GAME SOUND LEGEND CONSUMER SERIES BIOGRAPHY ESTPOLIS SOUND TRACK
Estpolis is known in America as Lufia. This four CD set contains the soundtrack to Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, and Lufia: The Legend Returns. The first two are for the Super Nintendo, while the last is for the Game Boy Color. The first disc of the soundtrack contains the complete soundtrack for Lufia I and part of Lufia II. The second disc contains the rest of the Lufia II soundtrack. Disc three and four contain the soundtrack for Lufia: The Legend Returns plus some bonus and unused tracks. I'll review this set by game, not by disc. I'll also refer Estpolis as Lufia from now on.
When one thinks of all the great RPGs out there, only a few would include the Lufia series. Overshadowed by the SNES Square games, Lufia & The Fortress of Doom had some tough competition when it came out. Nonetheless the game gathered a following that continues to hope for future releases. Lufia's music has never really been considered a "must have," but still copies of the first two game's out of print soundtracks are highly sought after (and highly paid for). Recently the music has been re-released for our listening pleasure, along with the soundtrack for the third Lufia game plus some bonus and unused tracks in a four disk set which contains one massive title.
Lufia & The Fortress of Doom
The first Lufia was released in 1993, and it sounds like it. Each piece is simple, quick, and devoid of any in-depth emotion. I hate to say that this soundtrack follows all the early RPG music clichés, but that's the best way to describe it. Any fan of RPG music will be able to pick out which of the tracks are town, caves, battle, and world map themes whether they've played this game or not. With all that said, Lufia & The Fortress of Doom isn't a bad soundtrack by any means, but it is a fairly mediocre one.
The album begins with "Departure," which does exactly what it says it will do; sets up the journey. Close your eyes and you can easily see four young heroes packing up their weapons and supplies to set off to save the world. The piece brings the feeling of fun into adventuring, something newer games seem to avoid. The next few tracks lose the fun, and bring feelings of necessity and pain in a simplistic way. "99 Years Later" then lets you know the journey has officially started, similar to the first Final Fantasy after you defeat Garland and fix the bridge. Everything before was the prelude, and now it's time to get started it seems.
"Town," "Village," and "Port City" are nothing you haven't heard before, but they serve their purpose of conveying a peaceful, busy place. "Village" is the better of the three, but that's not saying much. "Purifia Flowers" is a simple piece, but does nothing to move the album forward. "The Earth" and "Battle #1" are catchy, but only until you hear them for 100 times; as the world and battle theme respectively, this would happen quickly were you playing the game. "Battle #2" is much better at setting the "we're fighting for our lives" feeling and you really feel the depth of battle. "Battle #3" takes a step back though, and tries too hard for the epic feel.
"Door to the Journey" is good, and in 45 seconds shows the sadder aspects of RPG adventures. "The Underground Shop" would be good if it did something different after fifteen seconds. The airship theme "To the Skies" establishes itself early, but also fails to deliver any excitement. You're flying in an airship, act like it!
The album ends much differently than you expect; it's actually pretty good. "Field Motif," I'm guessing is the piece immediately after the final boss fight, does exactly what it should do; it's relieving that the journey is over, and yet sad that you must say goodbye. "Reunion. And Then..." expands on the goodbye feeling, and I imagine at this point the player would be upset that this is the end. The last track, "End of the Journey," is a catchy, fun piece that makes you immediately want to restart the album, and the game as well if you were playing it.
Though it is simplistic in every way, Lufia & The Fortress of Doom is a decent ride. If you're a fan of video game music, you're not going to hear anything new or different here. It does offer a fun, short trip though if you don't expect too much.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
In 1995 the second Lufia game was released as a prequel to Lufia & The Fortress of Doom. Being one of the last RPGs for the SNES, you would expect the music and sound quality to be at the top of its game. The sound quality is certainly better than before, but every time the music takes a step forward from Lufia I, the next track seems to bring it down.
Lufia II begins with "The Time of Judgement," which is a typical dark and moody piece that usually accompanies the title screen for RPGs. Next up is the opening theme "Rumbling." Being six minutes long, this piece starts to get annoying half way through as little is added or changed in terms of melody. "Setting Off" follows, but fails to deliver the excitement of adventuring that Lufia I's "Departure" preformed.
