LUFIA & THE FORTRESS OF DOOM
Original Soundtrack Review
32 - Battle 3
The trick "Battle 2" and "Parting" used - that of repeating its entirety before adding in a new section of development - is repeated here. Some context - repeating a theme's intro isn't an uncommon thing in videogame music. It's the most common thing imaginable. ("Departure" did it, for example.) But repeating a piece's entirety before new bits is less common. Yuzo Koshiro did it, but this predates Etrian Odyssey IV by well over a decade.
But anyways. "Battle 3" is for the most part very similar to "Battle 2", albeit this has a faster pace. Furthermore, like "Battle 2", it's mostly underwhelming with the exception of that additional segment, an absolutely wonderful guitar solo that's easily the highlight of the track.
It could be argued, though, that "Battle 3" is the biggest disappointment of the soundtrack. This is supposed to be the final battle theme. Final battles are big events. The player's last hurdle to completion. This, though... it doesn't feel like a final battle theme. It just feels like a faster-paced derivative of "Battle 2" with the addition of a guitar solo. I mean, perhaps "Four Mad Gods" works fantastically in-game, even if - devoid of the knowledge of where it would go, with only educated guesses to make - it seems like glorified ambience. And I've praised previous ambient tracks, so perhaps knowledge of where "Four Mad Gods" goes would change my opinion. Indeed, from a non-critical standpoint, I actually quite enjoy listening to "Four Mad Gods" on its own.
If we remove the stigma of final battle themes from it, though, "Battle 3" is easily the best battle theme on the soundtrack - longer than "Battle 1" and not nearly as sloppy, better than "Battle 2" for its quicker pace. It's just that as a final battle theme, this is a huge let-down. 4.6 out of 7.
33 - Field Motif
"Priphea Flowers" makes a brief return for the intro before original material takes over - and that's not a bad thing (though the name "Field Motif" absolutely mystifies me). I am a fan of having melodies woven in and out of numerous tracks, but I am also equally fond of themes that don't make recurring appearances.
This is, without a doubt, the saddest theme in the game. The emotion here is quite tangible. It is by other standards a rather simple piece, but considering the simplicity of the vast majority of tracks so far it's actually one of the more complex pieces. This theme is mainly flute, with some oboe and a bit of pizzicato harp. It's a well-developed and saddening. 6.2 out of 7.
34 - A Reunion, And...
Though "Field Motif" us undoubtedly the most emotional of the themes present, "A Reunion, And..." is no slouch either, though it is somewhat weaker. It's not quite as strong, both for the somewhat dinky noises used and the usage of strings - they appear in the background, but they're too 'full' a sound. A solo strings instrument would've worked better rather than the ensemble sound, but I believe Shiono didn't have any solo violin sounds. 4.2 out of 7.
35 - Journey's End
The happiest theme on the soundtrack. I can't identify the main instrument, but it works very well. Considering the weakness of the soundfont, this works very well, and it's easy to enjoy and bop along too.
Of course, it's ludicrously cliche and very, very cheesy. But Shiono's natural talent for melodies carries the piece along very well and it seems over before it's begun. From a critical standpoint, if I believed in 'objective' reviewing, I should be pounding this into the ground or something before calling a guilty pleasure. But, you know, I don't believe in 'objective' reviewing. Reviewing is very much a subjective thing based on the reviewer's opinions. I embrace this wholeheartedly.
So, with that in mind, I'll give it the 5.3 out of 7 that a critic would sneer and spit at.
The soundfont is the weakest aspect of the soundtrack. The strings ensemble sounds are the strongest aspect of the soundtrack, followed closely by woodwinds, idiophone, and guitar. The brass and pizzicato (harp, really) sounds are very weak - the brass is obnoxious and overbearing while the pizzicato harp is very flat and thin. The percussion falls somewhere in the middle, but it is effectively used and the SNES always struggled with percussion - timpani excepted, of course. As a judgement, this is a distinct soundfont, roughly on par with Romancing SaGa.
"Battle 2" and "Battle 3", though disappointing, show good grasp of how to do a battle theme and it's better than other composers might do in Shiono's place. "The Last Duel" is not just the best piece on the soundtrack, but one of the best pieces to ever hit the SNES. It is what I call a capital-C 16-bit Classic. Meanwhile, the 'Sinistral motif' is one of the most memorable melodies out there and it's effectively used in "The Battle of the Island in the Void", "Wave of Evil", and the sadly undeveloped "The Island in the Void."
"Battle 1" is a decent and effective, but amateurish, sloppy effort. The dungeon themes, "Cave," "The Ruins of Dread," and "Tower" go for ambience and atmosphere, and though it may not be to everyone's liking it's definitely to mine. "Cave" is a bit noisy and irritating, while "The Ruins of Dread" falls into the background much easier, though the transition during loops may irritate. "Tower" goes a step further with a quicker, tenser pace and loops flawlessly, making it the best out of them. "In the Ocean" takes this ambient approach another step further and adds the actual sounds of air bubbles in the ocean to it, which I absolutely love. "Four Mad Gods" simplifies the approach to the bare basics but disappoints due to the presumed place it plays in-game, but may well work far better than I give it credit for if my guess is wrong and "Silent Shrine" takes the approach in the reverse direction of "Tower" with a somewhat slower feeling to it, even though from a factual standpoint it may actually beat "Tower" for speed.
"The Earth" is a strong overworld theme, and "Castle" continues the generic approach of chamber music, which is one that I don't enjoy much at all, but it has a decent melody. "Town" and "Village" are decently relaxing pieces, while "Port Town" beats both for its energy. "Underground Market" is tragically simple, and while the flute melody is nice, it doesn't do anything new beyond that one melody. "99 Years Later" and "In the New World" practically put the weak soundfont on exhibition by attempting to be orchestrally mighty but ultimately just sounding weak.
What emerges is that Shiono has a strong grasp of melody. The 'Sinistral motif' is one of the most memorable themes in an RPG of the 16-bit era, while "The Last Duel" is a plain and simple classic. It is, while a simple soundtrack, a decent first effort.
Averaging all the ratings for each individual track, this soundtrack gets: 4.7 out of 7.
While I personally quite enjoyed it, I'll admit that this won't be to everyone's taste. Simple or complex, I enjoy music. But listeners whom are more used to deeply complex pieces or even just used to soundtracks more in the vein of Final Fantasy probably won't find this as good as I seemed to. As much as I enjoyed it, it's simple and often not as developed as it needs to be. To be completely honest, I would only recommend this soundtrack to someone whom was already a Lufia fan.
Well, I've finished that review. Phew. It took longer than I expected. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading it - what are your thoughts on individual pieces? Or even just the soundtrack as a whole. Incidentally, could I also have some opinions on the soundtrack of Ruins of Lore, of which Shiono had no involvement, with Yukio Nakajima composing everything? Is it the weird cousin nobody talks about or is it an accepted brother with a couple quirks about it?
And for my next review... hmm. I don't know. I guess we'll see.