Falcom Special Box ’94


Review by · April 11, 2002

I remember browsing through the English Falcom website, when I saw this 3-CD set. Super Arranged versions of Ys IV, Legend of Xanadu AND Popful Mail music??!! Based on various samples from these games, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this set. Ys IV speaks for itself, Legend of Xanadu is one of the games in Falcom’s “Dragonslayer” series and Popful Mail…well, let’s just say I was curious how Falcom would deal with the music from this cute, Anime-styled game. The anime-styled collage of chracters on the front and the fact that the words, “Ryo Yonemitsu”, “JDK Electric Orchestra” and “JDK Band” were there on the back didn’t hurt at all, either! Overall, this was looking to be a slice of heaven, spread across 3 CD’s.

So, was it a good purchase? Yes….but it’s not the vision of perfection I thought it was. Two factors turned out to be major downers. For one, all three discs were short, clocking in at about 40 minutes each. This seems to be the norm with the Falcom Special Boxes, but still…

The other bad point was disc 1, the Ys IV disc. All of the selections come directly from the Ys IV Perfect Collection trilogy (actually, it’s the other way around-this set was out three months before Ys IV Perfect Collection 1 came out) I was ready for a brand-new version of “Tower of the Shadow of Death”, but instead, it turns out to be the same version as Ys IV Perfect Collection 2 (and the one on Very Best of Ys…*groan*)

Now, if you haven’t heard the Ys IV Perfect Collections, this disc is still a bit of a let-down. Instead of compiling a “Best of Ys IV Perfect Collection” disc, this seems to be more of a sampling of the music. Many different styles are presented, but the best tracks aren’t here. Instead, it seems as if the tracks that were considered filler on the Perfect Collections are here. Sadly, these are also the longest ones. Track 5, “An Ancient Legend” and Track 7, “Family of Darkness,” are prime examples. Both can best be summed up as ambient and they both run about five minutes long. Also, Track 3, “The Syobainin,” is fairly weak in terms of composition (IMO). Really, all of the noteworthy tracks come from the first Perfect Collection. “The Dawn of Ys”, “Promarock,” and “The Romun Empire” are all lively and well-composed. “Tower of the Shadow of Death,” while repeated, is arguably the best version of the song and the two pieces from the third Perfect Collection are very neat (tracks 9 and 10), although they’re hardly as great as I’ve heard. Finally, my all-time favorite piece of music from Falcom, “Battle #58” brings the house down, with a wicked techno-style power rock! This track single-handed saved this disc from total mediocrity.

Disc 2, from the Legend of Xanadu was a huge pick-me-up. Just by looking at the credits (Michio Fujisawa and the Electric Orchestra) I knew to expect good, clean, relaxation music. I wasn’t expecting such a masterpiece. Fujisawa’s slow, New Age-style of music is actually a little more upbeat than usual and it really is an absolute joy to listen to. Everything about them, from the compositions to the instruments to the waves in track 8, are magnificent. This was actually one of Fujisawa’s last Falcom arrangements and he goes out with a bang. The Electric Orchestra sparkles, as well (and as usual) Personally, I prefer their style of music to most orchestral arrangements. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “We’re not a real orchestra, but our fake instruments sound better, so we’re sticking with them.” Highlights include a beautiful harp in track 6 and the organ at the start of track 9. And…for the first time ever, I can say that the JDK Band tracks sound completely out of place. The problem is that they’re scattered inbetween the Electric Orchestra and the New Age tracks, so they really have a tendancy to pull me out of the listening journey the other tracks create. Of course, they’re also some of the best tracks the JDK Band has pulled off (especially track 10…WOW!) so this isn’t a problem if you’re just flipping around. Overall, I am thoroughly impressed and this turns out to be the best disc in the set.

Finally, we have Popful Mail Super Arrange Version, on disc 3. This sucker is what we refer to as an old-fashioned “Falcom Rock-Fest.” The disc opens with “Distant Valhalla” by the Electric Orchestra, then the JDK Band takes over. Everything you’ve come to expect from them – guitar solos, drums, melody, crisp sound, style – are present in every single one of these tracks. The compositions themselves are fairly weak (not bad, but nowhere near as strong as any Ys game or Sorcerian) so it takes some time for these arrangements to really sink in. Track 4, a medley of songs, transitions very smoothly from a variety of different-sounding pieces. This is my favorite on this disc. Track 6, a fairly slow piece, makes a seamless transition via a drum solo into track 7, which is absolutely blistering. The disc ends with the playful “Menu” arrangement, followed by the ending, “Somebody Loves You,” done by the Electric Orchestra (and unlike last disc, the orchestra blends in seamlessly here) Very solid, overall.

In the end, although this isn’t the slice of heaven I thought it was, it is a very nice compilation of three arranged versions from the later Falcom soundtracks. The beauty of the second disc, the intensity of the third disc and “Battle #58” from the first disc make for a great addition to a growing library. The fact that the individual soundtracks to these games are extremely hard to come by make this an even greater overall buy.

Now comes the fun part – this sucker is very rare. I’ve seen it on ebay a total of 1 time, so you’re probably going to have to go through Yahoo Japan to find it. They’re actually pretty frequent over there (not cheap, but frequent) Expect it go in the $50-$60 range. My overall recommendation: Get this if you can, but don’t sweat it too much if you can’t (especially those who own Ys IV Perfect Collection 1…) – Your main reason should be the Legend of Xanadu disc.

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