Growlanser was composed by Noriyuki Iwadare. Growlanser II and III were composed by Hiroshi Fujioka. Growlanser IV brings us to our third composer for the series, Tatsuyuki Maeda. Dare I say that this is the best Growlanser soundtrack yet? No, I cannot deny the genius of Iwadare. But Maeda sure beat the pants off of Fujioka, even though Fujioka’s work was by no means bad.
After listening to the first ten songs on this soundtrack, I told myself, “this soundtrack has to be frontloaded.” By that, I meant that all the good songs were put at the front, and all the mediocre town themes and “you got an item!” jingles would fill up the rest of the first disc. Though I did find a few of those songs in the middle of disc one, I was still continually impressed as the soundtrack continued to play. It made me think twice about ignoring Maeda’s name in the future.
The reason this soundtrack is so good: well, I can’t put words to it. The sampled tracks speak for themselves. They’re well-produced, the synth sounds great, the piano parts are always catchy…it’s just plain good stuff! As I had said in the previous paragraph, the first ten to fifteen tracks really shine. Every song is pumped up with complex rhythms (some as soft background noise, others as hard-hitting full-bodied percussion), and the melodies fit so nicely with the chord progressions. I’m sure the music fit wonderfully within the context of the game.
One of the bigger surprises awaiting me in the second half of the first disc was track 38, “Flying.” It takes a certain amount of taste and discernment to know when and how to properly use synth vocals. Maeda uses them perfectly in this song. With an ocarina/recorder sort of instrument in the lead, these angelic vocals make a lovely background harmony. The rhythmic patterns in this song are, as is to be expected by now, exceptional though not far from simple. You cannot help but love it.
The second disc, as the tracklist suggests, contains two vocal themes. The first is the opening theme, the second is the ending theme. Performed by Yuki Makishima, these vocal tracks are the sort of thing you’d expect for a game like Growlanser. The opening theme is an in-your-face J-Pop hit with the expected verse/chorus structure. The ending is a softer ballad, and it’s the sort of thing that can lull a child (or an adult) straight to sleep. I found myself enjoying the opening vocal very much, but I wasn’t too impressed with “Your Memories.” The production (including the instruments and the mixing) on the opening vocal is what made it stand out to me: I wasn’t terribly impressed with Makishima’s performance, but the music itself made up for this.
After having given this soundtrack a few fair listenings, I have to say that I am intrigued, and I wish this title would have made it to America. For those who enjoyed Growlanser II and III, you may want to either import this game or at least get the soundtrack. It’s better than II and III, there’s no doubt about that.