01 - Believing -Feena&Reah-
02 - Oboro
03 - Scarlet Tempest
04 - Silent Desert
05 - Scars of the Divine Wing
06 - Prelude to the Omen
07 - My Lord, Our Brave
08 - Over Drive
09 - YSY -Wandering Pride-
10 - Genesis Beyond the Beginning
Okay, so the last time we did an Ys SAV, it didn't go so well. That is a phenomenal understatement, really, as the Oath in Felghana SAV was full of vocals and crap. Among all the Ys albums I've listened to, including the MIDI collections, it was most likely the absolute worst I've dealt with. So when Falcom announced the Ys Origin SAV, they were facing at best an uphill battle. They had to make up a lot of ground for wasting some perfectly good money the last go-round.
Thankfully someone realized this and we are now firmly back in "hell yes" territory.
First, though, let me get my solitary gripe off my chest dealing with the entire album: we should've already had this. I had my suspicions at first when I listened to the game's music while playing through, and they were more or less supported when Falcom released the expansion disc for the game. I firmly believe that Ys Origin was not finished when they shipped it. The bonus material is the sort of stuff that should've already been in the game; in fact, some of it already was in the game, just not accessible unless you played with some files and dug into the game's code. In addition, the OST's music is a combination of excellent Felghana-style rocking and the far less amazing Napishtim-style music that use some highly questionable synths. As a final kicker, the astute listener to this SAV will note that the songs are done such that one can, with a little footwork, properly adjust the songs to loop perfectly in-game as if they were always there in the first place.
So yes, I'm a little displeased that Origin owners got only three-fourths of their total pie. But my disappointment is supplanted by the quality of the album, so I can't complain too much. And what quality there is! Bringing all of the songs within to Felghana's level of excellence, it's a real treat to listen to. There are a few oddities, which should be obvious to anyone. First of all, the very first track is seven minutes of "Feena." Feena. Nobody needs seven minutes of that blasted song! We're up to our ears in Feena and they toss us another one? Now I will confess it's been tempered somewhat with "Guidance of a White Tower," but primarily it's Feena. Pretty, well-done, and grossly unneeded Feena. I can hear thousands of fast-forward buttons being collectively pressed.
Moving ahead, things get much better. "Oboro" (translates roughly to Haze, for those who care) is much less high-intensity than the OST version, but I enjoy it a lot more. There was something grating about the variant placed on the OST that I can't quite place. It's probably the imitation violin patch they used. Both versions heavily remind me of music that might be better placed in a Sora no Kiseki game, but the lines have started to blur between the two game series these days, in terms of musical style. At any rate, the SAV version is calmer and softer, focusing on a piano instead of a violin patch. It's more stage music than fight music in this form, which is a refreshing change from the way Falcom normally handles the rearrangement of battle songs. Parts of are reminiscent of Star Ocean 3 and, at least for me, Metroid Prime. I'm probably just picking up on the synths used, though; it's not a real stylistic resemblance.
From here, classic Falcom rock takes over. "Scarlet Tempest" actually sounds a little like something I might hear out of IIDX, just with the way the instruments are used. As was common in Felghana, this arrangement is heavily focused on electric violin and guitar, with the violin probably being the better of the two. The violinist must be played the thing fiddle-style to pull off some of the rapid-fire notes they do. Right at about 2:35 the violin goes absolutely insane, with the guitar closely following suit. And right after that is a beautiful, almost quiet section where most of the background instruments fall away to expose the violin in all of its glory. As a whole, the song is probably slightly slower than the OST version, but it's definitely one of my favorites from the album. That violin is a real treat to hear used so effectively.
And, as if in response, the guitar takes over to show its mad skillz in the next song, "Silent Desert." The intro to the song is certainly unique, with a combination of guitar and harpsichord of all things in a Baroque-like style. I always did like the intro from the OST version and it's satisfying to hear it done such justice on here. From there, the guitar rocks out as one would expect to hear, with numerous extra solos added. They really needed to, since the song clocks in at just a little over six minutes. That it's kept fresh and doesn't bore is a testament to the arrangement abilities present. Again, I really wish this was the version in-game, as that section of the game is an absolute terror for me to survive. This certainly would've made power-leveling much more enjoyable.
