Sekaiju no MeiQ³ *seikai no raihousya* ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Initially released in March 2007, Etiran Odyssey proved to be a sleeper hit in Japan, with its first person dungeon crawler style. The following year, a sequel Etrian Odyssey II was released and was even more successful than its predecessor. However, in 2009, a third game was not released. In its place, a game developed by the same people, entitled 7th Dragon, was released, which was a more traditional RPG but still featured many of the qualities that made the Etrian Odyssey series so popular. So, when Etrian Odyssey III was announced — in conjunction with the confirmation that series' composer Yuzo Koshiro was onboard to compose once again — I was extremely excited, given that I loved these soundtracks so much. Then, in a Famitsu interview, it was revealed that the direction of the soundtrack was altered. Although Koshiro stated it was altered "drastically," I couldn't believe it could be that different. Boy was I wrong... However, do the changes made to the soundtrack's direction affect its quality in any way? You'll have to read on to find out!
Although much of the soundtrack can be easily sectioned off into a few substantial categories, there are a few themes that don't really "belong" with the other themes. I figure that I'll get those out of the way first. To open the album, "That's the Adventure's Opening," is an extremely calming piece that has an ethereal beauty to it. The melody is extremely touching and I love the overall subdued approach to the whole composition. It's definitely reminiscent of the opening theme to Etrian Odyssey II. In contrast, "Your Adventure Has Ended," the ending theme for the game, adopts a very poppy approach. It's a bubbly, entertaining melody that features plenty of drum pad for some rhythmic contrast. The accompaniment is also quite interesting, ranging from sustained notes to some beautiful harmonies.
There are also a couple of themes that are event/scene themes that also don't quite fit into the general distribution of the remaining themes. "Scene - Unknown Menace," first used when someone in the first stratum of the labyrinth explains to you the concept of an FOE. For those unfamiliar with the series, these are exceptionally strong enemies visibly wandering the field as various colored orbs. This theme captures their formidability quite well through its use of ominous and pounding percussion and futuristic sci-fi synth melodies, as if they are considered alien forces. One of the better ominous themes in the series for sure! The other theme, "Scene - Cold Justice," most likely plays prior to the final boss battle, if the previous games are any indication. It features a haunting melody, despite its upbeat, yet slightly ominous, atmosphere. It's one of my favorite scene themes in the entire series. Lastly, "Seascape - Great Voyage," plays as you traverse the open seas, the first for an Etrian Odyssey game. It has a great melody and overall progression, though at times, especially the B section, it relies a bit too much on traditional and established "pirate" sounding themes, similar to what one might hear in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The A section though manages to throw in a bit of contrast through its use of choral backing. It's still a great theme, but one of the weaker ones on the soundtrack.
The town themes in the game also vary quite a bit. "Townscape - Engrave Thy Name," is a militaristic, bombastic piece that serves as the music when you enter the name of your guild and are creating your characters. It's a motivating piece for the enduring trials you face ahead. "Townscape - Between these Azure Skies and the Seas" is definitely one of my favorites too. It has a very playful atmosphere about it and seems to invoke the sense of what I'd feel if I were strolling about an island city. It's happy and inviting and, just as the wind blows, my cares just seem to vanish. The B section of the track is a bit mellower, but it still harnesses all these feelings. Another town theme that really captures the island vibe is "Townscape - Sunlit Water Surface." A bit more calypso and Caribbean in nature, it boasts a similar playful style that is captured in "Townscape - Between these Azure Skies and the Seas." The bass guitar work and percussion really give it a nice jazzy flair and both the A and B sections really manage to impress.
"Townscape - The Sea City Covered in Twilight" has a fantastic melodic hook with an extremely upbeat nature. If I could compare this to any other soundtrack, I'd say it reminds me of the jazz-styled offerings found in Breath of Fire III. It's a shame it's so short, though! "Townscape - The City of the Deep Blue Sea" features a great rhythm and the prolific use of bass really makes it stand out amongst some of the other town themes. The crystalline synth accompaniment really accents the tropically infused, yet warped, soundscape of the entire theme. It's an interesting town theme for sure, although for some, it might take some time to get used to.
Out of all the town themes, "Townscape - The Great Tree Bearing the Ancient City" is definitely the most futuristic in terms of soundscape. Featuring some awesome crystalline synth, some subtle keyboard chords as accompaniment, and some awesome chiptune-like harmonies, it offers a pretty interesting mixture of retro and futuristic soundscapes. The B section is more traditional in sound and features a slightly jazzy flavoring to it and hosts a superb melody. The last two town themes are very different in nature compared to the other town themes on the soundtrack. "Townscape - Thousand Years" is very mellow and features some beautiful bell tones, an interesting accompaniment, and the melody, through the use of synth, has a nice touch as well. It has a very interesting soundscape that is hard to place, but it's still enjoyable. Lastly, "Townscape - The King that Lost Time," also adopts a very mellow approach. It's a calm and tranquil theme that features a music box melody combined with some bell tolls. It's a very soothing piece. It's another short theme, but one that is still quite beautiful.
