Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite is a game music classic, with a selection of unforgettable RPG melodies made better by Koichi Sugiyama's considerable skills at arranging for orchestra. As one of the early orchestral game soundtracks for one of the earliest JRPGs, its primary shortcoming was its short running time. That weakness has been alleviated in this album by the addition of Dragon Quest II Symphonic Suite, which though a lesser known game in the West has several excellent tracks of its own.
The original Dragon Quest's symphonic suite is split evenly three ways between must-own classics, other themes still viable but less interesting in the decades since their inception, and unconventional mood-setting pieces. The gentle yet mysterious overworld theme "Unknown World" is a gorgeous classic among classics, while "Finale" is an epitomic adventure ending theme made grander by triumphant French horn counterpoint. The Dragon Quest series theme "Overture March" is a mainstay of RPG music, and though it gets brisker, more elaborate arrangements in later symphonic suites, the arrangement here contains an extended segment often missing from those. "People" and especially "Chateau Ladutorm" are about as typical Classical as you can get, but for someone with memories of the game the nostalgia is super sweet. "Fight", "Dungeons" and "King Dragon" are atmospheric, minimalistic pieces that though true to concept can slip by unnoticed if not listened to attentively.
Dragon Quest II proceeds further down the Classical path briefly traveled by its predecessor, and it won't have the benefit of nostalgia for nearly as many people. Nonetheless "Only Lonely Boy" and "Deathfight ~ Dead or Alive" stand out as significant additions to the Dragon Quest canon, the former a lighthearted character motif and the latter a lumbering but threatening battle theme. Both also have small but nagging issues - the plucked strings in "Only Lonely Boy" relay its mood perfectly but really should have been substituted with different instrumentation in its second go-around, while the circus-like opening minute of "Deathfight" would be just as well missing (or in a separate track at least). An elegant original composition in "Endless World" leads into a flute reprise of Dragon Quest I's "Unknown World", and while this new combination doesn't quite match the quiet beauty of the original arrangement, it comes close enough to make this second arrangement in the same album absolutely worth it. Concluding the collection is the amiable "My Road My Journey", which though lacking the triumphant flare of its counterparts in Dragon Quest I and III, still makes for an excellent ending theme.
Most of the rest of Dragon Quest II's arrangements closely resemble themes from elsewhere in the series. "Fight in Dungeon ~ Devil's Tower" is too similar to Dragon Quest I's "Dungeons" to sound original but too different to be a reprise. "Requiem" and the waltz-like "Beyond the Waves" fall short of similar compositions in Dragon Quest V, and "Chateau" is another strictly Classical composition. With these less memorable compositions all bunched together, Dragon Quest II's symphonic suite suffers from somewhat of a lull in the middle.
With an abundance of orchestral game soundtracks available following Dragon Quest I and II's original symphonic suite releases, the soundtracks don't hold the same privileged position they once did, but the standout themes are no less excellent and the orchestral performances no less refined than they were years ago. The series' own best collections contain several of the same themes with a greater hit ratio, but certain valuable others can only be found here, which is enough to make Dragon Quest I-II Symphonic Suite a prized acquisition for admirers of JRPG or orchestral adventure scores.