We’re now two-thirds into the 33-day Shigematsu Kiyoshi short story marathon and for the last third I decided to kick it off with my third favorite track from the Lost Odyssey soundtrack. The latest “Song of the Day” is the simple and playful tune “Small Recollections”.
This track gets used a lot in the game’s collected dream-memories. It’s usually used in concert with other music when the dream involves children Kaim has met through his 1000-year and more journey as the eternal warrior. I like this song for it’s simplicity. It’s a solo piece done on a calliope and made to sound like it’s coming from a child’s music box. It’s really quite a great use of this instrument and one I’ve rarely heard used in a soundtrack for a film or game.
It’s hard not to listen to this song and not think of the simpler times when one was a kid and the biggest worry in our mind’s was whether we’d get to eat ice cream, cake or both at a birthday party. “Small Recollections” is definitely something one can hear at a fair or a carnival and always something that would make one smile like a kid again.
The latest “Song of the Day” is another favorite music track from the Lost Odyssey soundtrack by Uematsu Nobuo. The title of this particular track is “Eclipse of Time” and one of the most beautiful pieces in the game’s soundtrack.
“Eclipse of Time” becomes a sort of motif for one of the game’s characters, Queen Ming Numara who also happens to be another immortal like the game’s main protagonist, Kaim. We first hear this music playing when we enter her Ming’s room and it creates an ethereal musical backdrop which accentuates the Queen Numara’s eternal beauty. The track is quite simply played as a harp solo and it’s a rare thing to hear the harp as the main instrument in most game soundtracks. It’s Uematsu’s inclusion of such an instrument which raises the Lost Odyssey soundtrack to classic status.
This particular track reappears time and time again in different version and tempo throughout the game. It usually means that Queen Numara is either the focus of the scene or something she’s involved in a way. Unlike “A Return, Indeed…” this song doesn’t really appear in any of Kaim’s 33 dream-memories which is a shame, but understandable since the piece doesn’t really match the tone of Kaim’s dreams.
Of all the pieces of music in the Lost Odyssey soundtrack this is the one I can listen to over and over and not get tired of it.
One of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in the past ten years was from a title that was the creation of the man (Sakaguchi Hironobu) who made the wildly-popular Japanese role-playing game franchise, Final Fantasy, before he left to start up his own company. This company would be called Mistwalker and they would release two rpgs for the Xbox 360 between 2008 and 2009. The second of these two titles was Lost Odyssey and this was the title of which I spoke of above.
The title was a nice throwback to the classic Final Fantasy titles Sakaguchi was responsible for while dressed up in nextgen visuals. But what made this game so memorable an experience for me wasn’t just the visuals but the great storytelling and music it also had in great abundance. The music itself was the product of one (if not the greatest) of the greatest video game music composer in the industry, Uematsu Nobuo. It’s from Uematsu’s soundtrack for Lost Odyssey that I pick the latest “Song of the Day”.
“A Return, Indeed…” (“Kaette kuru, kitto…” in Japanese) is part of the game’s soundtrack which makes several appearances throughout the game, but it was during the first found dream sequence (the game’s greatest highlight and reason to play it) which really sold the song and the whole soundtrack as whole as being great. This version is the piano solo one which is really the best version which appears in the game. This piano solo version was arranged by Satoshi Henmi from Uematsu’s original composition and it fully convey’s the song’s sorrow melody in the beginning but gradually transitions into a sound full of hope before finally ending in a simple few notes. Those few notes giving a hint that hope is always a possibility but in the end always fleeting.
What better way to inaugurate 33 days of “A Thousand Years of Dreams” than the song which kicks it off in the game.
For the latest entry to the “song of the day” feature I go back to my younger years. I’m talking about when I was still barely into my 20′s. My choice for the new song of the day is Japanese composer Uematsu Nobuo’s main title theme for the Squaresoft (before they became Square-Enix) fantasy role-playing game Final Fantasy VI.
The song is “Terra’s Theme” (in the original Japanese it was called “Tina’s Theme”) and starts off the game. The version above is the piano solo version which Square-Enix produced as part of the special “Final Fantasy Piano Collections” cd releases which took all the video game music for each game in the Final Fantasy series game and remade them into piano solo pieces. Uematsu’s original composition for Final Fantasy VI (also for most of the game’s in the series he composed the music for) were very heavily-influenced by classical music traditions and one can really hear it in this main theme.
While the piano solo version is quite a haunting melody which gives some clues to the character of Terra Branford. The two versions below are the original video game music which is really a well-done MIDI file to allow it to be encoded into the game cartridge when it was first released for the SNES system. The other one is a live recording of Uematsu himself conducting an orchestra. While all three have become one of my favorite pieces of music of all kinds (not just video game music) it is the piano solo which solidified “Terra’s Theme” as one of the best songs I’ve ever heard.
