Ah yes, the Gagharv Trilogy. Legend of Heroes IV, V, and then III at the end: a powerhouse of Falcom music that cannot be denied. Or can it? Symphony Gagharv Trilogy is our testing ground.
The album begins with five selections from Legend of Heroes IV: A Tear of Vermillion. Previously, the only arrangement we’d seen for this title was in the form of the ten-track Electric Orchestra. These tracks are a vast improvement over that album, in my opinion, as there is a much more lifelike sound to them on Symphony Gagharv Trilogy. Of the five tracks from Tear of Vermillion, I am most fond of the second track, “Bonds.” Though the opening track is also one phenomenal piece, nothing can quite compare to the excited trills and glissandos sweeping across the rhythmic and bouncy piece that is “Bonds.” Early in the track, we are introduced to an accordion, an instrument that is really hit or miss in any given song. On this song, it hits right on, making its entrance swift and its exit even moreso.
The next three tracks continue to be bold, epic, and at times, dark. The listener is swept along, sometimes unable to remember which song is playing; they all blend together as one big, beautiful symphony. So far, Falcom’s doing a good job at living up to the title.
Then comes Legend of Heroes V: A Cagesong of the Ocean. This section makes up the bulk of the CD, likely because this album is the only place where one can find arrangements for the game’s soundtrack: whereas III has numerous arranged albums, and IV has an Electric Orchestra (and tracks on the Piano Collection), V had nothing. Hence, we are treated to eight lovely songs from what some have called to be the most bland original soundtrack in the series. How do these arrangements fare in comparison?
First of all, these tracks are a drastic improvement over the OST tracks, which were really much too low in sound quality for their time. These arrangements are just as inspired and breathtaking as the other games’ tracks. A few of these tracks are short: only 3 minutes or so. Though I was initially tempted to complain about these short tracks, a look at the disc time reminds us that, for starters, there was really no room to expand. Secondly, some of these melodies would not do being dragged out for five or six minutes. They sound “just right”, to use the expression.
Listen to track 11, “The Dark Sun.” Listen to the horns blast their low notes halfway through the sample as the woodwinds and strings cascade up and down to create that “storm” effect that one cannot help but enjoy. This sort of masterful composition is exactly what the OST tracks needed to make the cut on this arranged album.
My single solitary disappointment about this album is that they didn’t just devote the whole thing to IV and V. I know it wouldn’t be the whole trilogy without III, but Legend of Heroes III already had the Electric Orchestra (found on Special Box ’95, then reprinted on its own), as well as the Symphonic Fantasy White Witch (though technically that was released a year after this CD). Legend of Heroes III: The White Witch really has had all the musical attention it deserves, in my opinion.
Keeping this complaint in mind, I am not that impressed with the tracks for Legend of Heroes III. They stand well on their own, but I’ve basically heard all this before. Sure, it sounds better than the Electric Orchestra, but not better enough to warrant more arrangements. I was surprised that they chose to arrange “Look! I’m Well!”, which is one of the lesser-known tracks from the game. I sampled this peppy little number so that you could hear it: it was a pleasant surprise to see it on this album.
The final track, “The White Witch”, is my all-time favorite Legend of Heroes tune, and so, this soundtrack simply wouldn’t be complete without it. I’ve heard five or six versions of this song to date, and this one is up there in terms of quality. I was disappointed that they didn’t use that female solo voice in the opening minute (like they do in Electric Orchestra), but the song still sounds just fine.
Overall, this is one of the better orchestrated albums to come from Falcom, though it is still, sadly, not the real live deal. If there could be one improvement made on the CD, it would be that they make an actual recording (though an “electric orchestra” sounding this good is quite a feat in itself!). As the years pass, this album will become harder and harder to find, so find it and buy it while you still can! You know you want to, you devilish little Falcom fanatics!