It’s not something I’m especially proud of, but I’ve not heard Dragon Quest music since the NES was the heavyweight gaming console. So at the time I picked up DQBS~Roto, I was for all intents and purposes, a DQ virgin. Within minutes, this sumptuous collection of Sugiyama’s early works made me deeply regret that absence.
Simply put, Sugiyama is the closest thing to the ‘Old Masters’ the VGM community has. On the one hand, that means there is little (very little) variation in style from the classical music of that period. On the other hand, what’s wrong with that if it’s good? And when the CD producers dubbed this a “Best Selection,” I believe them.
As you’ve probably guessed (whether or not you peeked at the tracklist), Roto collects symphonic renditions of tracks from DQI-III, and of those, DQI has seen the most dramatic improvement. What were once shallow 20-second background pieces have been expanded to surprising levels of respectability and depth. They’re still far from the best of DQ, but miracles go only so far.
DQII, easily the best score of the first trilogy, needed little enhancement but got it anyway. These tracks could have been played by a harmonica quartet and been good, but the London Philharmonic has made them…divine. My personal favorite of the DQII set, and in fact the CD, is ‘My Road, My Journey,’ a sonorous and wonderfully moving track in the tradition of John Williams. Anyone who thinks cinematic RPG scores began with the 16-bit era owes Mr. Sugiyama an apology.
DQIII’s selections are more of a mixed bag. Things start out admirably, with the jaunty “Rondo” and the bold “Adventure”, but things take a downward turn as a tepid exploration medley and some battle themes turn up. A few words on Sugiyama’s battle themes: they suck. All pomp and no circumstance, the orchestral treatment hasn’t worked wonders for them either. Fortunately, “Into the Legend” emerges in the end and gives the disc an appropriately smashing finish.
All in all, if lush classical orchestration is a craving, fetish, or even a passing fancy of yours, this CD deserves any time you can give it. But what would you expect of the man from whom Uematsu drew inspiration?