(continued from Part I of the review)
After hearing the opening, I again found myself shaking my head at being so out of touch with such works. Just listening to the Suikoden II OST places it extremely high on my preferred VGM list—I only wish that I could play the actual game without spending ridiculous amounts of money (one day…!). Regardless, however, there is, as I’ve said before, something to be said about loving a game OST without having played the game itself. Higashino’s work on Suikoden II is so involved and so perfect for a game that I am pretty content just imagining what would be happening on-screen during a particular tune and determining how that fits in the greater context of the musical body of work.
And what a body of work it is! I listened to the OST via a YouTube channel by a user that just uploads full video game soundtracks. Suikoden II has 105 tracks in its playlist; if one looks at the list of games the number of tracks each one has, s/he will find that there are few (out of this relatively small sample size) that even come close to 105. Regardless of length of the tracks, that’s 105 different ideas for a single game. Including length, if one roughly calculates that the average track is two minutes long, that’s about three and a half hours of music alone. I don’t care if the second half of most of the tracks is a loop – because, let’s face it, making something that is enjoyable to listen to after five loops is worth giving the gimmie – this is a lot of music.
Thinking about the quantity of music leads me to think about Suikoden II versus modern OSTs. Journey, for instance, has 18 tracks that total an hour. The difference is, Journey is an hour of non-looping music and has an average track length of 3:25; therefore, one may say that Journey has more ideas within a particular track – meaning that composer Austin Wintory took an idea and developed it over a large span of time coinciding with other ideas – while Suikoden II has an impressively robust number of raw ideas. That’s just interesting to consider, looking at classic versus modern soundtracks and thinking about approaching composing for games.
What’s even more impressive about the soundtrack having so many raw ideas is that Higashino’s approach to Suikoden II was clearly not a linear one. There’s such a variety in the soundtrack that the listener will be surprised from one track to the next due simply to the fact that s/he won’t be able to anticipate what kind of sound the next tune will have. Some soundtracks might be able to be categorized into an everyday genre (i.e., electronic, rock, ambient), but this one is one of those that fall strictly under the blanket of “VGM.” The listener will find that she wrote everything from orchestral music to Mitsuda-like folk songs and jigs to more traditional “classical” pieces to ambient abstractions. One of the best things about it is, though, that Higashino makes her own mark and creates an OST that is distinct among its peers.
Let’s take a look at some of the elements and themes that one will find within the OST: