Throws most of what was good about the first Perfect Collection right out the window.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2009-05-16)
The first Ys Perfect Collection may have had its share of misses, but when it hit, it hit hard. Thus Ys II Perfect Collection, which boasts a beefier track list that includes every theme from the game, would seem like a sure thing. Unfortunately the first disc takes most of what was good about its predecessor and throws it out the window, leaving fans to rely on the eclectic second disc of arrangements for their fix.
Anybody who has heard the first Ys Perfect Collection or the PC Engine soundtrack will remember the raging guitar work that made many of its tracks rock. Well, arranger Ryo Yonemitsu apparently forgot, as for most of the first disc it's mysteriously absent. When an electric guitar solo finally shows up at the end of "Ruins of Moondoria", it lasts for all of thirty seconds before abruptly fading away - more a tease than anything else. The electric guitar surfaces again on occasion, most notably in the high octane closing action theme "Termination", but in most cases it's limited to a few chords here and there.
Previous Ys successes owed as much to high-energy synth as they did to rock guitars, and this is the other area where the album falls short. As in Ys II Renewal, many of the themes here lose a great amount of their charm without the creative sound design of the PC Engine version. Particularly disappointing are "Protecters" and "Ice Ridge of Noltia", which have solid synth programming overall but are tarnished by just a couple of distracting instruments. Listeners accustomed to bright but simplistic synth from past generation game soundtracks can probably tolerate it all just fine, but with superior versions available elsewhere, it's hard to see why they should.
The first disc isn't all bad. "Feel Blue", "Rest in Peace" and "Cavern of Rasteenie" combine crisp, distinctive synth with wistful melodies, even though the first two are ridiculously short. The synth in "Palace of Salmon" and "Termination" may not be as catchy as in other versions, but the quality is high enough and the ultra-melodic melodies so infectious that even second place or lower is still good. However the only tracks on disc 1 to be both different enough from other versions and capably produced enough to stand out as exclusives are "Subterranean Canal" and "Don't Go Smoothly", both of which get cool low-tempo fusion renditions. They're so different in style from the surrounding material they would fit just as well on the second disc really.
In fact it's the second disc that saves the soundtrack. It's every bit as eclectic in style as the second disc of Ys I Perfect Collection, but a bit more consistent in quality. Particularly of note are the "New Age" arrangements by Michio Fujisawa (which aren't actually New Age music at all). "Acoustic Elegance" and "After Hearing the Standard" begin with the same almost lethargic style of classical piano and violin that characterized his arrangements from the first Perfect Collection, but both arrangements take lively, jazzy turns partway through that make them much more interesting. Fujisawa's third arrangement "East Coast Summer" maintains a chipper tone from the very start, and its flowing violin rendition of "Lilia" improves infinitely upon the simple thirty-second synth version on disc 1. I wouldn't go so far as to say the New Age arrangements warrant purchase of the album, but after the simplicity of disc 1's arrangements they are a welcome change of pace.
The remainder of disc 2 is a mixed bag. A light pop-funk arrangement of the usually exhilarating "First Step Towards Wars" might seem like heresy, but with solid electric guitar work compensating for a cheesy saxophone bit, the result is actually fairly catchy. "Theme of Chester" benefits from high production values as well, even if it doesn't go anywhere melodically. The JDK Band arrangement of "Moat of Burnedbless" suffers from a slow start and a couple mediocre synth instruments, but soaring backing keyboards in the "Ruins of Moondoria" segment help lift it back up. As for the vocal arrangements, the rather boring "A Still Time" theme gets equally boring doo-wop a capella vocals, and though the sugary sweet "Smile Again" has a professional arrangement and pleasing vocals to its credit, "Too Full with Love" is sappy and amateurish.
It's unfortunate but understandable that Ys II music sometimes gets a bad rap when compared to its predecessor, given the somewhat sad state of the title's arranged albums. For hardcore fans who demand the full soundtrack to Ys II, the first disc of Ys II Perfect Collection does constitute a superior alternative to the Renewal and Eternal albums (which isn't saying much), and the arrangements on disc 2 serve as a nice bonus. However the best place by far to experience themes from Ys II in electronic form remains the CD audio from the PC Engine game itself.