Game soundtracks like this are the reason why I scrounge outside of the well-known MMOs for hidden gems. As I’ve often said before, the quality (or popularity) of a game and its soundtrack aren’t always equal. So while Ragnarok 2 might not be the MMO on everyone’s lips these days, its soundtrack is certainly worthy of being poured into our ears.
While the original Ragnarok Online’s score is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for me, the sequel is a treasure trove of delightful tracks and energetic melodies. Ragnarok 2’s score was composed by Yoko Kanno, who is well-known for her works in many anime projects including Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop. She’s also had her fingers in Continent of the Ninth (C9), which now puts that game’s score on my to-listen list.
Whether you’ve played Ragnarok 2 or not, I hope you join me for this brief tour through its musical highlights!
1. Stone Music
Mix together a small but catchy tune with unusual instruments and you’ll find yourself grooving along with Stone Music. I’m always a huge xylophone (and glockenspiel) fan, but I would have never thought to pair it with what sounds like, for the life of me, a jug band.
The overall effect is like cheery tribal music that has an authentic, natural sound. It’s both relaxing and magical, and this track definitely caught my attention when listening through the OST.
While I am not as heavily into eastern culture as some of my fellow geeks, I have nothing but deep admiration as to how much care and craft that countries like China, Japan, and Korea put into making rich soundtracks. Despite what you might assume, they don’t all sound stereotypically Asian (although there are some motifs that pop up from time to time).
Take this track, Beginners. If you didn’t know what game this came from, I doubt that you would ever have placed it in the vicinity of Japan. Instead, this theme sounds right at home in Irish country. Beginners is a merry — if slightly simplistic — jig that is saturated in Celtic atmosphere.
3. EverLand (Instrumental)
There are a lot of tracks with actual sung vocals in Ragnarok 2, and almost without exception I prefer the instrumental versions of them. It’s not that I’m frustrated by being unable to understand what’s being sung, but that the music behind the vocals just tends to be better.
EverLand is a great example of this. The sung version is hampered by a high-pitched child’s voice, but if you take that away, you end up with dreamy perfection. It’s like a track made out of happy little popcorn notes that wash away the stress of the day.
4. Boss Battle (Karaoke)
Let’s shift away from the soft side of the game to this battle track, shall we? It’s got a bit of rock in it, but that’s not all there is to it. It’s a multilayered experience that swirls about with high energy and optimism. Don’t know what the “karaoke” in the title means, but hey, it’s good no matter what.
5. Clap and Walk
I think this is the earliest track I ever heard from this OST, definitely well before going through the bulk of it. It’s definitely been on my MP3 player for a couple of years now, giving me a nice jolt of head-nodding, toe-tapping energy when I need it. And it definitely has the most literally appropriate title of any of these tracks.
Despite what I said up there about vocals, I’m not against the occasional choral piece. I’m just not into pop songs coming into my MMO soundtracks. Church is a good example of a choir being used sparingly to enhance rather than dominate a track.
It’s hard to explain what I like so much about this piece. I think it’s because it reminds me of some of the more magical movie scores, such as Millions. It’s extremely childlike in its tone, with fingers dancing across the piano, and gives me the feeling of a happier, more simplistic time of life.