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Shadow Hearts Original Soundtrack plus 1 :: Review by Z-Freak

Shadow Hearts Original Soundtrack plus 1 Album Title: Shadow Hearts Original Soundtrack plus 1
Record Label: Scitron
Catalog No.: SCDC-00116/7 (1st Edition); SCDC-00403 (Reprint)
Release Date: June 17, 2001; January 16, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


In 2001, the company Sacnoth was in dire need to make up for their first effort, which was Koudelka, Hiroki Kikuta's unfortunate flop. They decided to make an RPG with a very dark storyline, Shadow Hearts, which turned out to be a surprise success, and the musical score was part of the reason for this. Two men were responsible for the score, one relatively unkown at that point and the other quite famous. Who are these mystery men? The lead composer was Yoshitaka Hirota, while the other was Yasunori Mitsuda, famous at the time for his works at Square.

Now I know what you are thinking: 'Who exactly is Yoshitaka Hirota?' Well, like Mitsuda, he used to be a Square employee, but was not responsible for composing like Mitsuda, but rather sound effects designing for games like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Live A Live, Bahamut Lagoon, and Final Fantasy VII. Alas, he wasn't always a Square composer and like Mitsuda, he decided to become a freelance composer in 1999. His first big musical score however, is this soundtrack, and what a masterpiece it turned out to be! Hirota certainly gained a lot of popularity thanks to this work. Now, let's move on to the review.

Disc One

The disc starts off with "Main Theme -ICARO Song of Spirits-," a vocal theme sung in Japanese. The music accompanying the words is very nice and the vocals themselves are extremely unusual. Both "Wind which blows from the dark" themes are interesting introduction tracks, the first being a mixture of fusion and techno, the second being very ambient. Following these introduction themes, several battle themes are heard. "Brain hopper" is one of these and it starts off featuring some strange grunts, then a female vocalist comes in, followed by lots of percussion and other instruments. It also has a distinct Chinese feel, which is unexpected, despite the track's name. Such a Chinese feel is an inherent characteristic of many tracks following it. "Ghosts jogging," however humorous it may sound, is another battle theme. It is easy to notice that the beat keeps on accelerating throughout the theme, urging you to finish the fight quickly before you face death.

Away from the battle themes, there are numerous other great early themes. "Sphere -qu-" definitely sounds Chinese; I can't describe it that well, but it certainly sounds relaxing. "Destruction -Noiz of fangs-" is filled with animal grunts and some percussion is thrown in for good measure. It's very original and the theme's effect is decent overall. "DOA" starts off with some irritating scratching sound effects, then a fast-paced melody builds up, making the track much more enjoyable. It is possibly a dungeon theme, though it is difficult to tell. "Army mood" is aptly named, as the drums used give off a militaristic feel throughout the track, though no other feature is particularly remarkable.

There are plenty of upbeat themes featured towards the centre of the disc. Mitsuda's "Rice field of light" definitely suits the name 'pleasant' and must be a town theme. Like many tracks, this also maintains the Chinese feeling of several parts of the score, and this is mainly due to the unusual flute use. "Coffee with bullet" is truly beautiful and feels very peaceful; this is probably used for inns and such areas, as it seems to say "Welcome! Please stay at our Inn, friend! It's on the house!" "Asian Parfait" sounds appropriately Chinese and is certainly another serene town theme. "Heaven -Kunyang Kunyang-" is another Chinese-sounding track, probably being used as a theme to represent martial arts training. Think Live A Live here! "Sea -Highnoon fish-" is Chinese-influenced, yet again, and is probably a world map theme; it sounds very fitting for such a purpose.

The latter half of Disc One features many darker tracks. "Angel heart" sounds mostly foreboding and must be a villain's theme or used for something eerie. "Factory -Beltconveyor for Killers-" is simply riddled with sounds; some guitar is featured, then some voices enter, and many other instruments and sound effects are added later. It sounds really weird, adding more diversity to this bizarre score. "Profile" starts off sounding evil, then a gripping violin enters, followed by drums and some bells, making this track more melancholic than anything else. "Someone's table" is again (yes, you guessed it) Chinese, and it sounds a bit eerie, while "Much hatred still rankles" also has a similar feel due to the brief organ use and several other features. "Death -Zombie party-" is mostly comprised of a choruses and some sound effects. It's very spooky until the percussion enter, which make it somewhat more pleasant.

