I tend not to expect too much from the music of handheld games, but when video game music lovers hear the name Yuzo Koshiro it’s hard not to get at least a little bit excited because of all the great work he has done on series’ in the past, such as Ys, Streets of Rage, Actraiser, and Wangan Midnight. So when he was hired to do the Etrian Odyssey soundtrack and subsequently the Etrian Odyssey 2 soundtrack, good things were expected, to say the least. In composing this game’s soundtrack, he chose the trusty old PC-88 to show the world he can still compose memorable RPG tracks with hardware that’s over ten years old.
Having not played either Etrian Odyssey game, I can’t personally say how well the tunes go with the game. What I can say, however, is that the sound of this soundtrack, besides its inherent chiptune nature, has a very retro and familiar sound to it compositionally. I say that because listening to it simply calls out to games of eras past. It seems that he is trying to recreate that classic feel from the days of Ys and so forth, and I’d say he was pretty successful in achieving this. So much so that listening to “Battle: Destruction Begets Decay” made me think it was a leftover Ys track that Koshiro just had sitting around in the archives. “Town: The Lounge Where We Speak of Tomorrow” is reminiscent of the focused, contemplative background music of Front Mission 3. “Scene: Blue and White” is a neat little beat which I’m drawn to for some unknown reason. And while the soundtrack is largely derivative, it has that special Yuzo Koshiro touch that shows the creative effort and vision that he possesses.
It succeeds as a retro RPG soundtrack because it has battle tracks that are invigorating, town themes that are soothing and uplifting, and dungeon themes that are thoughtful and have ever so slightly ominous overtones. Also, if you’re into synthesizer hardware, you’ll really be able to appreciate the dynamic ranges and progressions Koshiro achieves here.
In case you were wondering why there are two disks with the exact same number of tracks with the same track names, the first disk is how the tunes sound on the Nintendo DS hardware (which is apparently emulating PC-88 hardware), and the second disk is how they sound on original PC-88 hardware. The difference? The second disk sounds much clearer and has less of a distorted static sound to it, thus making the first disk only for the purists (or masochists) who really love how it sounds on the Nintendo DS.
So in the end, is there anything remarkable on here? No, not really. This isn’t his best stuff, but it’s still certainly good stuff, and all in all is a well-structured and solid effort by a veteran composer. It might sound like I’m saying that this is worth passing over, and it probably is if you’re looking for something really fresh and original. If you’re into that old school sound, however, this could be for you. There aren’t really any tracks that are weak here, but they are consistently listenable and that is this soundtrack’s selling point.