Genso Suikoden V Genso New World Music Collection
|Composed by||Chiharu Mukaiyama / Kuniyuki Takahashi / Miki Higashino / Takashi Watanabe / Yoshihiro Tsukahara|
|Arranged by||Michiru Yamane / Naoyuki Sato / Nobuko Toda / Norikazu Miura|
|Published by||Konami Multi-Media|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Promo / Enclosure|
|Format||1 CD - 10 tracks|
|Release date||February 23, 2006|
This album is a little unique when compared to other arranged albums. Instead of simply taking a track and creating a new version from a different perspective, the arrangers of this album combine several tracks from the original Suikoden V score into one track. While this does an excellent job of providing a broad range of material from the original score, it also provides a dynamic feel for many of the tracks, which can be good or bad depending on the piece. For the purposes of this review, I'm going to keep references to the original tracks relatively minimal. I will, however, provide objective and constructive comparisons when a given track demands it. The album overall is quite strong, and it immediately pulls you in from the first note. Something to note as well is that, as with the various scores for Silent Hill, the original 'Suikoden' sound of the series is preserved. Between the instrument choices and the style of the pieces, these tracks don't radically drift away from what fans of the series have come to recognize; I'll get into that a little more later on. Four Konami composers lend a hand to this album. I'll be looking at a sample of all of them, and how they each individually approach the source themes to create their own unique sound. Taking a cue from the style of most of these pieces, it seems only right that I approach this album from the view of a symphonic spectator, where the placement of each piece in the repertoire is carefully chosen to provide the maximum effect. A new world awaits you just beyond this paragraph, so lets dive into Falena and see what the Queendom's musicians have to offer.
Indeed, "A New World Awaits" is a proper way to begin both the album and this review. A full symphonic sound has always been present in the Suikoden series, and this album lives up to the tradition by providing a full (albeit slightly tinny) orchestral experience to the listener. No small part is overlooked, and every instrument is given its proper part to play. A strong fanfare greets us before moving into sweeping strings, and from there into the real bulk of the piece. Propelled by timpani and low brass staccato, strings and trumpets provide a real welcoming and regal melody, complete with decorative piccolo. The melody is relatively simple, but like most classic pieces, the combination of orchestral parts is what makes such a simple piece turn into something grand. We then move into the next 'movement' which combines the original score's main battle themes, switching the sound of the piece into something dark and sinister. Heavy percussion, a minor key, and dissonance provide an interesting blend of tension and well structured chaos before continuing into the more melodic segments of the original pieces. The light and joyful 'battle results' piece (which has appeared throughout the Suikoden series) provides a transition between this set of themes, and the next melodically driven 'movement.' A strange, slightly out of tune flute (I want to say flute, but I'm not sure what instrument it is) powers through the next melodic segment, before having strings take over the rest of the theme with the brass offering a solid harmonic foundation. We then return to the first theme of he piece, and see it out to its spectacular conclusion, where the strings transform the original melody and the brass carries it through to a slow, dramatic finish. Altogether, there is little fault in how this piece is structured. You get an introduction to the main three styles that appear on the original score, and while all three are distinctly different and presented on their own, the obvious connections are there that suggest the separate pieces belong together. The transitions between each style are also carefully thought out and are orchestrated effectively.
From here, we should head to "The Two Guardian Runes." A very solid atmospheric piece, this track gives us extremely strong string work. The opening sequence features light choir, but the harmonies of the strings really stand out. They create a very Asian sound while reverberating in what sounds to be a large open area. A solo whistle gives an upper melodic line, supported by strings and harp. During this melody, the piece takes on a fusion of both traditional Irish and Asian themes, before returning to a symphonic approach with a switch to a solo oboe. The piece then builds into a segment dominated by French horns before being joined with upper and lower strings, and ends with a delicate finish between cello and harp. This is a case of a piece from the original score receiving its own arrangement, rather than being bundled with other themes. I infinitely enjoy this version much better than the original. While the guitar of the original is very atmospheric, this new perspective on the piece adds a mythical grandeur to the children of the True Sun Rune, the Twilight and Dawn runes. Some may find the piece to be slightly repetitive and a little boring, but I feel the piece really pulls you in, combining mysticism with powerful emotion.
