Having not played any of the Genso Suikoden games since the very first and only owning the original soundtracks to GS1 and GS2, I've been out of the Genso Suikoden scene for a while now. After listening to Genso Suikoden Asian Collection I'm eager to jump back in!
Fortunately the CD features selections from all three primary installments in the Genso Suikoden series, so the themes from GS1 and GS2 are somewhat familiar to me. Having said that, I've had difficulty recognizing a few of the arrangements from those games! No worries though - the calm, almost plodding arrangement of "Labyrinth ~ PENPE2", with its soothing synth background tones, Asian ethnic lead instruments like the shakuhachi and niko, and natural ambient effects, is gorgeous enough to have me more enthused over the new arrangement than concerned over any deviation from its former self. The beautiful, distinctly Asian style main melody in "Theme of Perversion", led by the niko and sanshin, has thankfully little resemblance to the OST version and even less to its title.
Other tracks are more easily recognizable. "Peaceful People" and "Nahala Yam Koong" have several well-done original passages serving as intro and segues, however the main themes are nearly identical to the original games', albeit with live instrumentation. "Withered Earth" follows the same formula, and in this track in particular the addition of a niko as the lead instrument adds a great deal of potency, giving the piece both an exotic and epic feel. The themes from GS3 are entirely new to me, and although I wouldn't count any of them as my favorites on the CD, most of them are entirely pleasurable listens.
As is the case with many game music arranged albums with an ethnic theme, there are noticeable New Age aspects present as well. The vocal ooo's and aah's of "Are You Gonna Eat that Carrot?", although pretty, seem a bit out of place in an album labeled "Asian Collection", and "Meeting, Again" sounds mostly like a Western acoustic guitar piece. Aside from these and a couple of more minor instances, the contemporary elements fit in well; just don't expect a full CD of strictly authentic traditional ethnic music.
The artists here have nailed the arranged album formula down pretty well with Genso Suikoden Asian Collection. They don't adhere overly strictly to the Asian theme, nor do they take a lot of chances in their arrangements, but they do branch them out enough from the original compositions to make the album a new experience. It's a solid soundtrack throughout - a bit on the relaxed side - and highly recommended to Genso Suikoden fans and anyone open to the CD's ethnic tilt.