Ahhh, MIDI. Nothing sounds quite like the old school days of ancient MIDI compositions and arrangements. Game music has progressed quite a bit since then, featuring full orchestras a la Shadow of the Colossus and who knows what else, but it’s occasionally nice to dip back to the days long past. And about fifty percent of the time, you’re going to be turning the clock back with some music from Falcom. Not always necessarily due to quality, either, but mostly based just on sheer mass. I’d put it to the test that Falcom has created the largest number of MIDI arrange albums in the history of video game music. Thankfully, this particular album manages to pass the bar.
Featuring arrangements from the Ys, Legend of Heroes, and Popful Mail series, Falcom pulled together a reasonably pleasant album with a few surprises. Despite being simple MIDI arranges, the synths used blend well together for the most part. MIDI guitar still and always will suck, but what can you do? At least they utilized what they had in a listenable manner, as Lude Castle helps demonstrate.
What I was surprised at was how some of the more subdued pieces came together with such power and skill. Popful Mail World features this most ethereal, tribal sound in the introduction that’s beautiful to listen to. Of course by Falcom standard, it kicks into high gear later on, but that beginning section was by far my favorite. That tribal feel comes back again in Ruins and runs through the entire song. Some of it is very Zwei!! Like in its scope and cultural vibe, but also stands on its own. I’d love to hear an entire album in this vein with real instruments sometime down the road. Probably won’t happen, but this sates my thirst quite nicely. Likewise, Stepping Lightly pulls a neat trick and manages to insert a natural-sounding shamisen a little after halfway through the song. Tres cool, but I want more!
Another surprise was seeing an entry from Ys V. Probably the most unpopular of the Ys games, poor Ys V never got the love that many of the other games in the series were blessed with. Having another version of Field of Gale is never a bad thing, and somehow the MIDI instruments used managed to preserve the epic, orchestral feel of the original, with some much-needed transition additions. While I do wish other songs from the game would get some friendly treatment, I’ll take what I can get.
It’s difficult to say too much more about this particular collection. It’s solid and enjoyable, but I couldn’t call it groundbreaking. As far as MIDI arrange albums go, it’s probably among the better ones, and one you should aim for if you’re in the market. That said, this isn’t for general audiences. It’s more or less targeted at the hardcore Falcom fans and for them it will quite the treat. For everyone else…unless you want a trip down memory lane, you may want to avoid looking this up.