It’s time once again to spend some time in the company of Gust’s wonderful sound team and their sterling work on the Atelier series.
This time around, we’re looking at the soundtrack for Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny. The music is once again the work of Gust regulars Daisuke Achiwa and Ken Nakagawa, the latter of whom in particular has become heavily associated with the Atelier series over the years.
Conveniently, copies of Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny came with a bonus soundtrack CD, so we’ll be focusing on a selection of the tracks from this disc today. Let’s jump in — pump up the volume!
This track, from the opening animation, is a bit of a contrast to the dramatic, Ar Tonelico-style choral warblings of the original game — it sounds like something you’d associate more with a late ’90s or early 2000s anime. This isn’t a bad thing, mind; it’s just a bit of a contrast from what came before, but that’s completely fitting given that there are a lot of things about the game itself that contrast with its predecessor!
Interestingly, the backing track for much of the vocals features the sort of driving rhythms and synthesised drums that can be readily associated with Gust’s battle themes from the period — perhaps a quiet acknowledgement that Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny is a fairly combat-heavy game?
Either way, this is a strong opening, for sure.
Go! Go! Novice Alchemist
This track will please the longstanding Atelier fans, as it’s a “Working” theme. For those unfamiliar with other Atelier titles, those games prior to Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (and post-Mana Khemia) are primarily based around the protagonist’s workshop, which inevitably has some sort of catchy theme to enjoy. Just as well, too, since you’ll be spending a lot of time there.
You don’t spend a lot of time in female protagonist Viese’s workshop throughout Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny — the focus is very much on male protagonist Felt’s journey through the land of Belkhyde — but any time you come back there, you’re welcomed by this homely theme; it’s always a pleasure.
Her Store is a Big Success
You hear this memorable, peculiar track in two specific circumstances: firstly, when loading a saved game from the title screen, and secondly, any time you’re in the shops in Eden. The light-hearted honky-tonk feel provided by the slightly out of tune piano — along with the boinging breakdown and the backing provided by squeaky toys — captures the feeling that life in Eden, a land free of monsters and strife, is rather idyllic and carefree.
The shop that Viese lives next door in particular is also home to a number of entertaining slapstick moments between long-suffering Light Mana Melona and her clumsy Wind Mana assistant Coco; this music is the perfect accompaniment to their antics.
Shine, My Sword
Probably one of the more well-known tracks from Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny’s soundtrack, Shine, My Sword is the battle theme for much of the game and is strongly evocative of the PS1-PS2 era of role-playing games. Lots of elements contribute to this: the arpeggio flourish that opens the track brings to mind the swirling battle transition effect, and the driving rhythms remind you that this is a combat situation you’re involved in.
The heavily melodic nature of this track is a prime example of one of the main ways in which Eastern and Western video game soundtracks tend to distinguish themselves from one another. While many Western composers — particularly in the big-budget space — seek to ape the maestros of movies with grand orchestral works that are atmospheric in the moment but unmemorable after the fact, Eastern composers remain, to this day, completely unashamed to be creating video game music. They base their work around the techniques of popular music — primarily strong rhythmic and melodic hooks — and the result is a theme that you’ll have stuck in your head after you’ve heard it just a couple of times, let alone after the myriad battles a complete playthrough involves!
Corridors of the Sky
This gentle theme is oddly reminiscent of some of Naoshi Mizuta’s music for Final Fantasy XI, a rough contemporary of Atelier Iris. The combination of acoustic guitar and light wind instruments provides a contemplative, melancholy feel that evokes strong memories — both of the locales in which you hear it in the game, and of this whole era of video games.
It also stands out amid the rest of Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny’s soundtrack as being much less energetic than many of the other pieces. Even world-saving alchemists need to chill out now and again!
It wouldn’t be a Gust game without a certain amount of the distinctive choral work they tended to include in a lot of games from this era. This sound is very much associated with the Ar Tonelico series today thanks to this series incorporating much of its narrative around the power of vocal music, but this era of Atelier actually got there first.
This track is heard infrequently in Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, but any time you do hear it you know that things are getting serious. Appropriately enough, given the track title, hearing this music is generally a signal that you’re about to learn important lore or get to the bottom of one of the game’s many mysteries — such as the relationship between the lands of Eden and Belkhyde.
This is a proper old-school RPG final boss theme — opening with plenty of drama and building tension before bursting into some pounding rock beats. The track is largely based around a musical motif you’ve heard in various forms a number of times over the course of the rest of the game. This is a common trick, and it provides a wonderful sense of finality to what is going on — if the giant, terrifying monster you’re facing off against doesn’t do that already, of course.
Due to the relative lack of side content in Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, the final boss is one of the toughest encounters in the whole game, so it makes sense that it has some strong, inspirational music to get your pulse pounding. You’ll need to bring all your alchemy and combat skills to the forefront in order to secure victory — but you get to listen to this while that’s all going on, so it’s not all bad!
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