When a person thinks of oft-arranged game music, the top contenders wind up being series such as Ys, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest. However, Konami's Genso Suikoden series is catching up. Not only that, but the majority of the soundtracks produced are of excellent quality, including the subject of this review; Genso Suikoden Piano Collection 2.
While a titular successor to the first Piano album, Piano Collection 2 veers off in a totally different direction than its predecessor, with lovely jazz arrangements of some of the Suikoden series' best tracks. Shusei Murai reprises his role as pianist for this album, and once again does a magnificent job tickling the ivories.
Breaking down the album, we find the first track to be one of the best, that being Nostalgia from Genso Suikoden II. A very relaxed, light jazz arrangement of the classic piece flows with dreamlike chimes and a sweet bass fiddle that almost talks to you. Speaking of flow, it indeed does just that when we switch gears into To Peaceful Days which, while short, is a pure piano arrangement along the lines of some of the more laid-back pieces from Tokimeki Memorial Piano Collection.
The always upbeat and cheery tune, Beautiful Morning, from Suikoden II winds up at number three, just as bright and cheery as its namesake. Bass, piano, and bongos round out the piece quite nicely, while track four brings us back to pure relaxing piano with Sunset Melody from Suikoden III.
We continue in the pure piano vein with Prideful Sarabande from Suikoden II and then get a surprise in track 6, as it starts out with a relaxed piano arrangement of Advancing Army from Suikoden I and suddenly shifts gears to an up-tempo jazz rendition of the theme which is excellent.
While track 7 is a bit lackluster in my opinion (not a big fan of electric organ), Murai does a great job with the Abandoned Mine theme from Suikoden III. Fortunately, track 8, Distant Mountain from Suikoden I brings back the piano solo and the beautiful arrangement, making this one of the most beautiful pieces on the album in terms of sheer sound.
As we continue our melodious adventure, we stick to piano solos (hey, this IS a piano album) with Beneath the Moonlight from Suikoden III. Here, we can clearly hear Murai's style come out with accent and timing; a technically excellent piece that still manages to remain aesthetically pleasing.
Of course, what would a Suikoden album be without sorrow? Track 10, takes a slightly melancholy look at Bright Farming Village from Suikoden III, combining the bass fiddle and piano to create a sense of sadness. Then comes track 11, undoubtedly the STRANGEST rendition of Theme for a Narcissist I have EVER heard. Barely recognizable in this form, it is a twisting melody of minor and major chords intersecting at strange angles. Not unpleasant, but by no means the best track on the album.
Finally, we have the final track of the album, Ending March from Suikoden II. This time, Murai's piano stylings are joined by bongo and bass fiddle to create a slow jazz sayonara to the listener. It is an excellent way of rounding out the CD.
Overall, this is likely my favorite Suikoden soundtrack of all time, and I've heard them all! If Konami can keep up this quality for their future presentations, I'll be buying their soundtracks for a long time to come.
Reviewed by: Damian Thomas