One of the most common criticisms of Motoi Sakuraba's music is that it recycles the same ideas, and many feel his Tales soundtracks can be especially formulaic. The Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks 2 is an album that is bound to compound these criticisms. It essentially rehashes the same formula across each of its twelve tracks: that is, take a melodic battle theme, arrange it for rock band, and turn up the amps. And in this case, there can certainly be too much of a good thing.
The fundamental approach of the album is not necessarily bad. For instance, the opener Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World's "The Wilderness of Sadness" offers a fresh take on a relatively recent track. Whereas the original was little more than a loud and piercing synthfest, this version offers some relief. It's a straight hard rock piece at heart, but a decent one nonetheless: the guitars bring out the vibrant melody, the drum kit sounds robust and energetic, and the solos and interludes bring some variety. Fans of Sakuraba's battle themes therefore have plenty to be pleased about, as this arrangement captures the essence of his rock sound perfectly. The problem? The other eleven tracks sound the same. Every single track adheres to the same rock band set-up guitars, piano/keyboards, bass, and drums and all of them are hard, fast, and melodic.
Some tracks were rock-styled originally, for example Abyss' "Never Surrender" and Vesperia's "When Determination Strikes". The arrangements here preserve these stylings, while giving them a boost with refined arrangement and real instruments. In contrast, some others needed more extensive adjustment. "Mad Dance" from Tales of Graces, for instance, undergoes a radical transformation from a gothic violin-centric piece into a rocking guitar-focused one; while the energy and lyricism of the original is preserved, its originality is lost and the track ends up sounding like every other addition to the album. One of the highlights of the original Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks was the variety. Though the originals focused on synth rock, the arrangements featured piano solos, ambient soundscapes, flamenco flourishes, and booming orchestrations. Sadly, there is none of this variety here.
A further testament to Sakuraba's lack of inspiration is that several of these tracks have been arranged previously. Phantasia's "Final Act", Destiny's "Lion -Irony of Fate-", Eternia's "Eternal Mind", and Symphonia's "The End of a Thought" were all previously featured in the admittedly rare bonus soundtracks featured with Tales of Destiny and Tales of Destiny 2's remakes. The versions on this album do feature substantial changes from their counterparts, but they're not necessarily good ones. For example, this version of "The End of a Thought" lacks the orchestral elements and electrifying solos of the premium version; to compensate, Sakuraba simply ups the tempo and throws in some piano decorations. Given the Tales catalogue is so fast, it's beyond me why the artist didn't select some novel tracks to arrange instead.
There are very few deviations from the hard rock approach. Symphonia's "Beat the Angel" is a slighter slower and darker performance, but it is only a variation on a formula. Graces' "Impatient Sword" occasionally inspires memories of Sakuraba's classic rock albums with its extravagant keyboard improvisations, but most of it still sounds cookie-cutter, while Eternia's "Eternal Mind" also rocks the boat slightly with its abundance of electronic distortion at the 2:56 mark. But these variations are far too little, too late. The generic approach to arrangement isn't just uninspiring from a musician's perspective. A few tracks in, the sameiness will wear on most listeners and inspire them to turn off their listening devices. Even classics such as "Final Act" bland in their presentation here, given they're stripped of their individuality and novelty factor.
In short, the Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks 2 are a major disappointment. While the individual tracks on the album are competently arranged and performed, they don't come together to produce a satisfying collective whole. A good rock album needs variety in style, mood, and meaning to keep listeners immersed, but this album just repeats the same formula from start to finish. The final result is boring and uninspiring. Series' enthusiasts are recommended to purchase the vastly superior Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks instead.