Before I begin this review, I should mention that 1) It's been a really long time since I last played any Ys games and 2) I haven't heard a single Ys soundtrack, save for some of Symphony Ys '95 and one of the Ys IV Perfect Collections. That said, I think this review is better suited for those who are unfamiliar with the Ys series and its music.
Perhaps the thing that impresses me most about Very Best of Ys is, in addition to it having a good selection of tracks that made Ys music so popular in the first place, Falcom also used several songs more than once in this album. For example, the first track contains orchestral arrangements of "Feena", "First Step Towards War", and "Palace". Track 12 contains arrangements of "Lilia", "Feena", "Endless History", and "Palace", respectively. There is a piano/strings duet of "Palace" on track 3, and there are two vocal reprises of "Lilia" and "Endless History". In this way, one who isn't knowledgeable of the music of Ys (like myself) can better familiarize himself through the many different reprises this soundtrack has to offer.
All of the songs are very faithful to the originals. To be honest, I had to download some of the various MIDI and MP3 files on the net to compare the sounds. There's a very good amount of variety here too, so that the arrangements never get linear. And they all fit very well. For instance, the high-powered and energetic arrangements of Ryo Yonemitsu are well suited for tracks like "Palace of Destruction" and "Palace of Salmon", and the orchestral tracks, arranged in a symphonic suite style, mix some of the best of Ys' sounds. There's one dance mix techno-style song from Provincialism Ys, "The Last Moment of The Dark", with voice mixed in from the domestic version of Ys! And finally, there are the three vocal tracks, "Lilia", "Endless History", and "See You Again", which round out the mix.
As with most great music, Ys slowly grows on you. My number one favorite is the vocal version of "Endless History". (I basically like any kind of arrangement of "Morning Grow" though.) There's just something about the powerful melody and execution that makes it my best liked song. Track 6's "Lilia" vocal is really nice, with well-written English lyrics, a very likable melody (I find myself humming it frequently!), and an exceptional performance by Akiko Arai. "To Make The End of Battle" and "Palace of Salmon" have Ryo Yonemitsu showing off his brilliant rock-style musical arrangements.
Although you've got some of the best selections from the series, there are just so many more tracks out there that are just as good. Too bad they couldn't cram a few more in here. Also, I noticed that there was no Ys V music in here. They weren't the greatest music of the series (IMO), but it still would have been nice to have a track or two in there.
In conclusion, this album is obviously not for those who already own the previous soundtracks, since it's just a compilation of such. (I remember kicking myself for getting Final Fantasy 1987-1994!) But for those of us who are new to the whole "Ys craze", I can find no better soundtrack to start off with than this one.