When a gamer sees the name Ys, probably the most common thought is “How do I pronounce that?” If you don’t have that reaction, you’re probably already familiar with the series. In that case, you’re more likely to think “Ys has such great music.” Ys VI was my maiden voyage into the Ys universe, and therefore my first experience with the famed Ys music. Everybody raves about the music, so it had a lot to live up to. I can say that the instant I heard the opening song I knew it would live up to my expectations.
Long story short, Ys VI made me an Ys fan, so I jumped at the opportunity to own the amazing Limited Edition Box released in Japan. One of the bonuses was a CD labeled “Ys: The Ark Of Napishtim Special Sound CD.” I couldn’t find any information about it, so I went into the experience blindly. I came out both satisfied and disappointed.
I’ll get to the disappointing side in a moment, but first let’s look at the positive aspects of the CD. The first 6 songs are arrangements of music from the Ys VI soundtrack, with the first two being vocal arrangements. The opening song is probably the highlight of the CD for me. Sung by Sakura, voice actress for Olha, it’s a very gentle, relaxing song. The echo in her voice and the bass in the song give it a kind of mysterious sound. It reminds me a lot of the ending song from the Record of Lodoss War TV series.
The next song, Rehda, is done by Isha’s voice actress, and continues the CD in good form.. I didn’t like Isha’s voice so much in the game, I thought it was a bit too high, but I’m pleased to say that it’s not a problem here. The song itself is quite fun. It has a very funky sound, and is great to listen to. It’s very much J-Pop in style, but has better instrumentation than a lot of J-Pop songs. The percussion is subdued, contributing to the funky sound but not competing with the vocals. The most active accompanying instrument is a flute, but it has an occasional appearance by a violin. Being a violin fan I would have liked to hear more of it, but that’s a personal thing. It’s a very easy piece to listen to, great for when you’d like something upbeat but relaxing.
Next up is the weakest song on the disc, Theme (Adventure of Canaan). It’s not a particularly bad song, and would work perfectly well in gameplay, but focusing entirely on it doesn’t work. With little exception the song is made up of the same theme playing over and over with different instruments. I don’t have a complaint about the song itself, but it grows very repetitive. I was tempted to skip to the next track my first listen, so needless to say this isn’t one I find myself listening to much.
Making up for Adventure of Canaan is the next track, Requiem of Alma. Dominating this song is a guitar playing a slow melody. The accompaniment changes throughout the song, alternately giving it a very beautiful or very haunting sound. It’s really remarkable, I find myself thinking how pretty it is one minute then thinking it disturbing the next. It features non-lyrical singing that help drive home the haunting sound. My only complaint comes from a few brief, out of place synth noises that kind of break the mood. All in all it’s a beautiful piece, and it sounds like something I’d expect from a Silent Hill soundtrack.
Up next, Boss Generic, is their stab at the boss theme. It suffers, though not as severely, from the problems of Adventure of Canaan. It is repetitive, but at least has a bit more movement than Adventure, so it’s a little more engaging to listen to it separately. There is one section, however, about 45 seconds in that I can’t take seriously. It goes into a pattern of playing a short melody then going to a percussion, repeating the idea then going back to the percussion. It’s not a bad idea but the percussion sounds a bit odd at times. I swear at one point it sounds like they’re playing Tupperware. Other than this moment the song does well enough. There is enough movement and variance to keep it from being boring. It’s not my favorite on the CD, but it’s far from being a bad song.
The last of the arranged music is Grana-Valis (Mountain Zone). Probably the most engaging track on the CD to listen to, it’s got a great deal of movement to it. Rather than repeating a melody over and over, everything presented throughout the song is constantly changing. What starts out as slow will pick up the pace and become fast and exciting, then change yet again to soft and gentle. It’s a great piece to listen to because you’re not able to predict what will change next.
So far the CD sounds pretty good, right? It is a nice mix of high quality vocal and arrange tracks, right? I haven’t gotten to the disappointment yet. Following these superb 6 tracks comes 7 tracks of audio drama. I know that this CD was made for use in Japan, but this still is a disappointment and won’t provide much use for those without knowledge of Japanese. Following the drama is a collection of 9 Sound Effects tracks, composed of every sound effect found within the game. Now, wherever I want, I can listen to such classics as “Death like vegetation being chopped,” “Time bomb while minions are blowing up,” and “Sound only for when a robot lands and attacks once!” It’s a neat idea and great for Ys fanatics, but choosing between more great music and “Frog attacks, throwing up maggots,” I know what I’d pick.
Is it worth picking this CD up? Since this CD was, as far as I know, only sold with the Ys VI Limited Edition Box sold in Japan, which retails for around $100, I’d say no. The arranged music is great, but I don’t think half an hour of music is worth $100. There are other reasons, though, for getting it. The LE comes with a great art book (including the sheet music to the two vocal tracks) and a very nice pocket watch. Plus the game itself can be played in English. If these are enough reasons to convince you to pick it up, you’ll be pleased with this CD. If these don’t catch your interest, I’d advise you to listen to the samples and get your Ys fix elsewhere.