Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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Ashley Winchester Aug 14, 2016

I'm going through my CDs and games and I'm thinking of letting go of my BOF Soundtrack Special Box.

After looking at the ratio of tracks I consider must haves versus the rest (which isn't bad but I don't listen to much) I think this item may be better off in someone else's hands.

Let's break this down:

Breath of Fire:
Favorites:
> 1-03: White Dragon
> 1-14: Strong Fortress
> 2-08: Battling
> 2-14: Ancient Ruins

I bought the BOF Box before I played BOFI for the first time. I've always found the first game's soundtrack to a little overbearing with it's regal flavor and playing the game didn't really change that opinion. Still, these four tracks did manage to catch my ear when I played. Again, this doesn't mean the rest are bad, I'm just focusing on my top tracks.

Breath of Fire II:
Favorites:
> 3-11: Wanderer
> 3-12: Cross Counter
> 3-20: I'll Do It
> 4-07: Dying Corpse

The above should make it obvious, I love the freakin' hell out of Takahara's battle themes. "Wanderer" is the only track that isn't on the standalone that I would miss without the box and I have a nice copy of the 1995 release which I do intend to keep. However, Takahara's score isn't one of my favorites, I don't think it's one of her best and it really only has clout with me because of what it represents: the first BOF game I played. It's a total nostalgia thing.

Breath of Fire III:
Favorites:
> 5-03: Escape
> 5-06: Half Done Is Not Done
> 5-08: Falling Green
> 5-11: Do Your Best!
> 5-19: Can't You See Clearly Now?
> 6-04: Technology
> 6-12: Stupidity
> 6-28: To A Distant Place
> 6-32: People, Cats, Birds and Sea Lice
> 7-05: The Touch of Danger
> 7-15: Turning Point
> 7-18: An Uncertain Millennium

Yes, I have more favorites here, but this is counteracted by there being more material. That said, I'm torn and not torn on this score. I know many VGM music enthusiasts love this one because of it's jazz-laden influence, but I'm stuck between that and the people who played/reviewed the game and called the music a weak point. Additionally, I'm not one of those people who was mad that BOFIII did away with BOFI and II's regal flavor. I don't think I and II's music was super-amazing and I'm not turned off that Akari Kaida and Yoshino Aoki did something different; I don't think they betrayed the series roots or any dumb crap like that. That being said, I think most of III (and most of the music in this box) works better in their given games. That said, III is probably my favorite out of the games with II a close second.

Breath of Fire IV:
Favorites:
> 8-06: 2000 Treasures If You Win
> 8-12: Men of War
> 8-13: Take the Winnings and Run
> 8-24: Darkness
> 9-24: A Raging Emperor's Banquet

This is real easy one to explain. I don't have any problems with Yoshino Aoki's score for Breath of FIre IV, but I have a problem with BOFIV being insanely dry narrative wise and this element of the game just takes everything else with it. I actually love the west vs eastern/Ryu vs FuLou idea present within the game's battle themes but I couldn't justify keeping the damn game even though it plays well.

Breath of Fire V:
Favorites:
None, but let me explain.

Hitoshi Sakimoto's work on Dragon Quarter is one of the greatest soundtracks I will never love. I'm not a huge fan of Sakimoto (like FFT Tactics but Iwata's tracks win out) but yes, I can admit the quality here. Thing is, I can't really forge a connection with the music without playing the game and, not to sound like an ass, I know I'm never going to play the game as a barely play anything these days. So unlike I've said in the past, I won't go as far as to say that I wish V was exuded from the box because of it not being a in-house composer and the game being vastly different than those that came before.

Whew, Now, I love all those tracks above, but they barely constitute even one full CD of music and with this being an 11 disc set I just can't see how I can justify keeping this sucker when someone could get a lot more out of it.

I'm not asking you to make the decision for me, and I'm not trying to make a first-world pity party, but keeping this behemoth for the tracks above doesn't seem very economical to me.

layzee Aug 14, 2016 (edited Aug 14, 2016)

Breath of Fire: Ryuu no Senshi

1-06 Starting the Journey ~Breath of Fire~ 旅出~ブレスオブファイア~
1-20 Deep Forest 深林
2-06 Trade City 商都
2-22 Dawn 暁

I played and finished Breath of Fire II before the original so unfortunately this game has the drawbacks of being the first game in the series: (relatively) inferior graphics, sound, music (technically-speaking) in addition to the lack of nostalgia. Nothing wrong with the music, I just wouldn't listen to it at full volume for long sessions due to it being "overbearing" on the (my) ears.

"Deep Forest" doesn't really sound like a very RPG foresty theme but it should be savoured since (from memory) it's only played once in the game. "Trade City" and "Dawn" are both water-based and come at the same time. I think the former expresses the idea of "underwater city of merchant mermen" well.