Konami’s Suikoden series has been a fixture in the Playstation console systems since the PS1. While not as graphically beautiful as Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy series of role-playing games, Konami’s own Suikoden rpgs more than held its own in complexity of character development and storylines. These two factors have become something the Final Fantasy rpgs have really lacked since Final Fantasy VII. I would even say the Final Fantasy series hit its high-point in Final Fantasy VI and has been downhill since. Not so with the Suikoden series. From the beginning the series has beautifully combined characters and storylines to create a game that still uses the basic stats and experience mechanics of most Japanese RPGs but with a unique brand of npc recruiting and a wholly realized complex world which grows and reveals itself with each successive game in the series.
In 2006, Konami released Suikoden V in North America and there were some trepidations on how well the game would turn out. The previous game in the series, Suikoden IV, was abit underwhelming in its execution. A rarity in the Suikoden series in that the game was just ok; with some fans calling it awful. But even Suikoden IV still played better and its story less cliche than most rpgs coming out of Japan. Suikoden fans needn’t have worried about this latest entry in the series. Suikoden V doesn’t bring anything new or innovating in terms of graphics to the genre (but then these games never has in the past) but what it did was bring back the series to the high-standard of character development and storyline the series was very well-known and critically-acclaimed for.
Set six years before the events which played out in Suikoden I, Suikoden V takes places in the Queendom of Falena whose current Queen has in her possession the Sun Rune. The Sun Rune is one of the 27 True Runes which makes the backbone of what makes the critical events of the Suikoden Universe so unique to the role-playing genre. Queen Arshtat rules Falena with the Sun Rune but events prior to the beginning of the game (told in flashback) has set into motion a dangerous game of political machinations and powergrabbing between two powerful groups in the Houses of Barows and Godwins with the Sun Rune in the middle of it all.
The player is given control of Queen Arshtat’s only son to figure out just what sort of secret plans either Houses has in store for the Royals. Accompanying the player are Arshtat’s sister Sialeeds, his bodyguard and lifelong friend Lyon, and Georg (a familiar face for those who have played the previous games in the series). As the game’s story unfolds the complexity of the power struggle between Barows and Godwins and those of the Falenan Royal Family becomes more than a struggle for the realm of Falena but for its ultimate survival as something powerful and beyond human comprehension has slowly influenced those in close proximity. There’s moments of extreme sadness and ultimate sacrifices and love. Machiavellian plots and counterplots from both the protagonists and antagonists keep the player guessing as to how the story will play out. There’s also betrayals and genocidal actions which gives this entry to the series the dark edge the previous fourth Suikoden lacked.
Unlike most JRPG’s (Japanese RPGs), Suikoden V doesn’t have an end-of-the-world storyline but one which stays regional, but makes the plot no less epic and actually gives the game more freedom in how the story unfolds. The game’s story has to rank up there with Suikoden II‘s as one of the best rpg storylines ever and only lags behind the second game due to that game’s having a brilliant and memorable villain in one Luca Blight. The main characters and most of the 108 Stars of Destiny characters were well-written with their own distinct personalities and motivations for joining the fight. The dialogue during the game is mostly done through text with each character show in anime-style profiles. The cutscenes on the other hand uses voice acting which for a rpg was done pretty well with voice actors who actually gave each character voiced a distinct personality. It would’ve been nice if Konami had included the Japanese voice-acting in addition to the English translation. It’s a minor gripe, but nothing that takes away from making Suikoden V such a great game.
The gameplay mechanics returns back to the 6-party formation from the first three games in the series. There’s still the usual co-operative attacks when certain combinations of characters are put in the battle party. The co-op attacks could involve just two characters all the way up to six characters combining to create devastating non-runic attacks. There’s also co-op attacks between characters using runes. These combined runic attacks are some of the most damaging attacks in the game and allows the player a reason to actually bring a balanced party of 6 characters that’s made up of fighter strong in physical attacks and those adept in runes. The newest change in the battle mechanics occur in the war battles. Gone is the turn-based system that’s worked well in the first four games. Suikoden V‘s war battles now takes place in real-time which makes for much more hectic battles. The player must constantly know where each of his units are and how they’re stacked up against the opposing forces.
Suikoden V is a great game and also brings the Suikoden series back to great form after an interesting but lackluster attempt at innovation with Suikoden IV. This fifth entry did everything right in what made the series great. It had a great and compelling storyline with complex and distinct characters. Suikoden V misses surpassing the great Suikoden II in greatness just due to that game having certain classic and memorable characters. This is an unfair comparison but something that still puts the second game ahead of V, but just barely. That shows just how great this game really is. Already announced by Suikoden’s creators that V will be the last Suikoden game for this current generation of Playstation console system. While the title hasn’t made a return to consoles that’s not handheld if this was the last game in the series then it was a proper send-off.