Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest VI Maboroshi no Daichi


Review by · December 18, 2006

This release of DQ6 Symphonic Suite is actually the third print of the soundtrack. The first was a two disc soundtrack including the symphonic performance and then an OST disc. The second print, from SPE Visual Works (now Aniplex), was just the one disc of symphonic music. This new print was performed in March of 2005 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and printed in July of 2006. I doubt it will be the last printing of the soundtrack, given Sugiyama’s (and DQ’s) popularity in Japan.

My review for the original print of the soundtrack was short, but it basically said all I have to say now. Like most of Sugiyama’s work, this album is simply incredible. I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the music every time I listen to it.

Like every Dragon Quest album, the concert opens with the grandiose Overture, likely one of the most well-known themes in gaming history. The pageantry and the bombast of this classic opening helps to frame the space around which the rest of the music will take place.

The Palace theme is a somber but lovely exercise in Baroque music, something Sugiyama excels at creating. Styles change dramatically on the next track, which is a town medley piece. The main theme here, “In The Town,” is a bouncy romantic piece. “Happy Humming” takes on a big band jazz aura, with mute trumpets leading the way. Each song in the medley features classic composotion and are all paragons of their respective genres. The medley piece clocks in at over 7 minutes and is easily one of the best tracks on the album.

The next track is a lovely “field” melody, and I’m going to let the sample speak for itself. The music really begins to get interesting and defy traditional genres at this point. After track 4, there are two “traveling” pieces, the sailing theme “Ocean Waves” and the airborne theme “Flying Bed.” I have nothing but praise for both of these songs, and I am especially in love with the xylophone on Flying Bed (this instrument is the star of most “flying” pieces in the DQ series).

The next track includes two numbers, “Pegasus” and “Saint’s Wreath.” Personally, I found the ending minute of “Pegasus” (hence the middle of the piece) to be the most inspiring moment of the song. All in all, this is one excellent soft number, and the harpist does a great job on this performance.

Sugiyama’s composing style has always led him to write classically and typically “dark” pieces for dungeons. Baroque style compositions again abound, especially in the case of “Evil World,” but less inspiring melodies are found in “Satan’s Castle” and “Frightening Dungeon.” This is the only complaint I have about these sorts of songs, that they are meant to be more atmospheric than musically impressive; this problem seems to haunt the latter half of the album.

The speed picks up with Brave Fight, but the minor and diminished tones from the last track stay the same on this song. It’s tense, and it’s an impressive performance, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as the early songs on the album. I actually tend to skip this track, perhaps because I’m not accustomed to its hidden greatness, or because I don’t like its 6 minute length. I’m much more interested in the next two tracks, “Melancholy” and the medley of “Ocarina ~ The Saint.” Both of these pieces are simple melodic jaunts through the world of major and minor harmonies. Music students will immediately recognize the convergence of Baroque and Romantic styles on these two songs.

Tracks 12 through 15 are all songs in the style of tracks 8 and 9. The dissonance, the diminished chords, all of that appears in spades to describe a world that is truly terrifying. I feel that the first three tracks do well to build to an insanely strong conclusion in “Demon Combat,” a song that was originally placed as a medley with “Monsters” but likely moved to being its own separate track because people would want to skip right to these five gloriously scary minutes of music. The orchestra does well to perform in a way that would outdo most performances of Uematsu’s classic “One-Winged Angel,” and the melody is easily more advanced and more “high-brow” than the almost pop-friendly FFVII ending theme.

I contend that, with few exceptions, the ending songs for each Dragon Quest game showcase the best of Sugiyama’s work. “Eternal Lullaby” is not an exception to the rule. While not as memorable as some ending pieces that most modern music fans know well (Star Wars and other John Williams scores come to mind), I think that Sugiyama outclasses them in tonality and style. In the case of this particular piece, “Eternal Lullaby” fuses traditional Sugiyama phrases with intervals and progressions that are not unlike Joe Hisaishi’s Asian-style scores for many of Miyazaki’s great animated films. Though most of the song is soft, the last two minutes include a climactic build that blows the listener away, followed by a droning, waving resolution.

The Tokyo Metro’s performance is great, and the recording quality is excellent. If you already have one of the three prints to the DQVI Symphonic Suite, there’s no reason to own a second printing (unless you’re that hardcore a collector). If you haven’t previously imported DQ symphonic albums, I might suggest you go ahead and pick up the whole line of them. These particular “new” prints with the Tokyo Metropolitan have been published over the last year, covering the entire series (except, I believe, for the first game). Yes, you could own the Aniplex Sugi-label series for DQs II through VIII Symphonic Suite. It’s something worth checking out if you haven’t given this series (a huge Japanese franchise, to be sure) a fair chance.

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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.