2005: a big year for us RPG fans – the first time in over a decade that we’ve seen an Ys game (or any Falcom game) on American shores. Ys VI was ported to the PS2 by Konami, and aside from adding a few bits and pieces, left the game intact from its original 2003 Japanese PC release. This includes the great soundtrack.
Ys VI’s OST is a two disc set, housed in a single-width case (like the Xenogears OST). The packaging itself is a bit lame – while the cover is very pretty, there is NO back liner whatsoever, and the “booklet” is very, very sparse. But the upside is the discs themselves, which are full color picture discs. Very pretty.
But the important part is what’s on the discs, not how they look, right?
Well, many know the Ys series for the music, and have never even played one of the games, seen the OVAs, or read the books (that’s how I got started, too). The series has a huge reputation for its music, from the classic tunes of the PC Engine games, to the modern danceable power rock of Ys IV, and the calm, mellow and sweeping orchestral score of Ys V. All have brought excellent music to the VGM world, and Ys VI is, thankfully, not much different.
Let’s start with the opener, “Release of the Far West Ocean.” This is Ys. Top notch, killer intro song, bringing back memories of Ys II’s “To Make the End of Battle” (which I just happen consider to be one of the top ten songs ever written!). “The Akindo” is a sweet track. This song confirms the rule that all Falcom games have freaking awesome shop music! “Quatera Woods” is one of my favorites. It’s got such a hopeful sound to it, with the strings, synth, and fun drum programming, and that guitar is just awesome. I got a little sick of hearing it a million times in the game, but on its own, it’s just grand.
Of course, I can’t get away without mentioning the now classic tune “Mighty Obstacle.” This song was hot when it first appeared in the Ys VI trailer back in 2002 and has been since then. Everything about it is cool, really…the guitar, the drums, the organ, the brass. It’s great. It’s even better in the game.
That’s followed by a few good area tunes, like the dancey “Ultramarine Deep” and the streamlined “Windslash Steps.” “The Zemeth Sanctum” is a really pretty song with lots of piano and distant echoes. Another noteworthy song is “Defend! And Escape!” I love this number. It’s another one of the very first songs that Falcom released to the public, and the part in the game is really fun too (you get to protect two girls, not just one this time!).
After a decent orchestral number, we get to “The Ruined City Kishgal” A stompin’ housey tune, with some fat synth leads, thick bass, and distressed violin bits (which sound funky at first, but you’ll likely come to love it all). It’s really a cool song, definitely a favorite on the OST. After “Pressure Stairs,” which is the obligatory ambient song before the big final battle, we get an action fest! Starting with the frantic “Armored Bane,” we move through to “Ernst,” another rock song. Too bad the battle in-game is so short, but it’s ok because now we can enjoy the whole song.
But then…what’s that sound…the lo-fi chords…the synth arpeggios. Interesting…now some rhythm…ah, there’s the bass drum. More cool drum programming. Here comes the bass. Here we are, folks – “Black Ark Unveiled” – one of the coolest battle themes ever conceived. I can’t praise this one enough. Sure, there’s no distinct melody, but the way the song builds, the way it floats around you as you realize what you’re up against – it’s just so very well done. Following this interesting number we get to “The Depth Napishtim,” a very melodic and normal song compared to the last one. I like it too. More great Falcom singable melody and arrangement. The whole song exudes this fresh and clean feel with the strings and pads, crisp synth and piano, and the always welcome big bell tower chimes. It’s dang good, people.
A couple more orchestral songs bring us to “Spread Blue View”: a fair enough ending song. It recalls memories of Ys I’s “See You Again,” but really, it’s not as good. I think it fared better in the game. Still, a solid song. Following that is “The Moonset Shore,” a chime song similar to Ys I and II Eternal’s “Open Your Heart,” and the well-known game over song, “So Much For Today.”
So…that a lot of nice tracks, right? Well, there are, sadly, some mediocre tracks in there as well. Both versions of “Olha” stink pretty bad…it’s just a poorly-done MIDI flute, nothing else. The long version is just more painful, because…it’s longer. The town music all around sucks, if you ask me, but that’s up to taste. They are just very, very weak, compared to both the rest of the Ys VI OST, and the town music from EVERY other Ys game. I was disappointed. The orchestral numbers scattered around the OST mostly belong to the CG cutscenes that were in the game. They’re pretty good, but nothing truly exceptional. The sound they have is very similar to that of Symphony Ys 21st Century, so much that I would assume the same person was involved.
Is the OST worth buying? Yes, for several reasons. The *unsurpassed* battle and area music, the great picture discs, the overall high quality of the OST, and the fact that ordering it will show even more interest in the Ys series outside of Japan. That could mean more Ys for us. Let’s hope so, as this OST is a welcome addition to the vast library of existing Ys music.
One final note – if you are interested in the Ys legacy after checking out this CD, I HIGHLY recommend you seek out (in whatever form you must) Ys IV Perfect Collection, Ys V Orchestra Version, the TurboDuo redbook audio of Ys III, and any version of Ys I and II. Now go, enjoy!