You always feel a little guilty when you review an album to a game you’ve never played. Oh sure, you can do it, but you still get that feeling in the gut that you aren’t doing the soundtrack true justice. It’s always that the arrangement is a little off, or the balance is wrong, or that you were just plain expecting something else. This is more or less the mindset I came into when I first began listening to the Legend of Heroes IV MIDI Special. It is, however, most definitely not the one I came away with, as I was soon surprised at just how good the music here is; not that it doesn’t suffer from the MIDI nature of it, but you knew about that from the beginning, right?
One of the main complaints I had about both the Legend of Heroes III and V albums were their balance of songs. Essentially, that I was going through droves after droves of slow, sappy stuff without anything to knock me back awake again. Not the case with this album, which has songs strategically placed to avoid just that. Oh sure, there’s lots of sappy stuff, but you also have songs like “Stepping Lightly” and “Mining Station” to take you by the important bits and open your ears back up. While I won’t say that the balance has been totally corrected, as the second disc of the album is still better put together, at least it won’t bore you.
As far as the tracks themselves go, there’s a few that hearken to other games and genres. “City of Iron ~Gia~” is especially notorious for this as it is just so very much like Wild Arms and in a good way. This isn’t a weakness of the album at all, though, and I’d say it’s in fact one of its strengths. Mostly, however, the music is uniquely Falcom in their prime. The first disc features some of their best plucky, sweet, and at times dark material. “On the Ocean Wind” and “The Holy City” are excellent tracks, the latter of which has its melody recycled for the latter part of the album.
However, as good as the first disc is, the second one is much better. It starts inauspiciously enough, a simple MIDI organ piece by the name of “Lunay’s Wish.” It’s a decent track, though it doesn’t promise the true excellence that’s about to come. That duty falls to the next track, “Run, Avin!!” Personally, I love this track to death. Despite any MIDI instruments, it rocks along in all of its slightly-mysterious glory like there’s nothing in its way at all. Two tracks later and we hit “Seeking the Truth,” featuring a return of the whistle from “City of Iron” and an absolutely wonderful melody that possible one ups “Run, Avin!!” The disc is not without its sad melodies, of course, with “Other Regrets” making a beautiful entry. You just have to love well-done piano solos.
Going through more tracks, we come to my favorite one on the album, “Sealed Earth.” Using the melody from “The Holy City” and putting it to, oddly enough, an electronica style, the tune again ignores its MIDI nature and goes straight for the ears with splendid results. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Mega Man, yes, but that changes somewhat when the song hits its second section near the end of the track. The power of this track, though, is heavily challenged by “Okutum’s Dream,” which takes “The Holy City” and “Sealed Earth” and sets them to what I’m guessing is a battle. And trust me, is it ever well-done. It’s songs like these that bring the second disc over and above not only the first disc of this album, but many other Legend of Heroes albums period. The track after this is also excellent, though in a completely different way, as it’s more gothic. Honestly, many of the tracks nearing the end of the second disc are all wonderful, and which ones you’ll like most depend mainly on the listener. After this, though, the album begins to wind down. While still entertaining, it lacks a little in emotional power compared to the rest of the second disc. Still, good stuff for the most part.
On a whole, I’d say this album is really quite nice when compared to other MIDI soundtracks. A non-MIDI album would probably blow it away, but the fact that the tracks here can stand on their own is testament to their strong compositions. As with all MIDI albums, I can really only recommend this to big Legend of Heroes devotees, but if you come across this album or tracks from it, give it a bit of your time for a listen. You might be pleasantly surprised, even if you haven’t played the game.