It was over 15 years ago that I got my hands on the CD Theater albums for Dragon Quest I and Dragon Quest II. I knew precious little about drama CDs back then, so I don’t think I totally understood that what I had in my hands was special. Not only did these “CD Theater” albums come with beautiful artbooks, but they included newly-arranged music by Koichi Sugiyama’s de facto protégé, Hayato Matsuo. Sadly, you will never find this music isolated outside of the dialogue and sound effects of these drama CDs, though some tracks on these albums do offer unmitigated sections of music, particularly in the first and last tracks of each album. Nonetheless, as a poor monolingual English-speaker, I almost wish someone would “fansub” these drama albums so I could read in English what I’m hearing in Japanese.
In the third and final volume of the DQV CD Theater set, things go from awesome to even more awesome, as the hero and his wife have twins. Time passes, the twins get a little older, and now they’re part and parcel in your hero’s party. That means you have you, your wife, and your kids by your side in the closing chapters of this epic adventure. And epic it is, to be sure. In “Tower of Bobble” (yet another tower, and a riff off the mythical “Tower of Babel”), the family-party faces a series of obstacles placed by the evil facing their world.
However, it is not until “To the Dark World” that the family is ready to take on the final threat, together. They are cheered on by the many people they’ve saved as they head into the realm of all evil to take on the mastermind behind everything that has happened, tracing back to the time of your hero’s father and earlier. Mildrath will fall, but not without a ridiculously long battle sequence where a family works together to bring down the biggest bad guy they’ve ever seen and likely will ever see. During the Mildrath fight, the full arrangement of the final battle music done by Hayato Matsuo is clearly heard, as there are long periods of silence between the trading of blows (or spells), and you get a really good sense of what that music can sound like in a high-quality synth soundscape. It’s reminiscent of the in-game DS version of the audio, but it’s still a unique arrangement that you won’t find anywhere other than this disc.
The artbook to Vol.3 offers some really nice scenes, especially for the final battle sequence. If you’ve played Dragon Quest V, you know that the twins’ hair color will match that of the hero’s wife; so in this case, the hero and Bianca have two cute little blond kids who also know how to kick butt and take names. And while the original character design is by Akira Toriyama, these artbooks are not illustrated by Toriyama himself, so you get a slightly different take on the family’s look, especially in terms of facial expression.
All told, the DQV CD Theater trilogy is a good one, though I still have a personal preference for DQIV. These two games are the only ones that required three full CDs to tell their stories. If you want extra-complete DQ music collections, and you like good artbooks, these CD Theater albums are probably the missing pieces to your collection.