In 2015, SuperSweep published Masaya Game Music Collection Vol.1 ~Langrisser I•II•III~, a fantastic six-CD collection of classic music from a small yet beloved Japanese RPG franchise. In 2018, SuperSweep doubled down on this formula with Glory of Heracles Sound Chronicle. The Glory of Heracles JRPG series, created by the long-defunct Data East, hasn’t even known the light of day in English-speaking markets, with one notable exception (that also happens to be absent from this box set!).
Prior to the publication of this box set, there had been three published soundtracks for the Glory of Heracles games. They are reproduced in full, or nearly in full, throughout this set. As we run into them, I will note the re-used content, as we have existing reviews for all three of the prior soundtracks. That said, about half of the content of this box set can only be found here.
The greater question remains: regardless of previous availability, is this music any good? Or is having a “Sound Chronicle” a good thing only for the sake of preservation and posterity? Let’s deep-dive to find out.
The first disc is our sole chiptune disc, as it contains the full soundtracks for the two Famicom (NES) titles and that of the Game Boy spin-off “The Snap-Story.” Glory of Heracles II: Titan’s Downfall had its soundtrack published in 1990, but that album had a unique layout wherein each of the 15 tracks would start with the OST chiptune material and then segue into an upgraded arranged version. Here in “Sound Chronicle,” the OST material is all you get, though we also have a handful of additional tracks that appear here and not on the prior OST.
As with the later Super Famicom titles, Glory of Heracles II features a bevy of composers. Having many composers isn’t intrinsically a problem, but compared to the first Glory of Heracles soundtrack, the level of detail and production across the three-channel music tracks varies significantly. Some songs are lively and fun, while others are so boring, so droning, that I have to label them as “skippable.” The first Glory of Heracles doesn’t have that problem as much, in my opinion. The two composers for that title, Hiromichi Nakamoto and Shinichi Kamizono, maintain a consistently interesting soundscape. These 24 tracks are some of the most exciting in this collection, as good chiptune music for obscure RPGs is always fun! The same can be said, though to a lesser degree, for the Game Boy title Glory of Heracles: The Snap-Story. Appearing as the final 17 tracks on this disc, we find a mix of composers and, similar to II, a mix in composition quality.
Before this publication, there has never been an official release for the Glory of Heracles III: Silence of the Gods soundtrack. But now, we finally have it. While other composers are involved, this Super Famicom soundtrack is primarily the work of Shogo Sakai and Seiji Momoi. From a preservationist standpoint, this disc is exciting. Additionally, I enjoy this soundtrack more than IV‘s, though my reasoning is strange. In my opinion, IV overstays its welcome with its two discs. And I don’t think that would be the case if Sakai and Momoi were the leads.
The soundtrack for Glory of Heracles IV includes six composers, and Momoi is all but absent! Sakai, a prolific composer whose work includes the soundtrack to Mother 3, has a great handle on the synths that work best for the Super Famicom. Momoi matched that on Glory of Heracles III: Silence of the Gods. But with Momoi’s presence on IV an afterthought and five additional composers attempting to keep pace with Sakai, I think IV is a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Now that I can compare III and IV, I think III feels, and sounds, like the more cohesive experience.
Discs Three & Four
Glory of Heracles IV: Gift of the Gods is likely the best known and most celebrated in the series. The game itself is a sweeping story that ties Greek mythology to the myth of Atlantis. Its soundtrack as presented here is nearly identical to its retail soundtrack from 1994. My full opinion can be found in the review of that soundtrack. However, I would temper that opinion with my statement above regarding my comparison of III and IV. Additionally, Sound Chronicle lacks one track found on the previous release: the vocal opening “Children of Atlantis”—which will make its appearance (in new form!) on the final disc.
