RIZ-ZOAWD Super Premium Sound Disc
Riz-Zoawd is a DS RPG dedicated to the children's book Wizard of Oz released at the end of 2008. While the game was plagued by terrible sales figures, its soundtrack is still a big deal for many game music fans. The background music for the game was led by Final Fantasy XII veteran Hitoshi Sakimoto and also features his talented collaborators Masaharu Iwata and Kimihiro Abe. The two vocal themes for the game also represent Wild Arms composer Michiko Naruke's return to game scoring after her illness. Released as a pre-order bonus with the game, the Riz-Zoawd Super Premium Sound Disc samples the opening theme and five of Sakimoto's compositions. Let's take a closer look...
Sakimoto's instrumental main theme for the game is one of his better recent efforts. It captures the spirit of the game with its whimsical phrasing and magical instrumentation. The style is very reminiscent of those themes of gaiety featured on Final Fantasy XII with lively pizzicato strings and high-pitched woodwinds, though fortunately is not an inferior imitation like some of his themes for other recent titles. The interludes add to the multifarious nature of the composition, though the section from the one minute mark disturbs the overall flow. Nonetheless, this composition is an appealing way to introduce a strong melody that is fleshed out elsewhere in the score. "Bewitch" is an example of a high quality arrangement that blooms into a theme that is simultaneously lush and mystical. The mastering of these compositions is stunning too and and makes the most of DS streaming technology.
Despite the strength of the main theme, some of the other samples indicate that Sakimoto was on autopilot for the soundtrack. "Nekozukin's Anxiety" is initially promising with its light-hearted passagework, but soon moves into a dark section that feels completely unrelated to the rest of the composition. Though striking on first listen, it seems very generic and somewhat sloppy when analysed closely. "Decisive Battle! The Great Witch" continues the bombastic style of his battle themes for Ivalice Alliance. The playful woodwind melody seems to capture the spirit of Dorothy while the dissonant brassy accompaniment portrays the antagonist. However, the two elements do not come together convincingly and much of the composition seems to be a bunch of melodramatic chord changes rather than anything more intricate. Sakimoto seems to focus a lot on creating illusions of grandeur these days.
Sakimoto redeems himself after a couple of disappointments with "Seasons". This work is reminiscent of Final Fantasy XII's "The Salikawood" with its piano focus and magical buildups. The meditative piano solo at the start of the track inspires imagery of nature's colours changing with the seasons. A solo piccolo takes over from the 30 second mark and embellishes the fantasy aura. The instruments are synthesized as well as any Basiscape work since they bypass the DS sound source. Another highlight is the full length rendition of the opening theme "Riz-Zoawd!" composed by Michiko Naruke and sung by Kaori Asou. While the melody isn't instantly catchy, it grows with time and includes several memorable moments. The instrumentals are a pleasant blend of punchy strings influenced by the Wild Arms series and light rock electric guitar backing. Overall, it's a nice way to raise one's spirits at the start of the game and represents some of the youthfulness of Dorothy too.
The Riz-Zoawd Super Premium Sound Disc demonstrates that Sakimoto's contribution to the game should be quite good. Whereas there was a time when each of his works sounded different, he once again returns to the musicality of Final Fantasy XII here. However, he makes an effort to craft some strong melodies and represent the fantasy nature of the game. It is obvious from the sentimentality of his compositions that the project is quite personal to him — as confirmed by a recent interview where he stated the game is his favourite to date. He was still clearly limited in time with his compositions so created a few on autopilot and also wrote a number of uninspiring introductions or interludes. The imminent Riz-Zoawd Original Soundtrack should be a highlight overall, especially when the fresh compositions of other Basiscape members are added.