To some, that doesn’t mean too much. To others, it’s legendary.
In 1987, Falcom began the Ys series – a simplistic and linear, but fun and addicting series. But it’s really not the games themselves quite so much that, still today, are held in such high regard and attract newcomers. It’s the music!
The series has had it good from the very beginning – music composed by the venerable Yuzo Koshiro and the rest of Sound Team JDK, a dedicated in-house rock group JDK Band, a yearly Special Box that showcased music, and more arrangements than anyone knows what to do with. Not to mention those arrangements were often done by an all-star cast including Michio Fujisawa, a classical and new age pianist, Tamiya Terashima, who has scored countless anime and movie soundtracks, Hiroyuki Nanba, a famous prog-rocker, and my personal favorite, Ryo Yonemitsu, the happy-looking chubby guy, with a killer blend of power rock, subtle hints of dance and techno, and peerless drum programming.
Unfortunetly, around the mid-late 90’s, Falcom seemed to abandon its heritage and go down the dark, dark road of MIDI, and almost completely vanished from the console world to refocus on its roots, PC gaming. Though the future looked dark for a while, they began to bounce back when Ys Eternal, and later Ys II Eternal, was released, and the arrangement quality started climbing again.
And thus, in 2005, we see the release of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Aside from the one vocal in Legend of Heroes VI, this is the first Falcom game to actually have *gasp* live instruments being played in an OST since the early 90’s. (Not long before this, Falcom also released a vocal album which marked the return of vocalists, a staple in Falcom’s older days.)
Felghana’s soundtrack, like the game, is actually a complete overhaul of the original Ys III music. Aside from a few naysayers, Ys III was generally considered to be a crap game with unbelievably good music. I know of several people (myself included) who have sought out the TurboGrafx version of the game just to listen to the music, since it is stored as regular audio tracks. Yeah, it’s that good.
So how does the new OST sound? Well, let me ask you a few questions first.
- How would you feel if someone walked up to you and handed you $100? $500? $1,000?
- What was it like when that girl/guy finally said ‘yes’ to go out with you? (I know, none of you have actually been on a date, but just pretend.)
- Describe winning that rare album you’ve wanted forever on eBay for a sickeningly low price because the seller misspelled the title.
- How does it feel to quit a really terrible job and run around outside with your arms in the air, yelling and shouting tidings of joy because your newfound freedom?
THE ANSWER IS: Great.
Yes, this is a good soundtrack. Two discs of classic Falcom, refreshed and revived for a new millenium. The arrangements are of a very high caliber, often expanding or enhancing the original melody for a quality aural experience for fans new and old. When you first pop in that disc, you’re instantly treated to a beautiful piano version of ‘Premonition = Styx.’ That song has been arranged too many times for its own good (like ‘Feena’), but thankfully this is a very nice arrangement, and is followed by a symphonic version of the same song.
‘Prelude to the Adventure’ has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a simple and short tune that traditionally played during the map sequence. It had an upbeat, marching feel with a hint of fun in it. The same goes for the new version. It’s loud, triumphant, and joyous, just the way it ought to be. Which leads perfectly into an Ys staple…
The theme of Adol, known in Ys III as ‘The Boy’s Got Wings,’ is a really, really good song. Here, the timeless melody is combined with a fresh dance arrangement, with loads of synth, a pulsing bass and even that echoey bass drum sound. But the best part is the melody is being played by a live violin. Yes! Dance and violin go together like a happily couple, frolicking in the meadows or some such thing. It sounds incredible. It’s a tiny bit more laid back than the intense TurboGrafx arrangement, but this version has more depth and variation on the standard theme. DANG IT’S GOOD.
‘Be Careful’ sounds good here, but when doesn’t it? Some people prefer the TurboGrafx version more because the melody gets lost a bit in the new version. They seem to have mostly remedied that problem in the actual CD release reviewed here (as opposed to the .ogg files on the game disc) so I give it a big thumbs up. It’s intense, loud and has guitars, the way Ys was meant to be. One of the boss themes follows thereafter, and is well done.
‘Illburns Ruins’….ohhh. *tear* If someone cannot love that beginning fanfare in the first 13 seconds, I cannot fathom why. It’s always been awesome, and it still is. Here is another fine example of a good dance tune; the acoustic guitar is perfect for this song, and the improv work at 2:30 is a nice bonus. Chester’s theme is also a well liked song, and this is an excellent rendition. An electric guitar pierces through the synth pads, and the sparse drum programming is really cool. And then at 1:22 it ‘kicks it up a notch’ as our friend Emeril would say…or maybe two notches. Really great song.
‘A Searing Struggle’ is energetic as always, although I do prefer the TurboGrafx redbook to this. I feel like the guitar playing style in the new version just doesn’t match up with the type of song. It’s too lazy, and the track has a very ‘generic rock’ feel. Still, it’s not bad, and some people prefer it over the older versions. The next few songs are minor boss and game themes, including ‘Quickening Dream’ which sounds like ‘Song of Feeling’ from Chrono Cross. After that is the trumphant ‘Steeling the Will to Fight’. All of it is excellent, especially the glissando on the strings. Closing the disc come two more excellent, somber songs, ‘Dear my Brother’ and ‘Tearful Twilight.’ They have never sounded better.
‘Introduction!!’ is a great ethnic tune. It’s so great they had to put the two exclamation marks at the end of the name. The strings are great, and I can just picture some guy grooving while strumming the guitar part.
