As a stout Gradius fan, it is my duty to purchase just about every CD labeled with the moniker of Konami's seminal yet apparently unpopular (at least in the United States) shooter series. But the title doesn't say a whole lot about what the music on the CD is like - just that they are MIDI arrangements. Most people mistake this for the type of MIDIs you can download and listen on your computer - it's similar, but these are from a higher quality synthesizer. It's still very artificial, but mostly tolerable. Music from Gradius, Gradius 2, Gradius Gaiden, and Gradius 4 appears on here.
Most of the tracks have been arranged quite a bit from their original format. The most notable are the first two tracks on the CD. The first begins with an obvious tribute to the old Star Trek title theme, before moving into another piece that is dramatic science fiction music at its best. The second track is faster and filled with synth guitars. These opening tracks are my favorites on the CD, but I can't identify what tunes from Gradius they are based on.
The rest of the arrangements mostly combine a few melodies from various games and extend them into a medley. Sometimes the arranged versions sounds pretty good, like "Tabidachi", the navigation theme from Gradius 2, in which a short, thirty second tune has been turned into a very enjoyable five minute track without getting too repetitive.
On the flip side, however, sometimes the arrangements are filled with random guitars riffs that don't fit much of any melody whatsoever. This is especially true with the tracks from Gradius 4 - the pieces arranged weren't some of my favorites to start, and the expanded versions just aren't very interesting to listen to. It doesn't help that the synth actually sounds worse than the one used in the original soundtrack.
One of my other big disappointments is the lack of music from Gradius Gaiden. The only track picked was "Speed", from one of the final levels of the game. Though the new version is very good - it's longer, has a nice beat, and is very relaxing compared to the quick pace of the original music - the producers definitely could have picked more than just this one track. Heck, they could've done without the Gradius 4 music entirely.
As a "bonus", Konami has included a 3.5" Power Disk with MIDI versions of a few of the songs to play on your computer. Unfortunately, unless you have a decent synthesizer, this disc is near worthless - the files sound like unlistenable junk on my Soundblaster Live. The only true upside to this disc is a bonus MIDI file labeled "Omake". Big time Gradius fans will recognize this as the first level theme from the MSX version of Gradius 2. I had always liked this tune, and was very happy to hear it again. And it actually sounds decent on a regular soundcard, since the composition is fairly simple. Too bad it wasn't actually on the CD.
The obvious downside of the Power Disk is that it has seemingly driven up the price of the album to an unfortunately high price. If it wasn't for the exceedingly high amount of money this CD costs, I could recommend it to any Gradius fan. But with the price at 3873 yen, you expect some very good music, especially if there's only about 60 minutes worth. The quality of the music is just too mixed to justify the price tag.