Suikoden V has marked the return of the series to greatness, and this OST reflects that.
Discs I and II – The Chapter of Dawn
So, what better way to kick this off than with “Wind of Phantom.” Easily surpassing the introduction songs of Suikoden I and IV, this might topple the wonderful “Exceeding Love” from III and the emotionally charged Warsaw Philharmonic opener of II. Beginning with a Celtic jig-style fanfare, the moody strings intertwine with the horns for the build-up one minute in. The main melody then takes foot; a splendid march with the expected Suikoden ethnic flair, and some surprises too, like an electric guitar. The performance is bursting with energy and enthusiasm, both in the individual parts performed by Toriyama – who also wrote the song – and the ensemble work of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It is particularly interesting that they chose the Royal Phil to do this number. Not exactly what you’d expect to hear on a soundtrack, this is the same ensemble that plays at the British Royal Family’s functions, such as the wedding of Prince Charles. Perhaps this is partially in celebration of the game’s hero, the Prince, and his royal lineage. Whatever the case may be, a stunning opener.
Of course, the Suikoden naming theme is back, as it always is. This song has been given a very nice ethnic sound, much like the rest of the OST, mixing the Far East, European, and Pan-Asian sounds.
“A Fated Confrontation” introduces us to the battle sounds of Suikoden V. Suikoden V has, by far, the most intense, desperate and furious battle themes of the entire series yet. More on that later; this is simply just a taste…
“Distant Journey” is the overworld music this time around. The last three Suikoden games did not have a full, explorable world like the first two, but this time there is one, and this lovely rendition of the main theme is your companion for the journey ahead. I love the bagpipes. “Battle Start” is the standard battle theme, but it’s fairly low key compared to the insane boss themes. This actually works well in-game; hearing a song thousands of times in one game works better if it’s not overly complex. “The Godwin Family Castle” is also of quick note. The melody is fantastic, and there are multiple versions of this tune later in the OST.
“Time of Confrontation” and “The Stage of Battle” are both cool action numbers that start to bring out the brass, but not in full force yet. “The Two Guardian Runes” is haunting and very beautiful; more so here than it was on the arrange CD. Its simplicity is touching. There are also a good number of ambient songs on the OST, all of which are very nice and soothing, if not very dark. “A Peaceful Moment” features just a piano, guitar, and a ride cymbal, and some light synth pads, but manages to pull at your heart just the same. “Town on a River” is the Raftfleet theme, and is pretty groove, ranking high among the large history of town themes the Suikoden series has built.
And here we are, disc 2, track 6: “A Mighty Enemy.” This is where the fun *really* begins. From the first deep chord and fanfare, the song becomes a radical mishmash of percussion, both tribal and orchestral, and layer upon layer of thick, blaring, pulsating brass, sounding much like something from a crazy marching drum corps show. I cannot express how much I love this song, and how simply perfect it is for a boss theme. It’s epic, but it’s frantic, and a total mess at times – just how one might picture a battle against a foe much greater than oneself in a desperate fight for life.
“An Attack” features some cool hi-hat and electronic percussion among the usual orchestral suspects. “The Great Artists” is…hah…well, in or out of context, it’s just messed up. In the story, it’s used in Haud Village, a really strange little place that is inhabited by the country’s ‘finest artists’ which the Barows family has taken a liking to. In reality, the art these people make is simply terrible, but they are so caught up in their own ‘masterpiece’ that they would never hear it. It has very little bearing on the plot, but it’s a fun distraction. Oh yeah, the Theme of Narcissism is back too – and it’s a girl this time!
“Before Escaping Safely” and “Overcoming the Grief” are both beautiful themes, the latter of which is a touching ballad, sans any cheesy vocals or drum tracks. “Clash!” is one of the major war battle themes, and is a rousing mix of the Suikoden II war theme and a new melody at 0:41. I really love the new part, it has a desperate but hopeful sound that just fits. The “Cry Victory!” theme thereafter rocks too.
“Running to the River” is one of my absolute favorites, full of energy and exploration. Also stunningly beautiful is, “The Tactician,” the theme of Lucretia, the Prince’s mysterious and cunning adviser (I know ‘mysterious and cunning’ sounds cliché, but she really is.) “Symphonic Poem – Dance of Death” is the first of many remixes of the main battle theme, and is a fair bit more exciting and rousing than the regular version. I really can’t get enough of the awesome brass they’ve loaded this music with. “The Water, Trees and Sun’s” didgeridoo and bright melody are catchy, “A Phantom Reborn” is smooth, flowing and sad, and “Traces of the Sindar Civilization” is an unexpected remake of a Suikoden III tune. Closing the disc is “Natural Naïveté,” the theme of the lovely Miakis. I usually am not big on the ‘cute’ sound, but it’s only cute on the top layer. The piano striking chords in the background is quite mature sounding, and the song has a slight melancholy feel to it, as if to send you two signals at once, making this song a perfect match for its wonderful character.
