Long-running RPG series, arranged album, battle theme collection, veteran composer - it seems like a sure-fire combination. Far less than the sum of its parts, however, Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks fails to live up to expectations or even approach them.
Composer Motoi Sakuraba offers several decent - if conventional - game melodies but they generally suffer from dull accompaniment. Piano chords and drum beats at times hardly best the presets of a cheap electronic keyboard, and backing guitars amount to little more than background noise. "Battle Organization" and "The Edge of a Decision" get solid starts but are diluted by meandering arrangements. For a composer so fond of using synth and an album so full of it, it's surprising not to hear a single noteworthy instrument throughout. An often used synth organ makes the best impression but even it doesn't have quite the pizazz it should be capable of. At its worst ("Alea Jacta Est"), the instrumentation is more along the lines of standard Playstation 1 synth.
A few slower, decidedly "un-battle" arrangements are included - perhaps for the sake of variety - but they tend to be the most generic of the bunch. The painfully simple chords of "Bare Its Fangs" befit a beginner piano recital, and "Furnace of War" is so seeping with melodrama it could just as well serve as parody. The electric organ in "Inferia Battle" infuses some soul into a somewhat predictable main melody but is inhibited by anemic pop-ballad percussion.
Though they fail to save the ship, a couple tracks do rise above the surrounding sea of mediocrity. "The Arrow Was Shot" warrants its position at the forefront of the album with a truly rocking keyboard hook that grows more addictive over time. Even here, though, you can't help but wish for more - with a more live feel and some Konami Battle-style punch it would be a true classic. "Take Up the Cross" offers another catchy keyboard hook but again fails to reach its potential, thanks to generic, lifeless backing guitar.
Were it just another RPG original soundtrack, Tales of Series Battle Arrange Tracks would be unspectacular but at least easily dismissible. As an arranged album with the billings of a best collection, however, it reflects rather poorly on the series and composer from which it comes.