Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite is a marvel of a soundtrack. However of its three distinct symphonic suite recordings by three different orchestras, the one featuring the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra is not nearly so marvelous as the others, not at the fault of the orchestra itself but of a sub-par recording. For a superb orchestral adventure soundtrack have a listen to the London Philharmonic Orchestra's symphonic suite of Dragon Quest IV, and for a closer look at what makes the soundtrack great as a whole have a look at that review. Better to just disregard this more recent (and usually more expensive) Tokyo Metropolitan recording.
Dragon Quest IV was the first symphonic suite by the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra I'd ever heard, following the London Philharmonic symphonic suites for Dragon Quest I through III and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra's recording for Dragon Quest Live Best. Even not being aware at the time of the different orchestral versions, it was clear upon my very first listen that something was amiss. The instruments sounded metallic and overly uniform - almost as if the live orchestras from previous albums had somehow partially degenerated into synth. Though that metallic sound has become less noticeable over repeat exposures, even after many listens the recording issues still hurt the soundtrack.
Take for example the classic "Homeland ~ Wagon Wheel's March". Whereas other symphonic suite versions boasted delightfully drastic shifts between calm orchestral ripples and crashing crescendos, the Tokyo Metropolitan version is lifelessly uniform in intensity, with an oddly quickened tempo further taking away from the impact of the piece. "Frightening Dungeons" suffers from a more uniform sound as well, coming across as just another passable Dragon Quest dungeon theme whereas in other versions it managed to stand out a bit. The brass in "Battle for Glory" is solid, but the orchestra as a whole sounds muffled when compared to the equally powerful London Philharmonic recording.
Only one track in the Tokyo Metropolitan version of Dragon Quest IV is an improvement upon the other versions, and that is "Elegy ~ Mysterious Shrine". This is a lovely track in every album, but here it's even better - the melodramatic but dignified string opening, the lead performances so expressive it almost sounds as if the instruments are crying, the stately and dignified brass finale - it's pure perfection, and thanks to the mostly even dynamic range of the piece there aren't the mastering issues from elsewhere in the album bringing the performance down. Other quiet pieces like "Balloon's Flight" and "Sea Breeze" also fare well, though not so well as to say they're clearly better than other versions.
The Tokyo Metropolitan symphonic suite includes two arrangements exclusive to the collection, but in this case more isn't necessarily better. "Tough Enemy" is a Dragon Quest battle theme through and through, following Sugiyama's oft-used formula of combining a lumbering brass-heavy battle theme with a tranquil intermission, yet neither part is as effective as in the very best of the series' battle themes. "Pissarro" is a haughty classical piece that feels out of place among the many charismatic themes surrounding it. These two tracks do little more than extend the length of what was otherwise a perfectly paced album, and neither should be considered incentive for favoring the Tokyo Metropolitan recording over other versions.
Even when it's not exactly clear what separates the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra's recording of Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite from the others, it's clear that it's just not as enjoyable a listen. Hearing the score for the first time via this recording I actually considered it a disappointment; only after hearing the London Philharmonic version (and to a lesser extend the NHK Symphony one) did it become my favorite of the series. From the next episode onward the Tokyo Metropolitan recordings finally begin to reach parity with the other orchestral versions, and even supremacy in some cases. But when it comes to this fourth installment, if you're listening to the Tokyo Metropolitan recording then you're not truly hearing Dragon Quest IV.