Dragon Slayer ~ Legend of Heroes Perfect Collection spoiled me rotten. Despite the 8-bit disc 1, Ryo Yonemitsu managed to transform what I consider a stereotypical RPG score (basic town theme, basic battle theme, basic event themes, etc. ) into a very powerful, yet elegant arranged album that I’ve listened to time and time again. If that was what made me forget that Dragon Slayer ~ Legend of Heroes was a very basic RPG score, Dragon Slayer JDK Special brought me crashing back down to earth.
Dragon Slayer JDK Special is comprised of two discs; Disc 1 contains Falcom Sound Team JDK arrangements of the Dragon Slayer ~ Legend of Heroes score. Disc 2 contains JDK Band Arrangements of several tracks from both Dragon Slayer ~ Legend of Heroes 1 and 2.
Forgive me if I sound a little down on this album, but any gripes I have are justified. The Falcom Sound Team JDK arrangements follow the original soundtrack version of the score on Perfect Collection almost exactly. The only difference is the use of higher-quality synthesizers that make the music easier to listen to, yet fail to generate any kind of excitement or reason to listen to the tracks again. My best analogy would be uninspired Playstation synth that is fine for a listen every now and then, yet isn’t always my first choice. I’m used to hearing Ryo Yonemitsu’s versions and anything less sounds insulting to my ears. The worst offenders are “Town,” “Field,” “Battle” and “Pirate Island.” After Yonemitsu’s amazing takes on these themes, these versions return to their bland OST compositions with zero improvement. A little extra effort would have gone a long way here…In fact, let me count the ways:
1. Falcom used the “Falcom Sound Team JDK” arrangements for Ys III Perfect Collection’s supplemental disc and they sounded brilliant with several loops, real-sounding instruments, and new takes on the original score. These tracks don’t have any of that – Heck, most of them don’t even loop! If they’re only going to give a bare-bones version of the score, looping or somehow extending the tracks is the least they could have done.
2. This set came out after the Turbo Duo game (which included redbook audio) was released. While this may not sound like a big deal, the redbook contained several new themes: “Boss Battle,” “Seductress Theme,” “Ominous Music,” “Battle With Naja,” and a new opening. I’ll admit I haven’t heard these themes, but I also don’t see why they aren’t included and arranged on disc 1.
3. The name is Dragon Slayer JDK Special, so that means they weren’t only limited to the first Legend of Heroes game. They could’ve added some tracks from the second Legend of Heroes game, which has plenty of fine tracks. The first disc only clocks in at 46 minutes, so there is plenty of extra room.
Keep in mind that I’m not bashing a 10-year old album because it’s bad; I’m bashing it because it pales in comparison to a 12-year old album that contains the exact same material.
As far as samples go, tracks 2 and 17 are pretty much the only highlights (heck, ANY version of “Ending II” sounds good!) The other tracks, I invite you to compare side-to-side with their Perfect Collection samples (also at RPGFan) to see how inferior they are.
Now then, the good news: Disc 2 is utterly fantastic! Most of my favorite tracks make appearances here and the JDK Band is well in their prime here, as they made these awesome arrangements. The only nitpick is that the sound quality could be a tad better, especially if you’re not listening on headphones; in an open room, certain parts may be hard to hear effectively.
“Crazy Train” and “Steam Rock Fever” are based on two of the better Legend of Heroes II tracks and serve as the standard helping of power rock. The vocals are a surprising highlight considering the others I’ve heard from the band. “Action” is an excellent, light-hearted opener for the disc; even the guitar solo in the middle has a playful feel to it (Come on, how many times have you wanted to hear someone sing, “Everybody wants a piece of the action. Everybody needs…SATISFACTION!”). Both the solo and the line are heard in the sample. “Midnight Mover” is an absolutely wicked take on Legend of Hero I’s battle theme, rivaling even Yonemitsu’s Perfect Collection version. “Flying High Again” starts with a music box opening before settling into a bit of an epic groove. Just for fun, try to make out all of the broken English that is sung – I didn’t notice most of it until about my fifth listen. “‘Till the End of Time” is the awesome JDK Band version of my favorite ending theme and “Dragon Fly” is a piano version of “Pirate Island,” with a great dance beat (and a crazy guitar solo in the middle). Finally, “Winds of Change” ends the disc with a slow, yet melodic version of “Castle.” This is one of those CD’s that you can listen to again and again and not get bored…It ALMOST makes up for disc 1’s laziness.
Do I recommend it? As much as I can’t live without disc 2, I say take a pass until after you’ve heard Dragon Slayer: Legend of Heroes Perfect Collection – You’ll appreciate the JDK Band arrangements much more that way, and at the same time you can see the lack of improvement made to disc 1. From what I’ve read and heard, JDK Specials are a black eye for Falcom and this one is no exception. It just happens to have a great set of arrangements held hostage in the disc 2 slot.
This set is the same as most Falcom discs: Easy to find on Yahoo Japan, hard to find in the states. Personally, I would value it around $25-$35 for eBay if it shows up (no higher) and in the $15 range for Yahoo Japan. From personal experience, Perfect Collection shows up much more than this, so try to grab that if you have the chance.