Sekaiju no Meikyuu 2: Shoou no Seihai Super Arrange Version
|Composed by||Yuzo Koshiro|
|Arranged by||H. / Jeff Curry / Kenichiro Fukui / Motoi Sakuraba / Norihiko Hibino / Takahide Ayuzawa / Takahiro Izutani / Yoshitaka Suzuki / Yuzo Koshiro|
|Published by||5pb. Records|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Official Release|
|Format||1 CD - 15 Tracks|
|Release date||May 09, 2008|
In 2007, the world had a glimpse into the past. Taking the nation of Japan by storm, the game Etrian Odyssey (aka Sekaiju no MeiQ) was released for the Nintendo DS. Yuzo Koshiro, responsible for such scores as Actraiser and the Wangan Midnight series, took the helm and created a beautiful score, reminiscent of the old-school way of composing. In the same year, the Sekaiju no MeiQ Super Arrange Version was released. At the time, the popularity of the music and game were not anticipated to be extremely high. As such, the Sekaiju no MeiQ Super Arrange Version, produced by Norihiko Hibino and arranged mainly by members of his company GEM Impact, was a fairly straightforward arrangement album seemingly produced on a low-budget. However, the arrangements, for what they were, stayed true to the original pieces, and rarely deviated from the source material.
Just recently, the second game Etrian Odyssey 2: Heroes of Lagaard (aka Sekaiju no MeiQ II: Shoo no Sehai) was released. Taking the reins again, Yuzo Koshiro created another magical score for the game. Knowing the popularity of the series, the subsequent arrangement album, Sekaiju no MeiQ II Shoo no Seihai Super Arrange Version, seems to have gotten a bigger budget. While most of the arrangement album is composed by members of GEM Impact, it also features prominent guest arrangers. Within this album, you'll hear arrangements from Motoi Sakuraba (Star Ocean composer), Kenichiro Fukui (The Black Mages arranger and keyboardist), Yuzo Koshiro (original game composer), Jeff Curry (the bassist for The Outer Rim), and H. (members of the former Sega Sound Team). However, in addition to past arrangers from GEM Impact, Norihiko Hibino himself steps up to the plate and arranges some of the game's themes as well. For a highly ambitious arrangement album, full of high-profile names, does it turn out well? You'll just have to read on to find out!
Norihiko Hibino offers three arrangements on this album. Starting off the album with a straightforward piano arrangement of "Come On, Start the Adventure," it helps set the tone for the rest of the journey throughout the soundtrack. Sure, it's his least exuberant arrangement, but at the same time, I don't see this piece being arranged any other way. It's perfect the way it is. "Labyrinth VI - Forbidden Forest" is a jazz arrangement with focus on the saxophone and violin. As they intermingle throughout the piece, Hibino's saxophone skills become apparent. Adding a bit of lilt to the arrangement, the saxophone melody is an absolutely asset to this arrangement. At the same time, though, the violin offers a fantastic contrast to the airy sax with a more somber atmosphere. "Labyrinth I - Woodland Ruins" is my favorite of Hibino's arrangements. Focusing on piano, violin, and acoustic guitar in a light jazz style, it starts off in a rather straightforward manner; the melody of the source material is offered in a very somber endearing form with the use of the violin while piano and acoustic guitar offers a great accompaniment. As the piece progresses, the mood becomes a bit more playful as the piano becomes more of a focus. The acoustic guitar solo is a fantastic treat and the airy piano solo afterward ends the arrangement quite nicely.
In the previous arrangement album, Yoshitaka Suzuki did a fantastic job at expressing the mysterious nature of various labyrinth themes. Reprising his role for arranging labyrinth themes, Suzuki arranges "Labyrinth V - Heavens' Rock Set". Once again, he proves that he has an air for creating that nostalgic feel. The arrangement is a beautiful combination of acoustic guitar, piano, and strings. The contrast between the piercing violin and somber cello creates an ethereal soundscape full of mystery and awe. The ambient sections in between the melodies remind me of Metal Gear Solid and really help to add a nice bridge between the arrangements of the source material. Suzuki also offers arranges "Town - Those Who Will Carve Their Name in Legends" into a very good orchestral arrangement. Throughout the piece, there is a very heroic undertone, accentuated by the use of timpani and various other percussion instruments. However, I must really credit the melody here. The contrasts between the exhilarating and motivating sections and the slower, almost atmospheric, sections really helps to make this an arrangement that doesn't sound like a "by the books" cut and paste arrangement. The diversity in the orchestration is a bound with this arrangement and is an absolutely marvelous addition to the album.
