One thing the Soul Calibur series has been known for since its inception is its action-packed orchestral style score. Soul Calibur III continues that tradition admirably, albeit perhaps a bit too diligently.
In a way it's actually a treat having never played Soul Calibur III and listening to its soundtrack, guessing which tracks go to which scenarios and character types. "Hour of Destiny" follows in the footsteps of the original Soul Edge by beginning the adventure with a rousing opening theme, fantastically moving from the soundtrack's characteristic throbbing strings and brass to a sweeping, epic climax, then rising again to an intense finale that has you eager to hear the rest of the soundtrack. "History Beckons" must certainly be the character select music, and what fine music it is to get you primed for an upcoming battle. "Pure Breeze", judging from both title and content, most likely accompanies one of the "innocent and noble" female characters. By laying off the blaring brass section in favor of solo horns and wind instruments, it offers a nice respite from the more intense sound of the bulk of the soundtrack.
In fact it's the tracks that diverge from the throbbing, aggressive majority that save the OST from becoming excessively repetitive. "Confrontation" augments its orchestral instrumentation with progressive rock sensibilities that would make the likes of Motoi Sakuraba proud. The quiet, ancient Egyptian sound of "Labyrinth of Moonlight" is a complete change of pace from the rest of the stage themes, its mysterious and alluring flute lead and hand drums making it the most organic sounding of the bunch.
Of course, action-charged orchestral is what one would expect from a series like Soul Calibur, and it achieves the style well. "The New Legend" and "Battle for the Crown" come right out from the get-go, brass blazing and drums pounding unabashedly, admirably demonstrating how enjoyable the style can be.
One common feature of the character/stage themes that fill most of the first disc is a brief segue about halfway through the track that changes in mood a bit and brings the track to a climax, before repeating briefly and fading out. In several tracks these segues are what bring the "good" tracks closer to "great", or make otherwise mediocre tracks worth a listen. "If There Were Any Other Way" begins as fairly ordinary ominous orchestral fair, but a perfectly placed epic climax makes the track a treat. Another feature is the effective use of live instrumental soloists to augment the "synthonic" orchestral samples. "Fearless Eyes" is enjoyable enough with its sweeping strings, blaring brass, and flute embellishments, but it's the live acoustic guitar at the beginning and at the rousing climax that makes the track great. Other standout uses of live instrumentation include the Chinese fiddle in "Water Dance"and the solemn yet dignified, almost patriotic trumpet in "Peaceful Days". As for the orchestral synth itself, it's up to par with the standards of today's game soundtracks, and substitutes for a live orchestra as well as can be expected.
With the stage themes, which comprise the bulk of fighting games, all on the first disc, I assumed the second disc would consist mostly of throw-away mini-diddies of music for throw-away mini-endings and such in the game. Fortunately this is not the case. While the first disc does contain the majority of the standout tracks, the second disc is generally solid and even boasts a few of the notable departures from the mainstay style of orchestral action.
My major complaint with the soundtrack is that the frequent use of the action-packed orchestral style, combined with the synth-orchestral instrumentation and the consistent two-to-three minute time range of tracks on the first disc (even shorter for most of the second), has it all starting to sound the same after a while. Especially during the latter third of the first disc, the repetition of style and pattern, with only a couple of respites, has the soundtrack borderlining on cliche, even though none of the tracks aside from perhaps the last two qualify as such on their own. Some added diversity, either in composition style, or through full live instrumentation, or with some longer track lengths to mix things up and allow the composers more freedom in arrangement, would have gone a long way.
Soul Calibur III Original Soundtrack is solid but not remarkable, providing almost exactly what would be expected from a medieval, globe-spanning fighting game series. While a greater amount of variety or some longer, more fully developed tracks would be nice, there are plenty of exciting orchestral action pieces to satisfy fans of the series and listeners comfortable with the nuances of the OST format.