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Soundtrack of the Month 12/2010: Dragon Quest IV

Soundtrack of the Month 12/2010: Dragon Quest IV

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Ever heard of a “loaded question?” Well, this pick for SotM is a “loaded choice.”

Everyone that follows VGM knows that pretty much every main-series Dragon Quest title (up to VII) doesn’t have a proper OST release. Their primary releases were the “Symphonic Suite” orchestral arrange albums. Some of the early prints of these albums will also include an “Original Sound Story” that includes music and sound effects in an audio-only, synopsis-style playthrough of the game. It was a strange but valuable piece of audio for each game in the series.

Having studied the music as an avid fan, I thought to myself: “which DQ has my favorite music?” To be totally honest with you, I’m not 100% sure. But Dragon Quest IV is definitely a contender for the #1 spot. There are many reasons for that. We’ll get to them after the jump.

Before you proceed, you may be wondering: “so uh, which DQIV album are we talking about, specifically?” Answer: all of them. Every recording of the Symphonic Suite, including the Live Concerts. The PS1 audio, the NES/SNES audio, even lesser-known albums like “On Electone.” We’ll leave format aside and focus on Koichi Sugiyama’s compositions themselves in this SotM article. Get ready for it!

So, what’s to be found on the Dragon Quest IV soundtrack? Like most early DQs, it looks something like this:

Overture, Town Music, Castle Music, Field Music, At Sea, In Sky, Dungeon Music, Battle Music, Boss Battle Music, Ending Music.

But DQIV adds a few things to the mix. First of all, there are “day” and “night” variations of a couple of the songs, most notably the town music. The “at night” variations, which I first heard in the DS port of DQIV released in 2008, are quite interesting. You can catch inflections of this subdued version in the Symphonic Suite recordings, but the synthesized DS music (based on the Japan-only PS1 remake) is quite good in its own right.

More importantly, however, are the character themes. The character medley, as found on almost all of the Symphonic Suites, is a personal favorite among all of Sugiyama’s compositions. Within this medley there is, yes, the Torneko theme, which is awesome in its own silly way. But the other pieces are more noteworthy. The music for the gypsy twins Meena and Maya is absolutely to die for. Sugiyama brings back that “gypsy caravan” sound in later DQ titles, but the melody here is just … oh man. I love it. The other musical themes (one for Ragnar, another for Alena) are also quite striking. These character themes deserve serious recognition.

The sailing and flying themes are, like in all DQ games, big highlights for the soundtrack. At times the music is spirited and “adventurous,” other times it is calm and soothing. The experience of traveling long distances in these methods that are not natural to man can evoke certain emotions, and those certain emotions are carried across well here. Minus the fear… and the headache of modern airport security.

It’s taken me awhile to warm up to battle themes in the DQ series. They are my most-often-skipped tracks when listening to a Symphonic Suite. But in their synth formats (be it NES, SNES, PS1, or DS), they are actually quite appealing. I especially appreciate the final battle music more in its synthesized context.

If you’re looking for some CDs to take away after reading this post, there are many from which to choose. I might be wrong on this, but I *think* Dragon Quest IV has more individual Symphonic Suite recordings than any other in the series (it might be tied with DQIII…). Almost all versions, however, have recently been reprinted on the Sugi label and are available via stores such as Play-Asia. Just search for Dragon Quest IV in the videogame music section and see what pops up.

And, if you’re a hardcore collector, and you want some synthesized stuff, here are two albums to try and find. Your best option is SVWC-7112~3. The second disc is a straight-up OST for the PlayStation remake. But if you’re feeling really hardcore, try to hunt down APCG-9001. The second disc is the “Original Sound Story” format I had described before. Good luck, happy hunting, and keep the love alive!

(below is a portion of the VHS release for DQIV Symphonic Suite performed by London Philharmonic. Thanks to Godai for providing this rare footage!)

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