Up next is the major boss theme from the game, "Scars of the Divine Wing." This one is a curious addition to the album as the original was certainly up to Felghana's heights, with one exception. I never did like the recording quality of the original, it had a very ragged edge near the end of the song as if someone had forgot to keep it from clipping. They never corrected it on the OST release, so I just assumed that was how it was supposed to be heard. Here, however, it thankfully isn't present. It can stretch on a little long, on the other hand. Opinions between the SAV and OST variations are going to be split, primarily based on taste. As someone else noted before me, the drums are a more present element here than on the in-game song. Personally, I like this one better. That raggedness of the original was hard for me to get past.
What's next heard, though, completely came out of left field. "Prelude to the Omen" in its released state was a techno song, very heavy on the electronic cues. Here, they turned it into...jazz. Yes, jazz, complete with saxophone, jazz-style piano, and light acoustic guitar. This respite was desperately needed after three straight songs of pure rocking, but I still never expected it. On this particular song, I'm not sure if this was a version they were intending on including in the final game, so this may be one of the real arranged songs we got. Either way, it's great fun to listen to. Listening to Falcom belt out jazz like this is an experiment I always wanted to hear one day. It pleases me they got it right.
"My Lord, Our Brave" is one of the most emotionally-charged songs from the original, for those who played the game. The OST version was particularly good given its relatively low production values. It is fitting, then, that when rearranged this song became one of the best on the entire album. Featuring a driving string, brass, and choir section in the background, a real sense of urgency and power is established almost immediately. The song continues to keep this up all the way through and never loses any of its potency. I like the fact that the guitar doesn't always takes center stage and supports the background track as necessary. At its core, this song is a whole-orchestra sort of song, much like "The Strongest Foe" was in Felghana (though I'm not sure I would dare say it achieves the dizzying heights of that particular song). When the guitar does wail though, damn does it ever wail. This is the song as it was meant to be heard in the game, and frankly is a piece of VGM that anyone who loves the genre deserves to hear at least once.
As amazing as "My Lord, Our Brave was," however, "Over Drive" may in fact top it. Over Drive has been with us ever since the very first version of Ys I, hidden in the sound test menu. And where the former of the two songs just listed was more of a whole-orchestra song, Over Drive is a work of symphonic rock genius. This is the best version of Over Drive in present existence; I stake my reputation on it. Charging through the entire way with guitar set to maximum, the song is backed up by a relatively believable organ synth that gives the entire song an air of gothic power. In a way, it's a little like the music Yamane wrote in her earlier days on Castlevania, arranged in a more Falcom style. Its core, though, is still uniquely Koshiro, who sadly was still left uncredited here last I looked. The facade of Sound Team JDK yet again hides all artist names. Nevertheless, Yukihiro Jindo more than did justice to this old war horse and gave it new life that it never before enjoyed.
The last two tracks wind the album down, thankfully. Over Drive was the last of the pure power rock, and probably about as much as any one person could stand in one CD before becoming passé to the experience. I'm not entirely sure I agree with the choice of including a vocal song on the album, but it seems to be a Falcom requirement that every Super Arrange have at least one. I'll be frank when I say I have no idea what the Japanese associated with "YSY" is supposed to be, so I'll leave it up to the RPGFan translators to figure out. Starting out with African-influenced drums, the song then brings in the violin characteristic of the new Falcom style, and then the singer who (if I'm correct) was also used on Sora no Kiseki's second chapter. Some guitar is present, with decent effect, and the singer is actually quite good. I just don't like vocals. For those curious, the song is a rearrangement of "A New Legendary Opening," which originally used a...really hilariously bad vocal synth. It's absolutely terrible on the OST, so this really is an improvement.
The album then finishes with yet another version of "Genesis Beyond the Beginning," a very soft and quiet variation that consists entirely of piano and gently-played violin. It's a little strange to hear such a huge change from the original which blasted all out, but not entirely unwelcome. I'm not sure whether I like it or not, but it's certainly done well enough. A reasonable close to the album, certainly a lot better than the way it started out.
So yes, I think a large portion of this album should've already been in our hands. But I think I'd rather have a belated version of material we should've already had than to get another Felghana SAV escapade. The quality of the music on this CD is outstanding and it comes with my highest recommendations to anyone that enjoys VGM. And, since it was just released, it's still very easy to get ahold of! Buy it and in twenty years you'll have both great music and a shot at making a hundred bucks on eBay!
Reviewed by: Derek Strange