The town themes are no better here than before and with the same names as well. "Town," "Village," and "Port City" all make new appearances, but this time "Port City" beats the competition. This album's "The Earth" is much better than before, as Yasunori Shiono brings the familiar sound of previous game's versions of the over world theme and then makes it his own. Sadly, "Cave" follows but doesn't offer anything new as this is like every other game's cave theme. "Labyrinth" makes up for the crappy cave theme soon afterwards though and we finally get a spooky theme that delivers the confidence of the heroes as they explore.
Three main battle themes also return, again with the same names. "Battle #1" and "Battle #2" are, like most other tracks on this album, typical RPG music. Strangely enough "Battle #3" made it into this game and actually does something different. This piece feels like a mix between Kenji Ito's battle themes and the old NES game Crystalis. Yasunori Shiono delivers an epic fight using a slight technology feel. "Final Battle" starts off as nothing new, but 15 seconds in and you'll hear the piece change for the better. Mr. Shiono does his best when he stops trying to do the typical themes we've all heard, and that is shown here. "The Final Decisive Battle" is a slight remix of "The Last Duel" from Lufia I, which makes since if you've played both games. The piece offers little change from its processor and I consider it to be inferior. This is a new game; either remix the piece and do something different or port the original.
One of the pieces I should point out is the victory theme, which surprisingly is named "Victory." Personal bias showing, but I consider this to be one of the best victory themes in any RPG. It's simple and delivers triumph in a short period of time. Though this piece is almost identical to Lufia I's version, the updated sound quality really does it justice.
"Castle" has a nice melody, and repeats it creativity throughout the minute. "The World's Great Heist" is the goofy theme, similar to "??" from Final Fantasy VI. It's similar, yet vastly inferior. "Parting" is supposed to be sad, though it feels more like a goodbye that you know will be short. "Wedding Bell" and "After the Ceremony" give you exactly what they say they will, so don't expect anything new there. The album then takes us through "Spring," "Summer," "Autumn," and "Winter." I wish I remembered what these pieces correlate to during the game because they're great. Each one gives you the feeling of living and interacting during its respectable seasons. Finally something this soundtrack offers that isn't heard elsewhere.
If "Beyond the Blue Skies" is the airship theme, then it's done better than the first game. The piece's not nearly as epic as I'd like, but it is closer than before. "A Distant, Enchanted World" follows well, and as one of the few tracks over 1:30 seconds, it doesn't lose your attention with its moody atmosphere. "Doom Island" has an interesting "oriental dojo" feel which seems to come from nowhere, but Mr. Shiono pulls this off.
The album finishes like its predecessor and is quite good. "Grief" is nothing special but "The One Who will Save the Earth" and "To the Future" are both excellent. The former follows the last boss fight and delivers to the audience the message that this fight isn't over yet. The ending theme "To the Future" does what Lufia I's "End of the Journey" did and makes the listener more sad than pleased that the journey is over. The album's last track is a remix of "Purifia Flowers," but like "The Final Decisive Battle" offers nothing new from its previous incarnation.
The sound quality is certainly better in this album than in the first. Yasunori Shiono had more tracks and more experience to make this soundtrack, and it shows. While Lufia & The Temple of Doom is a mediocre score, I would say Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is good. Unfortunately, this CD is nothing that video game music fans haven't heard by now.
Lufia: The Legend Returns
Lufia: The Legend Returns was released on the Game Boy Color in 2001, so immediately expect a decline in sound quality. With two previous games having at best "good" scores to accompany them, what could you expect from this one? Surprisingly enough though, this score is excellent.
Ther elease starts with "Prologue ~The Final Decisive Battle~," which is another remix of "The Last Duel." Unlike Lufia II, this remix actually takes a few liberties since the sound quality has dropped. "Epsis Continent" is the perfect world map theme. Epic and mysterious, the track can go on forever as you'd explore the world and you'd never notice. "Lidal Continent" is another world map theme I'd imagine. Not as good as "Epsis," but great none the less. "Fante Continent" is another, but despite a less epic feel than the other two still comes off quite enjoyable. "Rosplett Continent" is the last of the group and sounds unlike any field music you've heard. That's one of the things that make this album great; it gives you many options for all the typical themes. Some sound similar to what you're used to. Others are completely different. There is something for everyone in here.
"Tutorial" is kind of a lame piece, but what can you expect in a 25 second piece that goes with some kind of tutorial? Next up is "Tower Of Death." This piece delivers a surprising melody that is quite good. It's about this time in the album that you start to notice something; you've forgotten this is for the Game Boy Color. The drop in sound quality disappears as you lose yourself in the tracks and you're only six pieces in.
