One of the many things Falcom absolutely loves to produce is an album containing MIDI arrangements of their generally stellar material. They do this with just about every game they’ve made, so it shouldn’t be of much surprise that they made one (or rather two, as far as I know) for the acclaimed Legend of Heroes IV. Sadly, for the most case, the taking of the original tunes and arranging them with low to middling quality MIDI synths is the equivalent of a Mona Lisa done in old crayon. Sure, it’s Da Vinci, but you still did it with Crayolas that have seen far better days.
This said, the compositions themselves are remarkably strong, especially in comparison to some of the other tunes in the same series. Not that it’s without its weak points, but overall the songs are strong and fairly catchy. This is somewhat reinforced by the fact that, like other Legend of Heroes albums, many of the same melodies are recycled in new ways; or at the very least, relatively new ways. You’ll see what I mean by that in just a moment.
The first track on the album is rather fun and playful, but is definitely skippable. It’s nice and all, but it just wears on you after a while; it’s like village music for that one place near the beginning of the game that you forgot a half hour after you left the place. Thankfully the album’s second track, “Highland,” reels you back into listening to the music. I can’t help but get a vibe off this that reminds me of those early 90’s sitcoms. You know the like: Family Matters, The Cosby’s, and etcetera. It’s also quite peppy, despite the fact that the guitar in the background is an abomination. It’s actually that same guitar that ruins any of the battle-like themes present on the album, such as the one that immediately follows “Highland.”
“Phildin’s Castle” is especially nostalgic to me. Not because I’ve played the game, oh no. Though English players will get the chance to do that in the imminent future, the nostalgia I’m getting is from the fact that this song reminds me very much of the theme of Windia from Breath of Fire III. Call me a nut if you will, but I love it when I catch references to songs from other games that I adore. At any rate, it’s a very easy-going song that makes me think of a lovely little outdoor café. Quite a welcome break after the peppy “Highland” and the charged, if not MIDI-instrument crippled “It’s Over!”
Passing over the skippable “Through the Forest” and the again-crippled “Holding Back!” we reach the terribly somber “Other Regrets.” This is very much a beautiful song, sad as it is, with a beginning that reminds me of a piano solo from the Romantic period. There are also touches here and there of Iwadare, but I’m mainly reminded of music from non-videogame composers. Take that as you will, but I count it as a beneficial property. Immediately following this song is probably one of the best tunes on the album, “City of Iron ~Gia~” in all of its Western whistle glory. The song itself is terrific and is one of the few instances on the album where the MIDI instrumentation didn’t disable its power. Thus, I can only imagine how great it would sound with higher quality synths, or dare I even say real instruments.
The next track, however, is the crux of the rest of the album. The melody present in “The Holy City” is used for the remainder of the songs on the soundtrack. The good thing about this is that the melody is most splendid. The bad thing is that you get four tracks of the same basic melody, albeit altered for different uses. This is a popular thing to do for albums, but it must be kept in mind while listening to the album so one doesn’t feel cheated. “The Holy City,” however, isn’t the best use of the melody. In truth, I much prefer “Sealed Earth” over it, and also rate it the best song on the entire soundtrack. Despite the MIDI instrumentations, Falcom managed to actually bring a sense of orchestral grandeur to the listener, in a fashion not unlike later games for the Super NES. At one point in the track, the song segues from its regular march pace to a slower, somber section with brilliant use of violin. From there, the song rises up again, almost in defiance of whatever event caused it to sadden in the first place. It’s a wonderful song and should be given its due.
The rest of the album is interesting, but the quality dies off a little after the splendor of “Sealed Earth.” “Okutum’s Dream” adds another melody to the mix which freshens up the song, but the pace is really slow and eventually turns to white noise. “Traveling on the Road of Dreams ~Light~” is a pretty song, too, but by then the melody from “The Holy City” becomes a little worn out, mainly because there’s little rearrangement of the melody from what we’ve already heard.
Should your thirst for MIDI glory not be sated by the main tracks on the album, the soundtrack also contains a data track filled with even more MIDI songs. Only these are of the ear-killing variety. There are also a number of artwork pieces present, so if you wanted a shot of your favorite Tear of Vermillion character you might be able to find it here. On the whole, though, the album was made primarily for those fanatically devoted to the game, its music, and Falcom in general. As such, I can only recommend this soundtrack to those desperate for more stuff in their collection.