Next, we get to enjoy the second of three Nobuko Toda pieces, "Lucretia's Smile." The piece begins with light choir and a solo whistle, before becoming a broad, treble oriented mix of high strings, flutes, and female choir. The piece then becomes more percussion driven as the main theme begins to emerge. On the whistle we get the melody, while a repetitive and suggestive beat creates a very peaceful and meditative mood. Light synth provides a harmonic bed, before being joined by low mellow strings. The piece then builds into a key change, where the speed picks up and a sense of urgency takes over. The piece then returns to the established slower pace for most of the track, before obtaining a fuller percussion and orchestral sound near the end. The piece then slowly dies out, returning to the broad string/choir/flute combination from the start. This piece isn't one of my favorites, but it is relaxing. The melody isn't particularly moving, and the orchestral selection, while appropriate for the style, doesn't necessarily live up to the power of the rest of the album. The change in the middle of the track is also slightly disruptive, and seems out of place among the otherwise well paced track.
Moving into slightly different territory, "Mine Cart Madness" tries to implant a little bit of fun into this otherwise dramatic performance. On the original score, this was one of the more unique pieces, and certainly one of the ones I noticed straight away within the game. A plucked melody is supported by light tambourine and shakers, with repetitive staccato string work in the lower register. In the second half of the piece, we're given a little variation by introducing a flute which adds an octave to the melody. Overall, this piece is probably the most empty in terms of orchestral involvement or in actual variation in melody or accompaniment. However, it is also the only piece on this album which really stays true to the original piece. Although the tempo is faster, and the instrument choices are different, the piece retains many of the elements of the original. This can be a bad thing, however, because for some listeners it will simply become too repetitive. All in all though, it's a fun, short piece that doesn't try to be more than it is.
'A bad thing,' in some minds, is a phrase which could aptly be applied to the next piece, "The Queen's Knights." This piece, in all reality, is all over the map in its construction. Combine electric flute, electric piano, a 90s pop group Ace-of-Base-reminiscent dance beat, and Indian inspired drum work, and you get a sort of Arabian techno piece. By far, this is the most original piece on the album, and it certainly is the strangest. However, that being said, the piece doesn't try to hide the fact that it stands out, and at its core, it is very solid in saying 'I'm different, deal with it.' Decorative piano is given at the start of the track where we are introduced to the lighter parts of the techno beat, along with the electric flute and flamenco guitar. The main theme comes in, and you're assaulted from all angels by a wall of sound. The main melody itself is kind of catchy, with the flute providing the theme and the piano adding decorative, improvised elements. Throughout the piece, we return to the decorative piano of the intro, which is really quite pretty even with the beat overtop. In the middle of the track, the main melody is doubled up, before being followed by three melodic elements: a flute upper melody, a string counter melody, and the piano elements. The bridge from earlier repeats itself, followed by another instance of the main melody. The ending is probably the most bizarre part. We return to the light piano heard earlier in the piece, but this time it provides a slight melodic turn before creatively ending out the piece. I tend to imagine this is probably a style that is a favorite of Naoyuki Sato, as the two pieces contributed to the album each have a techno beat and a departure from the traditional symphonic sound. However, given the original pieces that these tracks (particularly this one) are based on, I would have preferred to see the symphonic treatment attached to them, as that would have been a benefit not only to the original theme, but to the album itself.
