Dragon Quest I is a game music classic, with memorable RPG melodies made better by Koichi Sugiyama's considerable skills at arranging for orchestra. As one of the early game soundtracks, its primary shortcoming was a shortage of content, a weakness alleviated in this package by the addition of Dragon Quest II's soundtrack. Though slow in spots, the combination of a classic RPG soundtrack with its more obscure sequel into a single, reasonably priced symphonic collection makes for an offer that's hard to refuse.
The original Dragon Quest's symphonic suite is split evenly three ways between must-own classics, other themes still viable but less interesting in the decades since their inception, and unconventional mood-setting pieces. The gentle yet mysterious overworld theme "Unknown World" is a classic among classics, while "Finale" is an epitomic adventure ending theme made grander by triumphant French horn counterpoint. Dragon Quest's series theme "Overture March" is a mainstay of RPG music, and though it gets a brisker, more elaborate arrangement in Dragon Quest Live Best, the arrangement here is longer than in most other symphonic suites. The classical-styled "Chateau Ladutorm" and "People" were staple Dragon Quest themes in their day, but as nostalgia has faded so has their impact to a degree. "Fight", "Dungeons" and "King Dragon" are atmospheric, minimalistic pieces that though true to concept can slip by unnoticed if not listened to attentively.
Dragon Quest II proceeds further down the classical path briefly traveled by its predecessor, and it won't have the benefit of nostalgia for nearly as many people. Nonetheless "Only Lonely Boy" and "Deathfight ~ Dead or Alive" stand out as significant additions to the Dragon Quest canon, the former a lighthearted character motif and the latter a lumbering but threatening battle theme. Both also have nagging shortcomings - the plucked strings in "Only Lonely Boy" relay its mood perfectly but really should have been substituted with different instrumentation in its second go-around, while the circus-like opening minute of "Deathfight" would be just as well missing (or in a separate track at least). An elegant original composition in "Endless World" leads into a flute reprise of Dragon Quest I's "Unknown World", and while this new combination doesn't quite match the quiet beauty of the original arrangement, it comes impressively close. Concluding the collection is the amiable "My Road My Journey", which though lacking the triumphant flare of its counterparts in Dragon Quest I and III, still makes for an excellent ending theme.
Most of the rest of Dragon Quest II's arrangements closely resemble themes from elsewhere in the series. "Fight in Dungeon ~ Devil's Tower" is too similar to Dragon Quest I's "Dungeons" to sound original but too different to be a reprise. "Requiem" and the waltz-like "Beyond the Waves" fall short of similar compositions in Dragon Quest V, and "Chateau" is the sort of strictly classical composition that can be easy for those expecting more typical game music fare to dismiss. With these less memorable compositions all bunched together in the middle, Dragon Quest II's soundtrack suffers from somewhat of a lull. As such it's perhaps better to consider it a bonus to Dragon Quest I, rather than the primary incentive for investing in the collection.
With an abundance of orchestral game soundtracks available following Dragon Quest I and II's original symphonic suite releases, the soundtracks don't hold the same privileged position they once did, but the standout themes are no less relevant and the orchestral performances no less refined than they were years ago. The series' own best collections contain several of the same themes with a greater hit ratio, but certain valuable others can only be found here, which is enough to make Dragon Quest I-II Symphonic Suite a prized acquisition for admirers of orchestral adventure scores.