Takahide Ayuzawa contributes two arrangements to this album. As with the previous arrangement album, he arranges the infamous battle theme you hear when fighting the F.O.E.s, "Battlefield - A Sudden Gust of Wind that Calls for Death". As with the source material, the difference between the two versions of the battle theme is extremely similar. Perhaps the most distinguished feature of this arrangement, and probably to its detriment, is the focus on the bass motif; sure, it's what really drives the piece in the source material, but at the same time, the melodic portion of this arrangement, while much better than its predecessor, suffers from it. I would have rather had more variation in the melody. It's enjoyable, but definitely one of the weaker pieces on this album. Ayuzama also orchestrates the boss battle for the game, "Scarlet Rain". It again suffers from a focus on the bass motif, though there are some fantastic dramatic sections. There are a few surprises in there, such as the use of some "siren" like sounds, but for the most part, it's a rather straightforward arrangement. Another enjoyable piece, but it's another weak addition to the album.
Takahiro Izutani only offers one arrangement on this album. Contrasting greatly with his high energy battle arrangements in the first album, he offers a mystical arrangement of "Labyrinth IV - Cherry Tree Bridge." Rebecca Evans reprises her role as a vocalist for this album. While I didn't enjoy her work on the first album, I think her voice does this arrangement well. The lyrics are extremely beautiful and seem to tell a story of a search for a castle within this maze. The music carries a very ethereal atmosphere to it and is almost Enya-like in composition. The use of acoustic guitar and some futuristic electronica beats really meld well in my opinion. It helps to carry the entire mood of the piece. I have a feeling that this might be a love it or hate it arrangement for most though.
Moving on to the guest arrangers, one of the best arrangers on the first album returns to prove he is the best arranger on this album as well. Is that the truth? Well, in my opinion, yes. H.'s arrangements are spectacular imaginations of the source material. "The Heroes' Return" is reminiscent of a classic rock composition with a twist. The old school rock combines with an almost a jazzy feel to the piano while sections of ambience intermingle with the energetic sections. However, the best part of this arrangement is easily the middle of the arrangement. The guitar solos have that classic feel to them and, when coupled with that memorable piano bit, it's a recipe for epic arrangement sure to please many. His other arrangement, "Town - The Wind Doesn't Draw Heroes", is my absolute favorite arrangement on the entire album. If you can, try to imagine that big band jazz sound combined with the style of funk. Extremely peppy and full of energy, H. delivers once again. However, the star of this arrangement has to be Hibino's saxophone playing again, which carries the entire arrangement. However, H. isn't a one trick pony either. He adds a bit of acoustic guitar goodness into the arrangement in the form of a solo. The entire arrangement reminds me a bit of Noriyuki Iwadare's jazz in his Grandia soundtracks. I think I've listened to this too many times already...
It's times like this when I am deeply saddened that Kenichiro Fukui will be phasing out of the video game industry to teach as a lecturer at HAL Tokyo. His sole arrangement, "Battlefield - The First Campaign", is a fantastic fun-filled arrangement. Imagine, if you will, an arrangement that starts off as a rather straightforward rock piece. However, it quickly moves away from that into a bubbly synth-led section. The lead up to the guitar solo is extremely well done as well; heavy bass with some sporadic piano chords dominates this section. Once the guitar solo kicks in, it reminds me why he's my favorite Black Mages arranger and one of the industry's greatest arrangers. After that, the source material serves as an accompaniment to an awesome keyboard solo. If only this were a live performance... And now for Motoi Sakuraba, the man who composes and arranges more than any normal human being should in a given year offers yet another arrangement to his musical belt. Famous for his progressive rock style, he offers quite an interesting arrangement for the epic "Battlefield - Scatter About." This is one of those pieces that feature that Star Ocean sound, but at the same time, it also features some of his old school Gikyokuonsou and Forest of Glass influences. It's a fantastic imagining of this theme and, even if it sounds like it's entirely improvised, it's just an awesome piece of music if you ask me!
