After the lackluster “Final Fantasy Remix” CD was released last year, someone decided it would be a good idea for the Enix half of Square Enix to get in on the action. I don’t know if Sugiyama himself had any say in this project; but if he did, I would imagine he’d be wary of allowing a CD of this sort to hit the market.
“Dragon Quest Best Dance Mix” uses the basic melodies from some classic Dragon Quest compositions, then mangles them into some of the most uninspired “house” techno music you’ve ever heard. Littered with irrelevant, annoying voice samples (both real and artificial), and generally straying from everything that makes a Dragon Quest song good, this album is a perfect example of how not to arrange the music.
Before I go any further, let me say this: I don’t think it would be impossible to make a good techno-style arrangement of Sugiyama’s music. But it can’t be the four-on-the-floor, resort-to-clichés kind of techno that has somehow gained popularity among certain segments of the global population. A more subtle, ambient techno style would serve this music much better, allowing Sugiyama’s compositions to shine.
The closest “Dragonfly” ever gets to this is in his all-instrumental arrangement of track 9, “Heavenly Flight.” It’s still far from what I imagine would be a good dance/techno remix, but it’s also much closer than the rest of the album ever gets. I’ll also give the arranger some props for turning a ten-second jingle (“Level Up”) into an entire song. Only techno has the ability to pull off such a feat! But even then, I’ve heard better (check out the mashup of Zelda’s “Getting Treasure” with Dre and Snoop’s “Still” … you’ll see what I mean).
For VGM fans who tend to disparage this genre of music, please take note: I fear this album only further perpetuates negative stereotypes about the overarching “techno” genre. There’s no subtlety or originality here, like there is in, say, a Daft Punk CD. You can go minimalist and repetitious without sacrificing artistic merit in its entirety. But it’s not easy: there’s a balance that must be struck. Dragonfly was so far away from said balance, particularly in light of the music’s source (Dragon Quest), that all “merit” is checked at the door. It might be listenable in a dance club, provided you’re thoroughly intoxicated. At home, however, even a chemically-induced lowering of inhibitions won’t help you enjoy this album.