Shiren the Wanderer 20th Special Collection ~Chunsoft 20th Anniversary~


Review by · June 17, 2008

Note: “Izayoi” in Izayoi Village refers to a phase of the moon that takes place after sixteen days. It can literally be translated “Sixteen-Day-Old Moon.”

This three disc set celebrates the 20th anniversary of the company Chunsoft, and in turn, its “Mystery Dungeon” series. Most Mystery Dungeon titles work within the framework of another company’s franchise (Dragon Quest’s Torneko, Pokémon, Chocobo), but the one original series Chunsoft spawned was the “Furai no Shiren” (Shiren the Wanderer) series. This three disc set is a celebration of sorts, highlighting as much original audio as possible.

The collection includes music from a number of Shiren titles, none of which have come to the US. One was released in Dreamcast in 2002 (the one featuring the character Asuka), another for N64 in 2000 (featuring Shiren Castle and Demon Island), as well as games for Game Boy Color (2001) and even the original Game Boy (1996). The first Shiren title, released in 1995 for Super NES, had its own soundtrack release, and though many of the songs are the same melody, this game’s soundtrack is technically not represented on this three disc set.

We’ve always known Koichi Sugiyama to compose thematically. Every Dragon Quest title has built off of the original 8 compositions from the first Dragon Quest. Similarly, there are a few key songs that have run through every Shiren title. “Traveling Condor” (Tabigarasu), “The Golden City,” “Town of Rest,” “Monster House,” and “Pegasus Ridge” are all familiar songs that seem to make it on to every installment. Along with these familiar tunes, however, Sugiyama scatters in a few original compositions for each title. As you’d expect, the Sugiyama melodies are beautiful. However, unlike Dragon Quest compositions (which sound like traditional European classical music pieces), a number of songs in the Shiren games take on a heavy East Asian influence. It’s a new side of Sugiyama for many of us, and frankly, I love it.

What makes this collection so much fun is the traveling backwards through time. We start with high-quality synths from the Dreamcast and N64 days, but by the time we reach disc three, we’re listening to old-school, 3-channel Game Boy synth. Some might describe this as a regression (complete with its negative connotations), but as I am fond of the Game Boy synth, I see it is a powerful journey back to the origin of the music.

There was a series of three 3-disc collections for Dragon Quest, known as the “Daizenshu” boxes. If I had to pick between those box sets and this set of Sugiyama music, I would pick this one in a heartbeat. This music works so well in a synthesized context, and though I’d be happy to hear more live orchestral arrangements of this music (so far I only know of one track, from the 1995 Arrange Album release). This three disc collection is well worth the money of any Sugiyama fan.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.