There's been no shortage of arranged albums in the twenty-plus years of the Suikoden series, but they've all featured small-scale instrumental sets until now. Thanks to the Japan Game Music Orchestra (JAGMO for short), we have a whopping five-disc album featuring over four hours of original orchestral arrangements for Suikodens I through V.
From a technical perspective the album has its pluses and minuses. The orchestrations flesh out the original compositions as they should, but some smoother, more imaginative transitions between themes would have made for even more drama. An overall solid performance has some standout moments as well as a few missed notes, and the live concert recording quality is merely average.
Fortunately some technical imperfections are easier to forgive when there's such an abundance of great series themes on exhibit. What a treat it is hearing Suikoden I's epic "Theme of the Advancing Army" and Suikoden II's "Gothic Neclord" battle themes performed by orchestra, to say nothing of both titles' beautiful town, environment, and ending themes. And though my own familiarity with the series OSTs ends there, I've found just as much enjoy in the suites for Suikoden III-V. These steer towards a more traditional symphonic sound, and at their best (in particular a ninety minute stretch from the end of the Suikoden III suite through the entire Suikoden IV suite to the first half of Suikoden V) are among the best of their kind. It's not a perfect album, but if you don't require the highest production values you'll find hours of good orchestral arrangements and great Suikoden themes to enjoy.