‘Valestein Castle’ is a touchy subject…the general consensus among fans seems to be that the new version is great. However, I feel it suffers from the generic rock syndrome. This is nothing new. We’ve heard this song arranged as a rock tune a million times. It lacks any originality or creativity whatsoever. Yonemitsu’s version was more intense, louder, faster, and had a whole new section in it that just rocks. The new version is certainly not bad, just underwhelming. The following organ piece, ‘Prayer for Kindness’ is fine as well.
‘Sealed Time’ is, in and of itself, a reason to buy this soundtrack. A Heavy, solid beat. A Thick, catchy bassline. A live violin. An electric guitar wailing out solos. Synth going in a million directions. All this to one delicious melody.
Unless you absolutely hate dance music, this is a cracking track. The more I listen to it, the more things I notice. There are all sorts of cool little subtleties in the bass part, more synth pads than you know what to do with, and this awesome violin/synth rhythmic effect way in background during 0:14 – 0:40 and every time that section repeats, as well as a whole different one during other parts of the song like 0:41 – 1:06 (you can hear it easily from 2:39 – 2:52.) Maybe I’m getting too excited over little things, but the quality of this track is outstanding. I can’t get over this song, I have to listen to it at least three or four times before I move on.
‘Chop!!’ follows up nicely. The inclusion of ‘Theme of Chester’ at 1:04 is ingenious! ‘Darling Elena’ has never sounded better, perhaps only being surpassed by Perfect Collection Ys III’s vocal edition of the song, ‘Avenue of Sorrow.’ ‘Believe in My Heart’ brings back images of the Falcom of old, with its slightly cheesy beat, guitar work and excellent synth lead.
‘Beat of Destruction’ is evil, it’s so good. A thick, pounding bass drum provides the beat, while synth and string bits dance around it and the guitar solo. ‘Tower of Fate’ is another personal favorite. I loved the feel of Ryo’s older version, but this one excels in terms of sheer emotion and intensity. Once the initial fanfare dies down, the synth bass creeps up, providing a strong, running undercurrent for the strings to build on, gradually gaining volume until 1: 23, when the strings come out in full force. More of that awesome glissando, too! ‘Behold!!’, or the more humorous translation, ‘Look at This!!’ is loud and great. A fine blend of electronica and symphonic sounds.
And suddenly, ‘The Strongest Foe’ is upon us. I feel this arrangement has a lot of things going for it. Great guitar work, awesome orchestral backing, and an excellent melody. The trills at 1:26 help lead up to the main chorus, which, despite being end boss music, has a kind of fun and upbeat feel. The drums are a little weak, but overall it’s a great rendition of one of the best songs in the Ys library. I would argue Yonemitsu’s TurboGrafx version is more intense, frantic, and exciting, as it’s my personal favorite, but that’s really just opinion. They could make this a hideous mix of disco, country and low quality 80’s rap, sung by a booze-infested, farty old man and it’d still be pretty good. Hey, that’s a good idea…
Following a very nice, second rendition of ‘Dear my Brother’, the timeless ending theme, ‘Departure at Sunrise’ makes its return. I absolutely adore this song. Yonemitsu’s peaceful version, the endless JDK Band remakes, whatever – it’s just a really nice tune. This new take on it is one of the best. The shimmering string part fits the song perfectly, and care was taken to enhance the song, but not enough to distract from the soothing, calming effect it has. Excellent song, in every regard.
‘Wanderers from Ys’ will empty your bladder if you dozed off during the last song with a huge, bombastic opening. The song only gets better as it goes on, and this easily one of the best, if not the best, rendition of this song. It manages to depict a triumphant march without becoming cheesy or sounding like a bad movie soundtrack.
For some reason, ‘Key of Light’ is way back here at the end, with ‘Dancing on the Road’ closing out the CD. They are both cool tunes, but I wish they had put ‘Dancing on the Road’ somewhere else, like the BEGINNING, because it’s kinda out of place here. It’s like the Suikoden I OST – you just finished listening to the incredible ‘Avertuneiro Antes Lance Mão’ and the tears are still fresh on your face…and then those stupid mini-game songs blare through. It’s like that…but not as bad.
The packaging for the album is pretty, but could have been better with a little effort. It comes in the slim multi-disc case like Xenogears’ and Suikoden 2-4’s OSTs. The artwork on the outside on both sides is fantastic, but for some reason the back liner’s inner side is totally blank white. It looks cheap. Not to mention the liner notes suck – it’s one piece of paper folded in half. Thankfully, there is some info from Yukihiro Jindo, who arranged most of the OST. Also listed is the credits, including the guitarists, bassist, violinist, and the mixer. Carl, whom everyone likes, mentioned on a message board that we should thank the mixer for the excellent, crisp sound quality the OST has. Well, thank you, Kazuhiro Miyasaka, Koki Tochio and the ‘good people’ at Presstone.
So, that was a really long review. But it’s not everyday that you get a legendary remake of a legendary soundtrack. Should you buy it? Unless you answered ‘terrible’ to all my questions, then YES, please buy this CD. Falcom themselves stock it, as well as the excellent VGM World. You can buy it on its own, or as part of the new Perfect Collection, which comes with the heinous Super Arrange version and a slipcase to put them in. Either way, it’s the exact same thing, with the same packaging, so don’t worry if you can’t nab the PC.
Go! Get! Now!