The end of the first disc features some hugely emotional themes. "ALICE" is one of the most tear jerking pieces, and the music box used here sounds really beautiful, while the violin melodies create further evocation. "Misfortune -Psycho temple-" is a fitting temple theme that makes good use of some piano and flute passages. "China ogre" is the miniboss theme that spells chaos all the way through. There is some chanting but it's impossible to make out what the voices are saying. It's certainly enjoyable and effective. "Melt down" is a more fast-paced boss theme, used to represent the miniboss getting more nasty, and mostly features loud chants and percussion instruments. It doesn't lose the touch of the track that precedes it, but rather adds to its effect. "Sacrifice -ALICE-" is an arrangement of "ALICE," and is as heartwrenching as it is beautiful. The game over theme used to end the disc, "Bloody kitchens," also sounds pretty sad, though it is a brief addition.

Disc Two

This disc starts with a series of setting themes: "Atmosphere -Blow up-" is a fairly quiet world map theme; "c.l.t.y" an enjoyable representation of Prague; and "Dirty nails," used possible to represent an old haunted castle, is a really creepy track that features some extremely choruses echoing in an eerie way. After this theme, the disc features a lot of dark themes. "The thorn of mind," for example, is one of the more ambient boss themes, and contrasts with most battle themes in that it is slow and brooding, rather than energetic. In contrast, "Reckless" has a quicker beat than the previous track, though the sound effects used here make the track even creepier, so it is hardly typical. "Graveyard moon" first features some female chants, then drums and some well-placed sound effects are added, making this track a very scary one. Its counterpart dungeon theme "Coffin fetish," while bearing an odd name, sounds both beautiful and creepy. "nde / near death experience" is another battle theme and is certainly the best on the soundtrack; the voices used here sound like they are laughing at you, while the melody and beat is excellent. Hirota does himself proud here.

After all these dark themes, a little light relief is provided in the middle of the disc, just like the first. "Vitamin metropolis" has a modern sound, being light and happy, ideal for representing certain aspects of London. "Babysitter is old nurse" is a tongue-in-cheek castle or dungeon theme that sounds really good due to the chorus utilised. Despite its strange name, "Don't cry my vampire" is quite cute, and the use of a sweet melody backed up by a music box is effective here. Though darker, "Castle of a silence" is one of the more interesting tracks; it starts off with wind sound effects, and then a series of instruments from bells to a violin are added in conjunction with distorted sound effects, including an odd tick-tock sound. It is outstandingly beautiful, yet also feels uneasy. After this, a few more peaceful themes are featured, namely "Callback from Jesus," a nice track with a funny title, "Bacon's juice," a comical theme by Mitsuda that makes me laugh due to its hilarious melody and use of sound effects, and "Trip or treat" and "Steal soul -tanjou-," two more peaceful town themes. Another highlight is "ICARO beated ver.," an arrangement of the first track on the album, although it bears no lyrics.

From the 23rd track onwards, the soundtrack shows no remorse and just gets darker and deeper. "Nobody knocks the door" starts off with a drum beat, then a bit of sound effects and chorus are added. This is one of the final dungeon themes, along with "Star shape" and "Middle of nowhere." The former is an odd theme that carries a hint of menace due to the use of an unusual combination of choruses and wind sound effects. The latter must be used as the final spot right before the final boss; it just exhudes evil thanks to the organ used; the chorus and yelling sound effects also give the impression that ultimate evil is near. "Demon's gig" is certainly a boss theme, and though not the final boss theme, it has a great beat nonetheless. "Sicking f***ing" is the most bizarre track title I've come across so far, so excuse my language. The beat keeps on going faster, creating a huge amount of agitation. It's very tense, indeed.

"Sign of him (The creation of god)" is the first part of the final boss themes. It sounds really good, especially when a rocking guitar makes its entrance. "Imbroglio" is the second phase of the final boss. There are a lot of bells used here, and at one point, it sounds eerily similar to Final Fantasy VII's "Jenova Absolute"! For the final phase, we get "Bate me bate me," which starts off with loud chorus sounds, and then uses a very and unpredictable quick drumbeat. Though brief, it's both memorable and enjoyable. "Result" is the victory theme, and it sounds a lot like themes from Vagrant Story. "Black cat floating in bluesky" and "Shadow Hearts" are obviously the ending themes, and succeed in being totally awesome, with the latter being the game's vocal theme. "Opening demo mix / I" and "Opening demo mix / II" are remixes of the opening themes. I love the rocking guitar used in each. The soundtrack ends with a bonus theme, "true voice," which is a wonderful vocal arrangement, based loosely around the first track on the album.


Well, that is pretty much it. If you're looking for something different from the usual game music available, then this soundtrack is highly recommended. Few soundtracks utilise sound in such an unusual way and have such stylistic diversity. Furthermore, since it features Mitsuda and the now popular Yoshitaka Hirota, soon to score Shadow Hearts III, you can be rest assured that the score's composers are extremely talented and reputable. Now readily available to buy thanks to a recent re-print, there should be no reason not to purchase this gem.

Overall Score: 10/10