Instead of having to go back year after year to old Ys albums, Falcom has done us the favor of rearranging, upsampling, and otherwise updating music from Ys I and II on a near-annual basis. It’s something I look forward to from time to time, to see what direction they go with each new arrangement.
This soundtrack, offered as an exclusive promotional item alongside Atlus USA’s release of “Legacy of Ys” for the DS, gives a fairly complete soundtrack of the music from Ys I and II as it sounds on the Nintendo DS.
A lot of fans complained about the audio quality and the arrangements. Frankly, I don’t know what the complaint is all about. I’ve never heard synth arrangements like these before, and I have to say I really enjoy them. If they were expecting some super-updated, Yukihiro-Jindo-JDK-Band live recordings, then I suppose they set the expectation too high. Personally, I was just looking for some high-quality synth, something that would match or outdo the “Ys Eternal” soundtrack. And I got exactly what I wished for!
Okay, I’ll admit that not every arrangement was to my liking. Most songs seemed to keep at a moderate tempo; “The Morning Grow” was far too fast in terms of tempo, and other songs were too slow. But you can’t please everyone, and I’m not sure there’s a single Ys album that holds my “favorite” arrangements of all the classic themes. Let me name a few tracks where I think this album shines.
First of all, “Feena.” This is a tricky one to make interesting, and Falcom has flopped on plenty of Feena arrangements. But I think this one is good. The tympani part used in the beginning, the faster tempo, the percussion used throughout the track, and the sampled piano and electric keyboard sounds worked very well together. The song’s B Section really stood out to me; here, all instruments seemed to be layered equally, and I was able to make out every intricacy and decoration during this part of the song. In many other arrangements, the decoration gets drowned out by the loud melodic part (be it a vocal or instrumental performance of the melody).
Forgiving them for making an atrocious first 10 seconds of the track, I think “Palace of Destruction” came out reasonably well. It reminds me of the version you can find on the ancient “Falcom Plus Mix” maxi-single. Then again, you have to work hard to mess up this song. It’s one of the best compositions in the history of Falcom.
Some of the more-easily forgotten Ys I tracks came out strong on this album. Tracks 8 through 10 (“Tension,” “Last Moment of the Dark,” and “Final Battle”) all sound superior to what I remember from the Perfect Collection, the Renewal album, and even the Eternal OST. Again, it’s just my opinion, but these “B-side” tracks sound strong here.
On Ys II, “Ice Ridge of Noltia” is very pretty, primarily because of the synth usage. The melody is duplicated by a “bell” sound atop the standard synth, which adds to the wintry feel. I’ve always liked this song, but it sounds excellent for the DS version of Ys II.
“Subterranean Canal” and “Fair Wind” were two others that, I felt, fit their sound schemes for the DS extremely well. If you take a listen to “Subterranean Canal,” you’ll note the intentionally “synthy” sounds: very few of the instrumental voices used actually attempt to sound like a real instrument. The drum and bass are really the only things that sound like real instruments. The rest is just a wild whirl of synths and good times. I love it!
“Termination” sounds great at certain moments, but there are other moments where poorly-designed “guitar” synth ruins the soundscape for me. Anyone who loves Ys ought to love “Termination,” one of the most epic battle themes in the history of gaming. This particular arrangement doesn’t capture that epic feeling. It’s fun, but it’s not larger-than-life, like many other arrangements tend to be.
The music accompanying the two games’ opening movies (the album’s last two tracks) were a surprise to me. At least, here, one would think they could offer high-quality arranges with live instrumentation. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
If you missed out on Atlus USA’s packaging of this CD with the game, you can search for the CD separately on eBay, or you can look for the bundled deal (game + CD) while it’s still regularly available. I recommend Falcom fans try to get this album added into their collection; even with its flaws, it is a unique set of sounds applied to some of the best melodies in game music history.