In 2006, Falcom pleased Ys fans around the world with the announcement of a prequel for the series, entitled Ys Origin. This instalment takes three characters on a journey through the Darm Tower and sets up the story and mythology behind Ys I & II. The Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. offered a mixture of old and new for the instalment. They revisit the past with reprises of familiar themes and some good old synth rock, yet still taking the series to the modern age with high quality production values and Yukihiro Jindo's breathtaking orchestrations. The resultant soundtrack is one of the most enjoyable of the entire series...
The opener to the soundtrack, "The Guidance of a White Tower", is guaranteed to capture the hearts of every Ys fan. The elegant piano melody brings a nostalgic element to the composition suitable for revisiting the Darm Tower. Meanwhile the exotic woodwind use in the second half of the piece and the string support make the composition all the more scenic and emotional. Heartfelt tracks like these are found across the soundtrack. "Bonds With Companion", for instance, is a gentle if bittersweet acoustic piece used on the first floor of the tower before the more hostile later floors. "The Pain of Separation" will be a tear jerking for those who enjoy slow violin and piano duets, and it certainly enhances the game's storyline during the scenes it is used it. Towards the end of the experience, "Memory of Salmon" offers another cliché in the realms of RPG soundtracks with its music box focus. Yet while most such themes do little for me, there is something so beautiful about the melody and synthesis of this one.
There is also a major rock element to the Ys Origin soundtrack. The iconic track in this regard is "Genesis Beyond the Beginning", which combines a violin lead with punchy hard rock backing. The first version is an enthralling introduction to the game, particularly with all the electric guitar improvisation, yet the extended ending version is even better. There's also an elating synth-rock interpretation, entitled "Beyond the Beginning", used during an iconic battle. Beyond these tracks, early battle tracks such as "Oboro" and "Samsara and Paramnesia" are simply so infectious with their jazz-tinged keyboard work. On the other hand, dungeon themes such as "Scarlet Temple" and "Silent Desert" sound like 80s-inspired rock anthems, while boss themes such as "My Lord, Our Brave" and "Scars of the Divine Wing" are frenetic and blistering. Other compositions such as "Water Prison", "Confrontation", and "The Root of Darkness" take a more ambient direction, but yet again the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. ensure some amazing soundscapes and compelling rhythms.
Given Ys Origin is a prequel, it's appropriate that it features some reprises of representative themes from the original Ys. "Feena" makes the most prominent appearances and that's bad news for album collectors who have overdosed on the track over the years. Nevertheless, the "Prologue" version still impresses with its lush orchestration, emotational richness, and cinematic edge. Even the sentimental melody delights here, the melodramatic exposition aside, thanks to the violin soloist and Yukihiro Jindo's amazing efforts. Less welcome are the two straightforward renditions of the melody in the centre of the first disc. Fortunately, arrangements such as the grandiose yet lyrical march interpretation of the main dungeon theme "Tower of the Shadow of Death" or the gothic organ-peppered rock version of "Devil's Wind" make up for this. There are plenty of more modest reprises too, ranging from the pensive woodwind-based "Roda" (Ys I Eternal) used at the opening, to the synthpop-flavoured interpretation of "Dreaming" (Ys I) or the soft harp-based interpretation of "So Much For Today" (Ys II).
Moving to the climax of the album, the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. provide several action-packed interpretations of series' favourites. "Overdrive" gets straight to the action with aggressive drum lines and yummy power chords. In the trademark of Falcom's new rock tracks, some parts of the melody are even led by violin. "The Last Moment of the Dark" subsequently reinforces the gothic organ-based element of earlier tracks like "Devil's Wind" and "Movement of Wicked Energy" to represent the antagonist. The final battle is underscored with a superlative reprise of Ys II's "Termination", blending rocking guitar solos, epic chorus chants, radiant violin interludes, and Yukihiro Jindo's orchestrations over a six minute playtime. To bridge the gap between the end of Ys Origin and Ys I, the sound team offer further beautiful reprises at the end of the soundtrack. "The Guidance of a White Tower" is incorporated into the triumphant orchestrations "To The Next Generation" and "A New Legendary Opening", but interestingly evolves into "Feena" for the final piano-based track "Believing", taking the series back to where it begun in 1987.
The soundtrack to Ys Origin is a well-rounded and highly enjoyable achievement. Yukihiro Jindo shines here by arranging the more mature tracks on the disc, ensuring major highlights such as "Prologue", "Termination", and "Genesis Beyond the Beginning". There's also no shortage of rock action themes, though the instrumentation tends to be more convincing here than in Falcom's typical trademark synthy creations. Still, appropriately for a prequel, the past is not forgotten; the sound team integrate plenty of classic Ys tracks in an interesting way and still retain Falcom's trademark synthy sentimental and rocking pieces occasionally. Overall, this album offers a good mixture of continuity and change, with very few stinkers along the way. It is a highly recommended listen and, for those who haven't listened to past instalments, an excellent introduction to the series.