Even one listen through Hiroshi Fujioka’s score for Growlanser III will reveal one simple truth to the listener: Fujioka likes to use strings. He likes to use them a lot. In fact, Fujioka seems to like all of the traditional western instruments found in an orchestra. Unfortunately for Fujioka, Growlanser III didn’t make use of a live orchestra. So, Fujioka (and the rest of us) are stuck with the synthesized samples of these fine instruments.
That doesn’t mean the music couldn’t sound good. Actually, the music sounds rather decent on more than one occasion, and the strings in particular seem to have been programmed in such a way as to sound next to lifelike. To prove my point, take a listen to track 34, “Twilight.” Hey, that sounds mighty good, doesn’t it? Yeah, I think so too. The strings and the flute sound the most “real,” whereas the horns always sound artificial. It’s hard to make horns sound good without having the real thing at your disposal.
Fujioka’s compositions are better than I expected them to be. Truth be told, this is the first I’ve really heard from Hiroshi-san. The only thing I knew was that Iwadare had been replaced after the first Growlanser, and that one of his buddies had taken his place. Said “buddy” is Fujioka, and I had heard some negative things about Growlanser II’s music (despite the positive review found on our own website). I took the words of caution to heart and avoid all things Growlanser for a number of years.
Then, after Working Designs published their last title (a package which included Growlanser II and III), a friend of mine told me that he really enjoyed the music in Growlanser III. So I gave this soundtrack a chance, and found myself pleasantly surprised with it.
Again, the strings…I can’t tell you how different they are. I’ve yet to hear strings used so often and in so many ways before in a VGM score. Sometimes they are used in a way that one might call “classical” or “traditional.” Other times, the strings sound like they’re part of a disco song or a sample in a hip-hop piece. Yet, I was rarely displeased. Almost all of the samples provided have strings in them (it’d be hard to make it otherwise!). So be sure to listen to all of these samples.
“Kimi no Ashita e” (“To Your Tomorrow”), the only vocal theme for the game, is found three times on this soundtrack. Each time, the song does not exceed two minutes (those who want the long version would have to locate the rather obscure single). Of the three versions, the peppiest is the ending version, and I found this one most to my taste. The opening version is enjoyable because it is soft, but something about it also feels…empty. And, unless you’re following the logic of Smashing Pumpkin’s hit “Zero,” emptiness is probably not a good thing.
Though technically out of print, I did not have trouble locating this soundtrack online. But, the day is coming when it will be a rarity. If you liked the game, or you were impressed with these samples, consider adding this one to your collection.