Final Fantasy Tactics A2: The Sealed Grimoire is something of a reprisal for Hitoshi Sakimoto. Both the original and the Advanced FFT soundtracks are held very much in high regard and with his side kick Masaharu Iwata helping out with arrangements again many expected another fine body of work this time around.
Once again at two discs this soundtrack has a high quality synth work (not a disc of harsh DS music and then a disc of high quality synth work after) and is very much Sakimoto stylised. “Main theme” opens disc one with the familiar notes that we remember from the previous incarnation. “Putting Words Together” however shows a more playful softer side with typical softened ambience to the piano giving it warmth and a delay in the reverb.
Then we’re off! “Green Wind” is majestic from the brass overtones to the string synths bouncing to the beat sounding like a joyous national anthem. “Unfold the Map” is a playful song borrowing a bagpipe sound that reminds me slightly of the Crystal Chronicles soundtrack. We’re then treated to some reprisals of previous songs from FFTA’s soundtrack. Each track has been reprogrammed though and this isn’t as lazy as the simple copies that Kingdom Hearts II done. “Companions that Surpassed Their Tribe” is much more richer, “At the Bar” is more playful and percussive, “Gained Fruit” more regal and “Gathering Armies” is given more depth and therefore is more dramatic and rallying to listen to.
Inbetween these some new tracks are about. “Knowledge of the Adventurer” is a fast brass heavy piece while “Luso” is perfectly playful sounding every bit the character theme that you need to have get stuck in your head for an hour at a time! “Signpost” is also more playful than we’re used to for a tactics game. It also has more of a melody to it too which stuck out well. “Cid” rounds out the more playful section with an almost eastern sounding march song – quite unusual and again most welcome for diversity.
A flurry of previous soundtrack songs return with the always fantastic “Mysterious Shop” bouncing along at a good pace, “Unhideable Anxiety” is also as good as ever, “A Grand Spell” making good use of “Ritz” from FFTA and finally “Beyond the Wateland” sounding as catchy and militarian as ever too. In general all the revisited songs are better here than before. Even nicer is remakes of Final Fantasy XII songs! “Into the Fantasy” is a lovely flowing arrangment of “The Salikawood” (and possibly better than original) and “Beating Heart” is a rendition of “The Mosphoron Highwaste” although both are as good as eachother here – full of tension and drama.
Of the other original songs on Disc 1, standouts are “Adel” for its happy-go-lucky attitude, “Mad Dash” for its high tension and drama, “Comparion of Wisdom” for its excellent use of the hapsichord and “Eternal Time” for its beautiful yet creepy atmosphere (a personal highlight of the soundtrack for me).
Disc 2 is longer but no less interesting. Again, due to the game taking place in the same world, FFXII songs and FFTA songs are rearranged for our pleasure.”Peaceful Days” is infact the fantastic “Magic Beast Farm” from FFTA which suits the more playful mood the soundtrack has now gotten you accustomed too. “Bookmark” (FFTA) uses the xylophone excellently, where as “Crossing Over the Hill” sounds exactly like “Omozore Plains” from FFXII. “To The Peak” (FFXII) is full of all the drama and tension of a boss battle (another highlight) and “Penelo’s Theme” makes a comeback as “The Sky Pirates From the East” with lots of percussive slaps. “Airport” (FFXII’s “Naivety”) is just as much as it disorientating which means its just as well its put next to “Abyss” (FFXII’s To the Place of Gods”) which gives us a moment or two to catch breath with a beautiful melody. Lastly “Finale” is also stolen from FFXII but since its all out orchestral madness I don’t mind so much!
The new tracks can compete up there with the old ones however. “Summer Vacation” is fluffy and lightweight, where as “A Hurried Guess” is more of a clumsy track than a silly one. It still has a lot of majesticness about it but it has a clumsy riff that makes it laugh at itself.
“Grief” is one of the very few slow tracks on the soundtrack and therefore stands out more. It is emotive with its piano and harp samples bleeding across the speakers with very high pitched strings making you feel the emotion more. An excellent track and much needed pace change. “Requiem” is the other slow tracks but that is more of an ambience than a melody and is less effective.
“Looming Crisis” is all about the big orchestral stabs which make it punch above its weight where as “Front and Back” has much more of a melody and chord structure to it and is forever changing and thus keeps you more interested. “Conclusion” is suitably dark and brass infused with military drums bashing away throughout which naturally brings you to “The Unfolding Darkness” which constantly builds and builds and then builds a bit more, layering instruments on top of eachother to a huge climax… that never comes. I did get annoyed that this track fades away and doesn’t just stop with a crash!
“The End of the Tale” starts the warm ending to the soundtrack with a beautiful piece, which followed by the celtic sounding “A Hymn for the Journey” compliments both. Infact I had the latter song in my head for a while after I first heard it – something that many tracks on the soundtrack failed to do. “A Sound that Connects the World” is a music box version of the previous song while “Each Story” is the more Sakimoto synth version of the song (I prefer the first version best of the three). Finally the soudntrack closes on “Words Put Together” which is like a synth orchestrated version of the same song. This song is fitting for the finale and is an excellent piece with peaks and troughs.
So has Sakimoto done it again? Essentially yes. Sakimoto’s synth style is very blended and reverbed so that it all blurred together. While its warm and soft to the ear it does mean that some of the more subtle melodies are not heard. In terms of actually melodies, there’s not much here for you to go off humming to. If you are after regal, anthemic orchestral styled music then this is definately for you. Sakimoto may now win new fans with this soundtrack but he won’t lose any either. I’m not the biggest of fans of his music although I do enjoy it. I can listen to a few tracks in a row and then they all start to meld into one long string/brass fest – however on this soundtrack there’s enough to break up the battle tracks to keep your attention and keep you focused at the great music at hand.