After the excellent scores for Disgaea: Hour of Darkness and Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, the soundtrack for Disgaea 3 was a big disappointment. Between the obnoxious vocal themes, derivative instrumental pieces, and merely average sound quality, it seemed more like a side project for Tenpei Sato than a fully fledged effort to bring the series to the PlayStation 3. The arranged albums for the series haven't been renowned for creativity, mainly considered enhanced 'best of' albums rather than transformative efforts. For the Makai Senki Disgaea 3 Arrange Soundtrack, Sato as usual includes extended versions of all the vocal themes from the soundtrack and also a selection of arranged instrumental tracks. Does this album redeem the vocal themes? Are the instrumental themes well-chosen and well-arranged?
The album is introduced with a greatly extended version of the "Demon Academy". Written in the spirit of "Lord Laharl's Hymn" from the original Disgaea, it takes a youthful twist given the school setting of the game, dominated by menacing females singing alone and as a chorus. The original and single versions lacked internal rationale, frivolously introducing vocal parts to the point of overwhelming listeners. However, this version is a significant improvement that unites all the divergent elements into one fantastic and utterly unpredictable blend. The "Demon Academy Prospective Student" features a girl's childish out-of-tune singing against march accompaniment made from all sorts of nonsensical instrumentation. Superficial changes like an instrumental introduction and interlude give the piece a lyrical sheen, though the vocals can be quite grating. The "Demon Academy Alma Master" is composed and arranged in similar vein, though an intentionally hysterical and horribly sung gypsy-like solo is added from 1:15.
Near identical to the original, the male vocal big band piece "Unlucky Hero" is quite disorientating. In near enough every passage, something different happens — from changes of tempo, addition and withdrawal of female backing singers, dabs of muted trumpet, or the transition into an interlude featuring flashy piano runs. For me at least, there was too much going on and no real focus or strong melody to latch on to. The strong female vocals and bold accompaniment of "Extreme Outlaw Overlord" and "Go, Mao!" provide the potential for them to be great pieces on par with Disgaea's "Etna Boogie". Reinforced by their instrumental extensions here, they certainly don't fulfil expectations; the former features insistent nauseating backing singing from a young female chorus and the latter features accelerandos that become unbearable on a stand-alone level. The ending theme "A Song For You" retains the jazz feel and youthful tones of previous themes but is relatively conventionally written and finely sung, having a gospel feel in places. Probably the most enjoyable song from Disgaea 3, few changes were required in the arranged version.
Moving on to the instrumental tracks, Sato decided upon a rather good selection to arrange here. Seeming inspired by the Wild Arms series, "Poem of the Vagabond" combines catchy enchanting whistling with laidback western style instrumentation. Though the arrangement is quite conventional, a beautiful violin-led interlude from 1:58 leads into a soft recapitulation of the main theme. The enhanced instrumentation, especially the guitar performance, also ensure the arrangement is an improvement. A Disgaea classic is once again reprised in "AKUMA Galops", but this rendition fails to charm after the Disgaea 2 version with its overkill of novelty instrumentation and silly motifs; while the arranged album version is especially refined and developed, the predominant focus on obnoxious elements means it is simply not enjoyable. In a first for a Disgaea arranged album, Sato creates a medley for the tenth track. The majority of the track is a rendition of "Lonely Room" richly sung by a female vocalist against acoustic guitar accompaniment. The fluid segues into the panpipe-led "Whistle of Memory" add further depth.
As for the action tracks, "Chinese Sword" is a fun fusion of Chinese pentatonic violin melodies, light rock accompaniment, and warped electronic beats. The arrangement is an improvement on the original due to the emotional and individualistic violin performance that replaces the relatively sloppy synth of the original. In "Windin' Rinding", Sato blends his characteristic bombastic and upbeat orchestration with some rock elements; the arrangement feels quite unbalanced at first given the rock aspect is only represented by a low-key distorted guitar bass line, though at least an eventual electric guitar solo eventually unites the elements together. The original "Blue Concerto" combined modernist piano utterings and dissonant orchestration to produce an exceptionally short piano concertino. In the arrangement, Sato tries to probably develop the composition and offers many improvements, though it has a major downfall: most of the theme seems to be led by the orchestra while the piano doesn't even receive a chance to play a proper solo! Finally, "Great Glider" is a straightforward elaboration on the Arabian-inspired original theme. The greater emphasis on a particularly lyrical secondary melody makes the piece a more enjoyable affair.
Out of all arranged albums for the series, the Makai Senki Disgaea 3 Arrange Soundtrack is probably the most worthwhile. With respect to the vocal themes, "Demon Academy" is a big improvement and some of the others have impressionable changes. However, the childish approach to most of the themes will be too obnoxious for some and having an arranged album full of them might inspire some nightmares. The instrumental themes selected were definitely the highlights from the soundtrack with the exception of "AKUMA Galops" and "Great Glider". Though a lot of the arrangements somewhat disappoint, in particular "AKUMA Galops", "Windin' Rinding", and "Blue Concerto", the interpretations of "Poem of the Vagabond", "Chinese Sword", and "Lonely Room ~ Whistle of Memory" are excellent. It's worthwhile purchasing this album if you want to miss out on the instrumental filler, but it's definitely necessary to have some affinity for the vocal themes given their dominance here.