The labyrinth themes have always been a series of tunes that have truly captured my heart in the game. While the previous games relied more on tranquil and calming soundscapes, for the most part, this game features a bit of departure in that area. However, the first theme, "Labyrinth I - Waterfall Woodlands," follows in the footsteps of the labyrinth themes from the preceding games. It's an extremely beautiful piece that lulls you into a false sense of security as you traverse the labyrinth. Exquisite choral accents help give it a captivating etherealness to the piece and the change in tones and melodic sections are cemented together through these choral accents and other elements, such as the rhythmic percussion that just oozes classic Etrian Odyssey. Overall, I think this is the best Labyrinth I theme in the series yet! "Labyrinth II - Water Woods of the Submarine Ridge" is more in line with something reminiscent of 7th Dragon. Employing the use of some haunting choral accompaniment, this is one of the labyrinth themes that is quite spooky and menacing in nature, something not seen too often in the Etrian Odyssey series. At times, this theme manages to bring about it a haunting beauty, but at others, a nice sense of tension and omen is entered into the mix through its use of synth and percussion. It almost sounds like an evil carnival theme at times. It's an excellent theme, but I find it to be the weakest of the labyrinth themes overall.
In terms of overall soundscape, "Labyrinth III - Brilliant Cavern" is the biggest departure from any of the previous games' labyrinth themes. Rather than go for the calming, lush soundscapes in the previous games, it is more along the lines of something you might hear in an early Master System game. It features an incredibly catchy beat that just oozes classic sound, an ominous atmosphere, and, although the intro is fairly adventurous and heroic in nature, that's just a tease as to the true nature of the piece. The melody is absolutely fantastic, but the amalgamation of all the elements heard in the theme is what truly makes this piece shine. This is easily the best Labyrinth III theme in the series thus far and is definitely one of the best labyrinth themes on this soundtrack. In a similar fashion, the soundscape of "Labyrinth IV - Deep Ocean Ritual Temple" is also quite unique. However, it manages to impress even further through its clever use of industrial accompaniment, crystalline synth accompaniment, and percussion use. It harbors a bit less of an ominous nature than "Brilliant Cavern," but the tension can definitely be felt. Of note in this theme is this awesome synth line in the B section that would fit right into one of the classic Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games. It's a real treat and one of the best features of this theme.
While the previous two Labyrinth V themes in the series have relied on a mixture of mystery and beauty, this game's theme is quite a bit different. "Labyrinth V - Chalky Woods," home to the final boss, features a fantastic, upbeat melody that definitely carries with it some Asian influence. However, what I truly love about this theme, aside, of course, from its infectiously catchy beat and melody, is the accompaniment throughout the theme. At times, it's chime-like in nature, at others, strings take the forefront, but overall, it adds an exquisite touch on one of the shortest labyrinth themes on the soundtrack. "Labyrinth VI - The Evil God in the Dark Ocean Depths," the theme for the sixth, and optional, labyrinth is easily the darkest of them all in any Etrian Odyssey game to date. This theme also reminds me heavily of some of the darker themes heard on The Scheme. It has very industrial backbone, filled with ominous bass, sharp synth tones, and extremely daunting melody. At times, the synth imitates what sounds to me to be a perfect fit for a saxophone, were this theme to be more modern in sound, while at others, it is definitely a more industrialized synthscape. In the end, this has an interesting atmosphere that combines elements of jazz with those of omen. This is easily one of the best labyrinth themes ever crafted.
Historically, the battle themes in the Etrian Odyssey series have always been a strong point. Whether it is the moving orchestral themes or the ultra catchy synth rock based themes, there is definitely something there for everyone. However, if you were a fan of those orchestral themes in the first two games, you might be disheartened to learn there are no orchestral battle themes on this soundtrack. That doesn't mean that the replacement themes are bad. In fact, I think the battle themes for this game are the strongest in the series. Serving as the first normal battle theme in the game, "Battlefield - The First Campaign" oozes that classic battle theme soundscape. The percussion is top-notch and the synth melody is absolutely superb. The B section, however, is what really rocks. It's essentially a beautiful synth solo full of slick passages. I honestly wasn't expecting that at all! The second normal battle theme for the game, "Battlefield - Those That Slay and Fall," is a bit of a different beast than "Battlefield - The First Campaign." Similar to the first normal battle theme, it also features that classic battle theme soundscape. The percussion is fantastic and the melody is bursting with energy. It has a very bubbly atmosphere, especially in the B section, where the tempo is slowed a bit. This section, in particular, always puts a smile on my face. It makes me happy every time I hear it! There is no solo in this one, but it doesn't need one!
