Both a good album, and a disappointment.
Reader review by Daniel K
Phantasy Star Sound Collection 2, based on the music of the legendary SEGA Mega Drive RPG Phantasy Star 4, is a very strange CD. At the same time as being a fine arrange album of an already incredible soundtrack, it is a disappointment. Why is this? There are two major reasons.
First off, unlike the first album in the series, this is a one-CD release. It contains only arranged tracks. The first volume (covering the music found in the three first PS games) had two discs - one for the original game music, and one for an arranged version of the OSVs. That this second volume doesn't follow the same route is a damn shame, since the OSV of PS4 was (taken as a whole) probably the best in the series. Despite the shaky 16-bit synth, the composers managed to create one incredible soundtrack, in my opinion one of the best in the RPG genre. Why the manufacturers of the two PS Sound Collection CDs chose to put in the OSVs on the first collection and leave it out of the second is just beyond me, especially if you take into account the fact that PS4 had better original music and was by far the most popular game in the series.
Well, what is on this CD, then? What we have here are arranged versions of the original game music. Despite the fact that the original music was missing, I was really looking forward to this music after hearing how incredible the arrangements were in the first volume. Here the factor of the second reason for my disappointment comes into play; the quality of the arrangements is quite a bit below that of the awesome level reached in the first volume. It's essentially the same type of electro and rock as in the first instalment, but just not as good. Don't get me wrong - the music is still very good (it would be hard to make music that originally was so good sound bad), but the arrangements never reach the spectacular level heard on the previous album. There are some very nice arrangements here, like the classic opener "The End Of The Millennium", "Land Master AXV-25", and some parts of "Algol Star System" and "Fight!". But counter-measuring these are some really failed renditions. The worst are probably "Behind The Circuit" and "Organic Beat". In the game these are dungeon themes, and they had a very special feel which was uniquely Phantasy Star - fast, pounding techno with a deep irresistible beat, not your normal "RPG dungeon" themes. After hearing the awesome arrangements of the first PS Sound Collection, I could hardly wait to hear these two tracks, but the arrangements just stink! While I often like arrangements that mess with the original sound of a composition, this was definitely a step (if not two) in the wrong direction. The two tracks are significantly slower and mellower than the original compositions, and the style of music is totally changed.
Well, apart from these two grim disappointments the arrangements are actually quite agreeable. Some of the other tracks that brandish experimentalism are better, like the wondrous "Temple Ngangbius" and the medley "Village". Some of the tracks have an even greater appeal as arrangements - I never did like "Her Last Breath" in the game, but on this CD it sounds very good (and, as one can expect by the title, sad).
The fact that I've judged this album so harshly is derived solely from my expectations. If I had never played a Phantasy Star game, and if I had never heard the first volume in this series, I would most likely find this CD to be excellent. And I do feel that it is a very cool CD, but, taking into account what it COULD have been, I can't help but to feel disappointed. And the exclusion of the original game music (which would have raised the quality level so much) really hurts. Yes, it IS a good album (especially the intro track is great), but it pales when compared to its predecessor. While the first CD was worth looking out for despite being very rare, this one isn't, unless you're really a big "PS phanatic".