It all began last summer, when I was playing a GBA game called Golden Sun. The music in that game was nothing short of breathtaking. "Who did this?" I always wondered to myself. I finally learned that the man behind this sound was Motoi Sakuraba. I definitely wanted to check out his other works, and had a nice interest in a game entitled Valkyrie Profile. Upon finally playing that game, and listening to its music, it had become apparent that I had another favorite composer.
Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack is much different from any RPG soundtrack I've ever heard personally. There aren't too many classical/orchestral pieces, as the bulk of the soundtrack is made up of a progressive rock (power rock, as I hear it referred to) style. Now, I'm not a big fan of power rock, but I absolutely adore it here. The introduction piece, "Take a flight", is the best opening intro song I've heard in any RPG. And that type of sound is what you should expect throughout the entire score. Dungeons are the backbone of this game, and you'll not find one atmospheric dungeon theme (unlike almost every other RPG on the market today) in the entire soundtrack. That is what I love about the soundtrack - it isn't cliche in any way, and I embrace its differences.
The dungeon themes in Valkyrie Profile are extremely high-powered and full of energy. I was impressed with "Clouds of spray" (as are most people who like this OST!). It's oriental in flavor, and has a very addictive melody. I'm also very fond of "Distortions in the void of despair" and "Hopeless Resolution", both of which will never fail to get your adrenaline pumping, as well as the evil and sadistic sounding "Evil tales and obligation". Other notable pieces include "Hard Chain Reaction", which plays in the tower of Lezard Valleth. The slow and ominous "Ending the spiral" gives the feeling of impending doom. And of course, there's the triumphant "Blameless thoughts", which you'll hear after you successfully complete a dungeon. The aforementioned tunes are only just a fraction of the dungeon themes in the game. And if you think that's as good as it gets, it's only because you haven't heard the battle themes yet. Valkyrie Profile is a great example of what battle themes should be. First, "Turn over a new leaf" and "Turn over a new leaf (rhythm ver.)" (the latter of which plays on disk two of the game) will warm you up for the impending battle, and then "Fighting the shadowy gods" will take your breath away! The boss battle theme, "Confidence in domination", is truly amazing. I love the electric guitar riffs throughout the song; there's never a dull moment... ever.
As great as the dungeon themes are, I would be lying if I said they were my favorite songs on the soundtrack. I actually prefer the slower, more beautiful side of Valkyrie Profile OST. The opening movie piece, "Epic poem to sacred death", is just as beautiful as it is sad. As is "All is twilight", which features a really nice guitar, bell tones, and that beautiful flute sample that Sakuraba is known for. "Through a thin haze" is another beautiful, yet sad and emotional piece. "Behave irrationally", the song that plays whenever someone dies, is the perfect song for such an event. The flute plays a somber melody over a music box in the background just before an entire synth orchestra joins in and repeats that same melody. It's really effective and very beautiful. "Valhalla" is heavenly, epic, and painfully majestic. The choir, bell tones, harp, strings - everything - makes this one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard. The same can be said about "When a person changes", in which the chorus and flute sample carry this piece to unfathomable heights of emotion and beauty. These two pieces are by far the best choral tracks I've ever heard in any videogame.
By now, anyone would've gathered that I have a deep love affair with this soundtrack. But there are two things that really annoy me about this release. Firstly, I noticed that there were a few songs on the end of disk two that weren't in the game. I later learned that these songs were from Star Ocean 2: The Second Story. Now, I personally don't see the logic in this at all. That game already has a soundtrack release! Why include some of those tracks here? Including those Star Ocean tracks just takes up space, which could've been put to much better use. And that brings me to my next point, the bane of my existence: the songs don't loop (you knew this was coming!). Even if the budget only allowed for a two CD set, many tracks could've still been looped. Disc one has a skimpy running time of only 54:53, so much space was wasted! And while disc two is over an hour, someone decided to fill disc space with tracks from another game instead of looping what was already there. I just don't understand it! But there's nothing anyone can do about it now. But again, I will not be satisfied unless I get every song *twice*! And with all that being said, the OST is still a great listening experience.
Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack is a wonderful thing. I wish someone had told me about Sakuraba sooner! I now have the daunting task of tracking down his earlier works, not to mention making room for his new ones. If you're tired of your typical RPG soundtracks, and want to try something a little new and different, then this album is definitely the way to go. A true gem.