"Battlefield - That Fresh Blood is Thine or the Enemy's," serving as the battle theme against FOEs, is a huge departure from the trademark FOE theme heard previously in both previous entries into the series. While the original FOE theme relied on a series of crisis motifs, was orchestral and didn't feature a strong melodic hook, this one throws all that out of the window. Definitely synth rock in approach, this theme features pounding percussion, ominous synth tones, some electric guitar work, and although it still isn't as melodic as some of the other battle themes, the B section still manages to throw in a nice melodic curveball to hook you in, if the awesome percussion work hasn't done so already. As far as I know, as you explore the open seas, a new addition this game, you don't encounter normal enemies, however, since you take ocean quests, you occasionally encounter a sea creature of massive proportions. "Disturbances - The End of the Raging Waves" is the theme that plays during these encounters and what a fantastic theme it is! It features a fantastic melody that never has a problem of keeping your attention throughout its entire duration, the percussion is work is fantastic, and the various changes in pace really help keep the theme quite fresh. It would fit perfectly in one of his older soundtracks, such as The Scheme.
The boss theme for the game, "Disturbances - Hoist the Sword and Pride in the Heart," follows a similar progression to that of the FOE theme, "Battlefield - That Fresh Blood is Thine or the Enemy's." Although this one is definitely more melodically focused, in which the melody does harbor a very sense of urgency and despair, the true star of this theme has to be the percussion. It makes the theme so much more menacing and gives it a fantastic rock vibe. Overall, this is a much welcome change over the orchestral boss themes of the past, although those were also quite good. "Disturbances - Scatter About," has been featured previously in both Etrian Odyssey games. The first game featured it as the final boss theme whereas the second game featured it as the boss theme for the boss at the end of the optional sixth labyrinth. I'm not sure what its purpose is in this game, but presumably it comes during a fight in the fifth labyrinth. There isn't much different melodically from this version to the previous versions, but the accompanying percussion definitely got a more intense coat of paint. I really think the percussion makes this one shine.
The final battle theme, "Disturbances - Each Justice," has a Castlevania-like vibe to it and that's fine with me. Koshiro's work, despite only minor on the Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin soundtrack, was top-notch and you can definitely feel a bit of that influence in this piece. Secondly, if you are a huge fan of The Scheme, as I am, you'll also hear some of that influence in here as well. It's an extremely upbeat theme with some awesome percussion work, a fantastic melody, and the organ work, coupled with the various choral and chiptune-esque accents makes this one a winner in my book! Overall, this is an extremely riveting theme and is easily the best final boss theme in the series. Last, but definitely not least, "Disturbances - Calling That Detestable Name," is the boss theme for the boss at the end of the optional labyrinth and, for a lack of words, is absolutely awesome and is currently my favorite battle theme on the soundtrack. The A section is utilized to build tension through its awesome use of percussion and accompaniment. It doesn't hurt that the melody line for the A section incorporates some crisis motifs and some organ usage. The B section, on the other hand, is absolutely phenomenal. Featuring the same accompaniment as the A section, the B section is essentially a series of crazy keyboard solos that would even make Motoi Sakuraba proud. It is an intense ride from start to finish!
In the end, this is a thrilling ride from start to finish. To see Yuzo Koshiro break the mold of the Etrian Odyssey series might not be up to everyone's liking, but because of it, I believe it manages to capture a retro sound stronger than those in the previous games. The new soundscapes of the labyrinth and battle themes are definitely in line with those themes from the early days of video gaming and feature some fantastic mixing. The town themes are also a refreshing touch and really fit the island setting, while also throwing in a few curve balls. If you've been following the series, this is definitely another Koshiro soundtrack easily worth picking up. If there is a fourth game to the series, and with impressive first week sales that surpass the previous two games and it is highly likely, Koshiro is going to be hard-pressed to beat this one. I urge him to prove me wrong though!
Disc1: PC-8801 FM Version
Disc2: PC-8801 FM & Nintendo DS Version
Disc3: Nintendo DS Version
That's the Adventure's Opening
Townscape - Engrave Thy Name
Labyrinth I - Waterfall Woodlands
Battlefield - The First Campaign
Townscape - Between these Azure Skies and the Seas
Labyrinth II - Water Woods of the Submarine Ridge
Scene - Unknown Menace
Battlefield - That Fresh Blood is Thine or the Enemy's
Townscape - Sunlit Water Surface
Seascape - Great Voyage
Disturbances - The End of the Raging Waves
Townscape - The Sea City Covered in Twilight
Labyrinth III - Brilliant Cavern
Disturbances - Hoist the Sword and Pride in the Heart
Townscape - The City of the Deep Blue Sea
Labyrinth IV - Deep Ocean Ritual Temple