Guilty Gear 2 Overture was a radical departure from the rest of the series. The switch of genre from versus fighting game to action / real-time strategy game was intended to broaden the series' horizons but mostly alienated fans. To account for the genre change, the soundtrack was dominated by orchestral music for the first time. Apparently based on series designer Daisuke Ishiwatari's compositions, anime artist Hiromi Mizutani created 51 synthetic orchestral tracks to feature in the first volume of the soundtrack. The second volume featured the 15 rock pieces from the game arranged by Yoshihiro Kusano and performed by several accomplished artists. After the first volume largely failed, how did the second volume turn out?
The first new composition, Shin's "Ride on Time", reflects how the soundtrack has changed from its predecessors. A strong melody is present but it is not as immediately compelling as previously compositions in the series; to compensate, it is much more bass- and drum-driven, creating a deep, hard, and balanced sound. The production values are stunning and Guilty Gear has never sounded so technologically commanded in soundtrack form. The first standout melody comes with Izuna's "Inconspicuous Man", a furiously paced guitar-driven track coloured by occasional tribal drums and chants. This is one of those classic head banging pieces rock lovers will be inclined to revisit again and again. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, "The Re-coming" and "Communication" are both highly melodic upbeat pieces to represent the battles of Sol Vs. Ky and Shin Vs. Ky respectively. Slightly weaker entries are "The Mask Does Not Laugh" and "Misadventure"; they focus on repetitive riffs too much, though are otherwise highly enjoyable with momentous development and some stunning guitar solos. "The Fate Broke Down" and "You Only Have to Decide It" end the soundtrack with riff-based themes made interesting by some of the most flashy guitar work of the series to date.
Among the biggest highlights of the score are the arrangements of character themes from past soundtracks. The opening arrangement of "Keep Your Alive" is the best interpretation of Sol's theme to date. The performance of the theme's iconic guitar riffs provides the correct balance of lyricism and abruptness to reflect Sol's cocky attitude. The bass riffs and drum beats provide a dense layer of underlying aggression while the resolute pacing and intimidating solos in the development reconcile well with the rest of the theme. Ky's "Holy Order (Be Just Or Be Dead)" is given an epic rock-orchestral arrangement. The theme's charismatic melody is presented on a violin — perhaps now a video game action theme cliché but so effective here given the overall Gothic theme. The accompaniment is dominated by bass and drums for much of the theme, but the transition into an orchestral interlude from 2:45 ensures it's not one-dimensional. At 3:07, the pinnacle of the arrangement comes with a original guitar-based section that reminds me of what Kenichiro Fukui did to my favourite section of "Advent: One Winged Angel"; this theme may lack the choir or the malevolence, but is of similar proportions and just as enjoyable.
There are quite a few experimental tracks here. "Intellect, Reason, and the Wild" is a blend of ethnic flute melodies and electric guitar mastery punctuated by hard tribal beats and grisly bass guitar riffs. The fascinating fusions and dense sound offered by this theme perfectly characterise Dr. Paradigm. "Worthless as the Sun Above Clouds" combines warped heavy metal vocals and thrashing guitar lines to create the most aggressive piece on the album; it is very fitting for the undying diseased boss Raven, though won't be to everyone's tastes and would benefit from better balance between the vocal and instrumental parts. "The Man" elaborates on the Baroque undertones of the series to depict the rare encounter with the mysterious antagonist That Man; epic harpsichord and organ solos introduce a theme dominated by convincingly written two-part chamber ensemble counterpoint and overdriven guitar support. The subsequent final boss theme "Diva" does not disappoint either. It transitions from a beautiful chorus and piano opening to become a motivating electric guitar anthem with some epic organ interludes. The jubilant interplay of violin and guitar melodies in "Curtain Call" provide a memorable end to the game, though it probably should have also been the last piece on the soundtrack.
The Guilty Gear 2 Overture Original Soundtrack Vol. 2 offers an absolutely captivating hour of hard rock music. Daisuke Ishiwatari sticks to the stylistic roots of the series, but offers enough fantastic melodies and stylistic diversity to ensure that it doesn't feel timeworn. Arranger Yoshihiro Kusano creates a subtly different sound to the series that results in more harmonic richness, integration of plenty of non-rock forces, and some weird but wonderful experiments. While its accessibility and melodiousness varies, there isn't a single bad track and nothing that I feel warrants skipping. Although shorter than most video game soundtracks, its length exceeds most actual rock albums. And indeed this soundtrack stands up extremely well against most mainstream instrumental rock albums musically and technologically — it's my opinion that any hard rock fan would love this soundtrack whether or not video game music is normally their thing. A truly exceptional release.