Sarah Àlainn – the queen of vocal game themes

Ever since she made her commercial debut singing the ending theme of Xenoblade Chronicles, Sarah Àlainn has become the uncrowned queen of vocal game themes, mostly in the JRPG genre, and for good reason. With an incredibly smooth, beautiful voice and a huge range, she can deliver excellence every time. Let’s take a look at her work in gaming.

I never ended up playing much of Xenoblade Chronicles (2010) on the Wii, but having been a fan of Yasunori Mitsuda ever since Xenogears, I made sure to listen to the soundtrack. And ”Beyond the Sky” made me an instant fan. It’s a soft piano ballad with shades of Mitsuda’s previous ”Small Two of Pieces” from Xenogears and ”Pain” from Xenosaga. While it was a brief disappointment that Joanne Hogg didn’t return after those amazing performances, I was blown away by this unknown newcomer. At this point Sarah was still studying at the University of Tokyo, and her only online presence was a rehearsal video from the university. But already at this point I was captivated, and bought her first album Celeste as soon as I could. Sarah would later re-record ”Beyond the Sky” on her second album, refining it even further. It remains a classic.

Celeste also included as a bonus track a song that turned out to be another video game collaboration, ”The Final Time Traveler” for the Nintendo DS visual novel Time Travelers (2012). It’s another beautiful ballad, but I don’t like it as much. It’s pitched a bit too high for my liking, and while Sarah crushes it, it’s a bit grating. She would later record another version of this song too on her second album, where much of the song is in a lower register and more pleasant.

While it wasn’t a new game, Mitsuda and Àlainn worked together on the excellent To Far Away Times (2015), an arrangement album including both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross songs. Her version of ”Harukanaru Toki no Kanata he” is great, as expected. But ”Radical Dreamers” is even better, and she lifts another Mitsuda song up to the same lofty heights as the Xeno themes.

Valkyria: Azure Revolution or just Valkyria Revolution (2017) was an ill-fated action spin-off of the Valkyria Chronicles series. That was no fault of Mitsuda and Àlainn who collaborated once again, with lovely compositions like ”Drifting to Tender Memories”. Sarah was involved in more songs this time, but most of them were of a more background style including the a cappella ”Lacrimosa ~ Tears to Dust”, ”Feel My Wrath” and ”Eternal Rest”. ”Requiem in the Dark Night – Presage and Death” is more dramatic. ”Valkyria – The Power of Destruction” is what I’m assuming is a boss track and is suitably epic, but it’s not her typical style and there’s very little of her singing. The main ballad ”These Gentle Fields” is instead sung by Saori Hayami. There is a lovely bit in ”Azure Revolution”, the first track, but it’s basically just a teaser.

Arknights (2019) is a Chinese gacha mobile tower defense game and thus nothing I will ever play, but this song ”Heal the World” by Kevin Penkin is pretty cool. It’s a much more modern styled song but still a good example of her talent.

In 2019 Sarah also toured with Mitsuda’s Millennial Fair for the Chrono Cross 20th anniversary concerts and reprised ”Radical Dreamers”. This version was great and I will treasure having heard it live in Tokyo. She also sang on ”Garden of Gods” and ”Shore of Dreams”, and added brand new vocals to ”Dimension Breach – The Bend of Time”. Of course, she also played the violin throughout this concert and the entire show is a tribute to Mitsuda’s excellence.

The recent streak started when Sarah sung the main theme for the Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak expansion (2022), aptly titled ”Sunbreak”. It’s a magnificent return to the orchestral epic with a long, varied track ranging from sweet piano passages to huge crescendos. Sarah also sings it in different renditions including the fictional Monster Hunter language and English.

When it was announced that Sarah would perform the main theme of Eiyuden Chronicle (2024), I couldn’t have been more excited. My favourite singer in the spiritual successor to one of my favourite games, yes please. And it’s amazing, although I’m perfectly biased in this. Sarah uses a lot of her range and has a lot of those pleasant deeper vocals, and when the choir joins in towards the end and she switches to English, it’s just fantastic and one of her best songs.

That wasn’t enough for this year, as Sarah also did the singing voice of Diva no 5, the idol cyborg in SaGa: Emerald Beyond. It’s definitely something different with a pop techno beat. She does both the character theme ”Crazy for Who?” and the ”Diva no 5 Last Battle Song”, the former being a more shallow pop song and the latter more typically Sarah.

That’s all for now, but I can’t imagine it’s the end. While I would love another album, Sarah is keeping busy and it’s great to see her popping up in all these games.