I've never been a big fan of the Falcom JDK Special albums. Most of the time, the arrangements seemed very limited, both in style and instrumentation. The original melodies were certainly there, but they were usually stripped bare, and there was always a certain "sameness" to the instrumentation that got downright unnerving after seven or eight tracks. By the time the tenth track would roll around, I would be completely uninterested in hearing another predictable arrangement from the dull synthesizers that the Sound Team JDK inexplicably chose to employ.
All that changed once I listened to Dragon Slayer JDK Special. The first difference that struck me was the liveliness of the tracks. On other JDK Specials, the slower tracks would often just plod along, some seemingly forever, while the energy of the faster tracks would be muted by the poor synth quality and bareness of the arrangement. Such is not the case on the first disc. The energetic tracks (such as "User Disk Creation", "Dragon", and "Ending 2") have retained their spark, and in fact the arrangements serve to enhance their inherent fun-filled bounciness. The slower tracks (e.g., "Opening" and "Ending 1") are actually quite pleasant to listen to and offer a definite improvement over the quality of the Original Sound Track Versions found on Dragon Slayer Perfect Collection. Several of the arrangements are even comparable to the Yonemitsu arranges on the Perfect Collection. The only downer on the first disc is "Neargead Castle", which goes absolutely nowhere and takes forever to get there. All in all, the first disc is extremely solid.
The second disc consists of eight JDK Band arrangements, and each one upholds the high standards that Kishimoto has set. "Action", a somewhat light-hearted rock vocal (it includes the lines, "Everybody wants a piece of the action. Everybody needs SATISFACTION!") deserves to be as well known as "Go Fight", while "Midnight Mover" and "Flying High Again" are darker and more intense than any Falcom vocals that come to mind. Two other tracks that stand out as being particularly impressive are "Steam Rock Fever" (pure Falcom rock at its finest) and "Winds of Change" (a slow but captivating instrumental ballad). This disc is as fine a sample of the diversity of Falcom as any other, and every arrangement is admirably handled.
When I think of JDK Specials, I usually think of naked melodies and unsubstantial arrangements. But on Dragon Slayer JDK Special, the arrangements work. The Original Sound Versions of these tracks were often cluttered and "busy", but the first disc of the JDK Special does a lot to clear up that clutter. The arrangements aren't fancy, but they sound right. The first disc alone would make this a solid purchase, but when it's combined with a whole disc of JDK Band arrangements, it becomes a no-brainer. If you're a Falcom fan, this collection is for you.