The Ys series has never ceased to amaze me. It’s one of the few RPGs that uses rock as its main style, yet manages to produce as epic a sound as any other RPG I’ve played. Unfortunately, with the not-so-popular Turbo Duo as its main source of delivery, not many people have had the chance to play the games (with the main exception being the SNES Ys III) As such, many of the Falcom albums that contain arrangements for the games are regarded as blind picks, more than anything. I know: That’s exactly how I started out. After trying out “The Very Best of Ys” and “Ys Perfect Collection: The Complete Works of Ryo Yonemitsu”, I became a diehard fan. The songs became the only thing that I listened to for two months solid as I hunted down every Ys album I could get my hands on. I even went to the extreme of grabbing a Duo on eBay, along with copies of “Ys Book I and II” and “Ys III” to feed my obsession. When this CD popped up on a message board, I broke open the piggy bank and prayed that it was every bit as good as Ryo Yonemitsu’s other Perfect Collection work.
Despite only coming on a single CD (most Perfect Collections consist of two – one Special Arrange and another with various music styles), Ys IV Perfect Collection Vol. 1 delivers big-time. Yonemitsu’s trademark synth sounds are out in full force here, passing the sound quality of his previous works by a fair margin. Because this is the first of a three volume set, many of the songs have a light-hearted, friendly feel to them (as do most early RPG themes). There is still plenty of power rock, but it’s a little sparser than the other two volumes. Because of this, I can’t call it my favorite of the trilogy: Instead, it’ll just have to settle for being my third favorite arranged album of all-time, behind the other two volumes.
Even though I’d never heard the redbook audio from Ys IV, I didn’t need to in order to fully appreciate this album. The first five tracks are wonderful versions of previously used songs in the series. “Dharm” is basically a mock-orchestral version of “Termination” and it’s great to finally have an extended version of “Lilia”, as most previous versions only ran about 40 seconds. The other three tracks were basically used to set the first Ys Perfect Collection up and they serve the same purpose here. “Syonin” was especially impressive, as it’s much livelier than previous versions. I’ll never tire of listening to these themes. They are timeless.
After those, the new music takes over. One thing I’ve noticed with some newer albums is that after I listen to something I’m not familiar with I have a tendency to not pull it out again, due to the effort it takes to learn some pieces. The opposite is true with this CD: I’ve listened to it again and again, determined to stamp every note of every track onto my brain, to the point where I feel as if I’ve played the game ten times over. I wouldn’t call it the most sophisticated music around, but every listen is well worth the time spent. When I started collecting game music these were the kind of arrangements I had always hoped to find (although I was hoping for more of a Rockman application…). One can only take so many symphonic or piano arrangements, and this easily-accessible music comes across as nothing short of refreshing. It’s a shame that other game music producers don’t use these kinds of arrangements.
The album meets the daily helping of power rock with tracks 7, 11, 13 and 17. “The Dawn of Ys” reminds me of a powered up version of the “Street Fighter II” opening. “Field” is no “First Steps Towards Wars”, but it has a certain charm of it’s own, with a powerful melody and a cool opening. “Karhna” settles itself into a groove rather quickly and makes the three-and-a-half-minute track seem shorter than it actually is. Finally, if you’ve read my Falcom Special Box ’94 review, you know what I think of “Battle #58”. Even if the rest of the album had sucked, this wonderful techno-power rock boss theme would have made up for it. In this case, it merely makes an awesome album into a legendary one – It is SOOOO sweet.
The rest of the album is set towards pushing the light-hearted feel. Try to listen to “Puroma Rock” without cracking a smile. It’s not possible. This track caught me completely off-guard and I found it lurking inside my head for days. “The Syobainin” seems to lack direction, but it’s something to space out to. Yonemitsu uses a playful drum beat to push “A Young Swordsman’s Tear”, while the synth in “A Broken Hourglass” is nothing short of gut-wrenching with a fine guitar solo in the middle. “Tenderness” reminds me of something you’d listen to while watching the sun go down. Even the “Game Over” theme has a bright and friendly feel to it. A few tracks, namely “Resurrection Ceremony” and “Dungeon” are the only really dark sounding pieces.
At the very end, Yonemitsu gives us a medley of various songs heard in this installment. This is the only bonus material on the album, but personally, I’ll take one superb track over an entire disc of experimental (and ultimately expendable) material. This is leagues ahead of his near-effortless Sorcerian Mega Mixes and it clocks in at a nice six minutes. Adding a dance beat to the already-perfect “Puroma Rock” was pure genius and the jump to “Lilia” is seamless. After that, all hell breaks loose as “Battle #58” and “Karhna” fight each other to see which one will finish the song. “Karhna” gets a couple of wicked skips before “Puroma Rock” comes back to join the two. My lone complaint is that the track just stops all of a sudden instead of fading. Nothing major, it’s just a little strange to go from three pieces trying to outdo each other to silence. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with this album.
In a way, this trilogy of the Ys IV Perfect Collections makes me a little sad. These were Ryo Yonemitsu’s last Falcom arrangements and they were the last ones to have the Perfect Collection name. My guess was that Ys IV was supposed to be Falcom’s answer to Final Fantasy and that didn’t work out (consider this to back that up: The legendary Final Fantasy VI OST was released squarely between this album and Vol. 2) Afterward, Falcom’s efforts shifted from Ys and more towards the Legend of Heroes series, which follows the blueprints of a traditional RPG series. Ys V was a Super Famicom-only release and there was no Perfect Collection to come from it – only an image album and an orchestral arrangement. In fact, most of the new arrangements seemed to take more of an orchestral approach as opposed to their distinctly unique power rock. Granted, there were a few JDK Band arrangements here and there, but even these seem more spaced out. Consider the other changes: The next few Falcom Special Boxes were packed with drama. Games like Legend of Heroes III and IV, Popful Mail, The Legend of Xanadu, and the new Brandish games didn’t get Perfect Collections. Rehashes, although good rehashes, such as Ys Renewal and the Sorcerian Forever CD’s began showing up, while many of the newer releases (this CD included) are insanely rare, even for Japan. Even with today’s Falcom releases, the old “Falcom Sound”, meaning crisp synth, seamless guitars and awesome percussion is nowhere to be found. What I’m trying to say is that while the Ys IV Perfect Collection trilogy should have been the “Dawn of Ys”, they were more of a sunset for Falcom. As such, if you can find these, try to enjoy them with the thought that they are the pinnacle of the “Falcom Sound”.
Sample-wise, I avoided sampling anything that isn’t already sampled in the “Falcom Special Box ’94” review. The tracks on there are identical to the versions found here, so I tried to give a better feel for the album. Even if you own FSB ’94, this CD is still very much worth tracking down.
Alrighty, now the fun part: Finding it! Like I said before, most Falcom CD’s from around this time period are near-impossible to find, and this disc is among the worst offenders. Luckily, I’ve seen four copies over the past four years (which is more than Volumes 2 and 3), so if this one pops up get the hammer and make a beeline for the piggy bank. The price will likely be the same on eBay, the message boards or on Yahoo Japan: Between $70-$100. I leave you with this advice: GO FOR IT!