Game Music, Japanese, Reviews

Dragon’s Crown Pro – Soundtrack (Review)

May 29, 2018 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Dragon’s Crown Pro – Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Dragon’s Crown has a score done solely by Hitoshi Sakimoto (something you only get with Valkyria Chronicles nowadays) and it boasted a cultural and western score – much different than what I was expecting at the time. Personally, it was never one of my favourites – but I treated the news about the live orchestration as a chance for the music to redeem itself.

This time with a live orchestra, done by the same arrangers for FINAL FANTASY XII: The Zodiac Age’s revamping, does Dragon’s Crown’s score hold up?

Recently, there’s been a lot of re-releases coming out of Vanillaware – and that’s most certainly not a bad thing. Odin Sphere was remastered and remade into a beautiful game (named as Odin Sphere Leifthrasir), replete with enhanced gameplay features – and an extended score done by the Basiscape colleagues at the time.

Is it only natural, then, that you would see Muramasa remastered to the current generation consoles? Not so fast, because Dragon’s Crown takes the spotlight! I found myself asking “why” many times, seeing as Dragon’s Crown was originally on the PlayStation 3 – whereas Muramasa is on the Wii.
But, in the end, I didn’t care; I knew other titles would get their remastering treatment eventually, so that brings me onto the music!

This time, instead of creating new tracks, the score receives a complete remastering with a live orchestra. I feel very happy about this. While I do love the traditional Sakimoto sound, Dragon’s Crown was one of those OSTs that would benefit from live orchestration the most – there’s a lot of ambience and flavor in the music that feels much more at home with a live orchestra. To that end, what do I think about the orchestration?

I think it’s very good, very well mixed (much better than the FINAL FANTASY XII: The Zodiac Age’s OST’s mixing) and expertly arranged by three Basiscape individuals: Azusa Chiba, Yoshimi Kudo and Kazuki Higashihara. Simply, I cannot ring my praises high enough. The source material is handled very well, sometimes expanded upon! Perhaps the best example of this “Memories to be Told”: the original run-time was 2:19, it’s now up to 4:13 with a completely new arrangement. Sometimes, some tracks have added instruments to them such as “Bilbaron Subterranean Fortress”.

“Memories to be Told” (Dragon’s Crown Pro):

If you’ve listened to original Dragon’s Crown soundtrack before, you’ll notice the track order in this release has no semblance to the original. Instead, it’s separated into three named discs: Disc Althena (1), Disc Jura (2) and Disc Vernas (3). While there is little point in naming them, it does immerse the listener even more. It also separates the music content too. For example, Disc Althena is mostly full of area themes, Disc Jura has a mix of everything, and Disc Vernas is action packed with battle themes.

I should mention that elements of Sakimoto’s sound are retained, usually on the bells and windchimes.
But this time – it’s done well so it fits in with the rest of the sound. Thankfully, unlike FINAL FANTASY XII: The Zodiac Age, the brass isn’t a distorted mess.
This applies to all tracks – so be it ease! The orchestration isn’t a train wreck, that much is certain, and it amplifies all the music perfectly.

No expense was spared and, as far as I can see, no detail was left out too. This is all thanks to Azusa Chiba, who led the recording and orchestration process. We made an article on her recently.

Disc Althena (Disc 1)
Off the bat, “Dragon’s Crown” presents itself in full percussion glory complete with the backing orchestra.

“Forgotten Sanctuary – Route B” enhances the boring original with live elements and captivating sound. In general, all tracks that made me yawn in the original are better in more ways than one. Event themes such as “A Moment of Rest”, and “Mystery and Sadness” benefit greatly from real instruments – feeling a lot more “freshened up” than their originals – which is great!

A Moment of Rest (Dragon’s Crown Pro):

Disc Althena perfectly sets the scene for Dragon’s Crown setting. With an abundance of area themes, they all relatively stay within the same sound; percussion heavy and of an ambient nature. Given the typical Dungeons and Dragons setting that Dragon’s Crown takes in, this doesn’t come as any surprise – and I’m still pleased with how well Sakimoto matched the music for this project. It wouldn’t be out of place in a game like Divinity Original Sin 2.

But! We can’t close off this section without talking about “City Street”, one of my favorite tracks – that is just so distinctly Sakimoto. It lends well to orchestration here, coming across as mellower and more intimate than the original.

The melody is stuck in my head now because I remember trying to do a piano arrangement of this theme. I know there’s a piano arrangement done by Azusa Chiba, so I tried to expand on that. But failed, obviously. Onto the next disc!

“City Street” (Original):

Disc Jura (Disc 2)
“World Map” is probably the most famous track of Dragon’s Crown. Initially, upon getting this album, I knew it wasn’t going to be re-orchestrated – because it was a vocal heavy track – but, I’ve just noticed that it was! I think that shows how much care the Basiscape team put into the continuity of the music.

The worst track on the original Dragon’s Crown for me was “The Labyrinth Hideout” – which consisted of the same riff for 2 minutes with a few effects added. Not like it’s any different here; just a bit more bearable.

However, the best area themes (in my opinion) are “Ancient Temple Ruins” and “Ancient Temple Ruins – Route B”. They’re really quite magical, subtle and one of Sakimoto’s best forays into the more western styled type of game music. The latter is enhanced with real(?)/more emphasis on vocals, which separates itself enough from the Route A version.

After so many area themes and mellow tracks, you’ll find that “Mage’s Tower” is the meat and bones that you’ve been looking for. It strikes perfect balance between the two.

Disc Vernas (Disc 3)
With Disc Vernas, comes most of the battle themes. They are coated with a new fresh of paint much like the rest of the soundtrack, and – as usual – Sakimoto’s music lends well to orchestration. Notable battle themes include: “Unavoidable Clash”, which is equally as relentless as the original – with added tension. “The Threat of Swarms” was another crazy battle theme composed by Sakimoto at the time, and it’s better in every sense of the word. Finally, “Decisive Battle of Roaring Flames” is my personal favorite as it had quite an addictive sound in the original and really shows it’s color in full orchestral glory here as well.
“The Triumphant Return of the Hero” is remastered and orchestrated very well here; it sports a mellower tone from the too-bombastic original.

Original “Decisive Battle of Roaring Flames”:

And for the re-orchestrated final boss theme!

To close off the soundtrack, we’ve got “Dragon’s Crown Percussion Mix”. I didn’t expect it too be so random, but it certainly isn’t out of place!

As I wasn’t a fan of the original soundtrack, I can safely say that Dragon’s Crown Pro has a fantastic revamped and remastered score. The problems that plagued the original are the following: too much bombast, repeated annoying riffs, and an abrasive sound. It’s all been treated very well and lends itself to out of context listening a little easier.

It certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a western RPG, and that is reason enough to know that Dragon’s Crown’s score is perfect for the setting it takes place in. In many ways, I consider this the Jeremy Soule music of Hitoshi Sakimoto – while still retaining some of his unique attributes. The score as a whole feels mellower and sweeter than the original, but that it certainly not a bad thing – if anything, it is a testament to how well the instruments pop out and are recorded immaculately. The Basiscape arrangers knocked it out of the park for Dragon’s Crown Pro. If only the score wouldn’t be bundled with a Japanese collector’s edition for the game!

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