Discs III and IV – The Chapter of Twilight
“The Water and the Sun” is an uplifting, upbeat version of the main theme. Also present are a couple of little surprise remakes of Suikoden IV travel and battle songs. Followed by such nice tunes as “Tower of the Stars” and “We’ll Meet by the Water” – the first two renditions of the headquarters theme – and the actually-really-good-for-once mini-game songs, one might think disc 3 is looking pretty happy. We’ll you’re wrong! Disc 3 is also host to some of the most sinister and intense music yet.
“Final Defensive Stand” is a start. If the name isn’t enough, the song is equally desperate sounding. “Premonition of Battle” is also what it sounds like, and along with the sorrowful “Counteroffensive,” is a perfect lead-in to the battery of battle themes to follow.
“Life or Death” is similar in tone to the great battle themes of the first two discs, but ups the panic another notch. Let it be known that the scenes that accompany this music on screen are truly some of the most heart-wrenching battles one can imagine. However, the song’s impact is not limited to the story, but on its own is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s not over; “Determination ~ The Tragic Battle” is a bit slower and much sadder, and is still most definitely in the same league as the previous number. And “Betrayal”… whoa. This is one evil song. This whole section of the soundtrack left me in tears by the time it was over.
And just when I was done bawling like a baby, “A Sad Wish” plays. The vocalist, while singing no lyrics, does an excellent job, and the emotion is apparent. “The Light Moaning in the Darkness” is a sparse, piano solo version of the previous song, and the two versions of the Suikoden classic “Moonlit Night” are also very touching.
“Dancing Rhapsody” is the final remix of the normal battle theme, this time a Ys-like hard rock fest. “The Campaign to Retake Sol-Falena” and “The Fated Showdown” rock too, in a grand, rousing Ogre Battle kind of way. All the late-game battle themes are miles ahead of any and all final battles from previous Suikoden games. “The Final Conclusion” is proof enough, continuing the crazy, insane tone of the other battles.
The songs from “Solitary Journey” on are the finale themes, and certain songs only play in certain endings. Ranging from sad and yearning like the aforementioned, to the fantastically epic “Finale” and 108 star themes, these are all wonderful songs. Let me mention “Finale” once again, as it is truly a thrilling ending theme. Ranging in emotion and fierceness beyond Ys V Orchestra’s “Farewell,” this is ending perfection. After being bathed in a wall of brass halfway through, the singer performs another lyric-less vocal to gentle and soothing chords. Not long after does the bright brass come back for one last swell and timpani roll.
“To the End of the Woven Tale of the 108 Stars” is unique in that it is a true rock ballad, again without any sort of cheese, but still reminiscent of perhaps something from Lunar: Eternal Blue. But “The Future of the 108” is the true and final ending. As with the previous titles, the final march always accompanies a long epilogue detailing the fates and lives of the one hundred and eight characters after the events of the game. In a wonderful and surprising move, the theme this time is the touching finale from Suikoden IV and Rhapsodia. Though not all of IV’s music was great, this song is still one of the best in the series, and this version is a little slower and more triumphant than the previous two.
Last, but not least, is “Into a World of Illusions.” When an acquaintance of mine heard this, she mentioned that she broke into tears. For anyone who claims to be a fan of VGM, you should have heard this theme at least once before by now, somewhere, even if you are not a Suikoden fan in particular. It is the original theme of the series, also known as “Orizzonte” and written by the venerable Miki Higashino. Just like it was in the first game, it’s performed by an acoustic guitar and accompaniment. A perfect ending.
The packaging for the OST is fantastic, assuming you grab the LE. It comes with the four discs in two cases and a slipcase, exactly like Suikoden II’s original print, and a large obi that has the entire tracklist on it. Also included are liner notes with commentary on *every* track, some words from the series director, the art producer, and the sound producer, and some art and sheet music. There are also some alternate covers – 12 of them – featuring different artwork. Even if you pick up the two soundtrack volumes separately without the limited stuff (which I assume will happen eventually,) it’s nearly exactly the same, and still a beautiful and well-designed package.
I don’t think I need a summary. I would recommend this to anyone who loves music in a heartbeat. It is one of the most touching and memorable pieces of work I have heard, recent or in distant memories.