When I had the chance to get my hands on a copy of Falcom Ending Collection 1987-1992, I leapt at the opportunity. Their masterful ending to Ys Book I & II (over ten minutes of glorious anime sights and CD-quality sounds in an age when the NES was still king) had shown me just how good an ending could be if it was handled correctly, and the legendary Sound Team J.D.K. had shown itself to be consistently adept at handling endings - one of the trickiest portions of a game's soundtrack. After getting the collection and listening to it a dozen times or so, the one conclusion I can draw is that Falcom had some absolute geniuses composing for them during that six-year span. However, there are some shortcomings that prevent me from recommending the album wholeheartedly.
Falcom Ending Collection is two discs long, but these two discs have essentially the same material on them. Similar to Dragon Slayer Perfect Collection, the first disc has twenty-one ending themes taken straight from the original game soundtracks (from the initial PC versions of the games), while the other disc contains the same twenty-one tracks slightly arranged. The key word is "slightly"; there are no groundbreaking Yonemitsu arrangements, headbanging J.D.K. Band arranges or soothing J.D.K. Electric Orchestra pieces here. The sound system has been upgraded, and certain elements have greater emphasis in the arrangements, but the differences won't blow you away. The best comparison I can give is this: the songs on the first disc are similar to those found on Music from Ys, while those on the second disc are comparable in style and quality to the tracks on the Ys Eternal soundtrack. The original tracks are 8-bit, and while the arranged tracks are still noticeably synthetic, the harshness of the tones in the original compositions has been largely attenuated. These arrangements sound considerably better than their OST counterparts, but several of the songs have been arranged better on other albums: for example, "Star Trader" pales in comparison to the version found on Falcom Classics, "See You Again" is not as substantial as the Ys Perfect Collection edition, and "Ending 2" was arranged more captivatingly on Dragon Slayer J.D.K. Special.
That is not to say that the Falcom Ending Collection is bad - far from it. Falcom's composers craft some of the best melodies in the business, and the selections provided on this album are among their finest. Not only that, but Sound Team J.D.K. has the unique ability to arrange a piece in such a way that it retains the original flavor of the melody while improving on the instrumentation. The official arrangements aren't overly fancy, but they're clear and very true to the originals. From the intensity and power of Ys' "The Morning Grow" to the sweet serenity of Sorcerian's "Ending II" to the light-hearted bounciness of Lord Monarch's "Ending", the vivacity and character of the original compositions course through the arrangements. I was especially impressed with "The Return" from Sorcerian System Vol. 2, a deeply touching lullaby that I had never truly noticed before hearing it on this compilation. In all, the official arrangements on the second disc make for a very satisying listening experience.
The soundtracks that these songs are taken from are all long out of print (with the exception of Sorcerian Super Arrange Version III, which was only recently reprinted), and many of them are extremely hard to come by today. Finding a copy of Music from Dinosaur, Music from Sorcerian, or Music from Lord Monarch/Advanced Lord Monarch is likely to endanger both your patience and your pocketbook, and even if you did find them, you'd be missing out on the "Official Arranges" found on the second disc of this compilation. Unfortunately, having been printed in 1993, this collection is itself very difficult to find, and will likely come at a premium price. For an album that is one-half 8-bit tracks, it's not for everyone, but Falcom enthusiasts may find it a worthwhile purchase. I know I do.