animefringe december 2003 / reviews

Makai Senki Disgaea Arrange Soundtrack
Format: CD \ 17 tracks
Production: Nippon Ichi \ Tenpei Sato
Comments: A blend of Final Fantasy's Pray and Love Will Grow OSTs.
Animefringe Reviews:
Makai Senki Disgaea Arrange Soundtrack

Reviewed in this month's issue is Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, a strategy RPG for the Playstation 2. You can check out that review for information on the game itself (which I loved). One of the aspects of the game I didn't get to touch on nearly enough was the game's soundtrack; the Japanese audio for Disgaea includes a number of great vocal themes and some interesting music choices (a spicy rondo for one of the battle themes, for example, and anime inspired stuff in other parts of the game). So it's with great pleasure that I was able to check out the Disgaea arranged CD, which, like the old Final Fantasy Pray and Love Will Grow CDs, features vocal renderings of the game's music.

01. Flower of Happiness ~ Henboge Kotto is a haunting little vocal chorus affair, with hints of melodies from the game. It's simple and short, lasting for a brief 1:15.

02. Lord Laharl's Hymn will be familiar to anyone who has played Disgaea for even a short period. It acts as the castle / Laharl's theme, but this version includes much better instruments and vocal melodies in Japanese. It's a fun little song that seems to be talking about the Netherworld. A small (couple of seconds) portion of the song is used in the episode title screen in the game and the song itself is used in a few Nippon Ichi promotional videos (not Atlus' which used a punk song, Tsunami Bomb) on the Internet.

03. Hell's Whisper starts out with the simple melody that is used in-game for specific parts of Etna's backstory, but grows by adding more instruments. It's another theme that should be instantly familiar to anyone a few hours into Disgaea, as it’s played often, especially during story sequences. Other than some slightly different arrangements, especially towards the end, and the better sound with real instruments, there isn't much change to this song. Considering its simplicity, it goes on for a bit too long, but it's still a good song.

04. Beautiful Rondo is one of the oddest songs in the game, as it is, as the name suggests, an upbeat rondo, with (of course) some Italian flavor. It's one of the game's major battle themes, especially in Item World. Like “Hell's Whisper“, there isn't much change to this song (especially the first minute and a half or so), but the use of real instruments liven up the song. In the middle of the song, the track takes a brief slower turn (one not a part of the game itself) but quickly picks back up again.

05. Etna Boogie serves as the “Etna making mischief” theme in the game. This version has some very blues-like vocals by HARU. It sounds very anime-esque (perhaps something from the illustrious Yoko Kanno for Cowboy Bebop?) and perhaps similar to something by Billie Holiday.

06. Dear Friends is an oddly titled track (as there is a Final Fantasy V song of the same name that sounds a bit similar). After the energy of “Etna Boogie,” “Dear Friends” is a definite slowdown, but it really lacks any kind of moving power. The guitar used in the song sounds rather twangy and it's a bit of distraction and ruins some of the song's core musical quality.

07. Tragic Marionette is another slow track that seems to take some instruments from “Beautiful Rondo.” The highlight of the track, however, would be the vocals by Yula Yayoi. In parts, the song is reminiscent of the anime songs done by Maaya Sakamoto, but it has an unearthly, almost gypsy-like, quality that makes it fit in well with this CD.

08. Ghost Advent is another game battle theme, but it takes great liberties with the game's music, making a more ethereal, spooky song. The first minute or so of the song is just ghostly wailing and it takes a while for the song to get going. Because it is so abstract, this is definitely one of the weakest tracks on the CD.

09. Flowerbed is somewhat the antithesis to “Ghost Advent” as it is a bubbly, upbeat song, mostly used in the game in places where Laharal is shown to be a nice guy or when the angel Flonne is pushing him into niceness. The track is quiet and a little soporific, but has cute little turns of melody that keep it from being completely one dimensional.

10.War Comrade highlights the electric guitar for its melody early on. It's a quick paced song and is very anime inspired. After a few seconds Tenpei Sato starts singing the vocals in a song that could be pulled from any 80s anime title (especially a sentai title). In the game, I believe its used mostly for the goofball space hero, Gordon. The instruments are a little simplistic on this track, but the vocals and melodies are great for sheer nostalgia.

11. Mourning Angel is another track often used during story sequences. It's a slow, sad track and comes in similar parts of the game. Despite the game's silliness and humor there is a sincere little story stuck in there and this song comes at its most moving points. However, half this track sounds little different than its in-game version (especially the tinniness in some places). At the two minute mark, some real instruments used and the song sounds leaps and bounds better than in the beginning.

12. Ah, My Wonderful Life features Jun Takahashi doing vocals and seems to continue the game's theme of using Italian style music, as this song is very booming and operatic. It serves as a good foil to “Mourning Angel” since, as the title would suggest, it is very upbeat.

13. Planet X is a dance-like battle theme used towards the later parts of the game. It is a very different track for this CD as it is very trance/techno. As a trance track it's nothing spectacular but it does break up this CD well and gives some variety to the audio of the game. As with most of the other tracks on this CD, it starts out by following the game but tends to deviate from the model towards the middle and end.

14. Red Moon is another song just featuring vocals. It is very similar to “Flower of Happiness” but sounds more like a church choir. It is very haunting and beautiful.

15. Disgaea is a very Netherworld-type song that seems to take elements from various parts of the game, including (but not limited to) the other battle theme used in Item World.

16. Eternal Melody is the most stereotypically Japanese RPG track on the CD. It sounds like any number of end of game tracks in any number of RPGs.

17. Flower of Happiness is a reprise of the first track; this rendition features instruments and beautiful vocals by Youko Matsura. It sounds vaguely Ghibli-esque, like the vocal songs for Sen to Chihiro or Laputa. It's a gorgeous end to the CD.

The CD is nearly impossible to find, but Disgaea fans that stumble across it should definitely try and pick it up. Though some of the tracks slow down the whole CD, the beautiful vocal themes themselves are worth the price of admission.