Normally, I would say that Sakuraba's arrangement would be a very stark contrast to the overall feel of this arrangement album. However, I can't offer him that title this time. Jeff Curry's arrangements offer something I didn's expect. His first arrangement of the second normal battle theme, "Battlefield - Inspect the Resounding Weapons", offers the first glimpse of his crazy style! It's a very crazy rock piece featuring vocals. While it does start off rather straightforward, there are some interesting interludes here and there. And is it just me, or does that last section sound like the intro to Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son?" His other arrangement is based on the normal battle theme in the extra dungeon, "Battlefield - Shiver." Being as this was my favorite piece from the soundtrack, I had high hopes for this one. Were my expectations met? Sadly, no. However, it is a highly enjoyable piece of music. Rather straightforward in approach, with very little variation, it's another rock arrangement featuring the vocalists from his other contribution. It's fun and highly addicting, but part of me was saddened when I listened to it because there was so much potential in the source material.
I've saved the original composer for last on this one. Yuzo Koshiro's arrangement is an orchestral medley of the two final battle themes, "Battlefield - Last Battle" and "Battlefield - Heavens' Governor." Koshiro definitely shows his compositional skills with this arrangement. Haunting and beautiful, the "Last Battle" section offers a very epic arrangement heavy on the brass. The string work is what really defines the first half of this arrangement. The string sections are absolutely marvelous. While I'm upset the transition to "Heavens' Governor" was a bit abrupt and no bridge was really offered, that's just a small qualm I have. The second half of the arrangement has a much more epic feel than the first half. The brass really shines in this arrangement, with dramatic arches throughout. The softer sections contrast wonderfully with the bombast. I wish Koshiro did more for this album!
In the end, this ambitious project pays off. While I enjoy every piece on here, Ayuzawa's arrangements were the weakest of the bunch. Both Norihiko Hibino and H. take the spotlight in my opinion with their arrangements. However, at the same time, without the guest arrangers, I don't think the diversity of this album would be as great as it was. Ranging from orchestration to jazz to iprogressive rock, there is bound to be likeable arrangements for just about everyone. I can only hope the popularity of this game continues to grow as I eagerly anticipate a Sekaiju no MeiQ III soundtrack and a subsequent arrange album that I hope turns out even more high-profile than this one. This is easily a candidate for best arrangement album of the year and I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of any or all of these composers.
Vocals by Rebecca Evans (8)
Come On, Start the Adventure! [Opening]
Town - Those Who Will Carve their Name in Legends [Town Facility - Guild]
Labyrinth I - Woodland Ruins [Dungeon 1 ~ 5F]
Battlefield - The First Campaign [Normal Battle - First Part]
Battlefield - A Sudden Gust of Wind that Calls for Death [f.o.e. Battle]
Town - The Wind Doesn't Draw Heroes [Town Facility - Hi-Lagaard Dukedom Central City: Night]
Battlefield - Scarlet Rain [Boss Battle]
Labyrinth IV - Cherry Tree Bridge [Dungeon 16 ~ 20F]
Battlefield - Inspecting the Resounding Weapons [Normal Battle - Second Part]
Labyrinth V - Heavens' Rock Seat [Dungeon 21 ~ 25F]
Battlefield - Last Battle [Last Boss Battle] ~ Battlefield - Heavens' Governor [Last Boss Battle 2]
The Heroes Return [Ending 1]
Labyrinth VI - Forbidden Forest [Dungeon 26 ~ 30F]
Battlefield - Shiver [Normal Battle - Last Floors]
Battlefield - Scatter About [Secret Boss Battle]