By Alexander Jones / December 4th, 2015
I will never stop talking about how much I love Lost Odyssey; it is a criminally underrated and under-mentioned JRPG, and I’d say you do a disservice to the genre by not playing it. It is an odd duck, much like Blue Dragon and Tales of Vesperia, because it is a JRPG exclusive to the Xbox 360 (though other regions received Vesperia for the PS3, too), a console that did not sell particularly well in Japan. Though I’m one of those rare people that loves Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels passionately (and I’m sure I’ll explore this in future editorials), I understand why people refer to Lost Odyssey as “the real Final Fantasy XIII.” Not only does it feature traditional turn-based combat like the old Final Fantasy titles, but it’s also directed by Final Fantasy‘s father, Hinorobu Sakaguchi, and scored by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu, both of whom had already worked on Blue Dragon together. To say the score of Lost Odyssey is his magnum opus might be taking it a little too far, but I’d be willing to put a stake in that claim. The man has composed some pretty spectacular music over his illustrious career, from heart-pounding battle themes to tender, even tear-jerking character themes. Still, those found in Lost Odyssey, at times, eclipse all of them in terms of sheer emotion and scene-setting. The composition featured today is one of the boss battle themes from the game, and it is wonderfully over the top. Take a listen to “A Formidable Enemy Appears!”
Uematsu gets the ball rolling on this boss battle theme with a percussive bang. The orchestra sforzando pianos, then crescendos that same sustained note, just begging the listener to see what happens next. The low brass enters back into the fray, repeating a two-note phrase that continues for quite a long time and sustains the sinister character of the piece. Yes, there are evil monsters and wicked men you are fighting, and they’re not backing down! The strings and percussion quickly return and begin to build up more explicit tension before the introduction is over and the theme truly begins in full. The strings add a dire air to the struggle that is taking place against the boss, but the percussion serves a great undercurrent here, too. It is certainly more subtle than the low brass, which actually is kind of unusual. Listen also for the marimba instrumentation when the woodwinds take the melody of the theme early on around 40 seconds in–the percussion here is just splendid. A key change occurs and the instrumentation is even more frenzied, giving the sense that the battle is almost out of control or just that much more heated–the trumpets during the key change, with their staccato, syncopated rhythm.
However, the “B” part of this track soon enters in which gives more of a relief and a hint of a more heroic resurgence. The low two-note phrase ceases and the sleigh bell percussion instead gives this “resurgence” a different, more laid back tone, as if the heroes were planning a counterattack of sorts. This builds up, too, though, to a spectacular climax of the piece. The tone of the piece shifts to a major key, and a gong plays a major role here with the brass. The woodwinds and strings offer a descending phrase while the brass responds with an ascending phrase as the gong crashes, as if the heroes are fighting back with a vengeance and causing the enemies to step back. This occurs twice before the most unusual, but simultaneously jaw-dropping, final notes play. A single trumpet offers the most jazzy, over-the-top trill I have ever heard in a piece of video game music, and that this is highlighted above the orchestra is absolutely wonderful. I don’t know why I love this so much, but I do.
So, if you couldn’t tell, I really, really love this boss theme. It is not an especially common track, usually relegated to story battles against human bosses, and that makes its appearance all the more special and fresh each time it plays. Uematsu keeps the energy pumping throughout the whole thing and never lets up, even in the lower energy “B” section. I hope my little interpretations of the music help you understand why I get so much out of it, and maybe help you enjoy it more as well. The rest of this soundtrack has similar spectacle in some of its offerings, but it is also unafraid to hit hard with a tear-jerking piano piece every once in a while. Much like my previous VGM of the Week for Kid Icarus: Uprising, I look forward to exploring more Lost Odyssey music in the future.
A Formidable Opponent Appearsbattle themeKaim ArgonarLost OdysseyMusicvideo game music