I’ve never had the hots for orchestras in VGM, especially real ones, because they aren’t used very creatively and have done nothing but over hype the genre in the last five years. Of course, there are a few notable exceptions, like the ridiculous amount of symphonic arrangements by Sound Team JDK and the Dragon Quest Symphonic Suites, but for the most part, orchestras have been hurting the genre more than they have been helping it. Drag-on Dragoon 2 (known as Drakengard 2 in the states) is the biggest surprise of the year, and as an orchestral soundtrack, it does everything right. In fact, if I told you I didn’t like this soundtrack, I’d be lying.
The original Drag-on Dragoon soundtrack has a love-hate relationship with most VGM fans: either you loved it or you hated it. I happened to hate it, but that’s just because I *generally* don’t like Super Sweep and their musical style. This time around, however, Aoi Yoshiki has taken the helm, and has steered the series’ musical direction in a new path, which is a good thing: this soundtrack is heavily influenced by classical music, and the first song makes it obvious. While there aren’t many songs that are purely classical, you can’t deny the genre’s mark on this album. The opening theme itself (“Symphonic Poem”) features a gorgeous choir that sweeps you off your feet, and then segues into a frantic movement that sounds reminiscent of Wagner. “Fate” features a piano accompanied by an orchestra, and has a touching melody that is almost enough to invoke tears.
The soundtrack isn’t just classical, either. It has the experimental touch that Drag-on Dragoon had, but it is much more refined. Many songs are extremely dissonant, such as “Plains of Pity,” “Reminisce is Madness,” and “The End of the Conclusion,” but they’re extremely pleasing. From the off strings to the strange (but awesome) percussion rhythms, this soundtrack is dissonance at its best, and I’ll admit that it left me wanting more!
When the album isn’t reminiscent of Mozart or playing with your ears, it’s extremely beautiful. My favorite track, “Exhausted on the Holy Land” is a soothing song that is driven mainly by a soft harp. It reaches a climax near the 3:00 mark that makes you wish the song was longer. This song is actually an arrangement of “Route B ~ Exhausted” from the original Drag-on Dragoon, and it is leaps and bounds better. “Old Tombstone” has a very stagnant feel, giving you the illusion of an unsettling graveyard. Lastly, we can’t forget “Hitori,” performed my Mika Nakashima, which is probably the most beautiful vocal I’ve ever heard in a video game.
If there’s one problem with this soundtrack, it’s that it is extremely short. There are only 22 tracks….and considering the last Drag-on Dragoon soundtrack had two volumes, this is a little disappointing, but we can only hope that Aoi Yoshiki will release more music from the game. Until then, the game rip will have to tie us over.
The bottom line is, Drag-on Dragoon 2 should be in your CD player. If it’s not, you’re going to regret it. Next to Riviera: The Promised Land, I’m voting this as the best soundtrack of 2005 so far. It’s extremely rare for me to give out a 10/10, especially twice in less than a month (I gave Riviera: The Promised Land Full Arrange a 10 recently), but I’m giving it a 10 out of 10. Keep your wallets ready in case more music is released.