Genso Suikoden Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki Original Soundtrack


Review by · December 5, 2012

The Suikoden series of JRPGs has built a passionate following of fans since its debut on the Sony PlayStation back in 1995. It has seen five main installments: a pair of visual novels (Genso Suikogaiden vols. 1 and 2 for PlayStation), a tactics game (Suikoden Tactics for PlayStation 2), a card-collecting video game (Suikoden Card Stories for Game Boy Advance), and some side stories like the acclaimed Suikoden Tierkreis (DS) and this year’s Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki for PSP. Some Suikoden games were better received than others (e.g. the unforgettable backlash toward Suikoden IV), but every Suikoden game has had excellent music. The first game set a high bar with its memorable compositions (“Gregminster” is still one of my all time favorite town themes), and this latest Suikoden title continues to meet that standard with an excellent soundtrack of its own.

Astute readers will note that I reviewed the three disk Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki soundtrack with drama CD. I absolutely loved the music presented, but I wanted all the music instead of just half of it and a drama CD. Therefore, I am happy to be reviewing the full soundtrack. Unfortunately, “The Giving Tree” vocal theme by Chiaki Ishikawa present on the drama CD soundtrack is not on the full OST, so completists hoping for everything in one shot may be disappointed. As far as I’m concerned, the vocal theme is decent enough, but it’s not as majestic as the other music on this soundtrack, so I didn’t miss it too much.

The Suikoden series is known for its grand scope and sweeping storytelling. Instead of the proverbial JRPG trope of “4 kids and maybe one adult save the world,” Suikoden has players amass an entire army and establish an ever-growing base of operations. Because Suikoden features 108 potential playable characters and a variety of villains, individual character themes are not a soundtrack staple. However, there are six bards in the game who can be potentially recruited, and each of them has a unique theme. My personal favorite is Sorabu’s theme.

The title theme is simply beautiful and makes me want to just linger at the title screen for a while before pressing start. Of course, pressing start yields a treasure trove of great music, including a few classic Suikoden pieces like the name input music. The music itself features crisp instrumentation and arrangements that reflect a variety of moods, locations, scenarios, and cultures. The Suikoden series prides itself on showcasing myriad cultures in its worldbuilding, and the locations themes are an aural travelogue of classically styled world music. Irish sounding pieces, Mediterranean sounding pieces, Asian sounding pieces, and all manner of world music and cultural influences say their linguistic variants of hello in this soundtrack. And within each overarching musical motif are compositions showcasing the subcultures of different places, be it the sailors and fishermen of the port city or the artisans of the craftsmen’s village. Listening to the music makes me envision a vivid fantasy world with colorful people whom I want to visit.

Suikoden views war from a more believable scope than many games, and that grand, sweeping, and heady nature of the series is captured in this grand, sweeping, and heady soundtrack. Because Suikoden is not a bubblegum fairy unicorn fantasy, but a more down to earth fantasy, the dramatic themes surrounding crises, small-scale battles, large-scale battles, and the ever-growing war machine are bold, brassy, and have more gravitas than a war hammer descending upon your head. This soundtrack has a smorgasbord of battle themes, all of which really get the blood pumping. I always love when RPG soundtracks feature multiple battle themes, since I spend the majority of my playtime in battle, and I am left more than satisfied here.

Even within the vortex of war, there is levity to be found. The few happier, breezier, and lighter tracks dispersed throughout the soundtrack act as nice palate cleansers. None of these tracks feel too saccharine or goofy. They are happy, but not entirely carefree. In the hands of less skilled composers, these tracks could have been cheesy, but a deft hand kept them from crossing that line. There are also a few tracks with sparse arrangements, and each note feels carefully selected with the right amount of space. These also serve as a nice palate cleanser to the more bold and brassy pieces.

Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki has not been announced for release outside of Japan, but I hope it is released, because the grand nature of the music makes me hungry for a grand adventure. I have not kept up with the Suikoden series as much as other RPG fans have, and some may decry that the series is jumping the shark, but I badly want to play this Suikoden gaiden game purely on the strength of its music. I almost did not want to listen to the excellent final battle music and lovely ending themes for fear that it would spoil the game if it comes out in my neck of the woods. For a soundtrack to affect me like that is no mean feat, but Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki did just that and is one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in 2012.

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Neal Chandran

Neal Chandran

Neal is the PR manager at RPGFan but also finds time to write occasional game or music reviews and do other assorted tasks for the site. When he isn't networking with industry folks on behalf of RPGFan or booking/scheduling appointments for press events, Neal is an educator, musician, cyclist, gym rat, and bookworm who has also dabbled in voiceover work and motivational speaking.