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Soundtrack of the Month 02/2010: Ys: The Oath in Felghana Perfect Collection

Soundtrack of the Month 02/2010: Ys: The Oath in Felghana Perfect Collection

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After the success of Ys SEVEN on PSP, Falcom announced they would be bringing many more of their titles to the PSP, including the highly-praised remake of Ys III, entitled Ys: The Oath in Felghana.

OSV was quick to note that the PSP version of Oath in Felghana would be packaged with a JDK Special album. So, while we’re all excited about even newer arrangements of this great source material, let’s step back a moment and take a look at one of 2004′s best soundtracks. Say what you will about the “remake machine” that Falcom is, but we’re quite happy with what they did for the Ys III soundtrack in the past decade.

After the jump, it’s our February 2010 SotM: Ys: The Oath in Felghana Perfect Collection.

Technically speaking, the Perfect Collection was a bundle of the OST and the Super Arrange Version. You could order the two together as a box, or separately. The OST is a two disc set, so this is a total of three discs of music. And even though the OST is “original” music as it appears in the game, it is technically an arrangement of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, a game that is now 20 years old. So you get an arrangement, and then arrangements of an arrangement. How’s that for milking the source material? These guys at Falcom, I gotta say, are the masters of this sort of thing. Not just because of how often they do it, but also because of how well they do it.

But let’s get right down to it. A warning in advance: digesting this soundtrack review requires some rudimentary knowledge of Falcom and the Ys III soundtrack. I would apologize, but it’s not my fault if you don’t get it; though I will indeed say I’m sorry for you if you’re unfamiliar with the Falcom discography. Seriously, what is wrong with you? Go pick up the Perfect Collections or the Ys Eternal OST or some such thing from VGM World and get your learn on!

Now, the OST starts off slow. Too slow, really. There are two versions of A Premonition =Styx= to start us off (one is the title screen music, the other is for the opening movie). I don’t like the second version, but the first track is great because they simply open with a piano to play that haunting, pentatonic sort of melody. Oh, I love that! Things remain calm when they throw the next track at us: Redmont Village. This is a great town theme, though. And the new arrangement features some fantastic flute and cello contrapuntal work, and pizzicato strings to provide both harmony and rhythm. That there is one fine arrangement.

A few more “around the town” tracks play, and then we finally reach the good stuff. It’s like the soundtrack says to the listener: “okay, we know what you came here for, and here it is!” The field music for Ys III / The Oath in Felghana is “The Boy’s Got Wings,” and this arrangement is simply fantastic! The ultra-smooth, processed violins that Falcom became famous for with The Legend of Heroes VI: Sora no Kiseki hold the melody on this track, and there are all these dance-pop-ish sounds being produced by a variety of synthesizers. Truly, it is an impressive combination of music.

The first dungeon theme, “Be Careful,” and the boss music “Dark Beasts as Black as Night” are the next two tracks. They function well together, and there’s no question that the guitar-led melody in “Be Careful” gives us a small taste of what we’re in for with this soundtrack. But we’re not out of the woods yet, because there’s plenty more awesome music to go. We’re only halfway through the first disc when we reach “Illburn Ruins.” Now I’ll be honest, I never thought much of this track either in its original form or on the Perfect Collection, or any subsequent arrangement preceding The Oath in Felghana. But here, on this OST, it’s excellent. The dance-pop standards from The Boy’s Got Wings are back, handclaps and all. The melody is carried by a classical/acoustic guitar in some parts of the song, and other times by a synth pad. Crunchy, distorted electric guitar also makes an appearance at points in this three minute track. This one is sure to get your heart racing.

A pensive electric guitar solo, with lots of background effects, makes up the entirety of “The Theme of Chester,” who plays the swordsman-rival for protagonist Adol in this particular installment. Of course, you know what this means. The next track on the album must transition from the cool, devil-may-care guitar to something that’s just in your face hardcore rock. And we get “A Searing Struggle,” which is simply a treat for the ears. This is typical Falcom rock right here. Heavy drums, awesome melodic guitar licks, pounding bass lines, and keyboards filling out the sound with all manner of awesome synths. I love this track. Hey, I’ve said that a few times now right? I guess that’s why this is a Soundtrack of the Month!

Eventually, near the end of the disc, we do get a chance to breathe. “Dear My Brother” is a beautiful piece, almost like a dirge, that features piano and cello. “Tearful Twilight,” the last track on the disc, has a slightly faster tempo than the previous track, but it’s still slow enough to allow a contemplative mood.

