The odds against me reviewing this soundtrack were at first high. The game Vagrant Story isn't exactly my favourite Squaresoft RPG (mostly due to its stupid and over-complicated battle system). And the composer Hitoshi Sakimoto is not a favourite of mine. Yes, I did like Final Fantasy Tactics Original Soundtrack, but unlike some people, I don't consider it to be absolutely great. Simply an over-average OST, which deservs more than a few spins in the CD-player. But Sakimoto did that one together with Iwata, and I still don't think they play in the same high league as Uematsu, Kikuta, and Mitsuda. So why should I like Vagrant Story Original Soundtrack? I don't know, and I don't know why I got it in the first place. But now I'm happy I got it.... well, kind of.
It's hard to describe. On the net one phrase has come up repeatedly: "It's the perfect mix of Final Fantasy Tactics and Metal Gear Solid." With some reservation, one can hold this as true. But on some tracks I would prefer to use this similar phrase: "It's a good mix of Final Fantasy Tactics and Resident Evil." The tones of FF Tactics are evident. Not as pompous and grand as Sakimoto's earlier project, but you can still recognise the similar orchestral style, albeit in a darker, more toned-down garment. The MGS tones are also evident, in the same type of hide-and-seek-dungeon music. It's not bad, and I personally prefer it to the MGS music. I did not play far into the actual game Vagrant Story, but what I saw hinted to a plot and an atmosphere darker than most Squaresoft games. That's where the Resident Evil part comes in. Some tracks are spooky indeed, and I think these are the dungeon tracks. Many of these dark tracks remind me of not just RE, but also the great (and very underrated) music of Konami's Castlevania 64 in its gothic ambience. These dark tracks are probably the best ones, as the more "happy" ones aren't as well composed. Maybe Sakimoto will find his true calling here in future projects?
The main theme of the game is good, but nothing more, as is the title track "Opening Move". The two absolutely best tracks are "Grayland Jiken Climax" (disc 1 track 03), and "Minotauros" (disc 1 track 06). "Grayland Jiken Climax" is a great 12-minute epic audio journey. It starts out calmly, then builds step after step, and after about 7 minutes it's a great symphony accompanied by beating, thrashing drum sounds, which sounds truly awe-inspiring. Simply amazing! "Minotauros" is one of the greatest boss themes ever. It doesn't waste time, and it suits its scene perfectly (I played that far into the game). Many other boss battle themes are also very good, such as "Golem" and "Ifreet". There are two remixes at the end of disc 2. "Opening Move (Fight Mix)" is really boring and doesn't lift the mediocre title track one bit, but "Dungeon (Robot Mix)" is certainly another matter. This track is redone in a great Kraftwerk style! Anyone who likes electronic sounds will love this, and it's a nice contrast to the in-game tracks.
All in all, Vagrant Story Original Soundtrack is good. Actually more than good, but not much more. It tends to get boring if you listen to both discs straight through (two and a half hours), and somehow I sense that I would feel that even if I had played the game through and had the emotional attachment. The music suffers quite a bit from boring repetitiveness. By that I don't mean that the same piece of music comes many times (except for the main theme which pops up way too often in relation to its quality), but that the music in many parts sounds the same. And no, this effect doesn't go away after many listens. But, that aside, the soundtrack still is great, much better than I thought it would be. And it does sound more agreeable on audio CD than I thought it would when I played the game, which is a pleasant surprise. I would recommend the Final Fantasy Tactics and Dracula Apocalypse OSTs before Vagrant Story. But if you like this kind of music, then it is a solid investment, especially if you also like the game
On rare occasions, one can start to play a game just because of the great music. (Sword Of Vermilion anyone?) I think that I have experienced one of those occasions with Vagrant Story.