynamic percussion use such as "Bred From The Gap", exquisite modulations such as "Beyond the Horizon", or exceptional orchestration such as the ending theme "Recollection...". I was less impressed with the melodically weak contributions of Akitaka Toyama or yet more pointless event themes from Takanori Otsuka. Overall, though, I consider the soundtrack to be a strong effort with a great many appealing tracks in its arsenal.
Unfortunately, the bonus disc from the Soul Calibur Original Soundtrack was also included as the third disc of the box set. This ten minute disc offers just four tracks and only one of them is particularly good, namely the piano arrangement of "Going to Where the Wind Blows". There is also a more balanced yet less memorable version of the opening theme, a recapitulation of the "Recollection..." track, and the pointless Arcade-exclusive composition "Under the Star of Destiny". This disc basically probably isn't worth the effort of putting into the CD player for the quantity and quality of what is offered. I just hope it wasn't a significant contributor to the pricetag...
The Soul Calibur II Original Soundtrack on the fourth and fifth discs of the box set managed to improve upon its already solid predecessors with a greater highlight to filler ratio, more elaborate compositions, and higher production values. Although an ensemble effort, Junichi Nakatsuru created the sheer majority of the compositions and ensures the soundtrack works just as well as its predecessor in the time frame and packing enough energy in order to be a suitable fighting soundtrack. However, guest contributors created many of the stage themes, with highlights including Yoshihito Yano's "Brave Sword, Braver Soul", Asuka Sakai's "Labyrinth of the Moonlight", Rio Hamamoto's "Guided by Wind", and Ryuichi Takada's "Nothing to Lose". The soundtrack's second disc isn't a full disc at 40 minutes long, but it's continuous with the first disc and filled with highlights, such as the comprehensively developed "Maze of the Blade" or the full-length version of the epic ending theme "Path of Destiny". The soundtrack is definitely a fulfilling and stirring experience overall so I highly recommend it.
Throughout the ages, the music for the Soul series has shared some common features, such as melodic potency, grandiose orchestration, and an action-packed centre. However, its quality and diversity has increased over the years from the bombastic primitive days of Soul Edge to the more elaborate refined soundtrack for Soul Calibur II to the decisive full orchestral offerings of Soul Calibur IV. Project Soul - The Primary Sound Box only compiles the series' early music and it should probably only be bought following the most recent two soundtracks. Although only the Soul Edge soundtrack is particularly troublesome, the Soul Calibur soundtrack still represents the series' infancy. Nonetheless, this box set is ideal for those looking for exactly those years, since it features the full soundtracks for the three games in remastered form. At 5040 yen, the price is reasonable too, but note that it's more like four full discs of music than five. Overall, an effective and useful way to revive the series' history.