Inspired by the enormous popularity of Capcom's Monster Hunter series, From Software developed a storybook spinoff of the series that focused on the felynes, Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airu Village (aka MonHun Nikki: Poka Poku Airu Mura). Following the successful of the original PSP release in 2010, the game also received an expansion pack subtitled 'G' this year. From Software composer and GE-ON-DAN leader scored both titles, blending the characteristic styles and themes of the main series with a light-hearted and humorous sounds appropriate for representing the felynes.
Right from the title theme "Souvenir", Yuji Takenouchi establishes the youthful storybook sound to expect from the release. A short variation of the Monster Hunter is presented on the fragile sounds of a glockenspiel above some bouncy pizzicato strings. While simple, it draws gamers into the experience and will no doubt inspire many 'awws'. The composer elaborates on these elements for the slightly richer theme of the fields. Combining delicate timbres, lazy rhythms, and mischievous interjections, what could be a better fit for portraying the game's felynes? Meanwhile "Theme of the Town Square" and "Houses of the Airu Village" wouldn't sound out-of-place in a bishoujo game, with their sentimental melodies and guitar accompaniments. Yet their strong melodies and guitar-driven ensure they still match the pastoral world portrayed in Monster Hunter. It's a soundtrack that's clear built on the tradition of acoustic game music, but has a distinctive sound of its own too.
As the soundtrack progresses, listeners are presented with equally endearing tracks. For example, Takenouchi demonstrates his flair for blending acoustic and electronic timbres on "Birthday" and "Today, Look Around!"; while necessarily brief, these tracks were still meticulously composed and are entirely enjoyable. There are also melodically continuous tracks such as "Theme of the Farm" and "Theme of Hunting" that strengthen the thematic basis, while portraying different moods: the former is an expressive and expansive track suitable for extended gameplay sequences, while the latter introspective and repetitive for brief mysterious scenes. Other highlights span "Theme of the Pugi Park" with its classically-tinged lyricism, "Treasures" with its new age moods, and "Run, Pugi!" with its hyperactive bluegrass influence. Like most other themes on the soundtrack, they shift the traditionally epic sound of the series to a modest one, but still sound like they somehow belong in Monster Hunter.
That said, the modest scope of the soundtrack means that it isn't quite as compelling as those from the main series. There is an inevitable surplus of soothing and light-hearted themes this time, but few more bombastic or spiritual compositions to deepen experience. As a result, tracks such as "Theme of the Guild" or "Theme of the Elder" which effective and well-constructed are just too much of the same thing to stand out. A particular disappointment are the themes for exploring different environments, from volcanoes to caves. The recurring melody in these tracks, while serviceable, isn't as strong as those that defined previous Monster Hunter titles. What's more, the choices to select Arabian instruments for a desert, calypso rhythms for a beach, and ethnic woodwinds for a jungle are incredibly typical and uninspired. It would have been more interesting if Takenouchi took a more subtle approach and incorporated his own distinctive musicality along the way.
Yuji Takenouchi is not traditionally known as an orchestral composer even admitting this himself when asked why he didn't compose Demon's Souls yet he makes some valiant attempts in this area during the soundtrack. For example, the fantasy cinematic orchestration at the start of the title theme draws listeners to the experience, while "Congrats!" and "Even More Evolved" are brief but satisfying fanfares. With orch hits and booming percussion, "Co-op" evokes memories of the darker grander moments of other Monster Hunter franchises... yet the chiptune melodies and humorous sound effects still keep it within the realms of the felynes. It's a definitive highlight of the soundtrack. Yet the strongest theme of all is the credits theme "Memoir". Blending new with familiar melodies, epic orchestration with tender moments, this track is incredible throughout its five minute playtime and unites together the soundtrack beautifully.
The release closes with 15 themes composed specifically for the expansion Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airu Village G. For the most part, these tracks are decent supplements to the original soundtrack, but few are major highlights in their own right. Some tracks are gimmicky arrangements of their originals, for example "Theme of the Fields G" with its surplus of insect sound effects or "Theme of the Guild - Celebration Version" with its light jazz stylings. Others are completely original but modelled on existing formats, for example "Theme of Fishing" and "Theme of the Hot Spring" with their blends of calm synth leads and acoustic guitar chords. The most unique tracks, notably the didgeridoo-infused "Theme of Mining G" or dance-like "Exploring a Snowy Mountain", are too underdeveloped to be major highlights. The soundtrack closes with a medley of samples to advertise SuperSweep's arranged album dedicated to the series.
The soundtracks for the two Monster Hunter Diary games certainly put a light-hearted felyne twist on the established musical styles of the Monster Hunter franchises. However, the soundtrack isn't quite so interesting on a stand-alone basis, given many tracks are similarly styled, rather brief, and not terribly memorable. Yuji Takenouchi nevertheless ensured the soundtrack is still rather quite and not filled with the annoying tracks that previously characterised the felynes. Those that played the game might wish to purchase this soundtrack, whereas casual fans should stick to the main series first.