For 20 years, Ys I&II have undergone countless musical remakes that there is no other series (that I can think of) that does it as much. They’re definitely classics in their own right, but it’s all too familiar no matter how much gets tweaked. Regardless, Falcom continues this remake trend, and no one complains. Ys I&II Chronicles OST, the soundtrack for the new PSP remake, is the latest musical incarnation that features songs that I’ve heard to the point of memorizing by heart; yet I still wind up loving it. You would think these songs would grow stale after a sheer number of arrangements and Falcom is only beating a dead horse, but they continue for a reason. Why is it that fans keep listening to Ys I&II music throughout generations in spite of their familiarity? It’s because in each incarnation, there is always new and fresh within these old tunes, and this latest soundtrack is currently the best of the bunch.
One aspect I always enjoyed is their rock and roll style, and this album does not disappoint in that department. The classic rock style of “First Step Towards Wars” gives off a strong retro vibe while other songs like “Palace of Destruction” and “Chase of Shadow” deliver on sheer hard-rock intensity. These are just some of my favorites among the rocking goodies present throughout the album, and they’re just a treat to listen to. Whereas a lot of RPG soundtracks nowadays are getting more and more atmospheric, it’s still good to know there are still some energetic, melody driven styles are present that can be a blast to listen to even outside the game.
The hard rock songs may be the highlight of Ys I, but there is no need to dismiss orchestrated tunes either. I still like them a lot if they’re memory, and this album has numerous noteworthy songs. The Ys I Chronicles version of “Feena” starts off simple and quiet, but gets a lot more powerful as it progresses. Town themes like “Fountain of Love” is enchanting, and “Tears of Sylph” sounds very morbid, yet beautiful. There are also nice songs like “Palace” that showcase the strength of the sound team’s violin skills.
My favorite song in the Ys I portion of the album has to go to “Dreaming” this time around. It’s an excellent mesh of trance, piano and violins to create a strong, dream-like feel that’s also immensely catchy. Previous incarnations either was too fast and overdid it on the trance portions or lacks a certain spark because it’s too slow. This song finally achieved a good balance on all its parts, and it’s phenomenal.
There is also the inclusion of vocals in the credit themes such as “Victory!!,” which is also known as “See You Again!” It’s a cool song with a rocking beat, but I’m not big on the actual vocals. It works, but there’s nothing great about it either.
Nearly every song is great, but one tune I’ve always liked let me down this time and its “Tower of the Shadow of Death.” It’s a hard rock song like any other, which mixes edgy with some funk. It may be a fine listen, but the pacing is what kills it. It’s a lot slower than its Ys Eternal predecessor, and the scattered melody style just makes it harder to get into it. It’s a shame considering this is one of the most classic songs in the series.
These new Ys I arrangements might be superb, but it gets even better with the new version of the Ys II songs. There are still straightforward hard rock songs like “Ruins of Moondoria” and “Over Drive,” along with pleasant orchestral music such as “Too Full With Love.” There is also more excellent guitar/violin fusion tunes like “Subterranean Canal,” but what really makes this portion of the soundtrack stand is more is simply more variety in music style. The songs mix it up by using vastly different instruments within a song to create dynamic melodies. It’s showcased in a few songs in Ys I, but it’s more apparent in II.
One example is “Ice Ridge of Noltia,” which primarily uses violins in a Celtic style. That setup alone already makes the song good, but it gets more interesting when three more instruments keep switching off to keep it unique throughout the duration. “Termination” is another song with a stylish upgrade. It’s still a hard rock song with mixtures of a synthesized beat, but threw in violins halfway through to make it epic, and also added a jazz solo during the bridge, which is usually a quiet section that allows tension to build toward the climax.
What really stood out to me among all these changes is the new version of “Tender People.” For a while, it was just some other town theme that sounds nice and pleasant, but never stood out, but the Chronicles version changed that perspective. The song uses acoustic guitar as its primary instrument, and I just loved how it’s being played. This usage of acoustic guitars is also present in “Palace of Salmon,” but it’s used throughout the entire song to give off a Latin flair.
Like “Victory!!”/”See You Again,” “In Adventure World” is another credits theme with a vocal arrangement, previously known as “Stay With Me Forever.” It’s a catchy song with some cute vocals, though they’re still nothing special. I like it a little more than “Victory!!,” but the xylophone/techno combination does not work well for my ears.
The only song in Ys II that got downgraded is the shop song, “May I Help You” mainly due to its odd choice of instruments that don’t mesh well in my ear. Whereas “Tower of The Shadow of Death” is an initially good song turned bad; “May I Help You?” was never a significant song in the first place. There are other Ys II songs I may have not gotten into like “Moat of Burnedbless” and “Colony of Lava,” but at least these songs showcased vast improvements.
The bonus song this time is an extended version of “To Make the End of Battle.” It starts off similar to the opening version, but it’s a little slower, and violins are being played instead of piano. What makes this bonus good is how creative the sound team got with the slow portion of the song. It got extended to a minute, and it features a great jazz solo followed by beautiful violin playing.
At this point, Ys I&II Chronicles OST is the best incarnation of these classic tunes (yes, even better than Ryo Yonemitsu, and even better than the Eternal OST); though I doubt it will be the last arrangement we’ll see of this music. Years down the road, another Falcom Sound Team generation may attempt to make their version of the Ys I&II music according to their own strengths. Will it be better or worse? Only time will tell, but until then, this as good as it gets, and I recommended this album to any game music fans in general.