Even though I’ve been an avid collector and fan of game music for quite some years now, I’ve never quite gotten into Falcom. There are many different reasons for this, but the main one is my dislike for most arranged game music. And as most would agree arguably, Falcom is the company that has pushed arranged VGM the furthest, focusing much more on arranged albums than the “ordinary” game music. I have, however, heard the Ys soundtracks “unarranged” while playing the games, so I wasn’t totally clueless as to what I’d hear upon listening to this CD.
Falcom JDK Band 1 contains music from games like Ys 2, Ys 3, Sorcerian, Star Trader, etc. Many refer to the music in these games as “Power Rock”. Hmmm… It would seem like their definition is somewhat different than mine. But what we do get is this: powerful melodies that are catchy, often upbeat or heroic, and more often than not adventurous. Most of the arrangements are done in a rock/metal style reminiscent of metal bands like Iron Maiden, who did their most critically acclaimed works in the 1980’s. Synth is also used; sometimes to enhance the powerful choruses, other times to slow the tempo down. There are also some slower acoustic bits. My favourite must be track 1, “To Make the End of Battle” from Ys 2. Maybe it’s just because I’m familiar with the composition from having played the game, but it still strikes me as a very powerful piece of music. Oddly, that track reminds me of the scores to the NES Mega Man games. Another great track in the same vein is Ys 3’s “Varestain”. These tracks are powerful indeed, but I don’t agree with the people who claim that they possess the same strength as the Castlevania “Dracula Battle” albums – Konami’s rock is a notch or two higher.
There are even some tracks with vocals! One of them (“Go Fight”) is in English, the three others are in Japanese. Despite my dislike of vocals in game music, I didn’t find them too bad (not even the English one, imagine that!), but not too good, either. I feel that they would have been just as well off (or even better) without the vocals. My favorite vocal track on the CD is probably “Get in the Wild” – you can REALLY tell that whoever arranged this must be a big fan of 1980’s British metal.
All in all, it’s a pretty good CD. Before listening to it I wasn’t that interested in Falcom music, and I’m no more so now. But it is a good CD, mark my words. If you (like me) are not so familiar with Falcom, this could possibly be a very good place to start exploring. But if you’re already a Falcom veteran you probably have this CD already, so then why are you reading this?