Breath of Fire II: Shimei no Ko

Can I nominate the soundtrack? This is one of my favourite games of all time so selecting a top-x list will be a bit hard but I'll try:

3-01 The Destined Child 使命の子
3-09 We're Rangers ぼくらレンジャー
3-12 Cross Counter クロスカウンター
3-17 Clean Hit クリーンヒット
3-20 I'll Do It おれはやるぜ
4-01 Kingdom キングダム
4-03 Clumsy Dance へっぽこダンス
4-04 Century of the Patriarch 族長の100年
4-05 Cold and Dark さむくて くらくて
4-06 Let Me Sleep So I May Dream ゆめ見るようにねむりたい
4-07 Dying Corpse 死して屍
4-11 Our Journey ぼくたちのたびだち
4-13 God of Decadence ゴッド オブ デカダンス
4-16 Crooked Ladder ゆがんだはしご
4-18 Nightmare 夜魔
4-24 Breath of Fire ブレス オブ ファイア

That's still half the OST, oh well. At a glance, we've got a little bit from each category: world map themes, battle themes (guitars, 'nuff said), town themes, dungeon themes. "The Destined Child" is an epic-sounding introductory piece perfectly synchronised with the graphics. "Cold and Dark" is a short enigma-laden tune, just like the mysterious mechanical contraption it represents. I can play this on guitar. "Dying Corpse" is my favourite battle theme of the lot and is also one of the first songs I practiced on the guitar (can mostly do it, but still can't grasp the timing in the later part of the song). "God of Decadence" is an epic organ-only piece for the second-to-last dungeon, and "Nightmare" is perfectly suited for the hellish descent into the last dungeon. Last but not least, "Breath of Fire", one of the few (or only) returning tunes from the prequel, upgraded.

Dishonourable mentions to "My Home Sweet Home" (town theme) and "There's Something Here" (dungeon theme) for being overused.

Breath of Fire III

6-05 Without a Care はんぱがなんだ
5-08 Falling Green 降るみどり
5-11 Do Your Best! 頑張れ!
5-33 DONDEN どんでん
6-15 The Town Loved by the Wind 風に好かれた町
6-28 To a Distant Place 遠くへ
7-08 Battle in the Coming Days ~SE Collection~ 来る日もバトル ~SE Collection~
7-19 Castle in the Sky 高空の城

The jazziness didn't do much for me so this was mostly just background RPG music to me as I played the game and I wouldn't really listen to it outside of the game. And yes, I like forest music (i.e. "Falling Greens"). "Castle in the Sky" is a nice bassy last dungeon theme reminiscent of Chrono Trigger's "Black Omen" which is also a sky castle theme and also with a nice bassline.

Possible fun fact: For the sake of it, I finally decided to do 5 minutes research on the term "DONDEN" and I have come up with two theories. DONDEN refers to どんでん返し (Dondengaeshi) which can mean "plot twist" or "success from the jaws of defeat" (e.g. battle, and DONDEN is a battle theme) or similar concept. The latter is more likely the case that applies and a pretty suitable one. From memory, the first time you hear the song is when Ryu has a duel with a bone dragon that has a tendency to do confusion-status causing attacks. If/when Ryu gets confused and there's no-one else to heal him, you might as well give up (or should you? hence the track title). My other theory is that "Don" and "Den" are the onomatopoeia for the two repeating piano notes through the song.

Observation: Is it a coincidence between the track title "Deep Purple ~Deis' Theme~" and the song being a rock-ish guitar tune?

Breath of Fire IV: Utsuwazaru Mono

8-01 Breath of Fire IV ~Opening Animation~ Breath Of Fire IV ~オープニングアニメーション~
8-04 The World Beneath Your Feet 世界は足の下に
8-05 It's an Easy Win かるくヒネるのだ
9-24 A Raging Emperor's Banquet 暴帝のうたげ

Not quite as many favourite tracks as BoF3 but if I was to listen to the soundtrack from start to finish, I'd more likely choose BoFIV. As far as game opening and game opening musics go, BoFIV is up there with Wild Arms (original). Overall, a very mellow, subtle, and down-low soundtrack, just like the game itself.

Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter

10-04 Ranger HQ レンジャー基地
10-12 Waste Shaft 廃物遺棄坑
10-16 Lowest Sector Borough 最下層区街
10-20 Imminent Crisis 危機、せまる
11-01 Mid Sector Borough 中層区街
11-03 Trinity Pit トリニティピット
11-05 Lifeline ライフライン
11-07 Power Supply Building 電力供給ビル
11-19 Kokon-Horay ココン・ホレ

Here we come to the black sheep of the series, the "love it or hate it" concept applies. Fortunately, I love it, both the game and the music. Normally I'm not one for rougelikes (games devoted to traversing dungeon after dungeon with higher than usual risk of death) which BoF5 is, but I'll make it an exception.

The good: the dungeon themes are good/great. And you'll be spending a lot of time there.
The gooder: Lack of random battles.
The bad: the battle themes are a bit weak (none of them have been nominated for my list above).
The not-so-bad: unlike other rougelike games, this game offers incentive to avoid battles so the above bad point ain't so bad. See also point 2.

Music-wise, we have suitably dark-ish and dreary-ish dungeon themes separated by moments of respite as you momentarily stock up on supplies from what remains of BoFV civilisation (e.g. "Lowest Sector Borough" and "Trinity Pit").

So far, we've been picking favourite tracks from each game. How about a favourite top track from all of them? In my case... "Power Supply Building". The way the music builds up in the beginning, accompanied by the sound effects of sparks and whatever noises you would expect to hear in such a building, and reaching a, for lack of words, subdued positivism (compared to the other dungeon tracks), combined with it being a second-last dungeon with the end finally in sight, is amazing.

And for those of you who haven't played the game but have heard the music, yes, the music is much enhanced with you having done so. It's all about the "walking" themes, whether it's in dungeons or in towns.

BTW, how much are you selling it for?

Zane Aug 14, 2016

Ashley Winchester wrote:

Hitoshi Sakimoto's work on Dragon Quarter is one of the greatest soundtracks I will never love.

:'( :'( :'(

I get this. For me it's more like, this is one of the greatest soundtracks that I've listened to a hundred times and still have reasons to not want it. I think the production sounds fantastic, but Sakimoto's music in general benefits best when it's not so bright and polished. I listen to this and I'm like, cool, but then I put on Vagrant Story and I'm blown away (still).

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