Dracula Battle Perfect SelectionStill the most perfect rock arrangements of VGM I can imagine. The Gothic overtones of the Castlevania series give it that extra something unique and the mix of relentless metal, rolling hard rock and soulful ballads is just right, with hardly an average track on the album.
Symphonic Fantasies TokyoA spectacular classically inspired dedication to the series so many VGM fans grew to know and love. The Secret of Mana suite is honestly a musical work that any human with an appreciation for orchestral music should experience, and the Chrono Trigger / Chrono Cross suite is almost equally amazing. The definitive edition of an essential orchestral arranged album.
Final Fantasy VII Reunion TracksThis virtual best selection from FFVII demonstrates Nobuo Uematsu's music at its most progressive and most inspired - captivatingly melodic, intensely dramatic, and completely unique to almost anything else out there. The sci-fi sound helps the sometimes spotty synth (more noticeable in the full OST) stand the test of time a bit better than the similarly amazing FFVI, while the three orchestral arrangements - particularly the beautiful "Main Theme of FFVII" - make the release even better.
Final Fantasy VI Original Sound VersionAs the years since the game and its soundtrack first blew me away have grown, so my time spent listening to the SNES OST has fallen, but still every time I give it a good listen I'm impressed by what Uematsu accomplished. It boasts perhaps the most memorable array of character themes (accompanied by their ingenious reprises) and the most masterfully arranged ending suite of any soundtrack in history - game or otherwise. It's a shame it still hasn't received an arranged album that does the remarkable compositions justice.
Symphonic Fantasies: Music from Square EnixThat the later released Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo supersedes this original recording makes it only slightly less special. Its magical Kingdom Hearts suite remains my favorite version, and I still sometimes return to the Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger / Chrono Cross suites here just to appreciate the small differences between the two albums.
Symphony Ys '95Just as Dracula Battle is a perfect rock-arranged album I consider this a perfect orchestral-arranged one. Tamiya Terashima takes themes that would never be considered orchestral in their early incarnations and makes them eminently orchestral, yet still faithful to the original melodies. The progression from theme to theme is sublime, and even themes that I tend to skip in other renditions are a pleasant listen here. The only thing lacking is the actual orchestra, but the sequenced orchestra Terashima assembled is extremely impressive for its time.
Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite Live BestIf one were forced to choose a single release from this must-experience series, this would be the album. It's a shame that more selections from DQIV didn't make the cut, but what's here is excellent, and orchestral adventure music simply doesn't get any better than the trio of "Fighting Spirits", "Into the Legend" and "Comrades".
Panzer Dragoon Original Sound TrackAs an early adopter of the Sega Saturn I'll always have a soft spot for the Panzer Dragoon series, most especially this opening installment. Though the sequel Zwei originated the Panzer Dragoon sound as we know it today, and Azel in many ways perfected it, the electronic rock sound of this original is exceptional in its own right, a few soundtracks have been bookmarked as beautifully as its unforgettable orchestral opening and poignant closing reprise.
Genso Suikoden Original Game SoundtrackWith its high production values and heavy world music influence, this PS1 soundtrack was unlike anything in its time, and still holds up well to this day. Easily one of the most charmingly eccentric soundtracks I've heard, and far more consistent in quality than its sequel.
Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG Memorial AlbumTakes the utterly unique Panzer Dragoon sound established in Zwei and puts it in a more consistent and organic listening experience. The atmospheric and memorable musical journey is topped by a dramatic Panzerese vocal-orchestral ending theme unlike anything to come before it.
Final Fantasy VII Original SoundtrackThough I prefer FFVII Reunion Tracks as an album experience, for those who like their OSTs complete this is certainly one not to miss. A few excellent tracks not present in Reunion Tracks can only be found here, most notably the unforgettably atmospheric "Anxious Heart" and the exhilarating main theme reprise "Highwind Takes to the Skies".
Ys I & II (PC Engine redbook)The soundtrack that for myself (and many others) put the Ys series in the VGM elite. A great combination of catchy melodies and energetic, distinctive synth that out-perfects the Perfect Collections and still offers the best collection of Ys II arrangements available.
Dragon Quest IV Symphonic SuiteDragon Quest symphonic suites feel like a category of their own so it's hard deciding where to place them, but as the best of the series DQIV Symphonic Suite belongs right near the top. The themes on their own might not be as endearing on as a few other classic RPGs, but the fantasy-styled, classically inspired arrangements take them to a whole new level.
Orchestral Game Music Concert 5: Live Best CollectionThough the earlier Orchestral Game Concert albums boast a better-known selection of classic titles I'd give the edge to this last installment as my favorite. The Seiken Densetsu 3, Donkey Kong Country and Renasu II arrangements all offer classic orchestral soundtrack experiences in differing styles while the Kirby medley is epic and exhilarating in ways you'd never expect.
Kameo: Elements of Power Original SoundtrackThe best half of this album is as good as you'll ever hear in an orchestral fantasy-adventure soundtrack. The orchestrations are of a quality usually reserved for only the very best arranged albums, the quiet tracks are heart-stoppingly beautiful, and the action themes though few in number are excellent as well.
Street Fighter IV Original SoundtrackAs a mix of modern electronic dance music with energetic game melody and synth this is just about perfect, with the world music elements adding even greater variety to the mix. Unlike many of my orchestral and gamier albums this one I can listen to just about anytime.
Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final FantasyThe best orchestral arrangements from the FF series are scattered among various albums, but even with this album's focus on more recently series themes I'd say it has the best selection of them all. The beautiful arrangements for "FFVII Main Theme" and "Zanarkand" are essential, and the remaining highlights overshadow a few awkward missteps.
Final Fantasy XII Original SoundtrackTake the best disc or so from this and you have a fantasy score second-to-none, from the action themes to the otherworldly environment pieces to some beautiful quieter moments. In its full four discs the soundtrack can drag - something more varied instrumentation might have remedied - but still it's not to be missed.
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