It’s so good to see a veteran composer “back in the saddle.” Yuzo Koshiro, one of the kings of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras (see Ys, ActRaiser, et al), took over a decade away from the VGM scene (with a few exceptions here and there). Koshiro came back in full force a few years ago with the resurgence of “chiptunes” and their popularity. Some of his primary compositions are now for the Sekaiju no MeiQ series, known in the US as the Etrian Odyssey series. This marks the third entry in the series, and though the soundscape may be the same, Koshiro’s style continues to grow in new and exciting ways.
Now, like the other Etrian Odyssey scores, and the 7th Dragon score, Koshiro wrote the music originally in a retro-synth setting. In this case, it sounds to me like the same sound fonts used on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis), but I’m not entirely sure if that’s accurate (PC-8801 FM applied to which consoles…?). All I know is that, if this were a Genesis soundtrack, it’d be one of the best Genesis soundtracks I’d ever heard.
Halfway through the second disc we reach the end of one version and the beginning of the other, which is the DS Sound Source proper. Surprisingly, there is little difference between the two sound versions. In previous OSTs the difference was quite noticeable, but here the only difference I can tell in most cases is the compression artifacts (static fuzz) in the DS version.
So we have a total of 58 tracks: 29 original melodies in two versions. Of these 29 melodies, there’s no question for me which I favor over others. None of the music is bad. Koshiro-san is an expert at writing music that fits the context of the game and stands well apart from the game. But sometimes you have to write music that doesn’t impress, and works best as background music. These tracks I tend to ignore, and I focus on the music with the impressive melodic lines.
I am surprised by the sheer emotional power present in the opening melody, “That’s the Adventure’s Opening.” This has all the same texture and simplicity as “Too Full With Love” or “Trading Village of Redmont” (Ys series), but is darker and more moody. What a great way to open the album, not to mention the game.
I was a little disappointed by some of the labyrinth tracks, if only because the labyrinth music from I and II were the “meat” of the previous OSTs. But where some of the labyrinth music didn’t leave a lasting impression, others (such as Labyrinth VI) make up for it. The battle themes are all strong, and I dare say they show Koshiro moving in a different direction than the past.
The town themes, however, are by and large my favorite “type” tracks on this OST. “The City of Deep Blue Sea” and “Thousand Years” are some of my favorite pieces, not just from SQ3, but from all of Koshiro’s work in this decade.
After my first listen through this OST, I asked myself the simple question: do I like this? And my answer to myself was: “I think so…?” Again, despite the familiar soundscape, melodically and stylistically Koshiro is branching out in subtle, but noticeable, ways. After a few more listens, however, I was hooked. I didn’t have to ask myself the question “is this good?” All I’d have to ask myself is “do I want to listen to this again?” For a few days in a row, the answer was a resounding yes!
Frankly, I hope Koshiro continues to take on projects like these for many years and develops a robust library of “neo-retro” game music. I recommend you support the man and also add to your personal VGM collection. Sekaiju no MeiQ 3 is a sure shot for any retro-synth fan’s enjoyment.