The town themes are excellent as well in this game. Ten town themes in one soundtrack, and for the Game Boy Color no less. Of course all of these aren't that great, but at least they all try to be different. pieces like "Gulduck Village" and "Port City #1" sound completely different than what you're used to and will either be a "hit" or "miss" for each listener depending on what you enjoy. "Town of Albano" is beyond excellent and I would even go as far to say is the best piece on the CD. If nothing else, download this piece and give it a shot.
Four main battle themes are spread throughout the album. The first is better than any of the Lufia I or II battle themes. The piece changes throughout, preventing the battle music from getting dull during the long fights. "Battle #2" and "Battle #3" are the lesser pieces of the batch. They don't fail by any means; they just don't deliver the way "Battle #1" did. "Battle #4" is close, but still behind #1. The victory theme is back, but unfortunately suffers greatly from the down shift in sound quality. I assume "God of the Eternal Flame Zalbac" is the final boss theme. It's rather short for a final boss battle and gets repetitive quickly.
Three cave themes are here for our listening pleasure. And I use the word "pleasure" loosely as only "Cave #2" managed to capture my attention. I tend to have a personal bias towards cave themes in most RPGs, as you can probably see throughout my review. "Cave #2" is the best, but it also sounds the least like a monster ridden cave than the other two.
"Infiltration" gets the point across well but becomes the most annoying piece in the whole CD set. "Lost Harmony" follows and seems to continue the annoying streak until you get halfway through when the piece shifts styles for the better. And speaking of annoying pieces, wait until you hear "Nightmare." Five seconds in and you'll be saying "I get it, stop!"
There are a few temple and tower themes as well. The best of the group is "Tower Of Fascination." Thirty seconds in you'll start to hear a chime play ever two beats which adds to the "exploration of the unknown" feel. "Tower Of Twilight" feels more like your typical tower theme, but with a slight upbeat quality to it.
The end of the game is also filled with great music. "Reunion, and Then..." makes a guest appearance and delivers the same relief mixed with sadness experience that its previous self offered. "Ending" shines after ten seconds into it. "The Journey Continues!" comes next, offering some hope in the continuation of the series. Last but not least is "Diary of Memories," which is a great ending track. The piece is simplistic in everyway, but still satisfying.
Six unused tracks from Lufia: The Legend Returns are also offered for your listening pleasure. None of them are particularly needed, but they certainly don't hurt the soundtrack. The last two tracks given are remixes of "Start of Our Journey" from Lufia & The Fortress of Doom and "Battle #3" from Lufia II: The Rise of the Sinistrals. Neither pieces are particular great, but they make nice additions to the set. Both remixes do fail to be epic or inspiring, which was disappointing.
This score is the best of the three by far, which is surprising to me because I've played and beaten only the first two. As long as you don't mind the Game Boy Color sound, you'll get something from this album. Not every piece is a winner of course, but those tracks are easily forgiven.
There are two types of listeners who should buy this album. The first camp is those who are huge Lufia fans. If you are hunting down copies of the out of print versions of the Estpolis Biography I & II Soundtrack, then this is a dream come true. Both of those soundtracks along with the excellent Lufia: The Legend Returns soundtrack are available for a very cheap price. Lufia fans already know what to expect from the music, and should make the purchase if they enjoy it.
The other type of listeners who should pick this set up is the hard core video game music fans. This is far from a bad soundtrack, but excluding Lufia: The Legend Returns, is a fairly mediocre one. You have to really enjoy game music to get the most of this album. I certainly wouldn't put this set at the top of my "to buy" list, but I would recommend you include it somewhere in the middle. Given the time, it will shine and you'll get something out of it. But SNES and Game Boy Color sound quality is something that you must be into, or at least be able to tolerate.
Disc 4 Track 35 Arranged by: Yasunori Shiono & Shinji Hosoe
Disc 4 Track 36 Arranged by: Shoichiro Sakamoto
01~35: Lufia 1
36~50: Lufia 2
Disc 02: Lufia 2
Disc 03: Lufia GBC
01~34: Lufia GBC
35~36: Lufia 2 Arrange
The Doom Island War
The Final Decisive Battle
Compensation for the Battle
99 Years Later
The Scars of Fear
To New Lands
Door to the Journey
Llyle Shaia Laboratory
In the Sea
The Silent Temple
The Underground Shop
Spirits of the Netherworld
To the Skies
The Four Mad Gods
Reunion. And Then...
End of the Journey
Time of Judgment