by Joseph Walter
Menacing box art? Check. No overly-cutesy anime girls? Check. Clunky-looking gameplay? Check. God-Like soundtrack and oppressive atmosphere? Hmm... that one would've been tough to call without purchasing this scarcely available gem, so I did exactly that, risking everything in the process.
Upon start-up, I was greeted with my first hint that this game's soundtrack would surpass my expectations, and the story's set-up and general characterization for the NPCs proved to craft a perfectly chilly atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere would be less consistent than I had hoped, and the gameplay itself, while fun enough, was painfully slow. Still, though, the music never let me down.
Greatly reminding me of Dark Cloud's unique and memorable score (definitely more on that soundtrack, and game, in the future), there's just something so special about the compositions within this rare PS2 oddity. An overwhelming aura of sadness, unexpected progressions, and an underlying feeling of sinister grandeur are only on the very tip of this musical iceberg.
Truly, Wizardy: Tale of the Forsaken Land's music is an unknown gem that absolutely NEEDS to be be heard by fellow lovers of video game music, so let's quickly march through these eerie, illogically-designed catacombs so we can get started!
World of Darkness (Listen Here)
The aptly-titled "World of Darkness" conjures simultaneous feelings of dread, sorrow and definitive fates, all within the opening notes. The orchestra chime at the start establishes a funereal mood which is quickly amplified by truly mournful strings.
The piece builds in intensity until reaching a surprisingly melancholy climax, complete with choir, before it takes a hard turn into an openly sinister sequence with an unnerving harpsichord.
This is a fantastic piece, and one that knows how to set an incredible mood, and it's a shame that the game couldn't consistently maintain what this theme establishes.
Where Have You Gone (Listen Here)
With a deep, ominous note that almost sounds like a warning, and a chilling vocal soloist to bolster it, this track creates an unnerving atmosphere right from the get go. Following the establishment of its theme, the track continues with a subtle addition of unusual and uneven percussion that sounds suspiciously like a heartbeat.
"Where Have You Gone" isn't a long track, and while I would have loved to see it continue to evolve and flesh itself out, subtly or otherwise, with a few more minutes, I really can't complain about what we do have.
There are very few pieces of music (be they classical, film, video game or otherwise) that fully grasp and understand an emotion or concept, perfectly translating it into musical form... and "Where Have You Gone" is one of them.
If you ever find yourself with a party of battered adventures entering a labyrinth crawling with monsters and traps, all while having little hope of returning alive, I guarantee you'll hear this music.
Again, while the game itself doesn't live up to what this music represents and promises, it's impossible to subtract points from the soundtrack as a whole. This isn't music failing a game; this is a game failing the music.
* = Editor's Note: the official name of this track is "Where Are You Gone." I changed it to what I believe the non-English-speaking composer probably intended to call it.
Destiny (Listen Here)
This is one of the few times that I feel my (obnoxiously erudite) words and accompanying (self-indulgent) analysis regarding a track's quality isn't necessary; "Destiny" speaks for itself.
Whether it's the gentle, harp-led start, the intense-yet-contemplative strings, or the decidedly sinister crescendo, "Destiny" tells its own, self-contained story. Despite only being a brief minute and a half long, "Destiny" organically portrays an entire range of ever-evolving emotions which culminate in a tragic conclusion... one that's all too fitting for the dreary world of Wizardry: The Tale of the Forsaken Land.
Talk About It (Listen Here)
Legal obligations aside, the strange, overly synthetic bell-like instrument coupled with percussion that appears to be provided by what sounds like a cheap drum machine manage to conjure up a truly dreamlike mood and atmosphere... which is perfect for listening to the instructions of a staff-wielding pixie who is no more than an inch tall.
Lonely With Loneliness (Listen Here)
The piece itself is a nice musical departure from what we've listened to so far, featuring a lead guitar (that happens to call to mind Diablo's haunting theme for it's own "hub" town, Tristram) and a lively flute. Together, these two instruments not only create a memorable track with hints of blues, but one that manages to be minimalist without ever feeling like it.
At first listen, "Lonely with Loneliness" feels upbeat and defiant (especially considering what evils await a mere stone's throw away from the locale), but repeat listenings reveal a melancholic and dreary tone beneath the "happier" instrument choices, which is a perfect representation of the dread and fear that festers within the brave facade of Duhan.