Koichi Sugiyama left his imprint on the sands of RPG history long before Dragon Quest X was even a glint in SquareEnix’s eyes. The composer of the Dragon Quest franchise, Sugiyama builds on what has been done before with refinements along the way. Anyone who’s played even a couple games of this flagship series knows certain tunes by heart the way fans of Final Fantasy know the prelude, even though they’re slightly different each time.
DQX’s soundtrack is no different, with pieces ranging from flat out re-used tracks from other games to all new tunes. However, while most tracks appear to be new pieces, they sound almost too similar to Sugiyama’s earlier work. Ever since DQVIII debuted with its jaw-dropping orchestral production in-game, SE seems to have continued this style in IX, X, and ports. Although the regal instrumentation is ostensibly engrossing both in-game and out-of-game, repetition across games has begun to wear on this listener. While many of the tunes within DQX’s soundtrack may be different, several feel like other entries in the series.
For instance, “Only Lonely Boy” sounds incredibly similar to a character creation or naming menu. The tune, by itself, satisfies an easy-listening itch that few RPGs address. Sugiyama is no stranger to peaceful, breezy numbers, as this soundtrack ably signifies. Although eerie caverns and epic struggles clearly adorn the track list, the vibrant worlds that DQ is known for also have music to accompany them.
The tracks are aptly named, with “My Dream Room” easily representative of an innocent child or hero’s den. How this applies to the game I can only guess, but more than fitting a track name, I imagine Sugiyama pulled together an appropriate and well-executed theme by request or description by the other developers. “Weddie,” representing a new race in DQX, has a comparable quality to it, though this track feels a little slow, as if a lullaby wooing one to sleep. In fact, half of the soundtrack carries this temperament.
Conversely, “creepy,” magic-adorned caverns, towers, and other mysteries litter the world of DQX, as the soundtrack readily alludes. “Elegant Ancient Palace,” “Monsters of the Tiered Tower,” “Wandering Place to Place in the Dark,” and “Dungeon of No Escape” all carry an atmospheric shroud to accentuate the foreboding dangers within the halls, caves, stairwells, or whatever the case may be. These tracks probably won’t engage listeners outside of game the way the jaunty tunes of overworld adventure might, such as “Exploring the Hills.”
Those on the fence about purchasing this MMORPG’s soundtrack should keep some technical aspects in mind in addition to the quality of the music included. The soundtrack boasts 66 total tracks across two discs, but half of the second disc is sound effects (which isn’t entirely strange for official soundtrack releases). Out of the remaining 48 music tracks, 34 are originals to the DQX series, though some of these appear to be longer sound effects — jingles, if you will — to accompany some momentous occasion, such as earning an aircraft. Most of the tracks’ lengths run somewhere between two to three minutes. Those hoping to purchase this soundtrack to pop in and play on shuffle — as I am wont to do — may find the second disc a little rough due to the low music-to-sound effect ratio. Again, those who love Sugiyama’s work or who haven’t played too many recent Dragon Quest games may love this soundtrack, but this listener finds the rips from other series and repetitious feeling of the library difficult to recommend.