The year was 1995, and Sound Team JDK was at it yet again with another Special Box. Ten years later, it still cripples the test of time. Falcom Special Box ’95 contains drama tracks from “Legend of Xanadu II,” some awesome orchestrations from “Legend of Heroes III,” and arranged tracks from “Ys IV JDK Special.” If you like drama, electric orchestras, and everything else in between, then you’re going to love this album!
I’ll start this review on a bad note, since I’m a brutally honest person. I can’t stand drama tracks. As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve never understood the point behind them, especially when you can just play the game instead. From an American point of view, the music in drama tracks usually takes a gross backseat to the voices and sound effects, which, unless you understand Japanese, will make no damn sense to you. The first disc of Special Box ’95 is no exception. It starts off with the awesome rock track, “Ordeal,” which hypes you up to hear more. But then, the drama track “Prologue – Lost Magic” kicks in, and it nearly puts you to sleep. The good thing is that every other track is drama, and the rest of the disc is instrumental music. “Island” is another really good instrumental that eclipses the drama tracks. It is very tropical, with a Middle Eastern tinge, effectively using sitars. The next instrumental, “Village,” is peaceful and serene, and a nice break from the drama. The ending vocal track, “Legend of the Wind” is decent, but not quite what I expected. It leaves you wanting a little more and a little less at the same time. My biggest beef with this disc is the 30-minute drama track, Chapter 2. As a non-Japanese speaker, it’s unbearable. But even though I don’t like drama, I won’t take points off this album for having it; it’s a cultural thing that I would probably understand if I submersed myself in Japanese culture. Besides, the instrumentals on this disc make up for the drama.
The second disc contains the uber-awesome tracks from Legend of Heroes III JDK Electric Orchestra. When I first heard this music, I wasn’t sure what to think, because I wasn’t too familiar with JDK’s orchestral abilities. Well, all my doubts were soon resolved after I heard the first few tracks. The name of the disc is rather misleading; when you hear orchestra, you think of strings only, but that’s not the case. This is synth music at its best, and the instruments are so incredible that only the trained musician can tell that they’re synths. What impressed me so much was that there are many different styles represented here instead of just the typical orchestral garbage. “White Witch Geld” is a very delicate orchestral piece that makes you think of a lonely witch living in a world of constant rain. “Sorrowful Melody” follows the same suite, and evokes some very sad emotions. The oboe melody melts me every time. On a different note, “Afternoon at the Beach” is a mellow piece that feels like a 50s rock ballad, and it’s a beautiful contrast to rest of the album. “The Very Picture of Health” has a Wild West feel, and reminds me of a calm life on the prairie. It is reminiscent of Enio Morricone’s wild western compositions. The crazy banjo and the horse whinnies in the song make you think of cowboys and dude ranches. “Ordos Cathedral” is a beautiful ballad that focuses primarily on strings, but features a grand pipe organ (like you’d hear in church) and a beautiful choir. “Little Heroes” is a big band-esque track that features a trumpet solo and a great-sounding vibraphone. “Love Shining Inside” is the final song on the disc and is a fitting end. It starts off slow, but then it speeds up. It’s got a great melody, and it ends the disc on a good note.
The third and final disc contains music from Ys IV JDK Special. Let me get my bias out of the way: I LOVE this disc. Furthermore, I love Ys IV music. It’s pretty obvious that the instruments are synths, but because the music is so great, I don’t care. You’d have to be a fool to throw this disc out because the instruments aren’t real. The beginning of this disc is so wonderful; “Fountain of Love ’93” and “Crater” will remind you what Sound Team JDK is all about. “The Sage” gives you the feeling of impending danger, “The Resurrection Ceremony” is a catchy groove, “Dungeon” is a soft ballad that defies its name, “Prison House” is a sorrowful melody that instills solitude, and “The Five Loyal Retainers” is a great rock theme that is predictable but still fun. That’s just a handful of the tracks. Every track here is so good in its own right that it’s not worth it to go into all the tracks. The bottom line is, if you enjoyed the Ys IV: Dawn of Ys soundtrack, you’re going to fall in love with this disc. Unfortunately, all of the Ys IV music isn’t present (as this is part 2) but it’s still a delightful package.
Overall, this is my favorite Falcom Special Box, mainly because of its originality. While I’m not a big fan of the drama tracks on the first CD, the instrumentals on that disc more than make up for it. I was impressed with the second and third discs because I’m Legend of Heroes and Ys IV fan, so I knew what to expect. There were only a few tracks that I didn’t enjoy across all three discs, so I’m giving it a score of a 9.5 out of 10. Also, you should know that Falcom reprinted the second disc as a stand-alone orchestral CD that is still in print, unlike this full set.