Not as spectacular or as complete as other editions, but possessing qualities of its own.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2009-09-09)
Though the Dragon Quest symphonic suites are best known for their performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the very first recording for Dragon Quest III Symphonic Suite was performed by Japan's NHK Symphony Orchestra back in 1987. Made available through various reprints throughout the years, this original recording shows its age in places and lacks the added content of subsequent recordings, but retains some qualities of its own that make it worth a look from serious collectors.
Certainly the London Philharmonic recording for Dragon Quest III has a more refined sound to it than the NHK version. It could actually be considered a little too refined in places, particularly in the middle of the score where a string of subtle compositions makes for a somewhat passive listening experience. Though the NHK version suffers from the same flaw, its slightly less subtle approach makes a few of the slower moments a bit more interesting. While the London Philharmonic version of "Dungeon ~ Tower ~ The Phantom Ship" starts spookily enough, the NHK version better maintains that mood for its duration, with a more deliberate performance style and a grating string finale that ends the piece with an appropriately disturbing touch. The medley "Around the World" and the waltz "Sailing" also make worthy alternatives to the versions in other recordings (though the themes themselves still fall short of similar material in Dragon Quest IV and V).
The trade-off is that a few tracks that are excellent in the other symphonic suites aren't quite as excellent here. I don't know whether it's due to the performance or the recording, but the brass in the NHK version suffers, to the degree that the traditional, score-opening Dragon Quest march in "Roto" sounds almost like game synth. In "Into the Legend" as well, the brass just can't match the majesty of other versions, though the theme itself is still excellent. The climactic battle theme "Fighting Spirits" lacks the fierceness of later recordings, though a much more emotional reprise of the included "Unknown World" theme (I could swear I hear a fleeting soprano in there) and a tumultuous string finale make for substantial consolation.
As the first symphonic performance for Dragon Quest III, this collection lacks the extra arrangements found in later editions. I would argue that the soundtrack actually moves at a better clip without the tracks "Zoma's Castle" and "Distant Memories" from later editions prolonging the onset of the grand finale (though the Tokyo Metropolitan version of the latter is admittedly pretty great). That said, the gorgeous "Prologue" and the powerful call to battle "Gruelling Fight" are valuable new arrangements that can't be experienced in this original symphonic suite recording.
Were I allowed only one collection of Dragon Quest III symphonic music, I would pass on the NHK edition for the more complete and often more spectacular later editions. However, for Dragon Quest fans hardcore enough to desire multiple orchestral performances of the same title, the NHK Symphony recording of Dragon Quest III Symphonic Suite is worth consideration.