This “Greece Reminiscences” disc might be the strangest of all. Despite sharing the title of the rare bonus CD released in 1994, this is not a track-for-track reprint. That ’94 album totaled 37 tracks, including three tracks from Glory of Heracles II at the end. This new CD has 54 tracks, the first 30 from III and the last 24 from IV. The tracks from IV are pulled directly from the ’94 disc, with one exception (“Faraway Atlantis”). As for III? There were only nine tracks, and now there are 30. What happened?
Well, the liner notes in this box set (which are extensive, but are in Japanese only) reveal the answer. Seiji Momoi still had his “demo version” tracks from Glory of Heracles III on hand, up to 2018. These versions are the compositions written in MIDI format prior to their further compression into the Super Famicom sound source. From the listener’s perspective, this feels like an upgrade, an arrangement; but as a point of technicality, these versions came before the Super Famicom music was produced.
Strangely, while the quality of the audio is arguably “better” (richer, smoother synth voicing), I find myself enjoying the Super Famicom “final product” (discs two through four) more than the “Greece Reminiscences” audio. But again, having these new demo tracks from Momoi is wonderful for those who care about posterity and preservation.
This final disc, the “Reincarnation / GAMADELIC” disc, features three new arrangements. It’s short, but it leaves a strong impression. “Lost Time Elegy” is a six-minute arrangement of the melody “Where Time Is Lost” from Glory of Heracles III. This is a self-arrangement from composer Seiji Momoi, and it takes a surprising jazzy turn, especially when the tempo picks up. Momoi recruited Yuto Komatsu for trumpet, as well as Toshiyuki Sakai and Yuzu Yanashita for dual saxophone, mimicking a “big band” sound with a small team. Of the three arrangements, this is by far my favorite.
The second track is “Children of Atlantis ’18,” essentially a remake of the vocal arrangement that was (and remains) exclusive to the Glory of Heracles IV OST from 1994. This new 2018 recording features a different vocalist (Manami Kiyota), but the arrangement is similar to the previous version. The key difference here is the quality of the audio engineering, as well as Kiyota’s more sustained, more grounded vocal performance.
Finally, we have “Faraway Atlantis.” This arranged track was pulled from the “Greece Reminiscences” ’94 album and stuck at the end of this disc, perhaps for the sake of consistency. After all, disc five is the MIDI “demo version” disc, and these last three tracks are performed by real musicians with real instruments. “Faraway Atlantis” is credited as being performed by GAMADELIC, the band name for Data East’s Sound Team. It’s a great recording, but I could certainly use more of it.
Had this been a complete box set, Glory of Heracles Sound Chronicle would not have cut the arranged music from the old Glory of Heracles II soundtrack, nor would it have cut the original version of “Children of Atlantis.” As a technical point, the arranged sixth disc could have also benefited from including the fully orchestral medley from Orchestral Game Concert 5. But obtaining the rights from Sony just to republish a single track from a live concert may have been too tall an order.
Most important, the greatest missing piece of all, is the still-unpublished soundtrack to the 2008 Nintendo DS Glory of Heracles title, composed by Yoshitaka Hirota (of Shadow Hearts series fame). This remains the most glaring omission, though given the complexity of publishing rights with the switch from Data East to Paon, it is understandable why SuperSweep couldn’t get this last item into the collection. Perhaps someday…
At the beginning of this review, I posed the question: is this music enjoyable on its own, or is the Glory of Heracles Sound Chronicle more a collector’s item to demonstrate that yes, in fact, this music exists and has been recorded for posterity? I am comfortable ranking the quality of the NES and Game Boy music from the first disc as being a grade above many of its JRPG peers (Fire Emblem, Esper Dream) while being just below the cream of the crop (Final Fantasy). As for the SNES music, which makes up the bulk of the collection, it can be underwhelming at times, but some of the stronger event and battle themes tend to make up for it, especially those composed by Momoi and Sakai. So yes, it’s good, but not great. However, it exists, and this collector is still in awe of that fact! One can only hope for more of these rare/obscure franchises to get similar box sets published before they’re gone and forgotten.