Continuing with the Arabian theme (only for a short time, I promise), we move into "The Inevitable - A Tragic Battle Awaits." This piece is very dark at the beginning, and really paints a picture of something influential and important that is going to happen. Light synth provides a bed of sound at the start, before being joined by low strings. A sharp percussion hit breaks through the atmospheric blend, where strings and choir each add another element to the murky sound. A sharp cymbal transitions into the real epic part of the piece, where we get another instance of that true symphonic sound. It is hard to describe how absolutely huge this piece sounds, especially when you consider how the piece was produced. Strings, brass, and woodwinds all provide their fullest sound in combination with one another, where small melodic phrases are passed around between strings and French horns. Snare hits break through to provide an added structure, while tubular bells and gong hits keep the large sound going. A militaristic march, driven by repetitive snare hits brings the piece into the next section, where the different sections begin playing a long melodic phrase lead by the strings. The gong rolls are well timed in this section to provide the maximum effect. Strong harp scales lead into the next part of the melody, where the familiar 'Suikoden' whistle pierces the upper register. The piece then slowly dies down and fades out; where high strings, choir, and harp provide delicate touches. The end of the piece is delivered by harp and a solo whistle, before being joined by the strings and brass, leading into a final section with the low synth and Arabian flute heard at the start. This piece is a perfect example of the quality that can be achieved when working with a full orchestral sound for a video game score. Few composers use this type of orchestration to their advantage, and even fewer do it well. The Soul Calibur series is a good example of this type of composition where the arrangement completely empowers the visuals and the overall impression that a game creates. It's a real shame that this didn't make it into the final cut of the score, but was instead included with trailers for the game. Everything about this piece screams epic, and I can only wonder what this piece would sound like if it were ever preformed live.
With that, we come to the final piece of the evening, and it is by far my favorite. "Epilogue to a Prideful Heart" brings together all the best parts of the original score into one piece. The track begins with freestyle piano chords, leading into a build that foreshadows the glory that is to follow. You can always tell a composer has hit the mark when his or her score has one unique theme that can easily be transcribed into a solo piano piece. The Shadow Hearts series has Icaro, the .hack series has Aura's theme. The Suikoden scores are a little different in that there is a unique theme for each game. This time, that theme is the one played in 'The Light Moaning in the Darkness' on the original score. This theme now comes through in this piece, although slightly faster, with a rolling lower range and chords in the upper register. A whistle joins the piano, while strings provide delicate undertones for the main piano segment. The piece then goes to a whole new level, where the full symphonic sound reproduces the theme, with the strings and piano shining through, giving a light, yet determined feeling. The piece then shifts into a short transcription of the theme commonly associated with the 108 Stars of Destiny in the game. This part of the piece is very traditional, using classical forms when creating the rhythms and melodic phrases. It is very light, and far too 'major' for my liking (I prefer minor keys), but it is still a very nice segment. The piece then moves into the final part, combining piano with brass, before moving into a full symphonic fanfare to bring the piece to a close. This is precisely why I mentioned this album is much like going to the symphony. This ending has many of the elements you would expect from such a performance, where it is drawn out, repeated, passed around various instruments, and brought to a dramatic close. This piece does the very same for both the track and the album. It's a wonderful track, with many great elements that simply fill you with emotion, and which takes you along from beginning to end.
I was very surprised with this album. Arrangements of Suikoden music aren't always the most impressive, but here they managed to bring together four different composers, who each took their own approach to using a full orchestra while staying true to the Suikoden sound. The subtle difference between Nobuko Toda and Michiru Yamane in the final two tracks of my review demonstrates this well: the same type of orchestration, but two very different products, each with their own strengths. The two pieces by Naoyuki Sato, and the two additional pieces by Norikazu Miura which I didn't mention, offer a deviation from the overall sound of the album, and while they could have been better, they bring their own unique elements to their original themes. Most importantly, this album keeps you coming back to hear it, rather than listening to it once and putting it back on the shelf to gather dust. Because of the quality of the arrangements, and the masterful way that they were composed, I would definitely recommend this album to any Suikoden fan, and to any fan of strong symphonic work in games.
Suikoden V BGM by Yoshihiro Tsukahara, Takashi Watanabe, Kuniyuki Takahashi, Chiharu Mukaiyama
Track 10 from Suikoden II, originally composed by Miki Higashino
Norikazu Miura (1,2)
Naoyuki Sato (3,4)
Nobuko Toda (5,6,7)
Michiru Yamane (8)
A Distant New World
The Queen's Knights
Admiral of the Seas
The Two Guardian Runes
Determination ~Tragic Fight~
Finale to a Noble Soul ~For Piano and Orchestra~
Advance, Mine Cart! (Bonus Track)
The DoReMi Elves (Bonus Track)