Now, I skipped over some stuff in disc one, because I can’t keep ranting on and on. This will get too long. I also have to save space to talk about disc 2 track 2, “Valestine Castle.” Acknowledged almost universally among fans as the best rock track from Ys III, this four minute arrangement for OiF will keep your eyes perked up and your butt on the edge of your seat. Melodically, the song was already near perfect. Add dueling guitars doing third-interval harmonies and the standard Falcom rock that we heard earlier in “A Searing Struggle,” but now with a faster tempo and all the heart and soul that Sound Team JDK could pour into this track, and … yeah. Just, wow. I get chills every time I listen to this track. Great, great stuff.

(A quick aside: if you’ve played the game, you know that this castle is one of the largest dungeons in the game, so it’s fitting that they’d save some of the best music for an area that you’d have to spend hours in. Getting to listen to this music while playing through portion of the game was really a marvelous experience.)

After the techno styles of the dungeon theme “Sealed Time,” we reach a sorely underappreciated battle track from this soundtrack: “Chop!!” I loved this piece even from Perfect Collection Ys III, but now it’s given the full makeover it deserves in OiF. I can’t describe it well, but let me do my best: crazy-fast disco orchestra strings, big percussion hits, and plenty of xylophone to keep it lively. This is one of the fastest songs in terms of raw tempo on the album. I’m going to have to say it again: I love this track!

Things take a turn for the epic for much of the rest of disc two. “Pulsing Toward Ruin,” “Tower of Fate,” and “Behold!!” are all climactic builds to the game’s final moments. Some tracks are slow, others are fast, but they all serve a purpose: getting you (be you the player or the listener) ready for a grand finale.

And that’s when we get it. The last boss music, “The Strongest Foe,” is five minutes long, making it one of the longest tracks on the OST (only to be outdone by the end credits music, “Departure at Sunrise”). This song has everything. It’s the rock band setup, plus the whole synth orchestra thing, mixed into one ridiculously big track. The sound of it all is just huge. Big, huge, glorious. That’s what I have to say about the final battle (the battle itself too, not just the music).

“Departure at Sunrise” is arranged very well with these staccato flute parts and tons of strings and orchestral bells and chimes. Oh, it’s good, I promise you that. But I still wish they had opted for a vocal performance, like “Departure at Sunrise ’95,” one of the best vocal tracks Falcom ever made. Beggars can’t be choosers though, and I’d been begging for Ys III to get its proper place in Falcom history for six years by the time this game came out, so I had better just swallow my complaints and enjoy what’s given to me here.

The end credits continue on with the ex-title track, “Wanderers from Ys.” The military-style snare drum and general march-like tone of the track turned me off when I had heard it in previous incarnations. But the Felghana version is surprisingly good.

All in all, Ys: The Oath in Felghana Original Soundtrack is one of Falcom’s greatest achievements. Let’s move on and see how the Super Arrange Version fares, eh?

I’m not going to go track-by-track on this album. Here’s what I’m going to say. Basically, the sound quality of the Felghana OST is so good, they really couldn’t go any higher for an arranged album. So the key to making an arranged album in this case was to mess with the musical styles/genres of each track, and do a couple of medleys. And that’s exactly what they did. For example, “A Premonition ~ I Suddenly Recall” features strong guitar atop the piano, and it turns out it’s a vocal track from JILL (of JILL’s Project). The arrangement is also about 7 minutes long. That’s a lot of Premonition!

In contrast, “The Boy’s Got Wings” is only 90 seconds long, and it’s basically a busier version of the OST track. What’s up with that?

The full tracklist includes Searing Struggle, Valestine Castle, Sealed Time, Dear My Brother, and two versions of “A Premonition =Styx=.”

So maybe the soundtrack of the month should really just go to the OST. The Super Arrange Version is a neat idea, but it remains simply that. If I had to choose between owning one or the other, or listening to one or the other on any given day, I’m pretty sure I’d pick the OST every time. But it’s also fun to own the Perfect Collection and have both albums go into a nice shiny cardboard slipcase. That’s why we recommend getting the full package, which is available at VGM World.

Tell us: what are your thoughts on the Felghana Perfect Collection? Is there anything I failed to say in this lengthy review? Does anyone out there have a higher opinion of the SAV than I do?

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